I open this column with a tale of my error as a columnist. It took me nearly two hours of an interview with Charles “Chuck” McDougald to find out he was a Green Beret. He mentioned a tour of duty in Vietnam, his involvement with Veterans organizations, and even his acquaintance with John McCain (Republican nominee for President in 2008). But I didn’t pull the thread. After all, I didn’t seek out Chuck’s story because his service in the US Special Forces but because he fought the Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos alongside many of the people associated with the paper over the years.
Like many projects, it started with a small gesture. McDougald, a young war veteran enjoying the Philippines, started a file. An employee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Manila at the time Martial Law was declared, he ingested the sense of suspicion with which the American residents in Manila felt towards Marcos and McDougald decided to keep a file. He collected clippings and other documents over a 10-year period that allowed him to piece together the background of a brilliant risen fabulist—a child of Japanese collaboration, an acquitted assassin, and a false war hero. These are all tales that rose in the Filipino consciousness culminating in Cory Aquino’s graceful assumption of power in February 1986, tales than have fallen away into history by now.
McDougald went to print with his research just three months after the People Power Revolution, although he was nearing completion of his manuscript in late 1984. While completing his research in the Philippines, he was detained by the Marcos government at Camp Crame before being deported to the United States. The book, The Marcos File, came out in 1987. Its middle section, which refutes one by one, Marcos’ 35 claimed war medals, was published in as an expose in Mr. and Ms Magazine in January of 1986. The expose was part of a campaign to discredit the Dictator in the months leading up to the seminal election.
“I did a lot of research on that…I spent 3 months alone in the National Archives,” said McDougald. He research each of the 35 instances of claimed heroism and proved that Marcos could not have been in the places that he claimed to commit the heroic act.
McDougald, having dedicated the better part of two decades to the Philippines, is married to a Filipina. He is active in US politics and recently completed his third 2-year term of service as Chair of the San Mateo County GOP Central Committee. He supported Trump in the 2016 election and was a delegate to the
After 31 years have passed since his involvement in Philippine history, I asked him what perspective time has given him over the ordeal that was Ferdinand Marcos.
“At the time, the Philippines was corrupt through and through,” he said. “They had been a developing nation for 35 years. The Philippines was still stuck in 1962. They had never developed because of the corruption.”
I would argue something else. Chuck McDougald is evidence of the irreversible interweave between the Philippine and American people. Surprised as I was to find an American (a Republican American) that had invested so much care and effort in the welfare of the Philippines, I also know that these “surprises” are plentiful and line the path of our common histories. I find these gems more often than I expect—a non-Filipino with a deep attachment to our country. I would argue that it would take much more than a China-friendly Philippine president to break the bond between our two countries.