Marcos Counterattacks in War Record Dispute
President Ferdinand E. Marcos and his backers mounted a determined campaign Friday to refute allegations that he lied about his World War II record, ignoring other issues in the campaign for the Feb. 7 presidential election.
Manila’s independent newspapers featured the charges in front-page reports, while Marcos’ supporters moved to limit the damage by filing a lawsuit and producing witnesses to back the president’s claim that he led a heroic guerrilla unit against the Japanese invaders.
The reports, based on U.S. Army records uncovered by historian Alfred W. McCoy, said the Army repeatedly denied requests for postwar recognition of Marcos’s purported guerrilla group, describing his claims as “fraudulent” and “absurd.”
In Washington on Friday, a State Department official said that “the public record speaks for itself,” and there are “no grounds to second guess the findings of military officers who reviewed the case 40 years ago.” But the official, who asked not to be identified, noted that Marcos did win medals for his actions before the 1942 defeat of American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula.
Medals for 1941-42
An Army spokesman in Washington said that the medals, for service in 1941-42, were not certified until 1946, which was after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. But the medals are not disputed in the documents publicized this week.
Three Manila newspapers printed the story as their main item of the day. One of them reported “quite good” street sales of its edition with the banner headline: “Marcos fake hero, U.S. Army concludes.”
Libel Suit Filed
State-run television countered Friday with a report that a former member of the Marcos unit--called Ang Mga Maharlika--filed a libel suit against two of the newspapers, and quoted him as saying, “I am filing these charges because I felt belittled, ridiculed and disgraced not only to myself and my comrades, but including those who sacrificed their lives for the country.”
Three other veterans claiming to be Marcos comrades-in-arms, Col. Frisco San Juan, Teodulo C. Natividad and Col. Agustin Marking, issued a joint statement angrily attacking the reports.
“If this . . . story weren’t so vicious, it would be ludicrous,” San Juan said. “Mr. Marcos has on his body scars more eloquent than any country’s medals in attesting to his courage, gallantry and self-sacrifice.”
The official Philippine News Agency quoted a former member of the Japanese military police with occupation forces in the Philippines as saying the Maharlika movement was the main target of an anti-guerrilla drive when he was based in Manila.
Fumio Fujihara, 65, now a Manila businessman, said the drive was ordered by the headquarters in Tokyo, which had noted the effectiveness of the Ang Mga Maharlika in inciting Filipinos against the Japanese.
Marcos, in a statement read on government television Friday, said, “I consider it a compliment that they, the opposition and the Western press, find all my exploits which I consider an ordinary part of my war experiences, as unusual, extraordinary and therefore unbelievable.
“The expression of incongruity means that perhaps there was really something good, something extraordinary in what I did. I have just been convinced by the opposition that I really have another mission, and that is to write the history of the guerrilla movement in the Philippines.”