Marcos war medals fake – officers, files

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

What would today’s youths feel if they woke up this morning with no Internet or cell phone connection? They’d have no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, no texts or calls, no contact with each other and to the world. That’d be very scary.

Forty-four years ago today Filipinos did wake up to such eeriness. There were no programs on radio or TV, just hisses and white screens. There were no newspapers in the streets, only the wail of police sirens and trucks full of soldiers. It was a Saturday, and only two days later would President Marcos appear momentarily on the government TV channel to declare that the nation was under martial law. Congress, schools, and media were to be closed indefinitely. Civil liberties were suspended: citizens could be arrested and jailed without court warrant or trial; they may not assemble; military searches were to be conducted of homes and offices; basic foods and goods would be rationed; curfew would be imposed six hours every night. Those impositions went on for a decade. Only in the early ‘80s would be published a few periodicals daring to report the truth – but under constant threat of if not actual slaying of the writers. Thus Marcos propaganda dominated the air. Dissent was inexistent.

How then can certain groups now claim that Marcos and martial law were great?

* * *

Part of the propaganda then was that Marcos was a superhero. A mural at the National Library depicted him as the legendary Malakas, and wife Imelda as Maganda, created by Bathala in the hollows of giant bamboo trees.

Part of the myth too were the Marcos war medals. Posing as the most decorated Filipino soldier of World War II, Marcos foisted on the gagged people 33 medals and awards. Bonifacio Gillego, in opposing the dictatorship, exposed in 1982:

• Eleven of the 33 were given in 1963, nearly 20 years after the War, when Marcos was Senate President aspiring for President. Ten of the 11 were given on the same day, Dec. 20. Three of the ten unusually were given under only one General Order.

• One award was given on Marcos’s 55th birthday, when he already was President, days before he imposed martial law.

• Eight of the 33 “American and Philippine medals,” as listed by Marcos’s Office of Media Affairs, were actually campaign ribbons given to all participants in the defense of Bataan and in the resistance.

• Awards are duplicated for the same action on the same day and place.

• One is a special award from the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

Other observations:

• Marcos earned the Medal of Valor “for extraordinary gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in a suicidal action against overwhelming enemy forces at the junction of Salian River and Abo-Abo River, Bataan, on or about 22 January 1942.” This highest Philippine military award came only in October 1958, 16 years after, when he was senior congressman.

• Only two of the medals were given during the War – and Marcos’ superior officers question their authenticity. The Gold Cross came on July 22, 1945, “for gallantry in action at Kiangan, Mt. Province, in April 1945... Colonel Marcos, of the 14th Infantry, United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-North Luzon (USAFIP-NL), with one enlisted man volunteered to reconnoiter area adjacent to the regimental command post at Panupdupan.” Marcos spotted well-camouflaged enemy trucks about a mile away and sent the enlisted man back to RCP to report. By himself Marcos ambushed the Japanese, forcing them to flee after 30 minutes of intense fighting.

• The Distinguished Service Star came on April 24, 1945. The citation read: “For outstanding achievement as a guerrilla leader. After escaping from the Fort Santiago Kempei Tai, Marcos supported ex-Mayor Vicente Umali, organizer and commanding general of the PQOG... Despite his illness, he stayed at the headquarters in Banahaw to guide both the staff and combat echelons. He refused the rank of ‘general’ offered him by General Umali and organized his own guerrilla group known as the Maharlika.”

Interviewed by Gillego in 1982, Marcos’ two superiors in the 14th Infantry debunked both citations. Col. Romulo A. Manriquez, regimental commander, swore that Marcos was never assigned to patrol or combat, only as S-5 or civil affairs. Not a colonel but a captain, Marcos joined the 14th Infantry from Dec. 4, 1944 to Apr. 28, 1945. No Maharlika guerrilla group was formed in Kiangan on Apr. 24, 1945.

Capt. Vicente L. Rivera, 14th Infantry adjutant, added that he had never recommended Marcos for any decoration. The sighting of Japanese trucks a mile from RCP was geographically impossible because the nearest road was too far, half a day’s hike away.

Manriquez and Rivera said that Marcos requested for transfer to Camp Spencer, USAFIP-NL headquarters, in Luna, La Union, on Apr. 28, 1945. This tallied with Marcos’ commissioned biography, “For Every Tear a Victory” (Hartzell Spence. 1964). In the book, Marcos and one Captain Jamieson had to break through a cordon of 200,000 Japanese soldiers to get to an airstrip in Isabela. The Piper Cub that arrived took only Jamieson. “An hour later, as Marcos was about to evacuate the area because he heard a Japanese patrol, another supply plane targeted in with an airdrop. Risking discovery, Ferdinand rushed into the open but the plane merely wagged its wings. The pilot was signaling the location of the enemy. Ferdinand tuned his walkie-talkie to the plane’s wavelength and told the pilot, ‘I have a duffel down here with six captured swords in it and three gold bars. They are all yours if you pick me up.’ Instantly the pilot circled, returned, and Ferdinand climbed aboard. An hour later, he was at Camp Spencer.”

Gillego remarked of this passage that Marcos was bounty hunting: “If Spence’s account is true, he makes Marcos guilty of keeping for himself captured or acquired enemy property, in violation of the Articles of War.”

As for the escape from Fort Santiago, Gillego scoured the Kempei Tai files, including the trial papers of its chief, Col. Seiichi Ohta. No record of Marcos as prisoner. Allegedly a Jesuit priest who survived the dungeons had decried the request of Commodore Santiago Nuval to insert Marcos in the roster.

Gillego debunked Marcos’s claim to be the star of the Battle of Bessang Pass to whom General Yamashita nearly surrendered. From the many first-hand accounts, never was Marcos mentioned as a participant in the five-phase operation from Feb. 10 to June 15, 1945.

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with