Tag Archives: declassified

CIA Declassified: US Influence and the Philippine Succession

From: “US Influence and the Philippine Succession.” 23 May 1985. Approved for Release: 12 July 2010. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP87T00573R000700920010-5.pdf

[previous page redacted]

SECRET / [redacted]

The Director of Central Intelligence

Washington, D.C. 20505

National Intelligence Council NIC# 02648-85

23 May 1985

MEMORANDUM FOR: Director of Central Intelligence

FROM: Carl W. Ford Jr., National Intelligence Officer for East Asia

SUBJECT: US Influence and the Philippine Succession

  1. At our last meeting you asked that I give more thought to the crucial issue of the Marcos Era drawing to a close, specifically, how the US might go about influencing Marcos to lay the ground work for a smooth succession. And indeed Marcos’s [sic] departure either by death, retirement, or forcible removal is just around the corner. But he has not yet identified a successor. Moreover, the chaotic economic situation and the growing threat from communist insurgents promises to complicate the process even more. [redacted] This memo presents six hypothetical options you may find useful in thinking about this question. I conclude with a discussion of three problems associated with viewing president Marcos as the principle agent of reform and protector of US interests in the Philippines.
  2. The options presented below are only illustrative of the range of possibilities available and not intended as an exaustive, [sic] detailed examination of all alternatives. Although the options presented are not based on any preconceived notion or analysis of root causes of the problems today confronting the Philippines, one’s views and changing circumstances of course will have an important influence in choosing a favored objective [?] or course of action. For example, Options I-III presume Marcos to be an essential element of any solution while in options IV-V Marcos is seen as a large part of the problem; [redacted].

Option I: Encouraging Marcos to Select a Highly Qualified Running Mate in 1987


Marcos intends to run for reelection [sic] in 1987, but recognizes that the question of succession is vital to the future of the Philippines, his place in history, and the fate of his family. He also appreciates the stake America and the free world have in strong and viable Philippines. Accordingly, he indicates an interest in identifying potential successors and grooming them for the day when he no longer will be around.


The US would seek to persuade President Marcos that everyone’s interests dictated that he take concrete steps to prepare for an orderly succession—preferably by selecting a running mate in 1987 best able to lead the Philippines through perilous times and protect the status and fortune of the Marcos family.


—takes Marcos at his word as a point of departure;

—plays on motivations believed important to Marcos, (e.g., the future of the Philippines, his place in history, the fate of his family);

—dovetails nicely with current US policy, i.e., “Marcos is part of the problem, but he is also part of the solution”;

—better than even chance that Marcos will act on US suggestions;


—Marcos admits there is nobody on the scene currently who considers a worthy successor and promises only to identify potential candidates to carry on;

—leaves details and timing of succession largely in Marcos’ hands;

—assumes Marcos will choose a successor wisely;

—accepts a Marcos regime in the Philippines for the foreseeable future (there is a fifty percent chance he will live beyond 1987)

Option II: Encourage Marcos to Select a Specific Running Mate in 1987


Same as Option I


The US would seek to persuade President Marcos to select a successor—Vice Presidential running mate—preferred by the US (either a specific individual or a list of possibilities to choose from).

Strengths. (Same as Option I plus)

—avoids Marcos seeing himself as the indespensible [sic] man and attempting to procrastinate on grounds that there is no one currently on the scene capable of replacing him.

—increases the likelihood of capable successor being named rather than simply a crony-loyalist


—Marcos more likely to resist efforts to micromanage;

—gives Mrs. Marcos advance notice that US opposes her succession and could precipitate a family power grab in the event of presidential incapacitation;

—essentially limits succession to one of several current KBL [Kilusang Bagong Lipunan] leaders or possibly a current military leader turned civilian politician

Option III: Insist Marcos Pursue Option I or Option II


Same as Option I and II.


The US would insist that Marcos take concrete steps (exert maximum pressure) to select a successor (Vice Presidential candidate) prior to 1987 elections. This could be combined with either Option I (Marcos selects) or Option II (US selects).

Strengths. (Same as Option I and II plus)

—insures Marcos understands that the US views the situation in the Philippines with great concern and places a high priority on a stable succession;

—takes account of the short time frame available before the 1987 elections, i.e. attempts to exert maximum pressure on Marcos to prepare for an orderly succession.

Weaknesses. (Same as Option I and II except)

—entails greater risk of Marcos resisting US pressures;

—requires backup plan if Marcos refuses to accede to US wishes.

Option IV: Encourage Marcos Not to Run for Reelection in 1987 and Instead Choose a Successor to be the KBL Standard Bearer

Overview. (Same as Option I-III plus)

President Marcos has lost much of his credibility over the past two years with both members of his own party—the KBL—and the moderate opposition. Much of his grassroots support—historically one of his greatest strengths—also seems to have eroded substantially. Many increasingly believe Marcos would have a difficult time winning a “free and fair” election, but fully expect him to rig the results flagrantly if necessary to insure a victory. Such tactics, they believe, would dangerously polarize the society with an accompanying loss of confidence in constitutional procedures. Observers on the scene also increasingly doubt if the Marcos government has the ability or the will to institute basic, fundamental political, military and economic reform and believe this dangerously aggravates an already serious situation and risks communist insurgents obtaining even more popular support.


The US would encourage Marcos to announce his retirement and name a successor to be the KBL’s standard bearer in the 1987 election.


—facilitates a transfer of power from Marcos to a successor in 1987;

—transfer occurs essentially through established constitutional procedures, i.e., 1987 elections;

—Marcos stepping down increases likelihood of Congress and American people supporting expanded assistance to the Philippines;

—improves chances of fundamental reform including implementation of counterinsurgency program.


—requires maximum US pressure to overcome Marcos’s [sic] almost certain objections;

—runs the risk of Marcos backlash;

—does not eliminate possibility of fraudulent elections and weak or ineffectual successor government;

—“free and fair” elections, on the other hand, could result in relatively unfriendly successor government.

Option V: Insist that Marcos Not Run for Reelection in 1987 and Instead Choose a Successor to be the KBL Standard Bearer

Overview. (Same as Option I-IV)


The US would insist that Marcos announce his retirement and name a successor to be the KBL’s standard bearer in the 1987 election.


—facilitates a transfer of power from Marcos to a successor in 1987;

—transfer occurs essentially through established constitutional procedures, i.e., 1987 elections;

—Marcos stepping down increases likelihood of Congress and American people supporting expanded assistance to the Philippines;

—improves chances of fundamental reform including implementation of counterinsurgency program.


—requires maximum US pressure to overcome Marcos’s [sic] almost certain objections;

—runs the risk of Marcos backlash;

—does not eliminate possibility of fraudulent elections and weak or ineffectual successor government;

—“free and fair” elections, on the other hand, could result in relatively unfriendly successor government.


[initial portion of page 6 is redacted]

3. In addition to the question of influencing the succession, the US hopes to prod President Marcos into making fundamental political, economic and military reforms. US policy, for example, explicitly assumes that while Marcos is part of the problem he is also part of the solution. Therefore, successful reform, as in the case of Marcos choosing a successor, depends to a large extent on what the President is willing and/or capable of doing to initiate changes. But many in the intelligence community believe that the prospects are bleak on both counts. A growing body of evidence suggests that President Marcos is neither willing nor able to institute essential reforms. The package of reforms, for example, the US is insisting upon, if implemented, would dismantle the power structure Marcos has created and undermine his own hold on power. It appears unrealistic to ask the President to purge the military of corruption and abuses, for example, when those tossed out would largely be those most loyal to him personally. The same is true for straightening out the economic mess. Many also believe Marcos will have trouble being returned to office in the “free and fair” election we are calling for.


[initial portion of page 7 is redacted]

[redacted] Most important, it suggests that Marcos has chosen an approach to the insurgency with serious flaws. Even a Marcos in his prime would have difficulty implementing such a micro-managed program—requiring presidential decision making on all aspects of the program and regional (decentralized) implementation—on a sustained basis. But Marcos is not in his prime and [redacted] he will have regularly reoccuring [sic] health problems for the foreseeable future. Accordingly, the prospects for such a plan to succeed are doubtful.

Marcos appears to be relying heavily on his past solutions to problems as answers for today’s troubles. [redacted] taking personal charge, is very similar to the way he handled the NPA in the late 1960s and the Moro rebellion in the 1970s. In these instances, however, Marcos’ health was not a factor and the problems were essentially regional rather than national in scope. He could afford to concentrate his resources in a relatively small area until the problem has been resolved. Unfortunately, the current insurgency differs substantially from these earlier examples in that it has been broken the regional mold and has spread to throughout all major islands. The earlier approach just is not suited for an insurgency of such wide scope and intensity.

He also seems very conscious of what delegating more authority to his ministers could mean for his own position. As a student of history remembers clearly President Quirino’s fate once Magsaysay has pacified the Huks [HUKBALAHAP] in the 1950s. He appears intent on protecting his own rule even if it means less effective counterinsurgency program.


[initial portion of page 8 is redacted]

Again Marcos appears to have chosen an approach he used successfully against the NPA and the Moros earlier in his career. In both cases, he relied heavily on concerted military pressures followed up by economic reforms and other programs. In this instance, however, he has chosen to disregard reality and the advice most of his senior advisers are giving to him.

All objective observers hold that the military equation is far different today than when Marcos first confronted the NPA in the late 60s and early 70s—the AFP’s [Armed Forces of the Philippines] capability has deteriorated while the insurgent’s military power has increased. Few believe that a military solution in such circumstances, without reforms and a substantial upgrading of the AFP, can succeed.

Moreover, all of Marcos’s [sic] defense advisors advocate a coordinated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy. [redacted] the first essential step in any successful counterinsurgency strategy is to “win back the support of the people” in the contested areas [redacted]  through political, economic, and military programs. Only then can you stop the spread of insurgency and begin to concentrate on the areas already lost. Many others I am sure would agree [redacted] They also probably recognize that relying primarily on “clearing operations,” unless it can be done swiftly and cleanly, invites further polarization of the society and more not less sympathy and support for the insurgents.


Carl W. Ford, Jr.

SECRET / [redacted]

SUBJECT: US Influence and the Philippine Succession

DCI/NIC/NIO/EA:FORD [redacted]


Original – DCI

1 – DDCI

1- ER

1 – C/NIC

1 – VC/NIC

1 – DDI Reg

2 – NIO/EA











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CIA Declassified: Dump Marcos

From: The New Republic, “Dump Marcos,” The New Republic, 27 November 1985. Available from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/document/cia-rdp90-00965r000807410005-0

When Senator Paul Laxalt, acting as President Reagan’s personal envoy, suggested to Ferdinand Marcos that he hold early elections, the answer was an equivocal no. When George Will made the same suggestion to the Philippine President a few weeks later, on the Sunday morning program, “This Week with David Brinkley,” Marcos was warming up to the idea. “I am decided that with these arguments coming from the opposition, and now in this show and interview, I’m ready. I’m ready to call a snap election,” Marcos told the stunned panelists.

Many viewers in the country saw Marcos’ announcement as a sign that he was giving in to demands from the U.S., and edging a little bit closer to democratic rule. But members of the Philippine opposition know their wily dictator far better. The promise of an election in fact means very little. Asked to explain his plan, Marcos said during the interview that the “snap election” should take place within 60 days. This would give the opposition little time to unite behind a single candidate, raise funds, and mount an effort to keep Marcos from buying or stealing the election, as he has often done in the past.

Since the television broadcast, Marcos has made several minor concessions that appear more significant than they are. He has said that he will hold election on February 7 instead of January 17. He has said he will resign, as the Philippine Constitution requires before a special election, but will not leave office. In the next few weeks, Marcos will probably accredit Namfrel [sic], the organization of volunteer poll watchers that was responsible for the relative fairness of the 1984 parliamentary election. But he is still demanding a list of poll watchers’ names so that he can bring the organization under his control. Between now and election, everything Marcos does will be calculated carefully to make it appear he is trying to be fair. But as Senate Intelligence Committee staff members who recently visited the Philippines put it in a rare public report, “Marcos, at this point, intends to do whatever is necessary to ensure a favorable outcome in the next election.”

Nevertheless, the various opposition groups are giving the election their all, in the hopes that Marcos can be pressured into meeting enough of their demands that he will lose. At the moment they are concerned with selecting a presidential candidate, who will probably be Corazon Aquino or former senator Salvador Laurel. Because of his isolation from reality, which a number of visitors have commented upon, Marcos may not realize how few supporters he has left. Most of his people are fed up with a failing economy, internal repression, and growing violence fostered by the communist New People’s Army (NPA). There is some hope that he will miscalculate and lose the election. But in the event that he manages to affirm his mandate, using his “considerable power to rig the elections at both the national and local levels,” as the Senate Intelligence Committee envisions, the United States will have to consider options other than that of continuing to prop up this sad, sagging tyrant.

If present trends continue, Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage estimates that the NPA will reach a strategic stalemate with the Philippine Army in three to five years. Senator Dave Durenberger, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thinks two to three years would be an optimistic estimate. Whatever their potential strength, the guerrillas have emerged as a real and present danger since Benigno Aquino was assassinated in 1983. There are now estimated to be more than 15,000 armed fighters in nearly all of the 73 Philippine provinces. The NPA is not currently backed by Moscow, and it apparently prefers to be nonaligned [sic]. But the Soviets are, to say the least, interested.

Marcos has us in a bind. Since he is the one fighting the NPA, the argument goes, we must step up military and order to keep them from winning. But giving Marcos guns won’t help. His army is badly organized, mismanaged, and riddled with corruption. His solution to the insurgency problem seems to be wishing it away. “They are surrendering in droves,” he recently told Ted Koppel in “Nightline,” insisting that he can quash the NPA within a year. His own generals have called the assessment ridiculous. In truth, there is little Marcos can do to oppose the guerrillas, since their rise is a direct result of 20 years of his repression. As long as he stays in office, while postponing military, political, and economic reforms, the chances of an eventual NPA victory will improve.

If the guerrillas succeed in waging a protracted civil war, it will be a tragedy for the 50 million citizens of the Philippines. It would also be a tragedy of sorts for the United States. Our two largest military bases outside U.S. borders—the Clark air base and the naval station at Subic Bay—are located in the Philippines. They are essential to our strategic capability in Southeast Asia. if we lost them (the leases expire in 1989, subject to renegotiation), we would be forced to monitor Soviet activity in the region from bases in Hawaii and Japan.

With the exception of Jerry Fallwell, reliable friend to tyrants in trouble, even most conservatives realize where the Philippines are headed if Marcos remains in power. Although the Reagan administration waited until the eleventh hour to get worried about the situation, it has backed the International Monetary Fund’s recent decision to cut off payments on loans until Marcos breaks up sugar and coconut monopolies run by his cronies, which have helped wreck the economy. Even Marcos’ friends are bailing out, transferring hundreds of millions in assets to the U.S. (See “Marcos’s [sic] Nest Egg,” October 7.) Sources in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department have all been hinting darkly that Marcos’ plight is far more srious than anyone knows.

“The chances for a constitutional succession could be improved if Marcos died suddenly, as opposed to a lingering period of incapacitation,” the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote in the conclusion to its recent report. Indeed, the best solution would be if Marcos would agree to die right away. But we can’t count on his cooperation on this matter either. Rumors of his ill health and impending death from kidney failure have been greatly exaggerated for more than 20 years. Senator Durenberger recently proposed what would be an equally workable solution: that Marcos resign. Unfortunately, it is equally unlikely.

It’s to do more than indicate our displeasure to Marcos. Unless by some miracle he holds and wins a fair election, we should pressure him into quitting. One form of pressure, of course, is economic. If the U.S. cut off military and other aid (increased to $70 million this year), other countries and private investors would no doubt follow suit by cutting off all new loans. Without foreign investments, Marcos will hold all tenuous hold on the monopolies whose powerful leaders are still standing by him.

Senator Bill Bradley recently suggested a more novel approach of getting rid of Marcos in a New York Times Op-Ed [sic] article: offer him safe passage and sanctuary in the U.S. One thing keeping Marcos from relinquishing power may be his fear of punishment for his crimes. It is estimated that he and his wife have plundered over one billion dollars from a country that suffers from desperate poverty. He might well be attracted to the idea of nursing his kidneys by the swimming pools of his cronies, who are already packing their bags for California. This conjures unpleasant memories about our solicitude to the fallen shah, but it’s likely that Marcos’s [sic] angry victims would be glad simply to get rid of him.

Indeed, it’s useful to remember why the situation in the Philippines is not like Iran, or Nicaragua. The country, which was our only actual colony, still has an abiding love for the United States and a powerful democratic tradition. Many Filipinos would like to see the nation become the 51st state. By supporting Marcos, we have sorely tested this gratitude. Still, there seems to be widespread public support for an American military presence, and strong anti-Soviet sentiment. We don’t want to antagonize the democratic forces by supporting an inept and corrupt tyrant past his time. We should reach out to the opposition now, and  make clear to Marcos that a truly fair election is his last chance to bow out gracefully.