Join the hunt with two thrilling adventures: Steel's Treasure and the newly released Steel's Gold!

The epic story of U.S. Air Force Captain William Steel, an intelligence officer with serious authority issues, and his hunt for billions of dollars of lost WWII Japanese treasure hidden in the mountainous jungles of the Philippines.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Marcos Legacy: Still Poison After All These Years


It is amazing after all these years that the Marcos’s continue to drag the Philippine people through the muck, tarnishing their image on the world stage.  My novel  Steel’s Treasure weaves characters from the Marcos regime and their poisonous corruption  with the book’s protagonist Capt. William Steel’s  quest for lost WW II Japanese treasure.  

I wasn’t surprised, more embarrassed for the Filipino people, when recently, Imelda Marcos’ former aide, Vilma Bautista, appeared in court in NYC charged with illegally selling a Monet painting.  Apparently, several more famous paintings were found in Bautista’s apartment.   Bautista was attempting to unload them for tens of millions of dollars and had reportedly stolen them from Marcos’s Upper East Side townhouse —sometime after the dictator’s fall from power. 

 The paintings are yet another reminder of the Marcos’s long legacy of stolen wealth.

Along with the Bautista article was press on the deteriorating condition of Imelda’s shoe collection housed in a special museum in Marikina, Manila. It seems insects and moisture are destroying the shoes.   For years now, photos of the thousands of pairs of Imelda’s designer shoes have been synonymous with the Marcos’s decade’s long rape and pillage of the Philippine economy.




My involvement with the Marcos’s came as a young U.S. Air Force captain stationed in the Philippines.  I was assigned to 13th Air Force at Clark Air Base and in February 1986, watched firsthand, as the Philippine “People Powered Revolution” overthrew the Marcos regime.   Behind the scenes, at the 13th Air Force command center, I read the frantic cables between Washington and the Marcos’s trying to figure out how to solve the crisis. 

Clark Air Base F-4's in the 1980's

The U.S. urged Marcos to leave peacefully and not use his military and violence to suppress the demonstrators.   Washington sent Clark-based fighter aircraft in low level “shock and awe” flights over Manila, hoping that the roar of the jet engines would persuade Marcos that U.S. military forces were supporting the opposition.   Finally, after calls from President Reagan, who had a close relationship with the Marcos’s – Ferdinand, Imelda and family agreed to leave the country. 

     They were flown by U.S. helicopter to Clark.  An Air Force security police buddy of mine helped the Marcos’ off of the helicopter, personally carrying diaper bags crammed with money and jewelry—evidence of their hasty departure from the palace.*    Curious about the spectacle, I watched the Marcos family shop at the military base exchange store for the personal items they needed for their trip-- then get on a C-130 aircraft and head out for Honolulu.

Before the revolution
To his credit, Marcos did refrain from using direct violence against the masses of demonstrators, unlike the Chinese government which mowed down protesters in Tienanmen Square.    As he sat in exile in Hawaii, after the shell-shock had worn off, I often wondered if Marcos wished he had listened to his dog-faced chief of the armed forces, General Ver, who had wanted to use tanks and force to break up the demonstrators.
After the revolution


Right after the revolution, a buddy and I traveled to Manila and scammed our way into a tour of the looted former-presidential palace.   It was quite an eye opener seeing the opulence in which the Marco’s lived— juxtaposed with the sea of impoverished people squatting in Manila. 

  I remembered thinking what rotten people the Marcos’s were, and whether it was it worth it for the U.S. to have supported such a clearly despot and corrupt government for all those years.

* It was reported by the press that, when Marcos fled, U.S. Customs agents in Hawaii discovered 24 suitcases of gold bricks and diamond jewelry hidden in diaper bags and in addition, certificates for gold bullion valued in the billions of dollars.

1 comment:

  1. Did you see the article in the online version of The Atlantic by Jillian Keenan ("The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines' Economic Growth" )

    She quotes a political scientist saying: "There's some sense to the argument that we've never had a real democracy because only a few have controlled economic power," he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. "The country dances to the tune of the tiny elite."

    The more things change...