Ferdinand Marcos from saviour to sinner.

Marcos Era (1965-1986)

As president, Ferdinand Marcos embarked on a massive spending programme, in infrastructural development, such as roads, health centers and schools which gave the Philippines a taste of economic prosperity.

In 1969 Marcos sought and won an unprecedented second term against the Liberal Party Senator, Sergio Osmeña, Jr. He was however unable to reduce massive government corruption or to instigate any economic growth in proportion to the population growth.

The Communist Party of the Philippines formed the New Peoples Army, while the Moro National Liberation Front fought for an independent Mindanao. These events, together with student protests and labour strikes were later used as justification for the imposition of martial law.

Martial Law

Congress called for a Constitutional Convention in 1970 in response to public clamour for a new constitution to replace the colonial 1935 Constitution.

An explosion during the proclamation rally of the senatorial slate of the opposition Liberal Party in Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila on August 21, 1971 prompted Marcos to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, hours after the blast, which he restored on January 11, 1972 after public protests.

Using the rising wave of lawlessness and the threat of a Communist insurgency as justification, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081. Marcos ruling by decree, curtailed press freedom and other civil liberties, closed down media establishments and Congress and ordered the arrest of opposition leaders and militant activists, including his staunchest critics Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Senator Jose Diokno.

Constitutionally barred from seeking another term beyond 1973 and with his political enemies in jail, Marcos reconvened and maneuvered the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention to adopt a parliamentary form of government to pave the way for him to stay in power beyond 1973. Sensing that the constitution would be rejected in a nationwide plebiscite, Marcos decreed the creation of citizen's assemblies, which anomalously ratified the constitution.

Even before the Constitution could be fully implemented, several amendments were introduced to it by Marcos, which included the prolonging of martial law and permitting himself to be President and concurrent Prime Minister.

Rigged elections for an interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly) were held in 1978.

Bowing to pressure from the United States, Marcos called for snap presidential elections in 1986. The Batasang Pambansa (Parliament) went on to proclaim Marcos as the winner of the election.

The Marcos Term

Marcos governed from 1973 until mid-1981 in accordance with the transitory provisions of a new constitution that replaced the commonwealth constitution of 1935. He suppressed democratic institutions and restricted civil liberties during the martial law period, ruling largely by decree and popular referenda.

The government began a process of political normalisation during 1978-81, culminating in the reelection of President Marcos to a 6-year term that would have ended in 1987. The Marcos government's respect for human rights remained low despite the end of martial law on January 17, 1981. His government retained its wide arrest and detention powers. Corruption and favouritism contributed to a serious decline in economic growth and development under Marcos.

In order to appease the Catholic Church before the visit of Pope John Paul II, Ferdinand Marcos officially lifted martial law on January 17, 1981, although he did retain his strongman rule. An opposition boycotted presidential elections then ensued in June 1981, which pitted Marcos (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan) against retired Gen. Alejo Santos (Nacionalista Party). Marcos won by a margin of over 16 million votes, which constitutionally allowed him to have another six-year term.

The assassination of opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. upon his return to the Philippines in 1983, after a long period of exile, coalesced popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and set in motion a succession of events that culminated in a snap presidential election in February 1986. The opposition united under Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, and Salvador Laurel, head of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). The election was marred by widespread electoral fraud on the part of Marcos and his supporters. International observers, including a U.S. delegation led by Sen. Richard G. Lugar, denounced the official results. Marcos was forced to flee the Philippines in the face of a peaceful civilian-military uprising that ousted him and installed Corazon Aquino as president on February 25, 1986. By that time the Philippines was a poorer country than before Marcos rose to power.

For further information on the history of the Philippines have a look here.


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