Sunday, November 20, 2016

Much Ado About a Fallen Dictator

And so my days are filled with food cravings (pregnant), and also Ferdinand Marcos. Due to the recent (sudden) burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, factions have arisen even among my friends. Some are Pro-Marcos, Some Anti-, and Others just Pro-Country. I think I'm Pro-Country, but it's hard to wear labels when you don't even know what they really stand for. I do tend to see Marcos as once a great man but fallen, any achievement overshadowed by his greed.

Some friends frequently correct my stand by citing all the great things they enjoyed during Marcos' reign: infrastructure, power plants, schools, etc. But having read several books and spoken to victims during Martial Law, it's hard for me to see how "great things" can continue to be great when there were enforced disappearances and human rights violations happening at the same time. Necessary evil? I don't think so.

Here are my thoughts:
  1. A Neo-Colonial Philippines: While it’s true that Ferdinand Marcos nationalized several industries like energy, healthcare and education, the explosive growth in development of these sectors came at the cost of a ballooning international debt and an unequally-yoked alliance with the US. The US and international organizations such as the World Bank and IMF generously supported the Marcos regime with aid and loans (The Political Economy of the Philippines Under Marcos, https://goo.gl/kvygkI). But in receiving “aid” from the US, Marcos, in exchange, allowed the US to build strategically-located US bases in the Philippines (it was the period of the Cold War), with questionable economic returns to the Philippines. “During the early 1970s, Thailand received over $400 million in-military assistance and South Korea received over $600 million. The Philippines received only $50 million in grant aid--at a time when the Filipino Communist New People's Army had recommenced its armed insurrection against the government'” (The Key Role of U.S. Bases in the Philippines, https://goo.gl/WDAsbN). In later post-Marcos years, the social consequences of these US bases became apparent—prostitution, fatherless Amerasian children who receive no assistance from the US and Philippine governments, spread of sexually transmitted disease would become the bane of areas like Angeles Pampanga (Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice Vol. 15 Issue 1 https://goo.gl/Or3KjU; Sex Work in Southeast Asia: The Place of Desire in a Time of AIDS, Routledge 2000).
  2. Debt-driven Development: The Philippines nursed an external debt that rose from US$2.3 billion in 1970 to more than US$17.2 billion in 1980. While it is true the loaned money was used to build infrastructure, Marcos prioritized the interests of his cronies, who were awarded contracts without undergoing competitive bidding. They profited from what are supposed to be state projects--like the $2.3 billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Crony Capitalism denied opportunities for entrepreneurs, thus stagnating the growth of Philippine industries which could have boosted GDP (Martial Law and Its Aftermath, https://goo.gl/k8Cyml; Marcos years marked 'golden age' of PH economy? https://goo.gl/2pBTHn). Under cronies Benedicto and Eduardo Cojuangco, sugar and coconuts industries became monopolies where farmers on the local level were obliged to sell only to the monopolies and at lower than world market prices. This saw the rise of mass poverty and malnutrition in rural communities (Crony Capitalism, https://goo.gl/FmVqmn).
  3. Marcos Established/Founded State Colleges/Universities: All well and good that there were more schools, but it’s ironic that it was also the students who suffered greatly during Martial Law. Liliosa Hilao was a student activist in the Martial Law era who was abducted and killed. Another was Jan Quimpo. Yet another was Archimedes Trajano. There were also several violent dispersals of student movements, as in the famous First Quarter Storm of 1970. The Hilao and Trajano families will later be among those who will file legal cases related to human rights violations against the deposed Marcos. And they succeeded through a ruling in a court in Hawaii that requires the estate of Marcos to pay $2 billion (almost P90 billion) in damages after more than 9,000 HR victims filed a class suit against the Marcos estate in 1994. While one could argue that it’s “their fault for going against the government,” it’s thanks to their sacrifice that we can freely muse about these things in the first place. Characteristic of Marcos’ authoritarian regime is the control of media (print, TV, radio, etc) and the silencing of dissenters. So what is the use of schools that can’t teach students to think critically and speak up?
  4. Development Masquerading the Loot: Loot gained from taxes and the industries (energy, sugar, coconut, etc.) Marcos had sequestered for himself and his cronies continue to be litigated on to this day. A total of P10 billion allotted for the Human Rights Victims’ reparation was sourced from the Marcoses’ hidden and stolen wealth recovered by the government of the Philippines from their Switzerland accounts (Republic Act No. 10368).
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