"This nation can be great again. This I have said over and over. It is my articles of faith, and Divine Providence has willed that you and I can now translate this faith into deeds."
(Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., 1965)

Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. died on September 28, 1989. As president of the Philippines, he served the longest (1965-1986). However, thirty years after he is ousted from office, the influence of Marcos remains to hold in the Philippines. His administration was seen by some as a "golden age" to look back and return to, mentioned no less by the New York Times. His son, Ferdinand Jr., even garnered 34% of the vote in the 2016 vice presidential election despite his losing effort. Then again, while Marcos has been long heralded by so-called "loyalists," the president who made the nation "great again," there has been no real academic work that tackled the achievements of the Marcos administration. Historians have long battled the notion of a "golden age" of Marcos, to the point of labeling it as "myth and deception." However, while there has been a wealth of academic works discussing why the Marcos administration is far from great, there has not been enough to counter this from the other side of the spectrum. Indeed, there is nothing much to cite from the side of Marcos. Yet, the "loyalists" remain. I wonder. Therefore, what this brief article offers is to balance what is unbalanced (or imbalanced, as the youth would say) by tackling the Marcos administration according to Marcos himself. What made the Marcos administration "great" in the standards of the man who promised it?

The Marcos administration according to Marcos

President Ferdinand Marcos
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
To begin, one must look at where the Philippines was when Marcos began his presidency five decades ago. In his 1966 State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos blamed the previous administration of leaving the nation in a bad shape. The government is in a deficit, food production insufficient, among others. To solve this crisis, he presented to Congress a four-year Development Plan which would cost the government 4 billion pesos. The Gross National Product (GNP) is targeted to increase by 5% annually. Under the previous administration of Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965), average annual growth was at 4.3%. Fast forward to 1970, four years later. By this time, Marcos has been reelected for a second term. In his 1970 SONA, Marcos boasted a revived economy. Average GNP growth in the past four years stand at 6.3% per year, easily surpassing the target of 5%. Inflation (increase in the general prices of goods and services) was tamed, from an average of 5.5% in 1966-1967 to 1.7% in 1969. A strain of high-yield rice, the IR8, was used for the Masagana 99 rice production program. Average rice yield nationwide doubled to 80 cavans per hectare (4,000 kilograms), and the nation exported rice for the first time for a long time. As for infrastructure, perhaps one of the lasting legacies of the Marcos administration, 8,560 kilometers of roads (against 7,633 kilometers from the previous administration) and 90,986 classrooms (against 800 from the previous administration) were built. Some 647,000 jobs a year were provided, a 220% increase from the job creation record of the previous administration. Crime rate stood at 150 per 100,000 population, the lowest since 1959. In the next development plan, Gross National Product (GNP) is targeted to increase by 6% annually. Of course, as early as 1970, Marcos has been eyeing to have a new constitution drafted. This would later be realized with the ratification of the 1973 Philippine Constitution.

Economic growth of the Philippines (1960-1986)
Photo courtesy of Trading Economics
As we all know, Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21, 1972, putting the entire Philippines under martial law. This is only a year before his constitutional term expires on December 31, 1973. However, since Marcos rushed the ratification of the new constitution on January 17, 1973, he used the new constitution as a pretext to extend his presidency. Had he not changed the constitution, the Senate President as of December 31, 1973 must have succeeded Marcos even under the conditions of martial law. Then again, as displayed by the Josue Javellana versus the Executive Secretary, et al. case, Marcos should have not been allowed to assume the presidency after December 31, 1973 in either the 1935 or the 1973 constitution. Still, as history shows, Marcos continued to be president well beyond 1973. Government was reorganized, renaming barrios into barangays, redrawing borders of the new regional configuration, the closing of Congress and the introduction of the Batasang Pambansa, the advent of the New Society, among others.

Inflation rate in the Philippines (1960-1986)
Photo courtesy of Trading Economics
One year after martial law was declared, in 1973, the international reserves of the country stood at 739 million USD, the highest yet, in comparison to 136 million USD in 1964. In his 1974 SONA, it seemed that the high-yield rice of Masagana 99 did not last. From 1971 to 1974, the Philippines imported a total of 1.6 billion pesos of rice. This is despite his claim in 1980 that the nation has been producing 90 cavans per hectare (3,960 kilograms), and that irrigation coverage was greatest ever since the Spanish era (at 1.3 million hectares). Inflation was at 40% from 1974-1975, the highest yet, until it was tamed to 5.3% in 1976. In 1985, inflation would be up again at 35%. In the same year, international reserves stood at 1.2 billion USD, a 63% increase from 1973. However, it went down to 1 billion USD in 1985. Crime rate decreased further to 52 per 100,000 population, a 65% decrease from 1970. Unemployment is down from 7.9% in 1968 to 3.6% in 1975, although it went up to 5.1% in 1980 and 6.3% in 1984. In his 1980 SONA, Marcos boasted an average annual growth of 6.6% from 1965 to 1980. Meanwhile, per capita income increased by an average of 10.9% a year in the same period.  Of course, it is to be noted that personal income tax is at 70% by this time. Yes, there is no error. Marcos himself declared that he intends to bring down taxes from 70% to 60%. As for infrastructure, 73,642 kilometers of roads, 227 seaports, and 59 airports were built in the same period. From 1972 to 1980, more than 55,000 classrooms were built.

Magat Hydroelectric Power Plant (opened 1982)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
It is also by this time that Marcos came up with the Philippine Power Program (PPP) or the National Energy Program (NEP) to meet the increasing energy demand of the nation, of which he said to cost 24 billion USD in the next 25 years. Of course, in 1973, the OPEC oil embargo struck. From 3 USD a barrel in 1972, oil prices increased to 7 USD in 1974. The so-called "oil shock" affected the world economy as a whole and threatened to starve the world of energy. Thus, Marcos and his program to decrease reliance in power from oil. Other sources of energy were explored during the rest of the Marcos administration. For instance, hydroelectric power was targeted to add 5,400 megawatts to our electric grid, geothermal power 400 megawatts, and nuclear power 1,000 megawatts. In reality, however, the result which was the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant can only produce 600 megawatts (7% of the 1985 projected total capacity). This was 400 megawatts less from what Marcos promised, and it was never operated anyway. It was seen as the largest symbol of corruption that hounded the Marcos administration with a total cost of 2.1 billion USD (39 billion pesos in 1985). While critics would say that the Philippines bought one nuclear plant for the price of two, Marcos would defend this large figure by citing the numerous safety checks done after incidents such as Three Mile Island in 1979. By the end of 1985, energy from oil power plants would have been down to 35%. Hydroelectric power would have contributed 30%, coal 8%, geothermal 18%, and nuclear 7%. This would amount to a projected total of 9,500 megawatts in 1985, double the energy capacity of the country in 1980. Of course, it did not go well for the Marcos administration because the targets for 1985 were not met, leading to 12-hour blackouts as soon as he was ousted from office.

BRP Rajah Humabon (commissioned 1980)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The military found a renewed role in Philippine affairs when Marcos strengthened the armed forces even before martial law was declared. While Marcos in his SONA that there were some 100,000 military personnel, the actual figures are way above his own estimate. In 1976, there were 140,000 in service. The military even peaked at 270,000 troops during the Marcos administration, the most number of military personnel the Philippines had since the Second World War (when the hastily mobilized Philippine Army totalled to some 100,000 troops). The advent of the New Society also saw increased acquisitions in military equipment. For instance, a total of eight frigates were commissioned during the Marcos administration, whereas only one of them operates to this day (BRP Rajah Humabon). It has been well known that naval assets are among the most expensive to acquire. The Philippines spent 12 million USD (240 million pesos) for BRP Rajah Humabon. Marcos did increase the budget enough to afford buying such naval assets. For instance, from 324 million pesos for defense in 1966, he proposed a 1.2 billion peso defense budget in 1972 (Congress approved 815 million pesos).

What Marcos was silent about
President Marcos holds the record both for the longest SONA (by word count, 1969), and the most number of SONA delivered (20). Now that we had a quick check of what Marcos said about his administration, let us look at what he was silent about. In 1966, Marcos blamed the previous administration of Macapagal for leaving a government without money. There is a deficit of 228 million pesos (58 million USD). In later years, however, Marcos never mentioned anything about the government having a deficit nor a surplus. He shifted to balance of payments, which is essentially the trade balance of the nation's exports and imports. He did, after all, model the economy he ran to a labor-intensive export-oriented economy (LIEO). In shifting the public's attention from government surplus to national exports, the latter increasing by an average of 7% a year, Marcos was giving an impression that all is economic growth for the Philippines. There is a reason behind the sudden silence of Marcos about government surplus: there was no government surplus. You read it right, Marcos did not manage to balance the national budget, causing the government to run a deficit all the time. Where then did he turn to compensate for lost resources? From 1962 to 1985, the debt of the Philippines increased from 360 million USD (1.4 billion pesos) to 28 billion USD (521 billion pesos), a 678% increase. This also amounted to an 82% debt to GDP ratio. As of 2016, the debt to GDP ratio is at 45%. The Philippines had not yet recovered to its 1980 ratio of 35%. As for economic growth, Marcos laid down in his development plan that the Philippines needed to grow at least 7% a year to meet the demands of a growing population (at the time growing at a quick pace of 3%, according to Marcos himself). In the first two development plans, he made the target 5% (1966-1970), and 6% (1970-1974) respectively. However, he himself admitted that from 1965 to 1980, the country grew only by 6.6%, four decimal points shy of his minimum requirement. The Philippines has been outpaced by more successful economies in Asia such as South Korea (8%) and Singapore (8.9%), both being ruled by authoritarian regimes as well. Nevertheless, it has to be noted that it is better than the performance of other economies such as Japan (5.2%). In addition, from 1972 to 1983, an entire decade when the New Society was effective, the economy grew only by an average of 5.3% a year, the slowest pace since Marcos assumed office. Indeed, in the final years of the Marcos administration (1984-1985), the economy actually shrunk by an average of -7.3% a year. To think that by this time, personal income tax was as high as 70%. Today, it is at 32% and the people believe they are being taxed too much. That is why there has been a recent proposal to reduce it to 25%.

Portrait of Marcos
Photo courtesy of govph
There are also instances wherein the later years of the Marcos administration show worse performance than the earlier years. This is why there are only selected SONA wherein Marcos would use statistics such as crime rate or economic growth (in his 1973 SONA, the first he had since Martial Law was declared, he completely delivered a speech without any significant statistics). For instance, there were more classrooms built in the first four years of Marcos (1966-1970) than his next eight years (1972-1980). There was a 39% decrease in the construction of classrooms when the two time periods were compared. Even before martial law was declared in 1972, inflation was as high as 17% from a low of 1.7%. Even Marcos cannot hide the fluctuating inflation rates during his administration. Indeed, it even peaked at 40%, and later on 60%. The rising prices are not helped by the failure of the National Energy Program to meet the increasing demand. From 1983 to 1985 alone, electricity prices in the market increased by 111%. While Marcos tried to control prices to show a picture of tamed inflation, every other year prices spike up again at unprecedented rates. Masagana 99 proved to be a failure. Indeed, from 30 cavans per hectare, the high-yield rice strain caused an increase to 90 cavans per hectare, but Marcos cannot control nature. The soil cannot take the requirements of the rice strain too often, causing yield to go down to 50 cavans per hectare in 1984 (2,200 kilograms), a 45% decrease. As for the military, while he did boast the increasing size of the armed forces, there is no mention of the increased size of the rebel forces, which was ten times larger than they were before Martial Law. Of course, 26,000 of them surrendered, but there was no assurance from Marcos that they did not revert into rebels. Evidently, Marcos failed to stop the rebellion despite the massive forces he controlled (the number of military personnel was at its peak ever since the Second World War), and the rebellion outlived Marcos himself. Indeed, there is much more to discuss (for instance, anti-typhoon rockets) but not one article can have it all.

Once more, this is only a brief article. Not all aspects of the Marcos administration may be covered in any one post, but let this be a pioneer in balancing the Marcos narrative. However, it is hoped that an overall background on the Marcos administration has been provided here. All information used here are from Marcos and his administration. See the references for details. His State of the Nation Addresses can be accessed online.

"I want to be remembered as having saved this country from anarchy and from being overtaken by strange ideologies and overcame by vicious violence. I would like to be remembered less as a soldier and more as a thinker. I intend to retire to writing, finish that history book of the Philippines that I started when I was still a new graduate, and write a few more books."
(Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., 1981)