The Steel Butterfly: Philippines’ “Best Diplomat”

(This is a documentation on the role of the Steel Butterfly in the 1971 Constitutional Convention)

A Constitutional Convention is one of the modes in changing the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. The other ways are the Constituent Assembly, the People’s Initiative and in some special cases like the creation of the 1987 Constitution, a Constitutional Commission.

The 1971 Constitutional Convention is one of the most controversial Constitutions the Philippines ever had. Not only in the composition of the delegates, the writing of its provisions but most especially, in the way it was “ratified by the Filipino people.”

Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos, Philippine First Lady, popularly known as the Steel Butterfly, tried to use this event to extract more money from the United States Government to fuel her ambitions to the extent of “selling” the Philippines to the Americans. This is proven in most of the US Diplomatic Cables written by US Ambassador to the Philippines Henry Byroade and declassified under the governing rules of US Freedom of Information Act. These documents are now available in the Harvard website under the classification FRUS XXVI.

During this period, Mrs. Marcos has been meeting with top US Officials to lobby for their support in the upcoming election of delegates for the Constitutional Convention. Most of these meetings were done in the United States and in the Malacañang Palace.

President Ferdinand Marcos was requesting the Americans through Ambassador Byroade for a 100-million dollar aid. At this point, Marcos has two options in staying in power; either through the 1971 Constitutional Convention or the Declaration of Martial Law. This was recorded in document 207 with the heading Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger to President Nixon dated February 7, 1970. This was in the form of Daily Intelligence Briefing. The conversation goes like this:

(some parts omitted not related to the topic)

Ambassador Byroade’s Conversation with Marcos: 

Ambassador Byroade reported a rambling conversation with a very distraught and unnerved President Marcos, who made the following remarks:

  • He wanted Byroade’s “active help”; Marcos said he might have to impose martial law, and wanted to know if Byroade would “stand behind him.”
  • He asked advice whether to postpone the Constitutional Convention scheduled for 1971, and about speeded-up deliveries of helicopters and ammunition under MAP.
  • He complained about the hostility of the Manila press.
  • He asked why we cannot be more forthcoming with help, and at one point mentioned the figure of $100 million. (We have already turned aside requests for $450 million in stabilization loans over three years, and have pushed the GOP to deal with the IMF. We are providing a small PL 480 program, and U.S. banks and oil interests are giving some balance of payments relief.)
  • Byroade reacted cautiously to keep us from being drawn into this situation. He tried discreetly to suggest the need for social programs and land reform, and to head off drastic actions such as martial law.
  • Byroade comments that the Philippines are used to our moving in to bail them out, and that Marcos probably thinks our present restrained position is punitive. He observes that Marcos is really afraid of a revolution, and that he is further unnerved by Chinese soothsayers’ predictions that he will die before June.
  • Byroade himself thinks that the situation may get worse (the next student demonstration is scheduled for February 12, and there is a chance that labor may join it). 
  • Byroade thinks that Marcos’ best course would be to make a sweep of the Cabinet and to embark upon such reforms as he can afford. He points out, however, that a Philippine President who moved too fast might well be murdered by his own establishment.
  • Separately, Byroade makes a plea for the return to the Philippines of an American soldier who was allowed to slip out of the Philippines while in U.S. custody awaiting a Philippine trial. He thinks this issue (coming on top of another similar incident) could become explosive to our relations if the GOP should endeavor to exploit it to divert attention from its own problem. At the least, he says, this incident could wipe out all hopes of negotiating a satisfactory criminal jurisdiction understanding with the GOP.


The talk President Marcos had with Ambassador Byroade did not fall into deaf ears. The United States was bothered with the development in the Philippines that they requested for an assessment from the US Embassy regarding the political climate in the country. Ambassador Byroade hurriedly sent a Diplomatic Note to the US Department of State containing the information demanded by the White House. The document was classified Document 222 with the heading Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger to President Nixon dated June 16, 1970.


Letter from Ambassador Byroade

Ambassador Byroade has sent you a personal assessment of the situation in the Philippines and of the proper role for U.S. policy. This was the assessment he promised when he saw you in San Clemente last August. (I recently sent you his separate, highly sensitive, letter assessing President Marcos in personal terms.)

Byroade refers to the convulsion of anti-Marcos feeling which swept Manila in January and he observes that it is still impossible to say with confidence what caused that movement and what it may portend for the direction of Philippine development. He nevertheless ventures some estimates as to what happened then, what courses are open to Marcos now, and what the U.S. role should be now and in the future.

The riots against President Marcos.

Byroade sees these as arising from the economic/financial crisis, from the psychological letdown following the election, from the revulsion against Marcos’ manipulation of the elections, and from the long overdue outbreak of student political activism. At least as important, factions of the local Establishment turned against Marcos out of personal animosity and from fear of his growing power reflected in his election victory. Through their control of information media, these factions did an incredible hatchet job on Marcos’ reputation within a matter of weeks.

(Byroade touches only lightly on another cause which was prominent in the Embassy’s reporting at the time: in many normally conservative quarters including the Church, there has developed a deep and widespread frustration and disillusionment against the Philippine political system and its venality.)

The choices before Marcos. 

Marcos could embark on one of three broad courses:

  1. Assume leadership of the forces calling for fundamental but non-violent change, and challenge the Establishment.
  2. Continue the present lines of Philippine politics, playing off one group against the other, using the carrot and the stick, and avoiding any fundamental challenge to the system.
  3. Retreat to a defensive position relying upon the military and upon the more conservative elements in society.

Marcos does not seem to have decided which course he will take, and he may attempt to temporize throughout his second term. With the best will in the world, he might well find it impossible to pursue the first course above. The Establishment is very powerful, and resistances to change would be powerful. Marcos might be murdered if he attempted to challenge the system, and in any case he would not carry Congress.

The U.S. role. 

Byroade continues to think that we should take the course that you have sketched out: to modernize our relationship and put it on a “most favored nation” basis. He notes that we are moving ahead to begin negotiations on the major areas of our relationship.

He predicts, however, that we should not expect a dramatic improvement from our efforts, and he observes that our problems are most acute in renegotiating the Bases Agreement and Laurel–Langley Economic Agreements. He notes the following problems:

  • Filipinos really do not realize that they are getting most–favored-nation or better treatment in many areas. As an example he points out that our military criminal jurisdiction agreement is in fact as favorable as our NATO or Japan formulas, but that most other countries almost invariably grant us waivers of jurisdiction in criminal cases, whereas the Philippines almost never do. Marcos himself was astonished when Byroade cited the comparative statistics on waiver requests to him.
  • The Philippines will pose exaggerated demands which we will not be able to meet.
  • Negotiations will proceed in a “Chautauqua” atmosphere which makes it doubly difficult to come to terms.

Byroade recommends nevertheless that we go ahead with due caution on the negotiations, and he recommends that we push ahead with economic negotiations without waiting for generalized preferences to LDCs under GATT. He believes that we should be prepared to give the Filipinos something in the way of continued preferences, while we protect the legitimate interests of American business in the Philippines. He suggests that we consider simultaneously negotiating a Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty. (We have already urged State to develop a negotiating scenario for the economic negotiations.)

For the longer term, Byroade sees some hope. He says that all the Philippines needs is “good government and birth control.” He notes that there are powerful forces beginning to work toward an improvement in political morality, and that the Establishment is jittery and less inclined than heretofore to play “politics as usual.”

Ambassador Byroade urges that we provide quiet advice to move the Philippines towards correcting its own problems, but he also recommends more use of international advice through the IMF, the World Bank, etc. He urges also that we bring the Japanese into the exercise. He sees this as the way to move steadily away from our strictly bilateral “special relationships.”

I have sent an acknowledgement to Ambassador Byroade on his other letter on President Marcos. I have attached a note from you to Byroade, in case you wish to acknowledge this one. Byroade has done an outstanding job in Manila. He has gotten across to the Philippine leadership that we are moving toward a new relationship that we plan to treat the Philippines as an equal, but that we will no longer tolerate the Filipinos treating us as a whipping boy yet at the same time expect us to be particularly understanding and responsible toward them. (On at least two occasions, Byroade has stopped cold schemes by Romulo to blame us publicly in disputes over military base and consular matters, by making it clear that such behavior is simply not acceptable.) He has gotten the same message across to our military and civilian personnel in the Philippines, and has stopped certain high-handed practices which annoyed the Filipinos. At the same time, he has established close personal relations with Philippine leaders. (He was Marcos’ personal guest on a recent Presidential boat tour of the outer islands.) I think that he would appreciate a message from you, and that he deserves one.


President Marcos has been very busy with the problems of the state which made him resolve to send the Top Diplomat of the Philippines; THE STEEL BUTTERFLY. Talks about the US aid will be requested again through Mrs. Marcos. In one of the talks done by Mrs. Marcos, she met with the CIA Director in her suite in Hotel Madison in the United States. The conversation was very interesting since Mrs. Marcos called the Philippines an “American Baby” and is ready to do anything just to get the American support for the Convention. The conversation was recorded by the CIA and was reported to President Nixon. This was on September 22, 1970 recorded under Document 227.

Conversation Between the Director of Central Intelligence and Madam Imelda Marcos, Wife of the Philippine President

The Director met with Madam Marcos for thirty-five minutes in the evening on 22 September 1970 at her suite in the Hotel Madison. Mr. James Rafferty, Special Assistant to the United States Ambassador in the Philippines, The Honorable Henry A. Byroade, made the introductions and then withdrew.

Madam Marcos began her presentation by drawing attention to the forthcoming 10 November 1970 elections for delegates to a constitutional convention in the Philippines, planned for June–July 1971. She said socialist movements sponsored by certain lay and clerical elements in the Catholic Church, particularly the Jesuits, and some Communist fronts are planning to contest administration candidates in the election. She believes that the Marcos Administration could lose the election by default unless a crash program is organized to help it win. She noted that the Church has already picked candidates, either priests or lay persons, for each election district. Should these groups succeed in achieving their objectives, it would change the form of government in the Philippines to Socialism or Communism, with only a few people realizing what the real consequences would be. She underscored her view that Philippine democracy is viable but will not survive unless the United States helps the Marcos Administration through this difficult period.

She said the Philippines is a child of the U.S. and illustrated this point by describing Vietnam as a French baby, Malaysia as an English baby, and Thailand as everybody’s baby. She observed that in Asia one’s creditability is not measured by how one treats a friend, but how one treats his children. She is of the opinion that the United States needs a victory in Asia to maintain its stature there. A victory in Vietnam would be negative, she said, because a U.S. victory in Vietnam is expected, but a victory for those who have and continue to advocate democracy in the Philippines would be a positive one. She pointed out the richness of Philippines national resources, the high literacy rate (85%), and the cosmopolitan make-up of the population, reiterating that something must be done between now and November 1971 to help President Marcos.


She revealed that her husband is personally directing the current campaign against pro-Communist guerrilla bands in Central Luzon, commonly referred to as HUKS, and reminded her listeners of his recent successes. Madam Marcos also noted the President’s efforts to meet his foreign financial obligation in order to maintain a creditable international image, but observed that when high interest and principal payments are made, little is left for internal improvement. She called attention to the political and financial pressures on President Marcos and described him as being squeezed and pushed into a corner by his detractors. She described candidates of the socialist fronts led by the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM) headed by ex-Senator Manglapus and the Communists as articulate and clever. She believes these anti-Marcos forces might succeed in their plan to control the constitutional convention. In this event, she said, the President would become a “strong man” because he has no intention of being pushed out by the CSM or the Communists.

She has been told that the CSM is being supported by the Adenauer Foundation in West Germany and has sources of succor in England. She also directed attention to Father Ortega who recently resigned as head of Ateneo University in Manila to stand as a candidate for the constitutional convention under the CSM banner. Father Ortega is now in New York soliciting support for the CSM. She disclosed that her visit with Pope Paul VI, while en route to Washington, was not for the purpose of piety but to persuade him to make his visit to the Philippines in the third week of November, which would be after the election, to prevent the Catholic Church in the Philippines from using his visit to further its political ambitions. She said the Pope suggested prayer as a possible answer but he also agreed to delay his visit.

After listening to Madam Marcos suggest that the U.S. sometimes helps enemies but forgets friends, i.e., help Germany and Japan but forget the Philippines, Mr. Helms asked what was meant by a crash program. She replied:

a. A rural electrification program for the Philippines costing between 300 and 500 million dollars over a ten to twenty year period, announced by President Nixon as soon as possible in order to achieve high political impact. She said it would be understood that the full amount would be stretched out over a long period of time but she also emphasized that the announcement would have to include the full amount in order to assure maximum political gain.

b. A side sum of money for support of some of Marcos’ candidates at the barrio level.

c. Support for a better exchange rate between the peso and the dollar.

d. Birth control and family planning programs.

Madam Marcos said Dr. Hannah of AID, who is now in the Philippines, promised 30 million dollars in aid, presumably for the rural electrification program. She thinks the Asian Development Bank might provide 30 to 50 million dollars and the World Bank another 50 million dollars; some of this latter money would be for birth control and family planning. In response to Mr. Helms’ request for other possibilities, she suggested short-term bank loans and other short-term international credit be extended to long-term loans to ease the pressure of large interest payments. Presumably the money saved would be used for political purposes. She also suggested some consideration be given to manipulating the sugar industry, noting that the sugar barons are giving money to Communists to win their support. Mr. Helms said that he would see President Nixon in the morning on 23 September and would at that time discuss Madam Marcos’ helpful and eloquent conversation.

Madam Marcos then said funding the election at the barrio level would mean 4,000 pesos for 35,000 barrios and also asked for more arms and helicopters to enable President Marcos to capture a fourth HUK leader, Commander Dante. She praised the Rockefeller and Ford foundations who, she said, maintained the U.S. image in the Philippines by developing the IR–8 miracle rice.

Mr. Helms again said he would discuss the matter with President Nixon.

Madam Marcos noted that she might leave Washington on Thursday but was prepared to stay for as long a time as it was necessary to acquire support for her husband. Mr. Helms suggested that it would be proper for the response to her request to come from the White House. Madam Marcos ended the conversation by yet another appeal to “back her and support President Marcos and democracy in the Philippines.”

In the morning of 23 September, Mr. Rafferty called the Agency and said that Madam Marcos talked with President Marcos after Mr. Helms departed. PresidentMarcos reportedly said to her that what is needed is a 300 million dollar stabilizing fund for the peso. President Marcos also said that the 300 million dollars need never leave the United States but would be used to backstop the peso free exchange rate, which, said Rafferty, is in a precarious position. Rafferty had no other commentary to offer as an explanation or clarification, but said that he was merely noting this conversation between Madam Marcos and her husband.


In the footnote of this document, there was a reference why this meeting between Mrs. Marcos and the CIA Director was set. This is the footnote:

XXX “The meeting was held in Mrs. Marcos’ suite in the Hotel Madison. According to a September 23 attached covering memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, Helms met with Mrs. Marcos on the evening of September 22 at “the President’s instruction.” According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon and Kissinger met with Mrs. Marcos on September 22 from 12:42 p.m. to 1:14 p.m.” XXX

In reference to the 300-million dollar loan, the US Department of State made a comment regarding this matter. There’s a big possibility that this aid did not come from the official US aid fund but rather from the Covert Funds set aside by the US Government to help allies in distress. The footnote goes like this:

 XXX “The Department of State position on the $300 million stabilization loan, as expressed in telegram 159948 and in a memorandum to Kissinger, September 25, was that such a loan would be contrary to U.S. policy of moving from the bilateral to the multilateral arena in assistance to the Philippines and that it “would torpedo the whole IMF–IBRD arrangement which has so successfully established financial discipline in the Philippines.” XXX

After the election of the delegates in June-July 1970, the US National Security Council through Henry Kissinger sent a Memorandum to Ambassador Byroade to analyze the potentials of the Constitutional Convention and if it is detrimental to the US interests. They were bothered by the “revelations” of Mrs. Marcos regarding the Communist take-over and the Marxist forces working to take over the government. As a result, there were several assessments done by the National Security Council and the US Embassy in Manila. This is one of those assessments. Before sending to Byroade, it was first sent to President Nixon for approval. The letter was dated September 25, 1970 under the heading Document 228.

40 Committee Consideration of Philippine Constitutional Convention Issue

At the 40 Committee meeting on September 24 the issue was discussed of the Philippine Constitutional Convention and its possible implications for the U.S. national interest. It was decided that it would be undesirable to have radical or left-wing elements take over the Constitutional Convention and draft a constitution which, as Mrs. Marcos suggested to you, might turn the Philippines into a social democratic welfare state or a Marxist state.

It was also recognized, though, that we do not now possess enough information to make judgments on how to proceed in this matter, and that a number of questions would need to be answered on the basis of information furnished by informed sources in Washington and in Manila. These questions are:

—What do we want to achieve?

—What elements should we back? (In this respect, it was agreed that backing supporters of President Marcos in the November 10 elections for delegates to the Convention would be preferable to seeing a leftist victory. Alternatively, however, we might wish to back a moderate group if one is identifiable because of the public criticism directed at Marcos over his rigging of the election which gave him his second term.)

—How do we provide our assistance?

—What should be the magnitude of our assistance?

At your direction State was tasked with preparing a study of the implications of the Constitutional Convention and the elections of delegates. These specific questions, however, were not addressed. The 40 Committee will meet again on October 6 to review the answers and to submit the findings to you for a decision.

On the subject of assistance to the Philippines in rural electrification, it was determined that some help might be provided prior to the November 10 elections. A statement on U.S. assistance might be made or financing of some type provided through the World Bank. Under Secretary Johnson will speak to Mr. McNamara on this last point. Follow-up steps will also be discussed at the October 6 40 Committee meeting.

In the October 2, 1970 reply of the US Embassy in Manila, it was summarized that:

“The Department of State study, October 2, stated that “Mrs. Marcos is the only person who professes to believe that the Philippine Constitutional Convention will be controlled by leftist elements. In fact, there are few observers who believe it will not be controlled by President and Mrs. Marcos.” The study was prepared in response to a September 22 memorandum from Davis to Eliot. This attached covering memorandum stated that “the President has asked that State prepare an analysis of the Philippine Constitutional Convention and its possible outcomes, particularly the possibility that it will be controlled by leftist elements. This analysis should include Ambassador Byroade’s appreciation of the situation.” Assistant Secretary Green also sent a letter to Kissinger, September 24, stating that he had heard that Mrs. Marcos had told the President that “we in Washington didn’t seem to know about the Constitutional Convention” and “that I had not known anything about it when she talked to me last Sunday” and seeking to correct this matter “for the record.” Kissinger replied to Green on October 13, stating in a postscript that he had mentioned Green’s letter to the President who “has no illusions about the lady and a great deal of confidence in you.”

In Document 230 dated October 6, 1979, there was an internal discussion how top US officials view the Philippines and Mrs. Marcos in general. They have an interesting analysis about her. This was recorded by Peter Jessup. Here is an excerpt:


Mr. Kissinger, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Packard, Mr. Johnson, Lt. Gen. Richard T. Knowles, and Mr. Helms

Mr. John Holdridge and Mr. William Nelson 

Colonel Richard T. Kennedy and Mr. Thomas Karamessines 



The Chairman reviewed the recent visit of First Lady of the Philippines ImeldaMarcos and the web she tried to weave around Washington while here. She had expressed herself to higher authority and Mr. Helms as well as others, throwing curve balls around a leftist threat to the Constitutional Convention, the need for a huge balance of payments loan, high impact projects, i.e. rural electrification and support for her husband’s political campaign. As a result, four questions had been passed to Ambassador Byroade in Manila. He had replied with a 10-page cable on 30 September 1970.

The Ambassador’s assessment did not support the First Lady’s scare talk. TheByroade analysis was that Marcos was in full control at this time.

It was also noted that Marcos was allegedly angered by his wife’s freewheeling; none of this had come directly from him and she might be launching personal political ambitions.

Mr. Johnson, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Helms, and Mr. Packard generally agreed with the Byroade assessment. Mr. Kissinger pointed out that higher authority was sensitive on matters like this and did not want to be told everything was all right only to awaken months later to find the bottom dropping out. Mr. Helms said the basic question was: Do we want at this time to earmark funds for covert support ofMarcos candidates at a time when President Marcos—no neophyte at feeding at our trough—had not yet asked for a peso.

Mr. Nelson pointed out that there were 2400 candidates for about 130 seats and that current information was that the party in power had more than a 50% leverage, the opposition no more than 25%.

Manila was directed to make an independent assessment (considering the worst that could occur) in as much detail as possible and have it ready for next week’s meetings.


This is the document referred to as the Byroade Report and the options laid out by the US Embassy in Manila in case that the outcome of the Convention will not be favorable to Washington. This was classified as Document 231 dated October 13, 1970. This is the reply to the letter sent by National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Here is the full report:

Manila Reply to Questions Concerning Philippine Constitutional Convention

1. It might be useful for a better understanding of the atmosphere in which the Constitutional Convention will take place to note current issues in Philippine political life which affect U.S. interests. These issues, which have been developing over a number of years, are:

a. A desire to eliminate special privileges currently allowed to U.S. investors and to regulate U.S. investments in the Philippines by new legislation based upon laws similar to those governing foreign investments in other Southeast Asian countries. In 1946 the Philippine Constitution was amended to give U.S. citizens equal rights with Filipinos in the development of natural resources and in the operation of public utilities. The Laurel–Langley Agreement also granted reciprocal national treatment to U.S. or Philippine citizens engaged in commercial activities within the other country. In addition, it provided for tariff preferences which favor the U.S. This agreement has been modified but its basic provisions remain intact.

b. A policy for U.S. military bases which would limit the free hand which we have thus far enjoyed in their operation and which would, at the same time, raise the price we must pay. The Philippine Constitution, for example, authorizes the U.S. to acquire bases in the Philippines for the mutual protection of the Philippines and the U.S., rent free.

c. A foreign policy which would establish diplomatic and trade relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations.

2. What interest does the U.S. have in the Philippine Constitutional Convention?

In the long run we believe U.S. interests would be served adequately by a constitution which would encourage the viability of a self-sustaining, friendly Philippines, wherein our investments would not be discriminated against and whose soil we could use for military purposes under certain conditions. In the short term, 3–5 years, we would not want the use of the two military bases, Clark and Subic, significantly curtailed. In addition, we would not want to be confronted with constitutional provisions that would adversely affect U.S. investments in the Philippines without adequate provisions for retaining, or receiving compensation for, assets acquired under the current arrangement.

3. Whom should we back, President Marcos, the moderates, or no one?

At this point in time there is no need to commit U.S. support to any particular group. Marcos-backed delegates probably will constitute the single largest voting bloc in the Convention. The other delegates will be made up of smaller groups representing business, religious, provincial and other special interests. These smaller groups will form alliances with one another and trade off support depending upon the particular interests they wish to advance at a given moment. Information available to us now on approximately 1,800 out of the more than 2,500 candidates leads to the conclusion that the majority are moderate in their outlook on issues which affect the U.S. Of the 1,800 candidates examined, there are less than 20 who can be classified as radical left or communist.

4. If we are to become involved, how should we do it and what should be the size of our activity?

We should remain alert to the workings of the Convention. Should trends develop which would adversely affect our interests we should act [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to back the work of individual delegates or group leaders and deflate the more extreme proposals. We cannot control the majority of the Convention delegates. We can, however, directly or indirectly control small blocs of delegates which could, in turn, be joined to larger forces to protect our interests if the need arises. We believe the total number of delegates required to influence the Convention would not exceed twenty.

5. “Worst Case” assessment

There is a remote possibility that a solid minority of the delegates might acquire a supra-nationalist attitude or spirit and press for a constitutional revision which would jeopardize our interests. They might call for an immediate nationalization of foreign investments with only nominal compensation or they might seek to deny us the unrestricted use of our military bases. In such an event, we believe we could [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] fragment the minority bloc, and encourage delegates to join the Marcos bloc. This would be costly [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], and might promote charges of political interference, but probably could be effective. In the long run such American interference in Philippine elections, however, would be politically counterproductive.

6. Possible outcome of the election

The intelligence available to us at this juncture indicates that Marcos, without making any further effort, can be expected to emerge from the elections with a minimum of 100 delegates3 responsive to his dictates. This is so because of the procedures which govern the campaign. Marcos has the best political machine in the country and access to public funds which no other organization can match. There are several other factors which give Marcos an advantage. The Liberal Party has not recovered from its defeat in the 1969 Presidential elections and lacks adequate funds. The Catholic Church lacks the experience, the funds and the organization necessary to contest political elections successfully on a nationwide basis. With the possible exception of Manila, and Rizal Province, the field is open to the pressures and tactics that the Marcos machine has demonstrated it is capable of applying. If he does not have a clear majority of the delegates in hand after the election of delegates, he will, as a result of his machine’s effort between now and the opening of the Convention, acquire what he needs for a majority when the Convention begins. He controls the Government machinery and will be the President for three more years. The problems that Marcos might have during the election and Convention will stem to a certain extent from his tendency to over-kill and the resentment that such an approach generates.

7. Possible outcome of the Convention

The Convention most likely will produce a moderate document containing modest changes in the structure and functioning of the Government. The proposed Constitution probably will affect directly or indirectly foreign investments in the Philippines, although it is doubtful that these new provisions would be so extreme in nature as to exclude or seriously damage our business interests. This will probably also apply to the U.S. military bases.

8. The unknown factors which complicate our analysis are the precise objectives and plans of President Marcos. We know he wishes to prevent any significant reduction of the powers of the Philippine President. He also does not wish to decentralize a highly centralized government. Some say he would like to perpetuate himself in the Presidency. It is on these issues that delegates not in the Marcoscamp might unite into an anti-Marcos bloc. Should Marcos seek to change the term of the President from two four-year terms to one six-year term and have this new provision apply to his administration, he probably will provoke the delegates to take extreme positions, although they would not be against a six-year term per se. IfMarcos does decide that his tenure as President is to be his primary objective, he would be willing to make all compromises necessary to achieve this end. This could include a decision by him to adopt a supranationalist position, and, in the unlikely event Marcos finds himself unable to control the Convention, it is possible that he would move to dissolve it.


Instead of an Official US Aid, the US Government has decided to help President and First Lady Marcos by using a Covert Aid. In this way, it will not be detrimental to US position in their relations with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. WB and IMF have imposed financial discipline to the Philippines because the latter has not fully disclosed how the loans were spent in the last few years during the Marcos’ Term as President. The document was classified under Document 232 dated October 20, 1970.

The Philippine Constitutional Convention

 At your direction the 40 Committee has three times met to discuss Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos’ urgent request to you for covert financial support to President Marcos in connection with the November 10, 1970, elections of delegates to the Philippine Constitutional Convention to be held in June–July 1971.

Independent assessments of the prospects of the Convention being dominated by communists and radical leftists, as feared by Mrs. Marcos, were requested and received from Ambassador Byroade Manila.

Neither believes that anything is likely to happen during the forthcoming elections which confirm Mrs. Marcos’ foreboding. In addition, in a recent conversation with Ambassador Byroade, President Marcos himself stated that he does not share Mrs.Marcos’ concerns.

The consensus is that President Marcos will want to and can quite adequately dominate the Convention through pro-Marcos delegates and is already moving to assure the election of delegates who will support him. He will probably be successful in this endeavor without any U.S. help. Marcos-backed delegates are likely to constitute the single largest voting bloc in the Convention.

As of now there are some 2600 candidates for 320 delegates positions to the Convention. Information presently available on approximately 1800 of these candidates leads to the conclusion that the majority are moderate in their outlook on issues which affect U.S. interests. Of the 1800 candidates studied, there are less than 20 who can be classified as radical left or communist. Intelligence available at this juncture indicates that Marcos, without any further effort, can be expected to emerge from the November elections with a minimum of 100 Convention delegates responsive to his dictates.

The principal knowledgeable concerns expressed over problems that Marcos might face during the election and ensuing Convention generally stem from his tendency to over-kill and the resentment that such an approach generates.

Based on the above, the 40 Committee concluded that involvement in the forthcoming elections of delegates to the Philippine Constitutional Convention is inadvisable. The Committee also agreed that following the election there should be a careful assessment of those through whom we might work effectively in furtherance of U.S. interests during the Convention should circumstances then so dictate.

I will follow up on this and see that appropriate proposals for any action at the Convention are submitted to the 40 Committee for consideration.


If President Nixon would have to decide on his own regarding this matter, you can actually discern his position through this conversation dated October 6, 1970. Here are his exact words:

First Lady Imelda Marcos made a trip to the United States in October 1971 and requested meetings with President Nixon and other high-level U.S. officials. The following excerpt is from the tape of a conversation between Chief of Staff H. R.Haldeman and President Nixon concerning that request and other matters. The conversation took place on October 19, 1971, from 10:55 a.m. to 12:14 p.m. in the Oval Office.

Haldeman: “Marcos, do you have to see her when she comes?

Nixon: “Oh, hell, I don’t know. I don’t really think so.

Haldeman: “What they’re [Department of State] suggesting is an option if you don’t see her.

Nixon: “Yeah. She’s here for what good?

Haldeman: “She’s here to try to assess the extent of U.S. Government support for she and her husband’s—her and her husband’s fight against communism in the Philippines is—

Nixon: “Oh, is she?

Haldeman: —“the way she puts it.

Nixon: “Well—

Haldeman: “He intends to retain control until communism is defeated, either by extending his term of office or having her replace him as President—

Nixon: [unclear]

Haldeman: —“’til the end of his term.

Nixon: “I think I should stay out of it.

Haldeman: “He’ll have to revise the Constitution to do that.

Nixon: “What do they [Department of State] suggest?

Haldeman: “They say we should treat her with reserve. At the same time, we don’t want to give her cause to feel rebuffed. And I—

Nixon: “I think she’s got to be seen some way but I don’t—”

Nixon and Haldeman then agreed that the President would meet briefly with Mrs.Marcos. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, White House Tapes, Recording of conversation between Nixon and Haldeman, Oval Office, Conversation No. 596–4)

A record of President Nixon’s subsequent meeting with Mrs. Marcos on the morning of October 22 is in Document 243.

Almost directly after his meeting with Mrs. Marcos, President Nixon met with Congressman Peter Frelinghuysen, Jr., from 12:16 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. in the Oval Office. The following excerpt is from that conversation:

Nixon: “Democracy isn’t easy. I was just talking to Mrs. Marcos in the Philippines. You know what they’re talking about now? Oh, they think that the Communist danger is so great that maybe, maybe—they may not—it may be in their interest to write their Constitution in a way that democracy could succeed itself without an election. And the Philippines, we [unclear] that’s American style democracy trying to make it work in Asia—

Frelinghuysen: “As I understand it—

Nixon: “It’s a hell of a problem, right?

Frelinghuysen: “It’s not easy.

Nixon: “And our people who take this high and mighty attitude about democracy and all [unclear] our thing, particularly that is. The Latins aren’t any good at it. In fact, the Anglos are the only people who are any good at democracy, the British and the Americans


In the 1971 Constitutional Convention, Imelda Marcos has been instrumental for the election of Carlos P. Garcia as the President of the Convention. Garcia is a Nacionalista stalwart same as President Marcos. Three days after his election as President, on June 14, 1971, he died of a fatal heart attack. Garcia was replaced by former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal as the President of the Convention as selected by President Marcos. Macapagal was not elected by the Convention. This strategy of Marcos is to show that he doesn’t have any influence in the ConCon since Macapagal is from the Liberal Party. Prior to the election of delegates, Mrs. Marcos has been known talking to the candidates during the Nacionalista Convention. They were given funds to finance their campaign and have been briefed on what to do before and after the elections.

The Convention came into recess days after the declaration of Martial Law and resumed in 1973. Eleven delegates were not able to come back since they were arrested after the declaration of Martial Law. 264 came in favor of the new Constitution and 14 went against it. It was reported that during these proceedings, Mrs. Marcos was in the Convention Chamber together with Amb. Kokoy Romualdez bribing delegates to vote in favor of the new Constitution. There has been wide corruption from the inception until the voting of the delegates to the national plebiscite.

Also, the original draft of the Constitution done by the Convention was replaced by the Malacañang draft at the last minute. Second and Third Reading were not undertaken. There were other insertions done to favor the government of President Marcos.

In the Plebiscite to ratify the 1973 Consitution, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 86 calling for the cancellation of the plebiscite and instituted barangays (citizens’ assemblies) to ratify the new constitution. The barangays (citizens’ assemblies) would institute the ratification by a referendum. The referendum of the proposed constitution happened from 10–15 January 1973. After the ratification, Proclamation No. 1102 on 17 January 1973, certified and proclaimed that the Constitution proposed by the Constitutional Convention of 1971 had been ratified by the Filipino people and thereby come into effect.

What is unusual with this election is that voting age was reduced from 18 to 15 years old. The voting was not done by secret balloting but rather through the raising of hands. To show that there was really a referendum, the military showed photographs as proof that there was a participation of the people. The question raised during the referendum was not “Who among you here are in favor of the new 1973 Constitution? Who’s not in favor?” According to the voters, the question asked was “Sino sa inyo dito ang gutom? or Sino ang may gusto ng bigas? (Who among you here are hungry? or Who wants rice?) With these questions, people raised their hands in response to the question. They didn’t know that they already ratified the new Constitution.

The result of the election was:

YES – 14,976,561 or 90.67%

NO – 743,869 or 9.33%

With 100% valid votes.

The 1973 Constitution took in effect immediately abolishing the Office of the Vice-President and the Bicameral Legislature. It was replaced by the Philippine Parliament called Batasan Pambansa and a later revision in the Consitution creating the Office of the Prime Minister headed by Cesar Emilio A. Virata, grandson of the First Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo. It also broadened the powers of the President justifying the dictatorial powers it currently possessed. The 1973 Constitution was in effect until 1986 when it was replaced by Corazon C. Aquino with the 1986 Freedom Constitution creating the Philippine Revolutionary Government.

Imelda Romualdez Marcos, the Steel Butterfly of Philippine Politics, has been considered one of the best Diplomats the Philippines ever had. She has been the first recipient of the Mabini Awards with the status of Dakilang Kamanong. The Mabini Awards is given to Philippine Diplomats and Staff who has greatly served the interests of the Philippines. The award was given to Mrs. Marcos in the 1970’s by President Ferdinand Marcos. As shown in the documents above, if this is the brand of Diplomacy she has then we can absolutely conclude that what she has done from 1965 to 1986 have been detrimental to the national interest of the Philippines. She has become a pain in the neck of American officials especially when she is in the United States doing her routine shopping and demanding to see the US President and First Lady. There were many missions that she was sent like the forging of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, her secret relations with Jiang Qing (wife of Mao Zedong) during the power struggle in China and the planned takeover of the Group of Four, and many other missions which placed the Philippines in a difficult situation or at the losing end. The Steel Butterfly politicized the “Office” of the First Lady by meddling in the political and diplomatic affairs of the state. She may be considered in some way the best and the worst Presidential spouse the Philippines ever had.




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