President Ferdinand Marcos Addressing The Armed Forces of the Philippines, December 21, 1981

Introduced and Annotated by Paman Dayal

Ferdinand Marcos was a lawyer who became the president of the Philippines from 1966 until 1986.[1] In 1972, President Marcos had completed two terms, which was the maximum amount of time that he could be president in the Philippines.[2] He declared martial law in September 1972 as a result of increased political protests against his presidency, and he began to rule in an authoritarian manner with support from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).[3] Marcos used martial law as a means to establish his authoritarian rule in the Philippines, while also using it as a tool to remain in power. He had political opponents jailed, as he wanted to remove all threats against his regime.[4] In his speech to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it is evident that Marcos is trying to gain favour from the members of the AFP by offering soldiers new gear, housing, and promotions.[5] He would extend the tours of Generals when they were about to retire, because Marcos was trying to ensure personal loyalty among his Generals.[6] Moreover, this not only led to resentment from the Generals, but also from lower officers, as they were unable to gain promotions.[7] The citizens of the Philippines were also not fond of the AFP, as Marcos used military force to oppress political threats and force his reign onto people.[8] At this point in his rule, Marcos’ power began to depend on the military, as the military began to play a larger role in politics.[9] As a result of the military’s increased influence, Marcos needed to ensure the loyalty of the AFP, as any instability could have resulted in a military coup.[10] Ultimately, this speech reflected problems that existed during the Philippines in 1981, but the measures mentioned in this speech would eventually fail according to a report in the New York Times published in 1984.[11]

Speech of President Marcos on the 46th Armed Forces of the Philippines Anniversary, December 21, 1981

Speech of the President,

46th AFP Anniversary

21 December 1981

 I join the nation in congratulating the officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines[12] on its 46th Anniversary. I join all Filipinos in acknowledging its forty-six years of dedicated and heroic service to people and country. The years since 1935[13] have tested the mettle of this organization in the crucible of war and in the equally-trying times of peace. Today, we can say with pride that the AFP stands as one of the pillars of national security and development.

The New Republic we have inaugurated; the crucial Martial-Law period[14] we have weathered; the marked improvements in the life of the nation that we have achieved—all these could not have been possible without the participation and commitment of the armed forces.

This record, enviably by any standard, was achieved at great sacrifice. Many soldiers gave up their lives in combat, many were maimed and crippled. To them goes the nation’s enduring gratitude. This occasion as much in their honor, as it is for the living who must carry on the ideals they cherished.

The overwhelming majority of the members of the armed forces have consistently performed their duties in the highest traditions of the profession of arms. They and their kind constitute the backbone of this organization and the mainstay of national security. They are the ones for whom the praises and gratitude of our people must be publicly professed on this day.

I am gratified to note that the Chief of Staff, General Fabian C. Ver[15], has made one of his first priorities, the adoption of measures to enhance the morale and welfare of the individual soldier—by attending adequately to his basic needs, as well as improving his professional skill and expertise.

This is as it should be. The basic, indispensable element of any fighting organization is the individual soldier. No amount of machines and equipment—no matter how sophisticated—can make up for the inadequacies and shortcomings of its fighting men.

I would encourage General Ver to raise to the maximum, feasible limit his efforts to upgrade the morale and fighting spirit of our soldiers. Every officer should insure that he himself is fit to command his men—that he can motivate them by the example of his own professional conduct.

We shall also continue to upgrade the material readiness of the armed forces; to modernize its arms and equipment; and to improve its capability to take part in national development.

We have newly acquired from the United States, under the military assistance agreement, 43 assorted new heavy engineering equipment.[16] This equipment will go to the army engineer brigades; it should boost the AFP’s capability to undertake public works projects.

I would like to express here our sincere appreciation to the joint us military advisory group for accelerating the delivery of this equipment. We have also newly acquired, through U.S. Military sales credit, fifteen helicopters. These versatile aircraft will greatly improve our battlefield mobility in counter-insurgency operations; and the AFP’s capability to assist in disaster and relief operations.

We are starting to modernize the AFP Fixed Communication System countrywide through U.S. Military Grant Aid[17] and Foreign Military Sales Credit.[18] This will both improve command and control of field units; and provide a back-up to the national communication system.

At the same time we are accelerating our Self-Reliance Defense Posture Program.[19] These material inputs must be paced by efforts to improve the quality of our soldiery—whose qualities should include professional competence and expertise; loyalty; love of service; an indomitable spirit, and oneness with the people. We must continue to ensure that the spirit and morale of the majority in the AFP are not dulled by the few in the organization who have abused their positions for selfish ends; consequently tarnishing the image of the entire organization. To tolerate these few in their ways would be to mock the noble work of the majority and, in the long term, to wreck irreparable harm on the organization and destroy popular faith and confidence in the AFP.

The internal threat that confronts us is made up of men and women of high motivation and conviction in their cause. We can prevail against them only if we have an equal—if not greater –motivation and conviction. The order of the day, therefore, is for the AFP to look to itself first; to set its house in order; to develop in every man—from the top echelons to the rank and file—the attitudes and orientation that will motivate them to render true service to our people; to identify with them, to be one with them in their labors, their aspirations and their achievements.

The secessionist rebellion in the south,[20] weakened as it is, still is a serious threat. The local communist movement,[21] in particular the NPA,[22] is flexing its muscles in the more remote areas and continuing its effort to win over a mass-following. But, for as long as we have an Armed Forces solidly supported by the people, the final issue is never in doubt. We shall prevail.

But security—in its traditional sense of fighting the enemy—is not our only concern. Development merits equal—even greater—attention. Anyone who would evaluate the state of our security must do so in the context of total national development.

Yes, we have achieved gains, some of which are unprecedented. The guarded hopes with which we started out in 1972 have now been transformed into a strong confidence in our capacity as a people to account for ourselves. But, at the same time, we have set in motion rising expectations among our people—and these new expectations we must reasonably meet, if we are to keep this country on an even keel.

I cannot stress too strongly that the threat we face cannot be resolved by force of arms alone. We can wipe out all those who bear arms against the constituted authorities: but for as long as we do not address the causes which have given rise to them, for every enemy that will fall, another one will take his place.

This is why the armed forces has been increasingly involved in the works of peace and development—whether on its own, as a complement to its security missions, or as part of an overall national program. In this role, the AFP has acquitted itself well—exhibiting innovation, pioneering spirit, and a sense of urgency that our civilian agencies all too-seldom show.

What we seek are more than just the material edifices of growth and the physical transformation of the landscape. Above all, we seek the transformation of our people—to make them fully confident of their innate capacity to solve their own problems; to unite them in the tasks we have to do.

For the real fight in this country is—as it has always been—development. It is, as I have often pointed out, the fight against poverty, disease, ignorance and injustice. It is the problem of meeting rising expectations, of providing for basic needs, of improving the quality of people’s lives. This is where we must concentrate our energies. If we fail in this, the most powerful armed forces in the world cannot assure us the security and stability we need.

I am happy to note that the AFP has always appreciated the problem of security in this light; and that it has responded accordingly. The general staff has just submitted to me its new strategy on internal security for the eighties—a plan which will enable the AFP both to deal more effectively with the internal threat and to take part more productively in national development. I wish to commend General Ver for this comprehensive plan. I expect its vigorous implementation. I will give it my full support.

Throughout our history, Filipino men-at-arms have always been in the mainstream of national life. Today, the times offer you even greater opportunities to relate yourselves more substantively and in wider dimensions to national goals.

Officers, men and civilian employees of the armed forces of the Philippines: I exhort you to strive for greater heights of service to our people and to our country. I am confident that, as always, you will respond in full measure. At the last AFP loyalty parade, I directed the ministry of human settlements to allocate 14,000 housing units to the armed forces partially to satisfy the clamor of military personnel for adequate dwellings. I, however, feel that such housing assistance is still inadequate and an increase in the present level of the soldiers quarters allowance is imperative.

I hereby sign the increase in quarters allowance of the officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to be effective on January 1 of calendar year 1982.

In recognition of dedicated and valuable services rendered by our combat soldiers to the republic of the Philippines, I hereby approve and sign before you a proposal granting additional combat clothing to enlisted personnel, draftees and trainees assigned or detailed with units engaged in combat operations. This combat clothing shall be issued annually and shall be over and above that authorized by existing regulations.

Only recently, I approved the promotion of 407 field grade officers and 1,557 company grade officers. Since then, the retirement of some senior officers have created twenty-eight new positions and promotional vacancies in the senior ranks. In line with our policy of spreading promotion benefits to deserving senior officers, I hereby approve the promotion of _____ effective _____[23].

Finally, I wish to give you our best wishes—my own and that of my family, for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, to all of you in the Armed Forces.

Thank you and good day.



“A Filipino On The Spot.” New York Times. October 25, 1984.
Britannica Academic Online, s.v. “Ferdinand E. Marcos,” accessed September 29, 2015.
Celoza, Albert. Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism. Westport: Praeger, 1997.

“Declaration of Martial Law.” Accessed September 26, 2015.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. “Military Bases Agreement,” accessed September 28, 2015. 

Encyclopedia of World Biography, s.v. “Benigno Aquino,” accessed September 28, 2015.
Jones, Gregg. “WORLD NEWS.” The Washington Post 1974-Current File, (1989): A25.

Lohr, Steve. “Philippine Army: Problems and Possibilities.” New York Times. November 6, 1984. 

“Philippine Army History.” Last modified March 13, 2012.
“PH-US Bilateral Relations.” 

Pike, John. “Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) History.”
“Speech of President Marcos on the 46th Armed Forces of the Philippines Anniversary, December 21, 1981.” Accessed September 26, 2015.
Wikipedia Contributors, “Communist Party of the Philippines,” Accessed September 26, 2015, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Wikipedia Contributors, “New People’s Army,” Accessed September 26, 2015, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
[1] Britannica Academic Online, s.v. “Ferdinand E. Marcos,” accessed September 29, 2015,

[2] Encyclopedia of World Biography, s.v. “Benigno Aquino,” accessed September 28, 2015,

[3] Britannica Academic Online, s.v. “Ferdinand E. Marcos”.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Speech of President Marcos on the 46th Armed Forces of the Philippines Anniversary, December 21, 1981,” accessed September 26, 2015,

[6] Steve Lohr, “Philippine Army: Problems and Possibilities,” New York Times, November 6, 1984,

[7] Lohr, “Philippine Army,” New York Times, November 6, 1984.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Albert Celoza, Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism (Westport: Praeger, 1997), 131.

[10] Celoza, Ferdinand Marcos, 131.

[11] Lohr, “Philippine Army,” New York Times, November 6, 1984.

[12] The Armed Forces of the Philippines includes the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Reserve Army.

[13] This was the year that the Commonwealth of the Philippines passed the National Defense Act of 1935, which called for the creation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This was also the year that the Philippines began their transition to become fully independent from the United States.

[14] On September 21, 1972, President Marcos declared martial law, which meant that the Philippines was in a state of emergency. As a result, the Philippines was ruled as an authoritarian regime with the support of the military. Martial law was lifted on January 17, 1981, with President Marcos still retaining his authoritarian-style rule, calling it “The New Republic.”

[15] General Fabian C. Ver (January 20,1920 – November 21, 1998) was the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and he was also President Ferdinand Marcos’ cousin. President Marcos put a lot of trust into General Ver, as a result of the loyalty that the General showed him. General Ver was accused of orchestrating the assassination of President Marcos’ political opponent, Benigno Aquino in 1983.

[16] President Marcos only removed Martial Law in January 1981 because he wanted to establish a good relationship with the new President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. This relationship can be seen here, as the United States provided the Philippines with equipment for their military.

[17] This program began during World War II, with the United States providing military funding to foreign countries.

[18] The Foreign Military Sales program deals with the selling of American weapons and services pertaining to defense and training.

[19] This program began in 1974, and the main purpose of it was to increase the production of military resources internally through the Philippines, opposed to importing everything from other countries such as the United States.

[20] This refers to a struggle with the Moro National Liberation Front, which is a secessionist political organization that wanted independence.

[21] The Communist Party of the Philippines was founded on December 26, 1968 and the main goal has been to overthrow the Philippine government.

[22] The New People’s Army works with the Communist Party of the Philippines. It is labeled as a terrorist organization along with the Communist Party by the United States. The New People’s Army was suspected of being the force behind a grenade attack on the San Pedro Cathedral in 1981.

[23] The blanks are from the original document posted on the Philippines government website. This suggests that Marcos had separate paperwork promoting people into the vacant positions. This is the link to the document:

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