Real Heist Stories: Ferdinand Marcos

Cruelest Criminal in President’s Disguise?

Ferdinand Marcos is the former president of the Philippines. Although you are in the section of ‘heists,’ we are sure you have heard about how his term was considered “The Golden Years.” 

Because of how much money and projects he made and completed for his country, some people ignore the fact that goes a bit deeper in history: He wasn’t exactly a good leader. 

Industrialization and solid infrastructures were only a small portion of what he did for the country. As for the rest, he did more things but without keeping citizens in mind. 

This is why diving into the good but mostly bad things that came from his term is important. After all, new generations are only missing the whole concept when the disaster that came to the inhabitants is bigger than any construction.

Who Is Ferdinand Marcos? 

Our previous mention of him being a former Philippine President is enough for now. Before diving into this part, let’s have an introduction to his early years. 

His full name was Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, and he was born in Sarrat in the Ilocos Norte Province of Luzon, Philippines, on September 11, 1917. 

Josefa Edralin, his mother, and Mariano Marcos, his father, were teachers from wealthy families. Mariano Marcos later became a congressman in 1925 and surrounded Ferdinand in a political atmosphere.

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Mariano had an important influence on Ferdinand’s competitive and win-at-all-costs nature, quite visible in his future as part of politics. 

His parents encouraged him to excel in all areas of his life, including school studies and sports like boxing, wrestling, hunting, survival skills, and marksmanship. 

Although Mariano was the one who influenced his life, Marcos’s biological father was actually Ferdinand Chua, a wealthy Chinese man. However, he was never considered a paternal figure. 

Instead, Marcos claimed Chua was his “godfather.” He was a highly connected judge responsible for Marcos’s extraordinary good fortune as a young man. 

Chua, among other things, paid for Marcos’s education. Mariano and Chua were quite involved in his life, and although no specific details of how they managed the entire childhood of Ferdinand in terms of authority, it seems both of them had the same influence. 

From a very early age, Marcos was already on the bad side; not many knew unless researching more. 

Julio Nalundasan, a congressman who had just won over Mariano Marcos in the election of 1935, was celebrating at his home when Ferdinand Marcos shot him with a .22 caliber bullet. 

Ferdinand was later arrested for Nalundasan’s murder three years later, and after graduating from law school, Ferdinand was found guilty of the crime just a year after his arrest.

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Marcos was in prison for six months and wrote his own appeal to the Supreme Court for a fresh trial. The Supreme Court heard Marcos’ appeal in 1940. However, the judge in control (apparently influenced by Judge Chua) tossed out the case, and Marcos was set free. 

He returned to the Supreme Court the next day and took the oath of becoming a lawyer.

Wartime: Ferdinand’s Participation

Entering a bit of the country’s history and this individual, Marcos grew up in the Philippines when it was a colony of the United States. 

It was only after intense fighting during World War II (1939-1945), an international conflict for control over large areas of the globe between the Axis (Germany and Japan) and the Allies (United States of America, Great Britain, and France, among others), that the Philippines gained independence. 

This means that The Philippines was largely self-governing, and it gained its independence officially in 1946.

During WWII and the events that took place in the country, Marcos was the most decorated soldier of the U.S. Armed Forces and the greatest Filipino resistance leader. 

He appeared to have fought on both sides and lent support to the United States and Japan. Hence, the decorations in both parts.

This was possible since it was later known that Marcos established Ang Mga Maharlika, a secret resistance group in Manila (the Philippines’ capital), in early 1943. 

He claimed that it was made up of agents who were working against the Japanese. The group was made up of many criminals, such as pickpockets and shooters looking to make a living in wartime.

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Marcos returned to law practice after the war. For Filipino veterans seeking to recover their pay and benefits, he often filed false claims in Washington, D.C. 

He was encouraged by the success of these claims and filed a $595,000 claim for himself, stating that two thousand cattle had been taken from Mariano Marcos’ ranch by the U.S. Army. 

However, this ranch had never existed, and the claim was declined. 

Entering Politics: When Things Got Worse

Following his participation in the war and how he was considered a great contribution by citizens, four articles were published by a magazine editor in December 1948 about his war experiences. 

This helped to build Marcos’s fame even more and place him in politics. 

Marcos ran for the seat of the Philippine House of Representatives in 1949 as a Liberal Party candidate. He campaigned on promises of veterans’ benefits for two million Filipinos. 

Due to his campaign and charisma shown, he received 70% of the vote.

Thanks to his new position but also his American tobacco subsidies, he was worth one million dollars in less than a year. 

He also had the ability to press Chinese businesses into cooperating with him. During this time in the role and building his tobacco empire, he married Imelda Romualdez in 1954.

Marcos was twice re-elected for the former set to then move to his election as the Senate President in 1959. 

From 1954 to 1961, he was vice-president of the Liberal Party, which is what marks his side on politics. 

He managed Diosdado Makapagal’s run for the Philippine presidency. However, this wasn’t more than a plan by Ferdinand, who made a deal with Macapagal.

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If he succeeded in making Diosdado president-elect, he would have to resign after one term in order to make way for Marcos to run the country. However, the former president decided not to follow the agreement. 

As a result, Marcos joined the Nationalist Party to become their Presidential candidate in 1965’s election against Macapagal. He won thanks to popular opinion and how was Macapagal’s term so far. 

During his first term, President Ferdinand Marcos expanded the Philippine military and decided not to take part in the Vietnam War. 

Moreover, this was the time when he took loans for construction projects to increase rice, roads, and school buildings. However, this was only due to his intention of running for a second term. 

All the loans created a budget deficit of 72% in the country, and the funds were clearly used for more than just constructions in the country.

Marcos prioritized grand infrastructure projects instead of public funding, which led to a decline in services and citizens’ lifestyles. 

Despite this, in 1969, Marcos became the first Filipino president who won a second term. However, indeed, his presidency was not a success for all Filipinos. 

The month that followed his reelection saw the largest protests in Philippine history. After three years of student protests and a deteriorating economy, Marcos declared martial law, which is a state in which military authorities have extraordinary powers to maintain order. 

Marcos’s excuse to declare martial law was the growing revolution of the Communist New People’s Army, which opposed his government.

Marcos doubled the number of armed forces to nearly two hundred thousand troops over the nine years of martial laws, ensuring his government control.

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He retained all power that he was granted under martial until it was repealed in 1981. The economy was still in decline, while Ferdinand and Imelda became the wealthiest couple in the world. 

The opposition to Marcos grew as Marcos’s health declined and the U.S. supported him lessens.

Fall Down of a Dictator

After martial law and all the decline in Filipino’s lives and country, the assassination of Begnon S. Aquino Jr. in 1983 would mark a change in the country. 

Benigno S. Aquino Jr. was Marcos’s principal political rival. But his assassination just led to the Marcos regime collapsing instead of perpetuating his governance. 

The killing angered Filipinos and the claim by authorities that one gunman committed the murder. 

One year later, civilian investigators brought charges against several soldiers and officials of the government. However, no one was found guilty in 1985. 

The country wasn’t blind either since the majority of Filipinos believe Marcos was involved with Aquino’s murder.

To control the masses, Marcos called next for a “snap election” to be held in early 1986. Marcos’s opponent in that election was Corazon Aquino, Aquino’s widow. 

The election was full of corruption, violence, and fraud, which means Marcos won against Corazon.

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However, Ferdinand and his wife Imelda Marcos fled the country due to a rebellion within the Philippine military supported by thousands of Filipinos marching on the streets after announcing how he “defeated” Aquino. 

In order to run, Marcos applied for U.S. assistance but was only granted an aircraft force jet that flew him and Imelda to Hawaii.

He remained there until his passing on September 28, 1989. However, people don’t forget. In addition to all the wrongdoing, over $28 million in Philippine currency had been taken by the Marcoses during their escape. 

The administration of President Aquino stated that this was just a small portion of illegally accumulated wealth by the Marcoses.

Human Rights Abuses & Crimes

Although history speaks louder than any fact we can write in this section, it can be useful to summarize. 

Ferdinand’s life and presidency terms were full of violence and injustice. During this time (as we have mentioned before), Filipinos were living under a dictatorship that couldn’t care less about them. 

As a result, many human rights cases of abuse took place. Those were against political opponents, student activists, and anyone who would show how against they were to Marcos’ control in the country. 

After the last elections involving the dictator, documentation of Amnesty International, the forces in the Philippines, and international entities conducted investigations. 

In them, it was discovered that Marcos committed at least 3,000 extrajudicial killings, over 40,000 people were tortured, and about 100 disappeared.

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Thousands of incarcerations add to the count, and specific murder victims that were mutilated are included in a different group that exceeds 2,500 people. 

Many of the Filipinos witnessed the mutilation cases since Ferdinand purposely threw the bodies in public areas to sow fear among the citizens. 

Another crime added to the list included people forced to recur to cannibalism arguably to survive in the hands of the military and the dictator. 

Other victims weren’t killed but instead raided and arrested in their own homes without any legal permission or warrants. 

Detentions without charges and searches without second thoughts were common during the period. 

All this was mainly attributed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as they supported Marcos’s dictatorship for almost a decade. Thus, forces that were specifically known for handling his orders were punished and faced their sentences. 

So, after this, how can we summarize even more his terms? 

  • Full of violence and human rights abuses.
  • Warrantless arrests.
  • Tortures and massacres.
  • Indigenous people were also targeted during massacres, especially the Moro people. Hundreds of them were killed even before the Martial Law. 

Finally, Marcos’ family involvement was clear, but not for authorities (apparently). 

The members declined any charges and denied how he led the entire dictatorship. A bit of a joke considering that even the human rights abuses “were all lies from the governments and entities.”

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Additional Facts About Ferdinand Marcos

  • His fortune was said to reach the $10 billion mark, and it was never found.
  • Ferdinand was never convicted for any of the crimes and his human rights abuses. He just remained in exile in Hawaii and died quietly.
  • “The Golden Years” of our earlier mention refers to two sides of the terms: How he builds several infrastructures, but also a reference to the “Golden Age for Corruption.”
  • His period is considered one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history.
  • Not only did he murder, torture, and commit abuses. The loans and decline in the Philippine economy he took and caused led the country to pay debts and taxes every year since his escape, and the payment period extended to 2025. 

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