National Geographic : 1986 Jul
social justice that are its preconditions have evaded one leader after another who came to power promising freedom and progress. In 1965 Marcos too had been elected on a wave of hope, with a broad electoral man date to deal with the Philippines' chronic so cial and economic problems. In 1969 he became the first Philippine president to win a second term-but the corruption and law lessness and the vast gulf between rich and poor that had always plagued the Philippine Republic were as pervasive as ever. In addi tion, a Communist insurgency was gather ing strength in the backcountry, while a Muslim uprising took a bloody toll in Min danao. In September 1972, barred by law from a third term, Marcos declared martial law, and many opposition leaders, includ ing Benigno Aquino, were arrested. Later Marcos dissolved the congress and rewrote the constitution, explaining that he was re storing law and order, "preserving democ racy," and building a disciplined "New Society." At first many Filipinos welcomed the change. The economy grew, and with it gov ernment revenues; crime fell. But Filipinos began to regret their lost freedoms. It was the assassination of Benigno Aquino that finally galvanized opposition to the Marcos regime. During eight years in prison Aquino suffered two heart attacks and was permitted to travel to the U. S. for treatment. He remained for three years on fellowships at Harvard and MIT. Finally, in 1983, despite warnings from Mrs. Marcos that his life was in danger and the regime could not guarantee his safety, Aquino elect ed to return to the Philippines. "We must provide Marcos a vehicle that allows him to dismount the tiger and effect a peaceful transition of government," he told me, shortly before his fateful journey. Aquino was shot dead as he walked down the steps of the airplane that had brought him home. An independent five-member citizens' panel headed by retired Appeals Court Judge Corazon Agrava concluded that the murder had been planned and exe cuted by a conspiracy that included some of the nation's highest ranking military offi cers, including Marcos's chief of staff, Gen. Fabian Ver. But after a ten-month trial Ver and 25 others won acquittal. No evidence that the president was personally involved has ever been put forward officially.