The Era of Marcos: A President Who Became a Dictator (1965-1986)


In the 1965 presidential election, Macapagal was defeated by , a former Liberal, who became the Nacionalista Party’s presidential candidate. In 1969, Marcos, a native son of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, won his reelection.

However, during the Marcos regime, corruption in the government reached unparalleled proportions. Thus, opposition to Marcos’s administration grew stronger and stronger. On September 21, 1972, President Marcos imposed martial law. He abolished Congress, clamped opposition print and broadcast media, and jailed thousands of his critics. He became an absolute dictator. His presidential proclamations became the laws of the land.

In 1973, his second and final term as president should have ended. However, with martial law, Marcos continued to rule as the absolute dictator in the Philippines. Plebiscites were held during the years 1973, 1975, and 1978. However, the will of the Filipino people didn’t prevail. All the plebiscites of disputable legitimacy gave approval to the extension of martial law.

In 1978, the Philippines held elections for the legislature (the National Assembly had replaced the former Congress). Marcos’ party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), or New Society Movement obtained three quarters of the seats in the national assembly. In 1981, Marcos formally ended martial law. However, as president, he had emergency powers. In June 1981, in an election during which many people didn’t vote, Marcos won another six-year term as president.

During the martial law era, both the administrations of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter continued to give military and other economic aid to the Marcos administration.

In August 1983, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., a staunch Marcos critic, went home to the Philippines from his exile in the United States. He was murdered at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival.

In February 1985, General Fabian Ver and 24 other soldiers were tried by a special court composed of what the opposition groups called “Marcos loyalists.” Ver and his soldiers were acquitted.

A so-called “snap” presidential election, proposed by President Marcos himself, was held in February 1986. Corazon Aquino, wife of the late Senator Aquino who was murdered, became Marcos’ rival candidate. Aquino, with the backing of the people, won a clear majority of the votes. However, Marcos had the National Assembly declare himself winner in the election.

A section of the military, led by Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos’ secretary of defense, and Fidel Ramos, chief of staff of the armed forces of the Philippines, rebelled against the dictator. Due to the mass demonstrations in Manila, called “people power,” Marcos was forced to escape aboard a U.S. Air Force plane to the United States. That ended the Marcos regime and started the rule of President Aquino. Marcos died in exile in the United States.



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