Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection provided a window into her terrifying rule.

Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection provided a window into her terrifying rule.

Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection provided a window into her terrifying rule.
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The Philippines is electing a new president, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., sometimes known as “Bongbong,” is the frontrunner to succeed Rodrigo Duterte. He is the only son of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the infamous tyrants who robbed the country of billions of dollars, tortured and abused political opponents, and became worldwide infamous for their opulence and greed until being deposed in a violent coup in 1986.

Even if most Filipinos alive today have no recollection of those times (half of the country’s population was under the age of eight when the Marcos parents were deposed), I do. Many of Imelda’s notorious collection of 3,000 shoes, purportedly currently sitting at a Manila museum, were days of wine and flowers and an almost unbelievable kleptocracy.

As a former reporter in the region, I’ve heard my fair share of stories about the Marcos family’s excess and corruption. The IMF/World Bank had its annual conference in Manila in October 1976. To prepare, the Marcoses orchestrated an almost unparalleled construction boom, constructing 14 new international-class hotels in less than a year. 2,000 guests were treated to tables groaning beneath hors d’oeuvres during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 700-room Plaza Hotel.

Friends and members of the family were involved in the ownership of these hotels, which were built using government funds that were not going to the Philippines’ poorest.

Meanwhile, the Philippines had received a World Bank grant to help repair portions of Manila’s adjacent Tondo slum, which is one of Asia’s worst. This money vanished, and former US Defense Secretary and World Bank President Robert McNamara were on his way to town.

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Imelda Marcos, the governor of Metro Manila, ordered the slum to be razed and paved over, with 60 residents being transported 20 miles outside of the city and thrown in a huge field.

I uncovered the nefarious plan. Imelda never forgave me, and McNamara was livid. On the day my report was published, I was dispatched to cover a coup in Thailand, while hundreds of Filipino families remained in limbo — some in Tondo, some on the outskirts of Manila. Tondo is still one of Asia’s most disadvantaged slums today. And during his campaign, young Marcos has said little to suggest he will do much to reverse this, which is only one of many negative repercussions of his parents’ leadership.

This permitted the US to keep a large airbase in the Philippines, Clark Field, and a naval station in Subic Bay, where I covered the arrival of thousands of refugees in the closing days of the Vietnam War in 1975. After Marcos’ dictatorship ended, American control of both sites terminated.

With billions of dollars in defense agreements, the United States has tethered its Asian strategic interests to Australia. A friendly Philippines administration, on the other hand, might be a very important asset in the area, providing the price are not too great for either America or the people of the Philippines.

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