Ferdinand Marcos ran for the Nacionalista Party in 1965 and delivered Macapagal a resounding defeat. Marcos initiated an ambitious spending program on public works; building roads, bridges, health centers, schools and urban beautification projects. He maintained his popularity through his first term and in 1969 was the first President of the Philippine Republic to win a second term in office. His popularity declined precipitously in the second term.
The criticism of Marcos grew directly from the dishonesty of the 1969 campaign and his failure to curb the bribery and corruption in government. There was also a more general discontent because the population continued to grow faster than the economy causing greater poverty and violence. The Communist Party of the Philippines formed the New People's Army and the Moro National Liberation Front fought for the secession of Muslim Mindanao. Marcos took advantage of these and other incidents such as labour strikes and student protests to create a political atmosphere of crisis and fear that he later used to justify his imposition of martial law.
The popularity of Senator Benigno Aquino and the Liberal Party was growing rapidly. Marcos blamed communists for the suspicious Plaza Miranda bombing of a Liberal Party rally on August 21, 1971. A staged assassination attempt on the Secretary of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, supplied the pretext for the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972. Benigno Aquino was amongst the first of the 30,000 some opposition politicians, journalists, critics and activists detained under martial law.
With civil rights and the Philippine Congress suspended and his enemies in detention, Marcos brought in a new constitution in 1973 that replaced the Congress with a National Assembly and extended the term of the President to six years with no limit on the number of terms. With pay raises and selective promotions, he made the armed forces under General Fabian Ver his personal political machine. With his wife and friends, he established monopolies and cartels in the agricultural, construction, manufacturing and financial sectors that extracted billions from the Philippine economy. By the time Marcos was finally forced from power in 1986, the Philippines was a poorer country than when he first took office in 1965.
After five years in detention, a military court found Benigno Aquino guilty of subversion in November 1977 and sentenced him to death. Aquino, though, was too well-known and prominent to execute. He developed heart disease in prison and in May 1980 he was released for treatment and exile in the United States.
In order to gain the implicit endorsement of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church for his regime, Marcos ostensibly lifted martial law on January 17, 1981 - although all of the orders and decrees issued under martial law remained in effect. Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines in February 1981. A new election was scheduled for June 16, 1981. The opposition boycotted the election and Marcos won a huge majority for another six year term as President.
After three years in exile, Benigno Aquino decided to return to the Philippines. On his arrival at Manila International Airport from Taiwan on August 21, 1983, a military escort took Aquino from the aircraft and shot him in the back of the head as he came down the stairs to the tarmac.