Marcos Fact Checks

FACT CHECK: Under Marcos PH military modernization lagged behind China

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FACT CHECK: Under Marcos PH military modernization lagged behind China
Academic studies state that the Philippines was ‘militarily weak’ in the 1970s while China had already been producing weapons in the 1950s

Claim: The Philippines had a more advanced military modernization program compared to China’s during the administration of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video posted on June 25 has gained 7,487 views and 515 likes from a channel with 197,000 subscribers.

The channel, Juan Estoryador, has been fact-checked before for spreading dubious or erroneous claims online.

The video claims: “Alam ‘nyo bang ang modernization program ng Pilipinas sa panahon po ni Pangulong Sr. Marcos [sic], halos isang dekadang advanced kaysa sa modernization program ng Navy ng China?

(Did you know that the Philippines’ modernization program during the time of President Marcos Sr. was nearly one decade advanced compared to the modernization program of China’s Navy?)

The bottom line: While it is true that the late president invested in strengthening the Philippine military, the country’s modernization program was not significantly more advanced than China’s at the time. Academic studies pointed out that the Philippines was “militarily weak” in the mid-1970s while China had already been producing weapons with the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

Philippines’ military power: A 2004 study on the military power of Southeast Asian countries said that the “states of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines could be described as militarily weak, with small numbers of major weapon systems.” The paper was written by analyst Andrew Tan for the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies Singapore and cites data from “The Military Balance 1974-75.”

A table in the same study showed that the Philippines had 69 tanks, armored personnel carriers, 15mm Howitzers, missile craft, combat helicopters, and combat aircraft at the time, trailing behind some of its neighboring countries.

China’s military power: The video claimed that China was only beginning to set up its naval assets in 1986 while the Philippines had already built vessels for its Navy in 1974 – 12 years earlier – as mentioned in this Official Gazette post.

However, the video cherry-picked from an October 1999 journal article on China’s naval structure and dynamics to back up its claim. The portion of the article referenced in the video stated: “The naval equipment and technology department, along with the naval equipment-repairing department, by 1986 jointly supervised the construction work at the 34 dockyards in various parts of the country.” It does not indicate nor imply that China’s modernization program started in 1986 only.

Even before the Marcos administration, China was already producing weapons – from small arms to tanks and submarines – through a partnership with the Soviet Union in the 1950s, according to an article from the Asian Studies Journal published by the University of the Philippines Diliman.

A portion of the article read: “After Stalin’s death in 1953, China and the Soviet Union forged a partnership that was characterized, among others, by the massive transfer of Soviet technology and sending of Soviet advisers and experts to the PROC [People’s Republic of China]. China’s limited military modernization finally began.”

False claims: Rappler has previously debunked similar claims on the Philippines’ military capabilities under the Marcos years:

– Kyle Marcelino/

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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