Philippines after Marcos
The Post Marcos Era (1986-2010)
People Power included a vital civil society – including the country’s influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference under the leadership of its Archbishop of Manila (Jaime Cardinal Sin). With Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel V. Ramos, two long-time followers of Marcos had given up their allegiance to the dictator who had previously served his regime as unconditional administrators of martial law and corset bars. Enrile was Minister of Defense and Ramos was chief of the Philippine Constabulary / Integrated National Police (the forerunner of today’s Philippine National Police (PNP) as well as Deputy Chief of Staff. The USA, which at the time still had its largest military bases outside the North American continent with Clark Air Field and Subic Naval Base, had learned from previous experiences in Laos, Nicaragua and Iran not to accept despots unconditionally to the bitter end support. Even before Marcos’ fall, the US State Department (State Department) and the Pentagon (Department of Defense) had sent clear signals to Manila that reforms were overdue there. A diplomatic paraphrase of a process that, as soon as dictators even embark on reforms, they will herald their end.
It practically corresponded to the classic guilt of gratitude (utang na loob) that Ramos, who helped Aquino to power and saved her from attempts to overthrow her several times, was chosen as her “heir to the throne” and was himself president from 1992 to 1998.
Unique in the history of the country, Ramos’ successor, the formerly extremely popular actor Joseph E. Estrada, had to quit his service in January 2001 after only two and a half years in office. Estrada, who had previously served as Vice President and at the same time as the highest crime and corruption fighter, stumbled over numerous corruption scandals. He was therefore legally convicted, but a little later he was amnestied and rehabilitated by his successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
According to ehealthfacts, Ms. Arroyo’s tenure (2001-2010) was a lost decade for many domestic and foreign analysts. After Marcos, she became the most hated president. Her election in 2004 was obviously massively manipulated in her favor as part of the “Hello Garci” scandal. In a recorded phone call, Ms. Arroyo made sure that the national election campaign manager, Virgilio Garcillano, had already reached the agreed one million mark. It survived several impeachment trials, one corruption scandal following the next, so that businesspeople rank the Philippines as the most corrupt country in the region – a sad position it shares alternately with Indonesia.Transparency International listed the Philippines in its 2017 index at 111th place out of 180 countries.
Despite the enactment of an anti-terrorism law in 2007, euphemistically called the Human Security Act of 2007, and the implementation of the two-phase counterinsurgency plan Oplan Bantay Laya (“Freedom Watch Operation Plan”), war against the NPA and Mindanao continues. Since the end of 2010, this counter-insurgency plan has borne the euphemistic name of Oplan Bayanihan (“Operation Plan for Neighborhood Aid”).
Another controversial issue in domestic politics is and remains the debate about Cha-Cha – Charter Change or a constitutional change. The question is whether the existing presidential system should be converted into a parliamentary, federal system. The majority has so far rejected this, while the Cha-Cha supporters – including President Duterte, who has been in office since summer 2016 – vehemently insist on a corresponding constitutional amendment.
From son to president – the tenure of Benigno S. Aquino III. (2010-16)
On May 10, 2010, presidential, congressional, senate, governor, mayor and municipal council elections took place, from which Benigno “Noynoy” Simeon Aquino III was the presidential winner by a clear margin ahead of his persecutor, ex-president Joseph E. Estrada emerged. Numerous foreign guests were present as election observers and the international media reported extensively on the polls in English.
On June 30, 2010 Aquino, the only son of the former president Corazon C. Aquino (1986-92), was sworn in and solemnly moved into his new domicile, the Malacanang Palace in Manila. The hopes that something will finally be done for the good of the people and that the social and economic situation will turn in favor of the marginalized and poor were extremely high. But the country’s problems outlined at the beginning were not really tackled under Benigno Aquino either. Above all, the processing of the numerous murders under “Noynoy’s” predecessor has not taken place – much to the annoyance of the numerous relatives of the victims of extrajudicial executions and of “disappearances”. However, a cosmetic correction was made in this context: On December 21, 2012 Aquino signed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act (Republic Act 10353), whereby in future the kidnapping and “disappearance” of persons committed by the state or by state actors will be considered a special criminal offense and should be punished – little consolation for those affected and their survivors. Ms. Arroyo, meanwhile, is the first woman president of the country to apply for a seat in the House of Representatives at the same time as she left office. In May 2010, she became a member of Congress for the second district of her home province of Pampanga, a post that gave her at least political immunity.
In the first half of 2011, an excited Marcos debate caused a stir. There was long and broad public debates about whether Marcos was now a national hero who deserves to be buried at last in the Manila Heroes’ Cemetery (Libingan ng mga Bayani), or whether he will finally go down in history as a despotic sinister. Opinion on this is and remains divided across the country to this day, even though the Marcos family succeeded more than five years later in having the ex-dictator’s body buried in this very cemetery.