Six months prior to the elections, Marcos had officially lifted Martial Law, but since all decrees issued during that time were still in force, it served only a symbolic purpose. Amendments to the Constitution approved through a national referendum in April 1981 allowed for a president to be elected at-large, with a six-year term and possibility of re- election. It also granted him additional powers to create laws through presidential decrees and to dissolve the Batasang Pambansa, and created the Executive Committee and the Office of the Prime Minister.
Marcos was anointed by the KBL as its standard-bearer, with his main opponent being NP’s Alejo Santos, former Defense Secretary and World War II guerilla leader who had served as governor of Bulacan. A third candidate, former Bohol Congressman Bartolome Cabangbang, was fielded by the Federal Party.
Mainstream electoral groups including LABAN, the LP, and other oppositionist personalities boycotted the polls, labeling it a sham after Marcos refused the conditions they had previously proposed, such as a minimum campaign period, a purging of the voters’ lists, equal time and space for the opposition, and a reorganization of the COMELEC.
As expected, Marcos won with more than 18 million votes, compared to Santos’ 1.7 million and Cabangbang’s 700,000. The president carried every province—even Bulacan and Bohol—by large margins. So wholesale was the president’s victory that his opponents did not get a single vote in four areas: the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of La Carlota (Negros Occidental) and Trece Martires (Cavite). Thus, the third presidential contest of Ferdinand Marcos, organized to legitimize his 15-year rule and usher in his New Republic, resulted in the most lopsided victory in the history of presidential elections in the Philippines.
The Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) has published the Philippine Electoral Almanac, a handy resource on Philippine national elections from 1935 onwards.