Friday, October 07, 2005
Ferdinand Marcos the world’s most corrupt leaders
Ferdinand Marcos was one of the world’s most corrupt leaders.
In fact, his ranking on the top ten of the world’s most corrupt leaders was number two. While in office as the President of the Philippines he not only enriched his own pocketbook, but those of his friends and family.
He swindled billions of dollars from the country and it’s citizens by changing the country’s constitution, taking over businesses to be run by his government, running up a huge national debt, and virtually monopolizing agriculture.
His treatment of the citizens, especially those who opposed him, was atrocious at best. Swindling his own people in order to further his own ends as well as their mistreatment proved to be his downfall, however the Philippines has still not received retribution from his estate due to lengthy litigation carried out by his wife, Imelda Marcos.
Ferdinand was a master manipulator, especially in the legal realm. During his term as President he placed members of his family and close friends into key government positions, ensuring that his actions could go unchecked.
If one would look at the early constitution in the Philippines they would find a series of checks and balances. This was in an attempt to limit the ability of any one person or group of people from controlling the government.
However, during his second term in office, he managed to have the constitution changed to allow him to stay in office for life. Bribery and corruption tarnished the Constitutional Convention that was held to review the constitution.
Members were bribed to vote against limiting the President’s term to eight years. With the constitution changed Marcos could stay in power, if he were to be reelected, indefinitely.
The next obstacle for Marcos to overcome was how to ensure that he would be reelected as President. Bombings, civil unrest, increasing numbers in the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the formation of the guerilla army, the New People’s Army gave him the solution he needed. In 1972 he declared martial law which enabled him to run the country as he saw fit.
With martial law in place Marcos was able to decrease the crime rate and increase the GDP. At what cost was this achieved? His vision of the country, as stated publicly, was that of the poor and wealthy working together to improve society.
His public intentions were to confiscate businesses and lands held by wealthy individuals and redistribute them to the population.
What actually occurred was that his friends and family members were given control of the businesses and the land. Curfews were ordered, he took control of the media and banned protests. All opposition to his control of the country was finally removed.
He could now strive, unchecked, for his personal enrichment.
During his Presidency, Marcos’ treatment of the population, especial any political opponents, and reporters shedding a negative light on his administration, can be termed tyrannous.
What he wanted he took. What he disliked he destroyed or at the very least made sure that the world wouldn’t see. He accomplished this by imprisoning and torturing those who did not give way to his needs. This enabled him to amass billions of dollars in personal assets.
In 1971, court orders signed by a relative of Marcos, allowed the Criminal Investigation Service to raid Roger Roxas’ home and confiscate a small treasure that he had found. The initial charge was that of illegal possession of firearms.
He was imprisoned and tortured by the military in an attempt to find the whereabouts of the remaining treasure. The treasure was supposedly the Yamashita Treasure, which was booty from World War II and legally was to be returned to the countries that it had been taken from.
Once in Marcos’ possession this small legality did not stop him. He had the gold resmelted in order to remove the hallmarks indicating the countries of origin. The initial rough estimates of the value of this treasure were between 15 and 20 billion dollars (USD).
With the media under his control he wanted no outside interference that would shed a negative light on what he and his government were doing in the Philippines. During his rule he had journalist arrested, interrogated, and even imprisoned for voicing their opinions on his government’s actions.
In 1985 alone, twelve journalists had been killed during the first six months of the year. His answer was always that he would look into the matter while denying any connection to the occurrences. However, nothing was ever really done about the problem while he was in office.
Lawyers trying to push for human rights in the country were summarily arrested by the military.
Marcos’ government took control of several of the most lucrative businesses in the country. He places several of his friends and family in key positions in these businesses. While in office he had the constitution further modified to allow for some of these businesses to access gross amounts in loans which their past performances did not warrant.
This was in order to plunder even more money, either through direct ownership of stocks or by skimming money from the loans in the form of fees. Either way, the money always seemed to pass across Marcos’ desk and eventually into one of his bank accounts.
He created huge monopolies in finance, manufacturing and construction. When one of the businesses failed he propped them up with hundreds of millions of pesos in subsidies.
The land reforms that he introduced during his reign were also ways for him to enrich himself and his family and friends. While he was in control of the government the local farmers were forced to sell their crops at less than the going world price.
They had to sell to a virtual monopoly within the country, which would in turn resell the crops at market values and further increase their profits. All the while the local farmers were suffering.
When the market prices fell the small farmers suffered greatly.
Ferdinand also squandered millions of dollars on palaces and vacation houses across the country. These homes were for his and his friends and family’s use. He also allowed his friends to avoid paying taxes on incomes, imports and the like.
These tax evasions alone cost the government millions of dollars. The grants and government contracts that the Philippines received were also sources of corruption.
One such contract with the US government alone resulted in 6 million dollars unaccounted for.
As for personal lavishes, aside from the vacation houses, Imelda’s personal jewelry has been valued at over 10 million dollars (USD). Of course the purchase of such lavishes as these and the possession of enough shoes to supply an entire town was legal in the Marcos’ eyes.
Imelda Marcos was not the innocent wife hiding in the background during her husband’s rule. She has been charged with several counts of corruption and grafting over the past decade. In 2001, she was accused of laundering 352 million dollars (USD) while she was the Minister of Human Settlements.
She has been charged with over 150 counts of corruption but has yet to spend one day in jail.
Another channel for Ferdinand to line his pockets at the expense of the country was in his dealings with foreign creditors. Towards the end of his regime the country amassed tremendous amounts of debt. He used state of the economy to acquire huge loans from sources such as the International Monetary Fund.
In 1984, he devaluated the Peso by allowing it to float against dollar in order to receive a 650 million-dollar (USD) loan. The effects of these actions are still weighing heavily on the Philippines today.
In fact, nearly one third of their budget is dedicated to interest payments alone.
Adding to this, the closing of banks, due to mysterious disappearances of millions of dollars, the poverty stricken country is hard pressed to stay out of bankruptcy.
The undoing of the Marcos’ regime was its’ blatant audacity. By the 1983, Ferdinand seemed to be above reproach.
After winning an overwhelming victory in the elections following his removal of martial law the opposition’s leader, Benigno Aquino, returned to the Philippines. Due to safety concerns military personnel escorted him.
Upon arrival in Manila he was shot dead. The shooting was quickly blamed on the communists. However 25 of his military faced accusations of conspiracy for the murder, as indicated by an independent commission in 1984.
Their trial ended with their acquittal and the results were contested by several nations, including the United States.
Following the decision, the Philippines business community begins to speak out, demonstrations are staged and what is now termed the “People’s Power” movement began, led by Benigno’s widow Corazon Aquino.
Corazon declared her intentions to run against Ferdinand in 1985 for the elections scheduled early the following year. Preceding the 1985 elections Marcos had the courts seize Aquino's sugar plantation. The 15,000-hectare plantation was to be distributed to "qualified Filipinos."
The seizure was to show the Philippine's voters that Aquino was not one of the "people" that she vowed to protect, but rather, she was a wealthy landlord and would exploit the "people" of the Philippines.
At least that was how it was reported at the time. Looking at Marcos' tactics with regards to his competition, it was plainly an attempt to flex his political muscle and show Aquino that she had a great deal more to lose as his opponent.
After the Elections were held, the results were highly contested by not only the Philippines, but by the world community. Shortly thereafter, mass resignations and rebellions began. Eventually the Marcos’ fled the country to Hawaii, in the United States.
Litigation against the Marcos’ estate continues to this day, in an attempt to recoup some of the losses the Philippines, and the world, had suffered under the Marcos regime. With the amount of money that has gone into the country, the poverty levels are astounding in the Philippines.
Recent studies show that roughly 40% of the population lives on less than 2 dollars (USD) a day, and 11% live on less than 1 dollar (USD) a day. The only real beneficiaries of the trillions of dollars in debt that the country is now faced with are the richest 10% of the population, including the Marcos and their cronies.
Overall, the Marcos’ regime, through the use of martial law, mistreatment of the population, manipulation of the business communities, and money laundering left the country in chaos. Subsequent administrations have only added to the turmoil and poverty continues to be a major concern. Truly, in the Philippines, the rich get richer while the poor barely survive.
Copyright by Asinah Holzem & Shanon D. Spaulding (Iskandar Shah Bin Abdullah)