Editor's Pick Marcos Files News

Never-ending tales on Marcos’ martial law

Sept. 23, 2022 marked the 50th year since Ferdinand Marcos Sr. proclaimed martial law on television.

It has been decades since his ouster from office. But online and offline, Filipinos continue to be inundated with various narratives about the late dictator, with many propping up the “golden era” that was his reign.

A look at over 2,000 fact-check articles by VERA Files since its fact-check initiative began on March 1, 2016 up to Sept. 16, 2022 shows that among the misinforming narratives that are most recurrent are those which blatantly fabricate or twist facts about Marcos’ 21-year rule.

Get to know the top six frequently debunked claims that emerged.

All the ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcoses were dismissed by local and international courts.

Number of times VERA Files Fact Check debunked the claim: 13

Related claims:

  • The Marcoses won in the 900+ cases filed against them by the Aquinos over ill-gotten wealth allegations.
  • The Philippine government sequestered properties from the Marcoses without winning any cases in court.
  • The US$650 million deposits in Swiss bank accounts made by the Marcoses were not ill-gotten.

In an April 1986 interview, Marcos Sr. claimed that he did not steal from the Filipino people. His children Bongbong and Imee have also been recorded by VERA Files Fact Check saying that courts have yet to find their family guilty.

Supreme Court decisions have led to the forfeiture of the Marcoses’ Swiss bank accounts, assets handled by a dummy Panamanian corporation, and a jewelry collection of Imelda Marcos upon establishing that the assets were illegally acquired.

In November 2018, the Sandiganbayan found Mrs. Marcos guilty of seven criminal cases and sentenced her to prison for 42 to 77 years. The former first lady was granted bail in consideration of her old age and state of health. Her conviction is under appeal with the Supreme Court.

It has also ordered the forfeiture of paintings and artworks, and ordered Royal Traders Holding Co. Inc. to return an estimated P96 million and US$5.435 million of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, the Presidential Commission on Good Government, tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcoses and their cronies, reported that it had recovered over P174.8 billion since 1986.

Human rights violations committed under martial law have never been proven in court.

Number of times VERA Files Fact Check debunked the claim: 3

Related claim:

  • The Palimbang massacre is fake and was only invented to get compensation from the human rights victims compensation law.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte has made this false statement. Columnist Bobi Tiglao erroneously said the Palimbang massacre was fake.

In 1995, 10,000 victims of human rights violations won a class-action lawsuit in Hawaii where a jury found Marcos responsible for the “torture, murder and disappearances of fellow Filipinos.”

There were 11,103 victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime deemed eligible by the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) to receive reparations.

The HRVCB was created by law “to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations” during the Marcos era from 1972 to 1986.

On the Palimbang massacre

Testimonies of survivors and the bereaved families are well-documented by the independent Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission on Human Rights and the HRVCB recognize the massacre, which happened on Sept. 24, 1974 that left over 1,500 Moros dead in Sultan Kudarat under the hands of military and paramilitary forces.

In 2021, the military issued a statement underscoring the importance of commemorating the killings.

The Philippines was the richest country in Asia during Marcos’ term.

Number of times VERA Files Fact Check debunked the claim: 3

Related claims:

  • The Philippines was the second-richest country to Japan under Marcos.
  • The Philippines was called the “Tiger of Asia.”
  • The exchange rate from 1965 to 1985 was P2 to US$1.

World Bank data showed that the Philippines ranked sixth in Asia in 1965 in terms of GDP per capita, and dropped to 16th place by 1986. The country never overtook nor was closely ranked behind Japan under Marcos.

In Marcos’ first year of presidency in 1965, the U.S. dollar was equivalent to an average of P3.90. It fell to P18.60 in 1985.

No child went hungry during Marcos’ presidency because of his Nutribun project.

Number of times VERA Files Fact Check debunked the claim: 3

Sen. Imee Marcos, the late president’s daughter, made this claim twice this year –  in June and September.

This is false. In 1976, about three years after martial law was declared and six years after Nutribun was introduced, the Department of Health recorded 5.8% of Filipino children as suffering from a form of malnutrition.

Nutribun is a baked product developed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) brought to the Philippines in 1970. Nutribun packs were “stamped with the slogan ‘courtesy of Imelda Marcos—Tulungan project’” despite Marcos having no involvement in developing the bread or conceptualizing the program, according to a former USAID media advisor.

The Manila International Airport or Ninoy Aquino International Airport is a Marcos project.

Number of times VERA Files Fact Check debunked the claim: 3

The Philippines already had a Manila International Airport (MIA) in 1948. After a fire razed a terminal in 1972, Marcos ordered the construction of a new international airport terminal now known as Terminal 1.

Terminals 2 and 3, as well as succeeding developments of the airport, were spearheaded by the administrations that followed.

Ninoy Aquino was the reason for the declaration of martial law.

Number of times VERA Files Fact Check debunked the claim: 1

Other social media posts also claimed the following as “the reason” for the declaration:

  • The 1972 MV Karagatan incident
  • Several killings and bombings conducted by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that they blamed on the Marcos administration

Proclamation 1081 placed the Philippines under martial rule to suppress “lawless violence” by the CPP, the Muslim separationists and other groups. There was no “sole” reason for its imposition.

Events used to justify martial law included several bombings, some of which have been exposed as staged. 

In his tell-all book The Conjugal Dictatorship, Marcos’ right-hand man Primitivo Mijares said the late dictator hired psychological warfare experts to orchestrate several bombings made to look like the Communists did it.

Mijares also said Marcos had the military infiltrate the ranks of demonstrators to set off bombs in their midst and instigate them into committing acts of violence.

Marcos’ martial law administrator Juan Ponce Enrile in 1986 said the Sept. 22, 1972 ambush of his vehicle, which triggered the declaration of martial law, was a sham. He later retracted his statement and claimed it was real.

Other rampant false claims targeting Aquino related to Marcos’ martial law era were:

that Aquino was either a founder or member of the CPPflagged 6 times
that he was convicted of treason for collaborating with communist insurgents2 times
that he organized the Moro secession2 times
that he asked Malaysia for support for the communist rebels1 time
that he died a Malaysian citizen.1 time


Ill-gotten wealth

VERA Files, Imee Marcos disclaimer on corruption during the Marcos regime is FALSE, Oct. 19, 2018

VERA Files, Online post MISLEADS with decade-old Imelda Marcos corruption case acquittal, Nov. 23, 2018

VERA Files, Viral SC ruling on Marcos plunder case FALSE and MISLEADING, March 1, 2019

VERA Files, Bongbong Marcos falsely claims martial law horrors fabricated, Jan. 17, 2020

VERA Files, Not all cases vs Marcos ill-gotten wealth dismissed by SC, Nov. 8, 2021

VERA Files, Court rulings against the Marcoses belie claims they had no ill-gotten wealth, Dec. 6, 2021

VERA Files, The Marcoses did NOT win all cases filed against them, Dec. 9, 2021

VERA Files, Video resurrects FALSE claims on Marcos court cases, Feb. 24, 2022

VERA Files, Video on Imelda Marcos’s acquittal in 1990 fraud case NEEDS CONTEXT, March 22, 2022

VERA Files, Videos repeat multiple FALSE claims on Marcos cases and wealth, Aug. 26, 2022

Presidential Commission on Good Government, Year-End Accomplishment Report FY 2021

Human rights violations

VERA Files, Marcos’ sins not yet proven in court?, Nov. 6, 2016

VERA Files, Palimbang massacre and Marcos’ other transgressions against the Bangsamoro, Sept. 24, 2017

VERA Files, Video makes FALSE claims about Marcos human rights victims, ABS-CBN, Nov. 12, 2021

VERA Files, Columnist Tiglao falsely claims Palimbang massacre is ‘fake’, May 12, 2022

Richest country in Asia

VERA Files, PH NOT richest country in Asia during Marcos era, May 27, 2021

VERA Files, FALSE claim that PH was second richest to Japan under Marcos era reappears online, Oct. 6, 2021

VERA Files, Video with FALSE pro-Marcos claims revived, Nov. 17, 2021


VERA Files, Imee Marcos falsely claims no child went hungry during her father’s rule because of Nutribun, June 13, 2022

VERA Files, Nutribun NOT a Marcos project, June 2, 2022

VERA Files, Imee Marcos crediting nutribun to Marcos Sr. needs context, Sept. 15, 2022


VERA Files, NAIA is NOT a Marcos project, Oct. 20, 2021

VERA Files, Video with FALSE pro-Marcos claims revived, Nov. 17, 2021

VERA Files, Legislator’s justification for renaming NAIA misleading, July 9, 2022

Declaration of martial law

Official Gazette, Proclamation No. 1081

Mijares, P., The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (pages 36 and 137)

VERA Files, Report claiming Ninoy Aquino reason for martial law declaration FALSE, Aug. 30, 2018

VERA Files, 1972 MV Karagatan incident NOT sole reason for martial law declaration, June 24, 2020

VERA Files, Video peddles FALSE claims about Martial Law declaration, Ninoy Aquino’s ties with communists, May 20, 2022