The Marcoses’ expenses in exile
On Feb. 25, 1986, the United States disrupted Philippine history by transporting Ferdinand Marcos from Malacañang to Hawaii and, on the very same day, recognizing the government of Corazon C. Aquino. Two months later, a subcommittee of the US Congress published its “Investigation of the costs involved in moving former President Marcos and his party from Manila to Hawaii.” Then US President Ronald Reagan had convinced his longtime friend to step down, assuring Marcos, his family and associates of “safety, medical care and transportation to a safe haven in the United States or wherever they wanted to go.” A joke that made the rounds in 1986 was that Marcos actually asked to be brought to Paoay, but the American general in charge of the evacuation mistook the destination as Hawaii.
The actual costs of Marcos’ transport and his five-week stay at Hickam Air Force Base was $451,000, and an additional $407,604 for security provided the former president based on death threats, including a rumor that a bomb was planted on the plane that was carrying the Marcos party from Guam to Hawaii. As the transfer of Marcos was a political and not a military decision, it was recommended that the US State Department reimburse the US Pacific Command for $184,000 in transportation costs and $60,000 to cover maintenance and operations costs. However, the commander of the US Pacific Command sent the State Department a bill of $771,000.
Marcos, used to Filipino hospitality, was surprised to learn that Reagan’s invitation to the United States only covered transport, safety and medical care. All other expenses — housing, meals, clothing, etc. —were for the guest’s account, and these accumulated to $207,000. Some expenses were eventually deemed excessive: $20,000 in long-distance calls, $16,000 in meals and $11,000 in what the accountants described in the report as “health and beauty aids.”
During the 10-hour layover at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the Marcos party shopped at the base exchange, because they had left in haste and didn’t pack enough clothes and essentials. Mrs. Marcos didn’t want their 35-man security detail to land in Hawaii wearing combat fatigues, and made a request for civilian attire. We do not have the detailed listing of what was bought, but the $12,256.69 total was broken down as follows:
“Tobacco products, $41.34; Food/ snacks/beverage, $5.85; Health and beauty aids, $7,540.04; Stationery/greeting cards, $6.70; Clothing/men/women/children, $1,448.16; Cleaning/towels/washcloths, $1,561.84; Toys, $69.05; Shoes/footwear, $1,424.93; and Miscellaneous, $158.78. To these were added billeting costs of $361 and an additional $709.41 for food and beverages.”
Marcos stayed at Hickam Air Force Base from Feb. 26 to March 24, 1986, incurring housing costs of $65,879. That represented room charges in the Visiting Officers Quarters, $16,020; loss of revenue for rooms blocked and unused for security reasons, $11,770; additional payroll, $6,922; supplies (diapers, shampoo, etc.) and food and beverages, $7,813; long-distance phone charges, $19,971; repairs and miscellaneous charges, $2,383; and future State Department support, $1,000.
Furthermore, the Hickam Air Force Base Officers Open Mess was closed for the use of the Marcos party for 20 days, from Feb. 26 to March 17, 1986. The move prompted complaints from members and employees who could not work because of the strict security inside. For all this trouble, the Officers Club charged $100,224.
Two shopping trips to the Base Exchange, on Feb. 26 and March 5, amounted to $26,844.19. The top three expenses were women’s wear, $6,888.59; men’s wear, $4,594.83; and men’s furnishings (socks, belts, underwear, sleepwear), $3,566.83. There were also expenses for boyswear, girlswear and clothes for infants/toddlers, and for candy/crackers.
Health and beauty aids included soap, toothpaste and rollers, but excluded cosmetics and fragrances. Luxuries were disallowed, so someone made do with a $4 pair of earrings. All these unforeseen expenses were incurred as the United States tried in vain to convince Panama and Costa Rica to take their overstaying guests.
Textbook history leaves out these details, which pale in comparison with the US Customs inventory of the personal effects carried by the Marcoses that included 22 cardboard boxes of Philippine bank notes worth $1.4 million. It’s time to revisit all these documents to see beyond the ongoing fake news and historical revisionism.
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