Look Back At The Philippine Free Press’ Marcos-Era Editorial Cartoons

Revisit the resistance of the past.
IMAGE The Philippines Free Press Magazine via The Presidential Museum and Library

In the years leading up to Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, The Philippines Free Press was one among a handful of publications that were unrelenting in their critique of his administration. The Free Press published articles about social, political, and economic issues that helped its readers form a dissenting opinion about Marcos and the path down which he was leading our country—which of course meant that by the fateful evening of September 22, 1972, it was among the publications that were shut down.

Among the ways that the Free Press expressed its views was through editorial cartoons. Today, it’s a somewhat forgotten art that’s been supplanted by political memes, but in a time before the internet, editorial cartoons were a great visual method for expressing a political opinion. The Free Press published many that were highly critical of the Marcos administration, of which some are uploaded in the public Flickr account of the 2010-2016 Presidential Museum and Library. Here are some of the best ones:

Martial law was the white cloth that a heavily-bemedalled Marcos had only to drop to seal democracy’s death by firing squad.


Many of the Free Press’ editorial cartoons portrayed the Philippines as a woman, seen here descending blindly into chaos, step by step, as the delegates of the 1970 Constitutional Convention—which would eventually draft the 1973 Constitution that would keep Marcos in power—just watched on apathetically.

The Free Press knew that the Constitutional Convention was going to hand Marcos everything he wanted on a silver platter.

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Like many strongmen before him, Ferdinand Marcos used the looming threat of Communism to wrest power, first by suspending the writ of habeas corpus.

In another cartoon that depicts the Philippines as a woman, a power-hungry president who was looking to extend his term is depicted as a rapist.


Many of the editorial cartoons depicted the delegates of the constitutional convention as dogs: tuta ni Marcos, as they say. It’s almost a cute cartoon—a dog drafting the constitution with some “Special Tuta Food” on the side—until you realize that this effectively made Marcos a dictator.

Here’s a straightforward one that’s just as true as the rest: military rule was a large hand that pinned people down on their heads.


When the Con-Con delegates weren’t drawn as dogs, they were drawn as buwaya, or crocodiles—still a common animal used to refer to authorities who can be bought off. This particular cartoon shows the luxury that they bought with the freedom of our country.

This cartoon shows how Marcos enacted his tyranny: by targeting the oligarchs who would oppose him, and assembling a new elite who would back him. Meanwhile, someone who looks like Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, an American icon, just sits back and watches.


And this one shows how Marcos earned the allegiance of the military: by filling their pockets with the people’s money, which he would siphon using his “juggling techniques.”

Many more of the Free Press’ editorial cartoons are accessible via the the public Flickr account of the 2010-2016 Presidential Museum and Library.

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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