Philippine presidential election and referendum, 1981

Philippine presidential election, 1981
June 16, 1981

Turnout 80.9% Increase 1.3%
Nominee Ferdinand Marcos Alejo Santos
Party KBL Nacionalista
Popular vote 18,309,360 1,716,449
Percentage 88.02% 8.25%

Election result per province. Marcos won in every province, city, and municipality.

President before election

Ferdinand Marcos

Elected President

Ferdinand Marcos

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Philippines

A presidential election in the Philippines was held on June 16, 1981. President Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) defeated retired general and World War II veteran Alejo Santos of the Nacionalista Party in a landslide victory. Most opposition parties boycotted the elections as a sign of protest over the 1978 elections for the Interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly), which they condemned as fraudulent.

Marcos' 80% margin of victory is regarded as the most lopsided Philippine presidential election ever, beating out Manuel L. Quezon's landslide victory in 1941. Marcos would have served another six-year term, which was cut short by the equally fradulent 1986 snap elections that eventually resulted in his ouster in the People Power Revolution.

In a referendum held together with the election, the majority voted YES to hold the barangay elections pursuant to Proclamation № 2088.

Lifting of martial law

On January 17, 1981, President Marcos announced the lifting of martial law via Proclamation № 2045; in his address, he also inaugurated the "New Republic." Although martial law has ended, Marcos retained all of the presidential decrees, legislative powers and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The lifting of martial law was speculated to be due to the election of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, with whom Marcos wanted to have close relationship with and who was to be inaugurated only three days later, and the arrival of Pope John Paul II in the country. In February, the Interim Batasang Pambansa (parliament) passed a constitutional amendment that changed the parliamentary system of government to a semi-presidential modeled on that of France. The electorate approved the amendment on a plebiscite held on April. Marcos then called a presidential election to be scheduled on June.[1]


The opposition, as early as April, had decided to boycott the election. The United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO), the main opposition umbrella group, wanted to clean the voters' list, a revamping of the Commission on Elections, a campaign to be held nationwide and that UNIDO accredited as a minority party. Marcos did not accept the demands which led UNIDO to call for a boycott. This caused for Marcos to be reportedly dismayed as he could not legitimize the election without a viable opposition candidate.[1] UNIDO also refused to participate as Benigno Aquino, Jr. (who was in exile in Massachusetts) was not allowed to participate since only people fifty years old or older were allowed to participate (Aquino was 48 years old at the time).[2]

Marcos instructed Nacionalista Party president José Roy to find a token candidate to oppose him. The Nacionalista Party was then a moribund political entity because Marcos, who was elected twice before under its banner, had alternately lured and coerced the vast majority its members to his new Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. The Nacionalista Party chose former Defense Secretary and Bulacan governor Alejo Santos as their standard bearer. Santos, who was appointed by Marcos as chairman of the board of the Philippine Veterans Bank, had Francisco Tatad, Marcos' former information minister, as his campaign manager. The other main candidate was Bartolome Cabangbang of the Federalist Party, whose platform was for the Philippines to become the 51st state of the United States.[1]

With UNIDO pressing for a boycott, the government issued a statement that abstention was a mortal sin; the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin responded that the people "were free to exercise their moral judgment whether to vote or not." Those who did not vote on the April plebiscite were issued summons to force them to vote. Marcos won overwhelmingly,[1] but with people remembering the American colonial era and wanting a change from the martial law conditions, Cabangbang surprisingly got 4% of the vote.[2]


Final Official Parliamentary Canvass

 Summary of the June 16, 1981 Philippine presidential election results
Candidates Parties Votes %
Ferdinand Marcos Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Movement) 18,309,360 88.02%
Alejo Santos Roy wing of the Nacionalista Party (Nationalist Party) 1,716,449 8.25%
Bartolome Cabangbang Federalist Party 749,845 3.60%
Delfin Manapaz Independent 6,499 0.03%
Ursula Dajao Independent 4,955 0.02%
Benito Valdez Independent 4,224 0.02%
Lope Rimando Independent 1,954 0.01%
Lucio Hinigpit Sovereign Citizen Party 1,945 0.01%
Pacifico Morelos Independent 1,740 0.01%
Jose Igtobay Independent 1,421 0.01%
Simeon del Rosario Independent 1,234 0.01%
Salvador Enage Independent 1,185 0.01%
Florencio Tipano Independent 592 0.00%
Total 20,801,403 100%
Valid votes 20,801,403 95.2%
Invalid votes 1,042,426 4.8%
Votes cast 21,843,829 80.9%
Registered voters 26,986,451 100.00%


Marcos was inaugurated on June 30, 1981 at the Quirino Grandstand, with then United States Vice President George H.W. Bush in attendance. This is when Bush made the infamous praise for Marcos: "We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process."[3] On 21 August 1983, Senator Aquino returned from exile in the United States, but was assassinated at the Manila International Airport.

Growing unrest followed, and Marcos was forced to call the snap election of 1986, where UNIDO and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan participated and nominated Aquino's widow Corazon Aquino as their standard bearer. Marcos claimed victory over Aquino despite reports of massive cheating, but he was removed from power a few hours after his oath-taking on 25 February 1986.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Celoza, Albert (1997). Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism. Praeger Publishers. pp. 73–76. ISBN 978-0-275-94137-6.
  2. 1 2 Steinberg, David Joel (2000). The Philippines: a singular and a plural place. Westview Press. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-8133-3755-5.
  3.,9171,960545-4,00.html A Test for Democracy
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