Philippine History - Marcos Administration
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Marcos era and Martial Law (1965-1986)
Diosdado Macapagal ran for reelection in 1965, but was defeated by former party-mate,
Senate President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who had switched to the Nacionalista Party.
Ferdinand E. Marcos, who succeeded to the presidency after defeating Macapagal
in the 1965 elections, inherited the territorial dispute over Sabah; in 1968
he approved a congressional bill annexing Sabah to the Philippines. Malaysia
suspended diplomatic relations (Sabah had joined the Federation of Malaysia
in 1963), and the matter was referred to the United Nations. (The Philippines
dropped its claim to Sabah in 1978.) The Philippines became one of the founding
countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. The
continuing need for land reform promoted a new Huk uprising in central Luzon,
accompanied by mounting assassinations and acts of terror, and in 1969, Marcos
began a major military campaign to control them. Civil war also threatened on
Mindanao, where groups of Moros opposed Christian settlement.
As president, Ferdinand Marcos embarked on a massive spending in infrastructural
development, such as roads, health centers and schools as well as intensifying
tax collection which gave the Philippines a taste of economic prosperity throughout
the 1970's. He built more schools than all his predecessors combined.
In Nov., 1969, Marcos won an unparalleled reelection, easily defeating Sergio
Osmeña, Jr., but the election was accompanied by violence and charges
of fraud, and Marcos’s second term began with increasing civil disorder.
However, he was unable to reduce massive government corruption or to create
economic growth proportional to population growth. The Communist Party of the
Philippines formed the New Peoples Army while the Moro National Liberation Front
fought for an independent Mindanao.
In Jan., 1970, some 2,000 demonstrators tried to storm Malacañang Palace,
the presidential residence; rebellions erupted against the U.S. embassy. When
Pope Paul VI visited Manila in Nov., 1970, an attempt was made on his life.
In 1971, at a Liberal party rally, hand grenades were thrown at the speakers’
platform, and several people were killed. President Marcos declared martial
law in Sept., 1972, charging that a Communist rebellion threatened. The 1935
constitution was replaced (1973) by a new one that provided the president with
direct powers. A plebiscite (July, 1973) gave Marcos the right to remain in
office beyond the expiration (Dec., 1973) of his term. Meanwhile the fighting
on Mindanao had spread to the Sulu Archipelago. By 1973 some 3,000 people had
been killed and hundreds of villages burned. Throughout the 1970s poverty and
governmental corruption increased, and Imelda Marcos, Ferdinand’s wife,
became more influential. Congress called for a Constitutional Convention in
1970 in response to public cry for a new constitution to replace the colonial
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.
Martial Law (1972-1981)
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. Martial Law remained in force until 1981, when Marcos was reelected,
in the midst of accusations of electoral fraud. Marcos, ruling by decree, curtailed
press freedom and other civil liberties; closed down Congress and media establishments;
and ordered the arrest of opposition leaders and militant activists, including
his staunchest critics Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Senator Jose Diokno.
Initially, the declaration of martial law was well received, given the social
turmoil the Philippines was experiencing. Crime rates plunged dramatically after
a curfew was implemented. Political opponents were given the opportunity to
go into exile. But, as martial law dragged on for the next nine years, excesses
by the military emerged.
barred from seeking another term beyond 1973 and, with his political enemies
in jail, Marcos reconvened the Constitutional Convention and maneuvered its
proceedings to adopt a parliamentary form of government, paving 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 citizens' assemblies
which anomalously ratified the constitution.
Even before the Constitution could be fully implemented, several amendments
were introduced to it by Marcos, including the prolongation of martial law and
permitting himself to be President and concurrent Prime Minister. The economy
during the decade was robust, with budgetary and trade surpluses. The Gross
National Product rose from P55 billion in 1972 to P193 billion in 1980. Tourism
rose, contributing to the economy's growth. The number of tourists visiting
the Philippines rose to one million by 1980 from less than 200,000 in previous
years. A big portion of the tourist group was composed of Filipino balikbayans
(returnees) under the Ministry of Tourism's Balikbayan Program which was launched
The first formal elections since 1969 for an interim Batasang Pambansa (National
Assembly) were held in 1978. In order to settle the Catholic Church before the
visit of Pope John Paul II, Marcos officially lifted martial law on January
17, 1981. However, he retained much of the government's power for arrest and
detention. Corruption and nepotism as well as civil unrest contributed to a
serious decline in economic growth and development under Marcos, whose health
declined due to lupus.
After the Feb., 1986, presidential election, both Marcos and his opponent, Corazon
Aquino (the widow of Benigno), declared themselves the winner, and charges of
massive fraud and violence were leveled against the Marcos faction. Marcos’s
domestic and international support battered and he fled the country on Feb.
25, 1986, finally obtaining refuge in the United States.
The opposition boycotted presidential elections then developed 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. Finance Minister
Cesar Virata was elected as Prime Minister by the Batasang Pambansa.
On Aug. 21, 1983, opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was
assassinated at the Manila International Airport upon his return to the Philippines
after a long period of exile which encouraged a new, more powerful wave of anti-Marcos
dissent. This coalesced popular dissatisfaction with Marcos and began a succession
of events, including pressure from the United States that ended in a snap presidential
election in February 1986. The opposition united under Aquino's widow, Corazon
Aquino, and Salvador Laurel, head of the United Nationalists Democratic Organizations
(UNIDO). The elections were held on February 7, 1986. The election was blemished
by widespread reports of violence and tampering with results by both sides of
the political fence.
The official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), declared
Marcos the winner. According to COMELEC's final tally, Marcos won with 10,807,197
votes to Aquino's 9,291,761 votes. By contrast, the final tally of NAMFREL,
an accredited poll watcher, said Marcos won with 7,835,070 votes to Aquino's
7,053,068. The allegedly fraudulent result was not accepted by Corazon Aquino
and her supporters. International observers, including a U.S. delegation led
by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), denounced the official results. Gen. Fidel
Ramos and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile declared that they no longer supported
A peaceful civilian-military uprising forced Marcos into exile and installed
Corazon Aquino as president on 25 February 1986.