Marcos: guerrilla hero or faker?

Sept. 28, 1989
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U.S. government records uncovered in January 1986 showed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos's claims of having led a guerrilla resistance unit against the Japanese during the World War II occupation had long been labeled fraudulent by U.S. Army investigators.

Many of the records were classified secret until 1958 and were kept at the Army records center in St. Louis until they were donated to the National Archives in Washington in November 1984.

The records were made available after The New York Times reported on the controversy overMarcos's wartime activities.

About 300 pages of the records showed repeated U.S. Army investigations found no basis in fact for Marcos's claims that he was the leader of the guerrilla unit called Ang Mga Maharlika in military operations against Japanese forces from 1942 to 1944.

Throughout his political career, Marcos depicted himself as the Philippines' most decorated war hero. He was a lieutenant in the Philippine Army at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1941. According to his official biography, he was wounded at least four times in the fighting for Bataan in 1942 and was decorated for that action after the war. It is his role as a guerrilla leader that the Army questioned.

In his bid for re-election in February 1986, Marcos referred to his war record and guerrilla exploits -- partly to claim he was better able to deal with the communist insurgency in the Philippines than his opponent, Corazon Aquino, the wife of Marcos's leading opponent who was assassinated in 1983.

Marcos twice between 1945 and 1948 asked the U.S. Army for official recognition of the existence of his purported guerrilla unit. Army investigators called Marcos's claims 'fraudulent' and 'absurd' and rejected the request.

A Veterans Administration spokesman on Jan. 23, 1985, told United Press International, 'The only thing we can confirm at this point is that Marcos is not a recipient of veterans benefits.'

Army investigators concluded the so-called Maharlika was a fictitious creation and said there never was such a unit during the war, the documents said.

The documents showed that in 1950 the Veterans' Administration, with help from the Philippine Army, also found that some who had claimed membership in Marcos's unit had committed 'atrocities' against Filipino civilians instead of having fought the Japanese.

These people, the VA said, had engaged in 'nefarious activity,' including selling contraband to the Japanese. The records did not directly link Marcos to those activities.

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