(Part 2: A stolen revolution?)
The first and immediate dividend of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, was the shock and outrage of many Filipinos, most of whom were beginning to lose confidence in the Marcos administration.
That built up to pockets of protests and civil disobedience by the opposition, marked by the birth of mosquito tabloid publications like Ang Malaya and Mr. & Mrs. These tremors shook the foundations of the Marcos regime, which had just a year before fully dismantled martial rule and started transitioning to a parliamentary form of government.
It neither helped that President Ferdinand Marcos’ health was deteriorating due to lupus erythematosus and that the Philippines economy was deteriorating with as much as 6.8% contraction.
The second dividend of Ninoy’s death was on November 3, 1985, Marcos suddenly announced that a snap presidential election would take place the following year, one year ahead of the regular presidential election schedule, to legitimize his control over the country.
The snap election which was strongly influenced by pressure coming from the United States, was legalized with the passage of Batas Pambansa Blg. 883 (National Law No. 883).
After a compromise that would eventually be reneged by Corazon Aquino, leading United Opposition (UNIDO) presidential candidate Salvador Laurel gave way to Ninoy Aquino’s widow. Marcos ran for re-election, with Arturo Tolentino as his running mate under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) party.
The third dividend was despite the victory of the Marcos-Tolentino ticket in the snap polls, protests against election fraud would become widespread fomenting a ragtag group of military colonels calling themselves Reform the Armed Forces Movement would stage a coup d’etat, fomenting movement of military troops never before seen in the streets of Manila since the liberation of the Philippines ending the Second World War.
On the evening of February 22, 1986, Jaime Cardinal Sin would call on the Filipino people to converge between Camps Aguinaldo and Crame to prevent the Armed Forces of the Philippines from engaging the RAM putchists led by Gringo Honasan that have already been joined by the Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and the Vice Chief of Staff and head of the Integrated National Police Fidel V. Ramos.
This is the stage when things would become a bit hazy. I had a loud argument with former Quezon City mayor Brigido Simon Jr. on why hundreds of thousands of people went to Edsa that night.
Simon argued that he went there with the August Twenty One Movement led by Ninoy’s brother Butch, because they were motivated to topple the Marcos government. I disagreed because I went there, later joined by a Christian community, to prevent bloodshed that was becoming imminent with Marcos starting to marshall forces to attack the putchists. A lot more went there to kibitz together with their friends.
Of course Simon’s position would prevail because Marcos would lose control of the situation, fail to nip the revolting military minority, defer to the Americans who kidnapped him and his family and sent them to Hawaii for exile.
The fourth and top dividend of Ninoy’s death was wrestling political power trashing the duly-constituted 1984 Constitution and achieving a regime change by installing his wife as the new dictator.
Make no mistake about it, the coup that Cory’s ascent to the presidency completed is classic regime change.
Is that it? Can we already settle over the question and say that Ninoy Aquino indeed did not die in vain? Of course not. The history of a country does not occur in a vacuum.
We have to complete our analysis factoring where this crossroads originated from and where it proceeded to. That is the context we are looking for.
The road behind
In a report authored by Mike Billington in the Economic Intelligence Review on December 24, 2004, he said “The popular memory of Ferdinand Marcos today, in the U.S. and in the Philippines, is largely shaped by the massive disinformation campaign created in the early 1980s by the circles around then-Secretary of State George Shultz, and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz.
“Marcos was accused of corruption, human rights violations, plunder, and even the murder of a political opponent, Benigno Aquino—and this caricature is repeated ad nauseam still today.
“While Marcos was not without faults, he was by far the last Filipino head of state to have understood the challenge of true leadership in a world slipping towards chaos.”
Finally, Billington goes for the jugular, “His overthrow by the Shultz cabal had nothing to do with the charges issued publicly, but were intended to stop his national development policies, and his international collaboration with LaRouche and others in countering the genocidal policies of the IMF, and bringing into being a new world economic system based on development and justice.”
Most of what follows is an edit of the EIR report.
Marcos was elected President in November 1965, and treated as a close friend and ally of the United States. Even when he declared martial law in 1972, President Richard Nixon raised no objections, just as the United States launched the disastrous and futile war in Indochina (Vietnam).
The fact that the United States used its bases in the Philippines, Subic Bay and Clark Airfield in Luzon, as launching pads for the Indochina War, fed a domestic insurgency by the Maoist New People’s Army (NPA).
But Marcos was not only concerned about “counterinsurgency” in declaring martial law.
When he was elected President in 1965, the Philippines was still essentially a colonial economy, although the United States had granted full independence on July 4, 1946, as had been promised by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934.
Productivity was low in both agriculture and industry: agriculture lagged as the Philippines relied on special access to U.S. food exports, and industry was confined to process industries, rather than the development of basic industries.
Marcos set out immediately to establish Philippine food self-sufficiency in rice and corn.
This also required breaking the control of the landed aristocracy left over from the Spanish imperial era. Marcos was the first President of the Philippines who did not rise from this elite class, but was a “commoner” trained as a lawyer.
As President, he focused on basic agricultural infrastructure, especially irrigation, in the major food-producing regions of Luzon and Mindanao. Credit facilities, mechanization, and the introduction of high-yield rice varieties, which needed irrigation, resulted in the elimination of rice imports by 1968.
Despite the enraged opposition of the oligarchy, his land reform program proved to be extraordinarily successful. Coupled with the infrastructure and mechanization improvements, a quarter of a million peasants became land owners, and grain productivity increased by half.
Another major step after the declaration of martial law was to contract with Westinghouse for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant—which was to be the first (and would still be the only) commercial nuclear power plant in Southeast Asia.
Nuclear energy was not the only innovation of the Marcos regime. In 1979 Marcos announced a plan for 11 major industrial projects, 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, and the nuclear power program.
Marcos tripled the country’s road network, doubled the electrification of the country’s homes, and also tripled minimum wage rates although inflation, driven by international oil price hikes and exploding U.S. interest rates, more than wiped out these wage increases.
His wife Imelda also introduced her own touch of participatory governance, as first lady and later as cabinet minister, into the Filipino psyche in the field of arts and culture, healthcare and most importantly urban reform and human settlements.
Today we still see institutions, once heckled and hated but now understood and respected.
Having drawn a quick glimpse of the past, we would complete our analysis as challenged by Jose Alejandrino’s acceptance that Ninoy Aquino was a martyr, as someone who was killed for his political beliefs regardless of whether we agree with those beliefs or not.
The real question we should ask, he said, is – “Was his sacrifice in vain? To answer that question, we have to look at the record of achievements of the Cory and Noynoy presidencies.”
This we will do by taking a selfie of the Philippines for the 30 years of Aquino dominance in Philippine politics.
(To be continued)