Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralín Marcos was born on 11 September 1917 and died on 28 September 1989. He was elected to the presidency of the Philippines in 1966 and was ousted from power in 1986 in a massive, yet bloodless revolution.
As a young law student, Marcos was arrested and convicted for the murder of Julio Nalundasan, a man who had twice defeated Marcos' father to a seat in the National Assembly. During his incarceration, he studied for the 1938 Philippine Bar exams, and proceeded to receive one of the highest scores in the exam's history. He then appealed his case to the Supreme Court and won.
Marcos, like many young men of the period, was called to combat by the Philippine army when World War II broke out. He suited up as an intelligence officer and subsequently took part in the Bataan Death March, where thousands of Filipino and American soldiers, some of whom were already suffering from malaria or otherwise injured, were forced to endure a treacherous 30-mile (42 km) hike as ordered by the head of Japanese Occupation. They were given no food or water and were intensely abused.
Marcos often claimed to be one of the foremost guerilla leaders of World War II, recounting many heroic deeds against the enemy. Critics allege, however, that these stories are mere fabrications. Whatever the case may be, Marcos launched an impressive political career soon after the war. He was elected to Congress and quickly gained entry to the Senate. After four years of being a Senator, he ascended to the presidency.
By most accounts, Marcos's first term as head of state was not a bad one. There were great improvements in infrastructure, government finances were stabilized, and foreign policies were secure. On the supposed strength of his performance therefore, Marcos was re-elected to a second term.
Unfortunately, massive election overspending, which some say was due to Marcos' vote-buying and other electoral fraud activities, led to higher inflation rates and the devaluation of the Philippine peso. Natural calamities hit the country one after the other. Claims of nepotism, as well graft and corruption, were hurled at the administration. An activist student population began calling for reforms. The Communist party of the Philippines re-emerged. The atmosphere of the day was charged and the president responded with force. Student rallies were tear-gassed, and in 1972, Martial Law was declared.
Martial Law, which lasted for over nine years, effectively suspended the writ of habeas corpus, meaning that "subversives," or anyone who spoke out against the administration, could now be routinely picked up and detained without any kind of due process. Students, journalists, suspected communists, even political opponents were all put in detention centers. Stories of torture, rape, and other kinds of abuse are rampant. The media became a tightly controlled government outlet, and elections were seen as nothing more than farce.
In 1981, Marcos officially lifted Martial Law, in part to prepare for the arrival of Pope John Paul II to the country. However, this was seen as a mostly superficial act by the opposition, as nothing really changed. Two years later, Marcos' political rival, Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Two million Filipinos showed their support by attening mass funeral rites for the dead statesman. This murder is largely seen as the catalyst for the Marcos regime's downfall.
In 1986, Marcos was finally ousted from power by a bloodless revolution participated in by millions of Filipinos. People from all walks of life, from students to nuns and priests, crowded the streets for four days, asking for Marcos's resignation. During this period, trusted allies of the administration began a systematic defection and soldiers who were called in to "control the crowds" refused to open fire. Ferdinand Marcos and his family were forced to flee to Hawaii for their safety, having been granted safe passage by the US government. The presidential palace was ransacked by an angry mob. The Marcoses were later indicted for embezzlement.
Ferdinand Marcos died of kidney, heart, and lung ailments in Honolulu on 28 September 1989. His health had already been poor even while in office, and it is theorized that the stress created by the fall of his regime greatly contributed to his decline.