Part One: Factual Context of the Decline of the Marcos Regime
Thirty-seven years ago on February 25, hundreds of thousands Filipinos marched to Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue to respond to a call by Jaime Cardinal Sin for people to wedge between putchists holed in Camp Crame and advancing marines of the Armed Forces in order to prevent a bloody confrontation between two heavily armed groups.
Ensuing events took a different destination and today this is recorded in our history as the so-called “People Power Revolution” because it led to the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and the assumption into power by Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino as president of the country.
After three decades, however, new findings have emerged and have been verified that the validity of the revolution has been watered down by facts showing that there were crucial manipulations, notably the intervention of a foreign country, that do make the event as effectively a counter-revolution instead.
Let us have a quick history readback. The contrived oil shortages of the 1970s left the Philippines, like all non-oil-producing nations, with huge debts.
The country fought hard to survive economically, but domestic insurgencies came in the way necessitating martial rule towards the end of 1972. To jumpstart Philippine recovery, Marcos announced his revolution from the center, with the government as fulcrum for all reforms. He called for a New Society that will deliver to the people a balanced agro-industrial growth, founded on the principles of political liberation, economic emancipation and social concord.
The basic engine for growth will be the nationalization of power, its departure away from imported fuel and diversification towards natural renewal sources of energy from hydroelectric, geothermal and further so to nuclear power. All towards the direction of providing cheap power to generate eleven priority industries with the intention of shifting the focus of the nation’s industrial economy from consumer goods to basic heavy industry.
Included in the plan were steel, petro-chemical, pulp and paper, a copper smelter, aluminum, phosphate fertilizer, diesel engines, gas and oil, a coconut industry, machine tool manufacturing and the nuclear power program.
Before the end of the decade, however, a 20%-plus interest rates was imposed by U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker in 1979, nearly tripling the debts of most Third World nations within a few years.
In 1981, Marcos lifted martial law. Later that year in September, attending the North-South Summit in Cancun, Mexico, organized by Mexican President José López Portillo, he spoke out for a “new world economic order”, denouncing the destructive “conditionalities” imposed by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for financial assistance in a crisis.
Returning home, he pushed through the Philippine Congress nearly $4 billion worth of priority infrastructure projects, including irrigation, drainage and flood control programs, highways, telecommunications, and airports.
In 1982, the year George Schultz became Secretary of State, IMF Director Jacques Delarosière lectured that the country had set “unrealistic growth targets”, while the World Bank denounced the Marcos government for supporting national industries.
According to Theodore Friend, a US academic who writes on the Philippines, Paul Wolfowitz, Schultz’ assistant secretary for east Asia and Pacific Affairs, called him and a few other Asia hands to his office at the State Department in 1983, and tasked them with overthrowing President Marcos.
Friend said, “We concluded that Marcos was vulnerable. We didn’t use the term ‘regime change’ at that time, but we decided that if we un leashed indigenous forces, Marcos could be brought down, and we pointed ourselves in that direction.”
And if “softening up” raids were not adequate to control the Marcos government, Secretary of State Shultz visited Manila in summer of June 1983 on his way to a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bangkok, overseeing another 20% devaluation of the Philippine peso, thus further increasing the costs of financing the already-illegitimate foreign debt.
In his book “Turmoil and Triumph”, Schultz even ridiculed our hospitality:
“President and Mrs. Marcos entertained O’Bie and me at a grand luncheon. The meal was served in the ballroom of the palace under enormous carved chandeliers that looked like inverted tarantulas. Halfway through the luncheon the entertainment began, At the end of the hall were two orchestras that had not surrendered their amateur standing.
“When the meal was over, we left he ballroom through an arcaded reception chamber along a gauntley of young women dressed in white and clapping their hands while singing ‘I’ll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too…’ The Philippines presented an incredible and odd juxtaposition of imagery and reality.
“From my standpoint, I was concerned about Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Naval Station, two of the most important elements in the US presence and strategic posture in the Pacific. The environment surrounding these historical facilities was turning sour. Marcos support for us and the erosion of support for him among the people of the Philippines were creating political opposition to our bases.”
The full-scale assault began in the Fall of 1983. Former Senator, Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, while repatriating himself clandestinely into the Philippines.
Aquino, an opposition leader whom Marcos had allowed to leave prison in order to get medical treatment in the United States (despite facing a death sentence for murder and subversion), chose to return to the Philippines on August 1983 after three years in the United States.
Although the actual conspirators were never officially discovered, the assassination was immediately blamed on Marcos.
Within two months of the assassination, the remaining credit lines to the Philippines were drastically cut, and another 21% devaluation was imposed. The nation was bankrupt.
Finally on October 15, 1983, Marcos was allowed to declare a moratorium on the unpayable debt, but only on condition that the big projects he had backed to modernize the nation be scrapped, while many of the industries supported by the state were turned over to domestic and international vultures.
The opponents of Marcos were soon being wined and dined in Washington, by both the right wing (Shultz and Wolfowitz) and the left wing (Rep. Stephen Solarz, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and Princeton’s Richard Falk) of the “Project Democracy” apparatus, which performed the subversive tasks assigned by the synarchist banking institutions.
Mike Billington of the Executive Intelligence Review, pointed to General Fidel V. Ramos, who will later also become president of the Philippines, as “the native military manager of regime change who was then… a wholly-owned “asset” of the neoconservatives and the “synarchists”.
Billington narrates, “By October 1984, the Philippines was forced to submit to an IMF refinancing package that included an end to price controls on rice and other staples, a float of the peso, unrestricted foreign exchange speculation, import reductions, domestic austerity, and yet another devaluation—making a total of a 63.3% devaluation in one year, nearly doubling the cost of financing the foreign debt.
“Ironically, the opposition, fully supported and sponsored by the IMF-related institutions, rallied support among the population by denouncing Marcos for “acceding to the oppressive conditions of the IMF.”
The Philippine economy continued to decline. Real GNP fell by 7.1% in 1984 that showed factory closures and unemployment climbing to 25%.
Wolfowitz himself corroborated Friend’s statement.
In a speech before the Heritage Foundation on September 29, 2000 on Asian Democracy and American Interests, he said, “I remember going to the Hill (i.e. Capitol Hill, or the US Congress) on a regular basis… and was asked, “Why don’t we just cut off all military assistance to the Philippines; why doesn’t President Reagan just call up his friend Ferdinand Marcos and tell him to step down and give up power?”
Wolfowitz continued, “It’s not that we didn’t, ourselves share enormous criticisms of Marcos. Indeed we began increasing a policy of private and public pressure on Marcos to reform, and I do believe that policy – and it’s an important lesson for the US government – contributed in no small measure to emboldening the Filipino people to take their fate in their own hands and to produce what eventually became the first great democratic transformation in Asia in the 1980’s.”
Thus underlined the first experiment in neo-conservative subversion of a country’s sovereignty in the name of “democracy”.
The common perception is that Marcos mismanaged the Philippine economy.
Truth to tell, his government was squeezed dry because he stood up to the oligarchic synarchists, the international banking community in cahoots with the neoconservatives in Washington DC, who would not allow the Philippines’s goal of a prosperous New Society to even start.
Marcos was ahead of his time. His dream for an egalitarian regime was actually socialism, in a sense a controlled-economy, or a political and economic theory of a society which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole
Socialism cannot survive under a synarchy, defined as the rule of a select few, impliedly a secret elite.
For that, Marcos must be destroyed.
(To be continued)
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