Marcos, Money, And Martial Law: 5 Things You Need To Know

Get acquainted with some key facts and figures that gave rise to the Edsa People Power Revolution.

Martial Law Marcos

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution. It’s the day Filipinos toppled the Marcos dictatorship, which spanned from 1965 up until their final days in Malacañang in 1986.

On top of the human rights abuses, cronyism, and other crimes against the Filipino people, the Marcos dictatorship has always been tied with money. From the lavish parties to expensive pieces of jewelry, issues ensue wherever the money goes. Let’s have a look back at the top controversies of the Marcos rule.

The peso-dollar exchange plummeted from P1 per dollar to P25 per dollar

Exchange rates are one of the many indicators used to measure the strength of an economy and its competitiveness against other currencies. The stronger the peso is against the dollar, the cheaper imported goods are and the lower we have to pay on foreign debt. Unfortunately for the Marcos regime, it started a downhill trend on the country’s poor dollar exchange rate.

During the first term of the Marcos administration, the peso-dollar exchange rate played at around P3.90, which he picked off from his predecessor, Diosdado Macapagal.

While he was able to maintain the exchange rate during his first term, it had gone downhill after he was reelected, followed by a series of mass protests dubbed the First Quarter Storm. Because of this, the peso further slid down to P6, and it just sank from that point. By the time of Marcos’ ouster, the rate was P25 per dollar.

The country’s external debt ballooned to $28.3 billion

The late strongman had a vision of the Philippines to become an economic powerhouse not just in the region but in the entire Asia. To maintain the economic momentum, his administration borrowed money to make this dream a reality.

In a paper titled “The Economic Legacy of Marcos,” Professor Gerardo Sicat of the UP School of Economics said Marcos’ heavy borrowing from external sources funded “public infrastructure covering road building and rehabilitation across the nation, irrigation systems, energy projects, and other projects in the social sectors like education and health.”

(See Also: Wise Words On Leadership, Success, And The Edsa Revolution From A Former President)

But while the initial results of the developments he issued gave a rise to the country’s GDP by 7 percent per year, Marcos’ “debt-driven” reforms blew back in the faces of the Filipinos—and we’re still paying the price until now. Aside from the inability to meet deadlines, major economic shocks like energy crises and public discontent plunged the country further into debt.

The watch brand that was given to 12 of Marcos’ top honchos during Martial Law was Omega, not Rolex

When Ferdinand Marcos was concocting his plan to put the country under military rule, he enlisted the help of 12 of his most trusted men to draft what would become of Presidential Decree 1081. As a token of appreciation, he awarded gold watches to the men who helped him orchestrate Martial Law in a private ceremony. Since then, they’ve been dubbed the “Rolex 12,” which refers to the brand of watch given by the late president.

However, according to a 1974 cable from the American Embassy in Manila to the Secretary of States in the United States, the watches given to the Rolex 12 were actually Omega, thus making the moniker “Rolex 12” a misrepresentation. While the model of the watch wasn’t specified, the price of Omega watches during the said time range from $643 to $4,588 in today’s money.

Reports say the Marcoses pocketed around $5 billion to $10 billion

The world “imeldific” exists for a reason: the Marcoses, despite the widespread poverty and discontent, lived in ostentatious opulence. Extravagant parties, hundreds of shoes, and other lavish displays of wealth—these are some of the things people will remember about the first family.

A Huffington Post article says the Marcoses and their cronies amassed up to around $10 billion during the family’s reign in the country. While reports say the money used by the Marcoses to fuel their lavish lifestyle came from the national treasury, the family insists up to now that they worked hard for it.

Currently, the Presidential Commission on Good Government reported that it is yet to recover all the assets plundered by the family, which includes jewelries, paintings, and money hidden in several banks around the world.

The government allotted P10 billion as reparation to the victims of Martial Law

Thousands of people have been victimized by Martial Law in different ways: some were tortured, detained illegally, raped, murdered, and vanished. Almost 30 years after the brutal dictatorship, a number victims and their relatives are still waiting for justice to be served. The government also allotted money as monetary compensation for them.

In 2013, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10368, or more commonly known as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act. With this bill, more than 75,000 people who filed for a claim are entitled to receive reparation based on the atrocities they experienced during the era. The government allotted P10 billion to fund the reparation program, and released an additional P500 million to construct a museum to commemorate the country’s dark days. In addition, the $2 billion won by the government in the Hawaii lawsuit against the Marcoses will also be added to the pool of funds. –Dino Mari Testa

Know more interesting facts about Martial Law and the Edsa Revolution? Share them in the comments section below.