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That Time Ferdinand Marcos Planned to Invade the Philippines from Hawaii

Two Americans secretly taped Marcos revealing the plot to retake Malacañang.
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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After the success of the EDSA People Power Revolution, Ferdinand Marcos and his family were forced into exile in the United States. On February 25, 1986, the dictator fled to Hawaii via Guam, where he would live out the remainder of his days. 

Even in exile Marcos never gave up on his dreams of one day coming back to the Philippines. And over a year after he fled his homeland, a plot to return to the country via an invasion was uncovered.

Invading the Philippines

In July 1987, two Americans blew the whistle on Marcos’s plan during a hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs. Business consultant Robert Chastain and lawyer Richard Hirschfield played a recording of Marcos revealing the plan during the hearing.

Accompanied by armed soldiers, Marcos said he intended to travel by boat and land in his home province of Ilocos Norte, where he still enjoyed mass support even after he was ousted.

″I am going to land there, I don’t care who opposes me,″ Marcos said in the tapes. ″And if they oppose the landing, that is when we start the battle.″

When asked what would happen to then-President Corazon Aquino, who was installed after the revolution, Marcos gave this reply: "What I would like to see happen is that we take her hostage. Not to hurt her. If necessary, forcibly take her."

How Marcos was tricked

According to their testimony, Chastain and Hirschfield were able to gain Marcos’s trust through their association with a Saudi businessman named Mohamed al-Fassi. The Americans presented themselves as arms dealers who were willing to help Marcos obtain weapons and the money to buy them, as well as to pay soldiers who would carry out the invasion. 

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Hirschfield said he first met Marcos during a party at his home in Hawaii in September 1986. After bringing up the Saudi business connection, Hirschfield said Marcos seemed intrigued. A few weeks later, Marcos reportedly asked for help in obtaining a passport from another country so he could travel free from the restrictions imposed by the U.S. and Philippine governments. The former President also asked Hirschfield to arrange a $10 million loan from al-Fassi. 

Then, during a meeting on January 12, 1987, Marcos reportedly asked for an additional $5 million “in order to pay 10,000 soldiers $500 each as a form of ‘combat life insurance.’”

“Taken aback by this statement, I asked President Marcos if he was talking about an invasion of the Philippines,” Hirschfield said during the hearing. “He flatly answered, ‘Yes.’”

Hirschfield added that Marcos had also been in negotiations with several arms dealers to procure anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, rifles, mortars, and “enough ammunition for a three-month fight.”

The two Americans were able to record their conversations with Marcos by placing microphones and tape recorders inside their briefcase and in their suits.

How Marcos intended to pay

When Marcos fled the Philippines, records show he brought with him millions of dollars in cash, jewelry, precious gems, watches, and gold.

But in the tapes, Marcos told Hirschfield that he also owned 1,000 tons of gold worth about $14 billion that he had hidden somewhere, possibly in the Philippines. The attorney said Marcos was vague about where the gold was hidden. In the report by the Associated Press, Marcos seemed to indicate that “some of it may have come from money set aside to pay Philippine veterans after World War II and some of it may have come from the Philippines’ central bank.”

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Marcos never divulged where the gold was located or who knew its location. According to him, not even his wife Imelda knew about where the gold was hidden. 

The aftermath

After the tapes were made public, the US government under then-President Ronald Reagan, tightened restrictions on Marcos. He was placed under “island arrest,” and was not allowed to go anywhere without approval from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Marcos’s then-spokesman Arturo Aruiza said the former President would not comment about the tapes without speaking to his lawyers. He never spoke of the events after.  

During the hearing, Hirschfield said that he and Chastain would be “paid handsomely” by the Aquino government for what they did. He also said that he decided to come forward with the tapes because he was “greatly alarmed” by Marcos’ plan.

Hirschfield added that al-Fassi would be made an honorary consul-general of the Philippine government.

Meanwhile, neither Hirschfield, Chastain, nor U.S. State Department officials believed that Marcos had the resources to mount an actual invasion. They also said there was no evidence of the existence of the gold Marcos claimed to own and have hidden somewhere.

You can watch the full US House Committee hearing in this video

Sources:

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Times

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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