This Day In History: December 30

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Former Philippines Senate president Ferdinand Marcos is inaugurated president of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation. Marcos’ regime would span 20 years and become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.

Ferdinand Marcos was a law student in the late 1930s, when he was tried for the assassination of a political opponent of his politician father. Convicted in 1939, he personally appealed the case before the Philippine Supreme Court and won an acquittal. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, he allegedly served as leader of the Filipino resistance movement, but U.S. government records indicate he played little role in anti-Japanese activities.

In 1949, he was elected to the Philippines House of Representatives, thanks in large part to his fabricated wartime record. In 1959, he moved up to the Senate and from 1963 to 1965 served as Senate president. In 1965, he broke with the Liberal Party after failing to win his party’s presidential nomination and ran as the candidate of the Nationalist Party. After a bitter and decisive campaign, he was elected president. In 1969, he was reelected.

Marcos’ second term was marked by increasing civil strife and violence by leftist insurgents. In 1972, following a series of bombings in Manila, he warned of an imminent communist takeover and declared martial law. In 1973, he assumed dictatorship powers under a new constitution. Marcos used the military to suppress subversive elements but also arrested and jailed his mainstream political opponents. His anti-communist activities won him enthusiastic support from the U.S. government, but his regime was marked by misuse of foreign aid, repression, and political murders. His beauty-queen wife, Imelda Marcos, was appointed to important political posts and lived a famously extravagant lifestyle that included a massive wardrobe featuring thousands of pairs of shoes.

In 1981, Marcos was dubiously reelected president. In rural areas, insurgency by communists and Muslim separatists grew. In 1983, Marcos’ old political opponent Benigno Aquino, Jr., returned from exile and was assassinated by military agents of Marcos as soon as he stepped off the plane. The political murder touched off widespread anti-Marcos protests, and in 1986 he agreed to hold a new presidential election.

Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, ran against Marcos, and on February 7, 1986, the election was held. Marcos was declared victorious, but independent observers charged the regime with widespread electoral fraud. Aquino’s followers proclaimed her president, and much of the military defected to her side as massive anti-Marcos demonstrations were held. On February 25, Marcos, his wife, and their entourage were airlifted from the presidential palace in Manila by U.S. helicopters and fled to Hawaii.

After substantial evidence of Marcos’ corruption emerged, including the looting of billions of dollars from the Philippine economy, Marcos and his wife were indicted by the U.S. government on embezzlement charges. After Ferdinand Marcos’ death in 1989, Imelda was cleared of the charges, and she was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, where she unsuccessfully ran for the presidency the following year. In 1993, Imelda Marcos was convicted of corruption by a Philippine court, but she avoided serving her 12-year prison sentence. In 1995, she was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1998, she unsuccessfully ran for president again.

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