Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos

By | June 9, 2021

Since the Philippines gained independence 74 years ago, on July 4, 1946, there have been striking constants in the country’s domestic politics:

  • Fight against communist and Muslim resistance groups
  • several attempts to implement a land / agrarian reform
  • Rural exodus and internal colonization
  • rampant violence and poverty
  • Corruption and bribery
  • Efforts to negotiate ceasefire and peace negotiations with Muslim and communist rebel groups
  • internal power struggles between conflicting political family clans and military blocs as well
  • diverse commitment on the part of a wide-ranging extra-parliamentary opposition and civil society.

In the first decade of its independence alone, all the governments of the young republic were concerned with putting down the “internal turmoil” which at the time originated mainly from the Huk movement that arose and operated in central Luzon. No wonder; Central Luzon, traditionally the rice bowl of the country, has always been the breeding ground for protest and resistance, especially since the rural population (smallholders and tenants) was fleeced by extremely high rent rates. Sometimes the farmers were forced to pay up to 75 percent of their harvest to the landowner.

With a policy of carrot and stick, President Ramon Magsaysay succeeded in militarily defeating the rebellious Huk in the mid-1950’s as part of so-called counterinsurgency (counterinsurgency) measures. At the same time, major resettlement programs took place under his aegis, with Huk combatants holding out one to two hectares of government-owned land on the southern island of Mindanao if they surrendered. Mindanao was known as the “Land of Promise” at the time, and the island experienced the second major surge of immigrant (Christian) settlers from Luzon and the Visaya archipelago after the 1930’s.

In order to remove the breeding ground for socio-political displeasure, almost all subsequent presidents have since promised land reforms. But until today it has not been possible to realize a genuine land / agrarian reform. Corresponding laws were passed solemnly, but not implemented. Loopholes and exemptions were just as responsible for this as the ultimately successful resistance of real estate politicians.

The era of Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-86)

In order to be able to push through political ambitions and calculations beyond economic interests, the three Big Gs (rifles, crooks, gold) ruled – especially during election campaign times. Since the respective opponents were not squeamish with each other. The consequences were prolonged ridos – armed family feuds. On November 23, 2009 alone, there was a pre-election-related massacre in the southern province of Maguindanao, in which 58 people, including 32 media people, were brutally murdered.

President Marcos nationalized the “three big Gs” by declaring martial law nationwide on September 21, 1972 and holding himself in power until spring 1986, supported by the bayonets of the army and police and a close-knit network of loyalists. When his formerly fiercest political rival, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was shot dead at the airport in Manila in August 1983 after years of exile in the USA, not a day went by without protest marches and demonstrations against the Marcos dictatorship. It was the wedding of the Street Parliament. Marcos fell because the confluence of three central factors – people power, the revolt of a significant part of the armed forces (AFP) and, so to speak, the departure of high-ranking military personnel five to twelve and a clever crisis management on the part of the former colonial power USA – had undermined his regime. The new shining light was now Corazon C. Aquino, the widow of the murdered ex-senator, whose inauguration at the end of February 1986 was celebrated exuberantly both at home and abroad.

Who was this Marcos, whose state terror, plundering of the treasury and forgery of medals are historically documented and are considered gargantuan?

Ferdinand Marcos

Marcos’ rise – guarantor of regional US interests

According to constructmaterials, when Ferdinand E. Marcos moved into the MalacaƱang presidential palace in Manila at the end of December 1965, the young head of state was inspired by two things. In terms of domestic and economic policy, he wanted to implement his campaign slogan “We will be one great nation again” as quickly as possible. In terms of foreign and security policy, he was concerned with loyal to the former colonial power USA (1898-1946) and Washington’s military hegemony in Southeast and East Asia with the continued provision of the world’s largest US bases outside the North American continent, the Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Field.

A targeted policy of incentives for foreign capital should enable the agrarian country, which is characterized by feudal structures, to catch up with the western industrialized countries – almost in fast motion. Cadres trained in US political and economics faculties were ready to take Marcos. In unison, the company relied on an export-oriented development strategy which, according to the mantra of the time, would create massive jobs and lead to prosperity that would benefit everyone.

This strategy required reliable control bodies. Centralization and concentration of state power (apparatus) were the result. Economic planning authorities (such as the National Economic and Development Authority, NEDA) drafted blueprints for “national renewal”, while political and military measures were taken to immunize the new development strategy against possible disruptions (protests, strikes, resistance). In Manila alone, a capital command (METROCOM), drilled specifically for counterinsurgency and supported by the US Office for Public Safety (OPS), had emerged by the early 1970’s. This gave Marcos powerful tools to counter political protest “efficiently”. 1968/69 were finally with the Communist Party (CPP) and its guerrillas,