[Page 482]

227. Memorandum of Conversation1


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


  • Madam Marcos, The Director of Central Intelligence, and a CIA Staff Officer

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 [Page 483]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 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 [Page 484]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.
A side sum of money for support of some of Marcos’ candidates at the barrio level.
Support for a better exchange rate between the peso and the dollar.
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.2 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. President Marcos reportedly said to her that what is [Page 485]needed is a 300 million dollar stabilizing fund for the peso.3 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.

  1. Source: National Security Council Files, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject File, Philippines. Secret; Eyes Only. 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. No other record of the meeting has been found. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  2. No record of this meeting was found.
  3. 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 IMFIBRD arrangement which has so successfully established financial discipline in the Philippines.” (Both in the National Security Council Files, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject File, Philippines)