MANILA (UPDATED) -- In April of 1978, then-President Ferdinand Marcos said at the 25th commencement exercises of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), then the Philippine College of Commerce, that his son Bongbong was "a senior at Oxford."
"He is graduating this June."
Now, 43 years later, presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and his camp continue to assert that the former senator graduated with a "degree" from the prestigious university.
But a new Vera Files report contests this based on documents left behind in Malacañang after the Marcoses left the Philippines in 1986.
"His father, the dictator, lied about his son’s degree. His mother, the undead half of the conjugal dictatorship, flaunted the same lie. And the son, who now wants to be president, continues the lie. For the past 43 years, the Filipino people have been lied to," said Vera Files in its 2-part probe into historical documents left in the Palace after the 1986 EDSA uprising.
WHEN IT BEGAN
According to the documents, Marcos, the strongman, knew as early as October 1976 that his son could no longer continue his residency at Oxford University. This was two years before he spoke about Bongbong's supposed upcoming graduation in his speech at the 25th commencement exercises in PUP.
Bongbong was not allowed by the Oxford University rule to carry on his studies after he "passed in only one of the three subjects he took in the preliminary examination."
He passed philosophy, but not economics and politics.
Bongbong took a second shot at the subjects he failed, but passed only in economics, effectively ending his residency at Oxford.
Then-Philippine Ambassador to the UK Pablo Araque at the time reported to Marcos and his wife, then-First Lady Imelda Marcos, that they sent an appeal to Oxford citing "special mitigating circumstances" that may help repeal their decision to end Bongbong's residency.
Circumstances included Bongbong's asthma, complicated by a bout of flu before his examination, and psychological distress caused by visits to the devastated areas affected by the August 17, 1976 Mindanao quake and the following tidal wave which claimed the lives of 8,000 Filipinos.
The appeal did not work.
According to the report, instead of coming back home, Bongbong remained in Oxford to pursue a special diploma in social studies instead.
In Marcos' PUP commencement speech in 1978, Bongbong was indeed preparing for his exams, but not as a senior for a bachelor's degree in Oxford. He was getting ready for a test to get a special diploma.
Three months later, John Norman Davidson Kelly, principal of Oxford's St. Edmund Hall, told the Marcoses that Bongbong passed his exams for his special diploma.
A STRING OF INCONSISTENCIES
In November 1978, seven months after Marcos Sr. first spoke of his son's college education, the then-21-year-old Bongbong was sworn in as special assistant to the president.
This is where inconsistency begins—in a press release for the event where Malacañang stated that Bongbong held a special diploma in social studies from Oxford University.
This press release is just the first of the long line of documents and statements that Bongbong Marcos and his camp try to disprove, as they maintain he got a bachelor's degree in Oxford.
In an interview with Bandila in 2015, Marcos claimed that he received a bachelor of arts degree from Oxford, and when asked about reports saying it was not a degree but a special diploma, Marcos insisted that it was still a bachelor of arts degree.
In another interview with DZMM in 2016, Marcos shared that he flew to England and personally went to Oxford where he got a certificate confirming his degree.
The certificate however, read: ""We can confirm that a Ferdinand Marcos matriculated at the University of Oxford in 1975 to read for a BA in Philosophy, Philosophy and Economics. According to our records, he did not complete his degree, but was awarded a special diploma in Social Studies in 1978."
But Marcos again insisted that the special diploma is the same as a bachelor's degree.
This issue about Marcos' educational background again came about as he launched a bid for the presidency in 2022.
In a statement last month by Marcos' chief-of-staff, lawyer Vic Rodriguez challenged critics to disprove "Oxford's degree confirmation" to him.
Rodriguez added that Marcos has always been honest about his special diploma from Oxford.
"[He] has always been forthright on his conferment of a special diploma in social studies by the distinguished university and has never misrepresented his Oxford education," said Rodriguez.
ABS-CBN News sought a response from the Marcos camp regarding the Vera Files report but has yet to receive a reply as of writing. We will update this story once it issues a statement.
The Vera Files report also details the Marcoses' efforts to give Bongbong a prestigious graduate degree.
Marcos, the father, received a confidential personal letter from Francis Ablan, then an executive of Caltex (Philippines) saying that his son's application to enter a graduate program in Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania can be coursed through the personal connections of Frank Zingaro, a vice president of the multinational oil giant Caltex Petroleum Corp., to "people of Wharton School of Business and with some other graduate schools of business."
Strings were also pulled by Jose A. Syjuco Jr., the then deputy chief of mission of the Philippine embassy in London, as evidenced in a telex to Malacañang to inform Bongbong that he must “rush Wharton forms to Ernie Pineda [Ernesto C. Pineda, Philippine consul general in New York] soonest. He will make [a] strong attempt to push it through but he needs the basic application.”
Bongbong started a two-year course of study at Wharton School of Business.
He provided a copy of his Wharton MBA transcript in 2015, that shows he did not earn credit for his class in Administration in his Fall 1979 term. He credited only two subjects in his Fall 1981 term.
During his stay from 1979 to 1981, he earned eleven units, far from completing his graduate degree, and far from writing a thesis.
But the report recalls several biographic notes that Bongbong mentioned being in the middle of his MBA thesis or dissertation when he had to withdraw from the program to fulfill his duties as vice governor of Ilocos Norte.
Bongbong was elected vice governor of Ilocos Norte in 1980, while still a student at Wharton. Despite his new post as a public official, he made clear to the public that "he planned to complete his studies leading to a master’s degree in business administration in the United States.”
His transcript confirms this for the most part of 1980, where he did indeed continue his studies in Wharton.
His post as the vice governor only required him to serve as the governor's substitute, after all.
But in 1981, he was in the Philippines for the April 7, 1981 constitutional plebiscite, the June 16, 1981 presidential election, and the third inauguration of his father as president on June 30, 1981.
By 1983, Bongbong became the governor of Ilocos Norte after his aunt, Elizabeth Marcos Roca, resigned.
This is when news about the fake degrees circulated in the local press.
The Vera Files report references a March 25, 1983 news clipping from an unidentified newspaper announcing Bongbong as the new Ilocos Norte governor, as a "graduate of Oxford university with B.A. and M.A. degrees in politics, philosophy, and economics. He later attended the Wharton School of Finance in Pennsylvania.”
A letter from the university in response to an inquiry made regarding the details from the news clipping said otherwise.
Dated April 20, 1983 it read: “Ferdinand Martin Romualdez matriculated in 1975 at St. Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He did not however complete his Preliminary examinations, and is not therefore a graduate of this University. It follows that he does not hold any degree. He was however awarded a Special Diploma in Social Studies in 1978.”
Just last week, The Oxford University confirmed anew that Marcos failed to get a degree.