Marcos’ Millions

Ferdinand Marcos ornamented the days preliminary to his retirement from the active practice of political science with a number of observations that suggest powers of analysis undiminished by the erosions of office. He was at his cogent best when it came to assessing Corazon Aquino’s inadequacies for picking up the golden chains that had been so long and so tirelessly dragged along by himself and his loved ones.

“What does she know of governing?” he is said to have asked. “Does she know how to fight the communists or how to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund?”

He had isolated the two prime requisites of public management for equipping any developing—or, as in his case, unraveling—nation for the favors the United States reserves for trustworthy allies.

The refinements of Marcos’s philosophy of government are now in process of being richly annotated in the ledgers piled up in the chambers of various federal judges by counsel for a successor anxious to recover the goods she claims he stole. The financial history of this presidential family has been noticed most for the bills of sale recording its First Lady’s excesses as a consumer. That is an unfortunate distraction: Is the wife who spends half so fascinating, not to say noble, a creature as the husband who toils and schemes to sustain her profligacies?

His wife’s immoderate habits may well have been the very stimulants Marcos needed for his singular advances in the arts of administration. She would challenge and he would respond until their game was all that mattered to him and every fresh domestic crisis interested him only as another chance to avoid being engulfed by the month’s flood of the First Lady’s bills.

The communist rebellion was by no means the least lucrative of his assets; and, if his own deeds had not been so serviceable for inspiring it, Marcos would in all probability have kept it going with a subsidy. The communist peril was his excuse for setting up the Philippine Intelligence Fund, a title ideally suited to cover a multitude of sins from the splendid to the squalid. An intelligence fund impresses the United States with one’s seriousness of purpose and establishes one’s eligibility for the benevolent attentions of our military aid programs. As a blind item in the budget, it escapes the inconveniences of accounting; no member of the National Assembly could find out how the intelligence fund was being spent even if he dared to be curious.

In 1975 Marcos further fortified his security by establishing Intelligence Fund Account 2 for “confidential intelligence purposes.” One of the documents entered into the current litigations against him provides a fragmentary but striking illumination of what is otherwise the murk of Account 2’s affairs. There is a memorandum from the Philippine National Bank recording disbursements from the Philippine Intelligence Fund for the year 1981. They are in summary:

$200,000 for the official trip of the First Lady to Nairobi, Kenya;

$200,000 for the official trip of the…

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