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The Marcos Diary : A Lust for Power, an Eye on Glory

February 06, 1989|WILLIAM C. REMPEL and RICHARD E. MEYER | Times Staff Writers

It came to Ferdinand Marcos like a shiver in the dawn.

"I am president. I am the most powerful man in the Philippines. All that I have dreamt of I have," he wrote one April morning early in his second term as president.

"More accurately, I have all the material things I want of life--a wife who is loving and is a partner in the things I do, bright children who will carry my name, a life well lived, all.

"But I feel a discontent."

At the pinnacle of his political career, Marcos remained a man hungry for power and the validation of history--a man frustrated by the limitations of democracy. Whispering the future, his discontent would grow into the full misery of defeat and disgrace.

Special Ally, Special Problem

Ferdinand E. Marcos, special ally of the United States, would become its special problem. He would turn an American-tailored democracy into a dictatorship, be driven into exile, take refuge in Hawaii and, finally, be accused by a U.S. grand jury of plundering his homeland and the Filipino people.

A photocopy of more than 2,500 pages of his handwritten diary was obtained by The Times through Manila government sources. A spokesman for Marcos said the former president could not comment because of ill health. In the past, Marcos objected to The Times' publication of excerpts from this diary as part of a story detailing his plans to declare martial law. He called that story an "invasion of privacy."

The Marcos diary, apparently abandoned when he fled Manila in February, 1986, was discovered about a year ago, sources said, by Philippine government investigators. The journal was known to exist because Marcos previously had shown portions of it to diplomats and at least one journalist. Its original pages, handwritten mostly in blue and black ink, were found in 30 file boxes stored in the care of presidential security officials, the sources told The Times.

Issue of Security

Most of the entries after the mid-1970s are missing. The sources who provided the documents deleted additional pages, in part, they said, to protect Philippine national security.

Sample pages of the photocopy have been inspected by an expert in document authentication, who found "virtually everything" about the samples consistent with documented examples of Marcos' handwriting. Because the sources could provide only photocopies--and no access to the original diary pages in Manila--the expert could not rule out the possibility of some inauthentic pages being added. However, to ensure accuracy, The Times independently verified details from historical accounts and through interviews with participants in events Marcos described.

The diary offers a unique insight into the Marcos personality. It shows the hidden traits of a dictator whom the United States and five of its Presidents--beginning with Lyndon B. Johnson and ending with Ronald Reagan--considered a valued Pacific partner. It demonstrates that it was Marcos' personality, as much as his country's overwhelming social problems, that made this alliance problematic from the start.

Marcos' journal reveals an insecure but ambitious man who fell easy prey to the temptation of unchecked authoritarian power.

The attraction of authoritarianism haunted Marcos for many months before the end of 1972, when he finally imposed martial law, arrested hundreds of his critics and political opponents and established what he would call a "democratic dictatorship."

When he expressed his discontent on that morning of April 3, 1971, he was already well on his way toward declaring martial law. Here, from the diary of a dictator, is a story of how his fascination with authoritarian rule moved from fantasy to reality.

Despite a landslide victory in his campaign for an unprecedented second term as president, Marcos did not enjoy any honeymoon in the days following his Jan. 1, 1970, inauguration.

The press reported allegations of corruption and election fraud; a soothsayer predicted he would be assassinated before spring; there were rumors of a planned U.S.-supported military coup, and violent street demonstrations drove both Marcos and his wife, Imelda, into seclusion inside Malacanang Palace in Manila.

Outside, workers hastily constructed fortifications against mob assaults. Inside, Marcos tried on bulletproof vests. He was a virtual prisoner of Malacanang when, shortly before midnight, Marcos wrote:

January 28, 1970

"The pattern of subversion is slowly emerging. The danger is now apparent to me but not to most people. (I see) the conspiracy to grab power and assassinate me ... the terrorism ... the pink intellectuals, writers, professors and students and fellow travelers.

"And I am certain this is just the beginning. The newspapermen I have on my list are busy placing the government in disrepute and holding it in contempt before the people. . . . The slow chipping at the people's confidence in government authority (will continue).

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