Marcos the Plagiarizer

The late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was driven from power and the country in 1986 after mismanaging the Philippines into economic and political chaos, was a plagiarist as well, faking authorship of book-length political essays along with a multi-volume work on Philippine history, according to a June 2018 study by Miguel Paolo P. Reyes in a journal published by Ateneo de Manila University.

The 45-page analysis of Marcos’s apparent plagiarism, titled “Producing Marcos, The Scholarly Author,” is contained in Ateneo’s “Project Muse,” an internationally refereed journal that publishes materials on the history of the Philippines and its peoples.

There is “compelling evidence,” according to Reyes, “through primary and secondary sources and methods drawn from book history and plagiarism detection—that not one of the books authored by … Marcos was actually written by him.” In fact, many of the books Marcos “wrote” had either plagiarized content (e.g., republishing contents from previous works) or were “padded” with lengthy appendices.

Publicly, Marcos is credited with “writing” 13 books, the most widely quoted of which is Today’s Revolution: Democracy, published in 1971 and described as Marcos’s attempt to wrest from the youthful radicals of his time the discourse of “Unfinished Revolution” and project himself as the Philippine Revolution’s legitimate heir.

Another is Tadhana (Destiny). However, according to Reyes, as early as 1993, a historian from the University of the Philippines named Samuel Tan said he and other historians from UP were the writers behind Tadhana, “even though those volumes specified Marcos as their sole author. Even earlier, in 1987, Tan also publicly revealed that Marcos spokesperson Adrian Cristobal had headed the team that conceptualized ‘Marcos’s” Filipino Ideology’.”

It is the latest accusation against Marcos, who died in disgrace in Honolulu in 1989 at age 72 after fleeing the country ahead of an estimated million protesters. He and his family are believed to have looted the country of anywhere between US$5 billion and US$10 billion, stashed overseas. His widow, Imelda, and his children, Imee and Ferdinand Jr., have struggled mightily to rehabilitate his image in the intervening decades and attempts to reclaim the stolen funds have returned only a pittance.

By most accounts, although he claimed he had fought alongside the retreating Americans who surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 and were subjected to the horrors of the Bataan Death March, and claimed to be the Philippines’ most decorated World War II hero, US Army documents described his wartime claims as “fraudulent” and “absurd.”

Although he started out as a reformer, Marcos declared martial law amid a huge debt crisis, silenced the media, revamped the constitution and turned over much of the country’s means of production to a grab bag of cronies. Forced into an election in 1986 by US pressure and public outrage, he is believed to have faked results that would have kept him in power. His most effective opponent, Benigno Aquino Jr. returned from exile and was assassinated on the tarmac at Manila International Airport under circumstances that have never been explained.

Despite what is considered a largely execrable record, his body was returned to the Philippines and he lay in state in an air-conditioned casket until Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016. Duterte ordered the body shifted in a surprise private funeral to the Libingan ng mga Bayani cemetery in Manila, which is reserved for national heroes. That sparked hundreds of protesters who vainly objected to the move and demanded that the body be removed.

Marcos, according to Reyes, did publish articles in the Philippine Law Journal that he authored as a student at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, including his prizewinning thesis and there is no evidence that those articles were written by anyone else. They are primarily interpretations of Philippine law, with generous citations of Philippine and American jurisprudence, although at times, “in keeping with the style of legal writing that remains the norm to this day, materials from the cited sources are quoted directly without being enclosed in quotation marks.”

But that he claimed to have written not only book-length political essays but also a multivolume work on Philippine history “was expectedly greeted with disbelief when those works came out.”

The books, Reyes writes, were “the bound products of a well-oiled propaganda machine that operated with the fundamental conceit of a man, president of an archipelagic nation, finding the time between issuing decrees, waging internal wars, and appearing in various public engagements to write more overtly well-researched books than a full-time academic would.”

Reyes quotes a document marked “secret” in files of the Presidential Commission on Good Government established after Marcos’s fall by Corazon Aquino that days after Marcos delivered his 1971 state of the nation address, “a group labeled ‘the propaganda group’ met at the Savoy Hotel in Manila to ‘clarify the tasks of President Marcos’ Democratic Revolution’.” They included such luminaries as Blas Ople, who later served as Senate President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs; Francisco Tatad, Marcos’s information secretary and later a Philippine Senator, and many others. Ople is said to have organized a “[ghost]writing group” that produced much of Marcos’s oeuvre, which became known as the “Marcos Bibles.”

Reys concludes by saying much of what he has produced is already known,”based on irrefutable facts about Ferdinand Marcos: he was capable of massive deception—which benefitted both himself and his associates—and that he was fond of projecting himself to be more accomplished than he truly was.”

He was fond of “releasing books during political junctures within his administration, such as the (rigged) Interim Batasang Pambansa elections and the (sham) presidential election of 1981, thus making it appear that (a) the vote being in his favor was influenced by actual campaigning from the Marcos camp, not because opposition was heavily curtailed, and (b) for local and foreign readers, his continued rule was justified, since he, by his estimation, had achieved so much, and/or he alone had the intellect necessary to lead the nation, as no other president before him had been such a prolific author of book-length writings.”

The deposed president’s projection of intellectual superiority “can be linked to his fixation with proving his physical vigor, even when he was starting to show signs of having a severe physical illness; in one press conference held in 1983, in response to a foreign journalist’s query about his health, Marcos stated that he had finished a book that he intended to write while he rested to recover his health.”

At one point, he questioned what he would be remembered in history for. Scholar, he said.

“Was ‘Ferdinand Marcos, scholar-president” a particularly effective lie? To many, yes.”