|"I mean, how could I possibly be evil? Just look at this totally bogus painting of my face!" *Mwah* *mwah*|
MYTH 1. UNDER MARCOS THE COUNTRY WAS PROSPEROUS
A few people were prosperous. People like Herminio Disini, Danding Cojuangco, Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand Marcos, junior -- Bongbong -- got his own island, Calauit -- as a hunting preserve. He demanded, and was handed, millions of pesos from a private company, Philcomsat. "What could we do," a company officer said later, "he was the president's son." Imelda turned the Philippine National Bank into her private piggy bank and Philippine Airlines into her personal air service. She bought condos in New York, ordered posh department stores to close their doors so she could shop inside in peace, handed out hundred dollar tips to Americans. Where'd all this money come from?
Marcos ruled unchecked for almost 14 years, free to write his own laws as he went along (after he was overthrown, investigators discovered dozens of secret decrees he'd kept handy for all possible contingencies). With those awesome powers, what progress did he bring to the country? In 1974, the poverty rate was 24%. By 1980 it was 40%. When Marcos assumed the presidency, the country's foreign debt was US$1 billion. By the time he fled, it was US$28 billion. Where'd all the money go? Investigators later estimated the Marcoses stole at least US$10 billion, most of it salted away abroad. Martial Law sustained a plunder economy run for the benefit of the Marcos family, its relatives and associates. Everyone else was just an afterthought.
MYTH 2. UNDER MARCOS THE COUNTRY WAS PEACEFUL
During Martial Law, not only did the Communist New People's Army increase in strength, from a few hundred to more than 20,000 soldiers, but crime in Manila became so bad that at one point Marcos actually ordered the deployment of "secret marshals." These were armed plainclothes military agents who pretended to be passengers in jeeps and buses, with orders to shoot and kill anybody they thought were criminals.
The worst threat to peace and order was none other than Marcos himself. Historian Alfred McCoy estimates the Martial Law regime killed more than 3,000 Filipinos and made hundreds disappear. Dinampot (picked up) entered the venacular to describe what happened to Marcos critics, who were usually labeled "subversives" or "dissidents." Another word coined under the dictatorship, "salvage" -- murder committed by the authorities -- acquired international notoriety. If there was "peace" in the country it was the graveyard silence produced by fear and repression.
MYTH 3. MARCOS BUILT MANY ROADS, SCHOOLHOUSES, DAMS, ETC
True. He could build and build because it wasn't his money that was being used, it was the taxpayers'. And of course, Marcos made sure he got a cut. The biggest, most famous construction project, the billion-dollar Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was an overpriced, graft-ridden structure which paid Marcos millions of dollars in kickbacks. His crony Herminio Disini got such a large commission he could afford to flee to Austria, buy a castle and settle down. The country took years to pay off the BNPP. It still hasn't been used. Imelda also had an "edifice complex." She was in such a hurry to have the Film Palace in Roxas Boulevard finished, part of it collapsed, reportedly burying workers alive.
Imelda's idea of infrastructure for the poor was a high whitewashed concrete wall around Manila's squatter areas, the better to hide the poverty and misery, and so avoid depressing passing motorists and tourists.
MYTH 4. IN 1986 MARCOS COULD HAVE ORDERED HIS TROOPS TO RUN OVER THE CITIZENS ON EDSA BUT REFUSED TO DO SO, EVEN IF IT MEANT HE WOULD LOSE
Actually he was urging his generals to attack, but in front of the TV cameras made a big show of concern over civilian casualties. Reporter Sandra Burton, who was there, wrote: "Viewers had just witnessed another bit of play-acting, or moro-moro, between Marcos and (General Fabian) Ver, which seemed intended to impress upon his official US audience the president's concern for preventing bloodshed, even as the Americans' sensitive communications devices were intercepting his generals' orders to fire on rebel headquarters."
The truth was the dictator's generals were reluctant to attack. According to Beth Day Romulo, one general later said his huge amphibious assault vehicles could have "rammed through the crowds." However, "I didn't want to be known as the Butcher of Ortigas Avenue."
Marcos kept up the pretense. Burton wrote how: " Hyperventiliating again, Ver grew more and more excited. 'Just give me the order, sir and we will hit them.' Marcos, looking reasonable, compared to his bellicose chief of staff, refused. Yet even as he spoke, his generals were ordering Colonel Balbas to stop making excuses and fire the mortars he had positioned early that morning on the golf course inside Camp Aguinaldo." Marcos never let a few broken, maimed bodies stand in his way. He wasn't about to stop.
MYTH 5. MARCOS MEANT WELL, BUT IMELDA AND THE CRONIES RUINED EVERYTHING
He refused to share power. He kept a closet full of secret decrees. His word was law. The judiciary, legislative and military were his puppets. If Ferdinand Marcos could claim credit for all the nice buildings constructed during his regime, he should also take responsibility for everything else.
The truth was, Marcos was evil from the get-go. As a young man, he assassinated his father's political opponent -- through a coward's way, sniping from long range in the dark of night. He fabricated a record as an alleged guerrilla leader during World War II. He opened a secret Swiss bank account -- under the pseudonym "William Saunders" -- with Credit Suisse in 1968, years before he declared Martial Law.
Marcos was all of a piece. He intended to run the country purely for the benefit of his family and friends, and to set up a dynasty that would continue the plunder. He was prepared to do anything to hang on.
During the snap election campaign in 1985, he sneered that his opponent, Cory Aquino, was a mere housewife with no experience. Cory fired back with a statement that summed up the dictator: “I concede that I cannot match Mr. Marcos when it comes to experience. I admit that I have no experience in cheating, stealing, lying, or assassinating political opponents.”