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Who is Ferdinand Marcos?

Ferdinand Marcos was the 10th President of the Philippines, whose rule from 1965 to 1986 was marked by martial law, corruption, and human rights abuses. His regime amassed ill-gotten wealth while the country faced economic struggles. Yet, his era also saw infrastructure growth and cultural promotion. How did such contrasts coexist? Unpack the complexities of Marcos's leadership with us.
Wanda Albano
Wanda Albano

Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralín Marcos was born on 11 September 1917 and died on 28 September 1989. He was elected to the presidency of the Philippines in 1966 and was ousted from power in 1986 in a massive, yet bloodless revolution.

As a young law student, Marcos was arrested and convicted for the murder of Julio Nalundasan, a man who had twice defeated Marcos' father to a seat in the National Assembly. During his incarceration, he studied for the 1938 Philippine Bar exams, and proceeded to receive one of the highest scores in the exam's history. He then appealed his case to the Supreme Court and won.

Pope John Paul II's visit to the Philippines helped prompt Ferdinand Marcos to lift martial law.
Pope John Paul II's visit to the Philippines helped prompt Ferdinand Marcos to lift martial law.

Marcos, like many young men of the period, was called to combat by the Philippine army when World War II broke out. He suited up as an intelligence officer and subsequently took part in the Bataan Death March, where thousands of Filipino and American soldiers, some of whom were already suffering from malaria or otherwise injured, were forced to endure a treacherous 30-mile (42 km) hike as ordered by the head of Japanese Occupation. They were given no food or water and were intensely abused.

Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines and wife of Ferdinand Marcos.
Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines and wife of Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos often claimed to be one of the foremost guerilla leaders of World War II, recounting many heroic deeds against the enemy. Critics allege, however, that these stories are mere fabrications. Whatever the case may be, Marcos launched an impressive political career soon after the war. He was elected to Congress and quickly gained entry to the Senate. After four years of being a Senator, he ascended to the presidency.

By most accounts, Marcos's first term as head of state was not a bad one. There were great improvements in infrastructure, government finances were stabilized, and foreign policies were secure. On the supposed strength of his performance therefore, Marcos was re-elected to a second term.

Unfortunately, massive election overspending, which some say was due to Marcos' vote-buying and other electoral fraud activities, led to higher inflation rates and the devaluation of the Philippine peso. Natural calamities hit the country one after the other. Claims of nepotism, as well graft and corruption, were hurled at the administration. An activist student population began calling for reforms. The Communist party of the Philippines re-emerged. The atmosphere of the day was charged and the president responded with force. Student rallies were tear-gassed, and in 1972, Martial Law was declared.

Martial Law, which lasted for over nine years, effectively suspended the writ of habeas corpus, meaning that "subversives," or anyone who spoke out against the administration, could now be routinely picked up and detained without any kind of due process. Students, journalists, suspected communists, even political opponents were all put in detention centers. Stories of torture, rape, and other kinds of abuse are rampant. The media became a tightly controlled government outlet, and elections were seen as nothing more than farce.

In 1981, Marcos officially lifted Martial Law, in part to prepare for the arrival of Pope John Paul II to the country. However, this was seen as a mostly superficial act by the opposition, as nothing really changed. Two years later, Marcos' political rival, Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Two million Filipinos showed their support by attening mass funeral rites for the dead statesman. This murder is largely seen as the catalyst for the Marcos regime's downfall.

In 1986, Marcos was finally ousted from power by a bloodless revolution participated in by millions of Filipinos. People from all walks of life, from students to nuns and priests, crowded the streets for four days, asking for Marcos's resignation. During this period, trusted allies of the administration began a systematic defection and soldiers who were called in to "control the crowds" refused to open fire. Ferdinand Marcos and his family were forced to flee to Hawaii for their safety, having been granted safe passage by the US government. The presidential palace was ransacked by an angry mob. The Marcoses were later indicted for embezzlement.

Ferdinand Marcos died of kidney, heart, and lung ailments in Honolulu on 28 September 1989. His health had already been poor even while in office, and it is theorized that the stress created by the fall of his regime greatly contributed to his decline.

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Discussion Comments


What made Marcos a renowned leader?


So who are those people who is really responsible in the assassination of Ninoy?

If Marcos wanted Ninoy dead, why did Marcos sent him to the U.S to be treated even in prison he was treated humanely?


Marco's government, if you must know, was closely coached, directed and supported heavily by the U.S. government. Yes, we were given independence, but the U.S. wanted us to succeed since Hong Kong was British, Vietnam was French and the Philippines were American. The U.S. supported Marcos for 21 years and don't be fooled -- they told the media they did an about face, but really harbored him in safety and security in the 50th state of Hawaii with the full intention of re-installing him to power because of his illegal ousting in February, 1986.

Also, if you look at Marcos' debt, it was not even $28 billion; it did, however grow to over $28 billion after Cory left in 1992 and securing loans equaling the $28 billion after she left.

The data reported by the Aquinos in the 80's has been doctored and falsely represented. Because of this, many do not know truth from facts until another Loyalist or Marcos is back in office to post true data and records.

Marcos is still the best leader since 1965 and no one can ever say that only a high school graduate can ever show he had more qualification than Marcos, who was a graduate from U.P., receiving his Philippine Law degree in 1939 and also graduating Summa Cum laude that year as well.

He is still the most highly qualified to lead even today, period. His resume is most impressive. The truth will come out as those lies written about him pronounce him the victim ultimately of the Communists and Oppositionists on Philippine soil.


Does anyone know what are the strength and weaknesses of the former president Ferdinand Marcos? I just need it for a report.


That's the sad thing with most of our countrymen (Filipinos) They don't know who to appreciate, what to appreciate, how to appreciate, and when to appreciate. Tuliro -- lack of right information. That's why many are fooled!


What kind of leadership style did Ferdinand Marcos have?


if marcos hadn't been ousted, he could have implemented his master plan for the Philippines, using the income and interest of gold lent in 77 countries. such loans expired in 2005. Now, without Marcos, who managed during his term, the collections of interest and income derived from that gold, the filipinos are having a hard time to collect from these creditors.

anyway, the successor and redeemer of these gold is still alive although very old now. i can assure you that our money will come pouring in the phils this year or early 2012.


he is the only real great leader in this country he made lot of credits but he finish all great infrastructure projects around this nation. unlike many presidents after him, who were just only boasting and made a lot of great promises to their country, but nothing happened.


"7/8 will say they like marcos government/martial law than any past or current administration who governs the country." - My mother lived under martial Law as a teen, and it wasn't until she left the country and realized that she was fooled by Marcos's propaganda. So of course many adults still say they liked him because they have had no other education.


Kindly ask 10 adult people who lived in the marcos era. and 7/8 will say they like marcos government/martial law than any past or current administration who governs the country.


the arroyo regime now is not that different from marcos regime. they all satisfy themselves. god save the philippines from ms. arroyo.


what are the strength and weaknesses of president Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralín Marcos?


Why was he so important?

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    • Pope John Paul II's visit to the Philippines helped prompt Ferdinand Marcos to lift martial law.
      Pope John Paul II's visit to the Philippines helped prompt Ferdinand Marcos to lift martial law.
    • Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines and wife of Ferdinand Marcos.
      By: Bill Alldredge
      Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines and wife of Ferdinand Marcos.