“Stolen valor” is a term that applies to a phenomenon of fraudulence in the military, involving false claims of service, rank, awards and decorations.
I have yet to come across an instance more egregious than what Philippine history can attest to. Neither can anybody else. Let me proceed then with renewed perspectives, as I continue to dare Imelda Marcos and her revisionist hallucinations to dispute history’s unflappable, irrefutable veracities.
At the onset of World War II, the Philippine Military Academy’s graduates of ‘Pioneer Class of 1940’ each held the rank of Third Lieutenant. An extract from Special Orders No. 44/HQ/USAFFE, 16 October 1941 included a roster of these graduates, confirming their promotion from 3rd Lieutenants “To be Second Lieutenants (Temporary)” at the time they were inducted into the United States Army in the Far East.
In 1948, at war’s end, there was not a single member of PMA’s Class of 1940 who had earned a promotion to Captain. I found a document indicating one 1940 Class member, Osmundo Mondonedo (who subsequently served in the Magsaysay Cabinet) still a First Lieutenant, as an example.
Yet in 1947, a certain UP ROTC graduate who was a Third Lieutenant upon induction into the USAFFE, assumed and displayed the rank of Major. He even wore a dress khaki military uniform when he was already a civilian, having been able to join a Philippine delegation of veterans lobbying in Washington DC for the extension of war benefits.
I am speaking of a certain Atty. Ferdinand E. Marcos, erstwhile 3rd Lt. and an authentic Bataan Death March survivor. At that time, he was remembered to have had an office at the Regina Building, and whose “lawyering” was devoted to enlisting men desirous of recognition as “guerillas,” for purposes of being able to claim “backpay war benefits.” This is the factual root of the epithet “Escolta Guerillas.”
In the elections of 1949, he won as Representative of the 2nd Congressional District of Ilocos Norte, thus began his political career.
Marcos’ self-adulating pseudo-autobiography, ghost-written by Hartzell Spence, “For Every Tear a Victory” (McGraw-Hill/1964) is the best repository of fabulous tales responsible for his winning the presidency in 1965. Well, the book also proves that a people’s collective gullibility has consequences. While the country is still recovering from martial law rapacity, are we not again visited by another political pestilence? Yet another consequence of populist gullibility!
This book is where Marcos claimed that Gen. Douglas MacArthur “commented publicly that without Ferdinand’s exploits, Bataan would have fallen three months sooner than it did.”
Let us pursue a sampling of those ‘exploits,’ mostly found in Chapter 7, pages 123 to 139.
In January 7 (1942), he was “struck in the left kneecap by shrapnel. He was out of commission…but refused to go a hospital.” Five days later, “He had scarcely returned to duty when patrolling several miles behind Japanese lines, he was hit by sniper fire in the right thigh….bullet grating in his thigh bone…he cut out the bullet with his knife….again he refused to be hospitalized….. and his Purple Heart was delivered to him in the forward area.”
By January 22, he was captured and tortured but escaped. Without mentioning ever being a 2nd Lt., Marcos promoted himself to First Lieutenant! And in less than a month, he was again promoted. This time, to Captain. The promotion came by way of a “telephone call” from Gen. Jonathan Wainwright to an assistant of Gen. Mateo Capinpin, Marcos’ commanding officer. “Captain Ferdinand E. Marcos, although wounded by shrapnel and sniper in the abdomen…” (p. 142). Marcos did in fact start referring to himself as a Captain, as he claims being wounded once again!
The book continues: “….as though determined to win the war alone, Marcos was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor,” but ….“Had the papers not been lost in the last days of Bataan, Marcos would have been the only Filipino army officer to win the United States’ highest valor award in the Bataan campaign.”
When the Washington Post exposed Marcos’ fake medals (“The Marcos Mystery: Did the Philippine Leader Really Win US Medals for Valor?” December 18, 1983), Marcos very angrily rebutted with threats of criminal and civil action, issuing a book: “Documents on the Marcos War Medals,” with dozens of Annexes. Annex “D” was a document dated ‘3 April 1942’ purportedly accomplished “In the Field” and marked as signed by “/s/t/ MATEO CAPINPIN Commanding General (PA).” Lo and behold! These were “the papers….lost in the last days of Bataan,” earlier cited. “Recommendation for Award of the Congressional Medal of Honor!” supposedly reconstructed, attested and sworn to on “14th day of June 1946 in Camp Murphy in Quezon City.”
Because of war wounds claimed to have been sustained in Bataan, Marcos was awarded the “Purple Heart,” according to him! The “Purple Heart” is a solemn heroism decoration awarded to soldiers who have been wounded or killed. There exists a database, a Roll of Honor for Purple Heart recipients. Apart from what I already knew about Marcos’ claim to war wounds, I inquired from the Military Personnel Records Office in St. Louis, Missouri some years back. I received an official confirmation that there is no “Ferdinand E. Marcos” listed in the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
While in Honolulu, Marcos had to submit himself to a physical/medical examination at the Tripler Army Medical Center. I happen to have a copy of that medical report. There is no mention of scars from war wounds.
The Malacanang Press Office archives have photographs of President Marcos in black swimming trunks taken in Fuga Island as well as while waterskiing. Pretty clear, photogenic thighs and torso, unblemished!
A fellow-Death March veteran, Dr. Juanito Duque, wrote a testimonial which was published at the time of Gen. MacArthur’s visit (July, 1961). He and 3rd Lt. Marcos were bunkmates in the Camp O’Donnell/Capas concentration camp and therefore Duque was a visual witness. “Lieutenant Marcos did not bear any shrapnel wound, not even a scar,” Duque’s testimonial stated.
As we all know, at the insistent behest of the seven-times criminally convicted widow of Marcos, with vigorous support and acquiescence of President Duterte and his Supreme Court lackeys, the dessicated remains of 3rd Lt. Marcos is now entombed as a hero in the National Memorial, Libingan ng mga Bayani.
And “without a hint of embarrassment nor any intent to rectify” a proven monumental fraudulence, our Armed Forces of the Philippines unashamedly keeps in its roster of veterans a certain “Major Ferdinand E. Marcos 0-41394 Infantry.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.