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 Corpuz © 1989


In order to bring this to a happy conclusion......let us  
display   unimpeachable   honor   in   social   relations   and  
refined manners toward our fellow men,  in  every way  
striving  for   our   redemption  and   common   liberty;   and  
finally, I repeat that you should promise and engrave  
upon your breast, thus making it known to all, that  in 
case any foreign power should attempt to deprive us of  
any part of this Archipelago, we would exhaust all our  
energies   and   resources,   and   struggle   as   long   as   the  
breath   of   life   remains,  in  defense   of   our   national  
integrity.   ­­   Aguinaldo's   message   to   town   presidentes,  
Kawit. Cavite (3 August 1898)

The   fading   away   of   nationalism   as   the   guiding   spirit   and   paramount 

value in Filipino politics might be said to have begun with the founding of 
the   Nacionalista   Party   of   1907.   Its   leaders   were   untrue   to   their   party's 
proud name. In Quezon's autobiography, in his own words, we find that in 
early 1942 he had decided to place his loyalty to America no matter what 
would happen to his people:

I swore to myself and to the God of my ancestors that as 
long as I lived I would stand by America regardless of the 
consequences to my people or to myself.

The Nacionalista campaign for independence­without­nationalism ended 
with the inauguration of a republic in the Luneta on 4 July 1946. A special 
bloc of seats in the grandstand was occupied by a group of aging veterans of 
the   Revolution,   many   dressed   in   their   old  rayadillo  (thin   striped   cotton 
duck) uniforms. The sun broke through the morning drizzle as the Filipino 
tricolor was hoisted up the flagpole.

The  proteges   and   successors   of  the  Osmeña­Quezon  tandem   took  over 
after the war. One of their first measures was to authorize “backpay,” and so 
they collected salaries for all the war years during which they did not serve. 
A lively issue for some time was that of collaboration with the Japanese 


occupation   regime.   In   the   verdicts   of   the   tribunals   that   tried   the 

collaboration cases, the men who were declared to have collaborated with 
the Japanese were called traitors, as if those who were loyal to the United 
States, and fought the guerrilla war so that the Americans would return, 
were   any   less   betrayers   of   their   nation's   integrity.   The   meaning   of   the 
nation had been lost; the Filipinos could only view themselves in terms of 
other countries. Madre Espana was gone, but it was now replaced by Mother 

On   4   July   1946   the   Philippine   President   entered   into   an   agreement 

binding the government to have the Constitution amended, for the purpose 
of   negating   those   provisions   that   reserved   the   right   to   exploit   natural 
resources to Filipino nationals, and extending this right on a “parity” basis 
to   Americans.   Early   the   next   year   the   President   signed   an   executive 
agreement   granting   lands   in   the   public   domain,   rent   free,   to  the  United 
States as military bases. The agreement stated that on the American side it 
was pursuant to a 1944 resolution of the US Congress to acquire military 
bases in the Philippines. It was to have a life until 2046 A.D. From here on 
through   the   1960s,   presidents   or   presidential   candidates   would   strive   to 
enhance their political stock by seeking Washington's blessing or favor. An 
invitation to make a pilgrimage to the American capital was ideal.

The   abandonment   of  nationalism   by   Filipino   governments,   specifically 

vis­á­vis   the   United   States,   had   the   inevitable   result.   Since   all   the 
governments were controlled by the center or right, the nationalistic role fell 
by default to the political left. The situation remained unchanged into the 
late 1980s. The jerry­built coalition that deposed Marcos in 1986 included 
no   nationalistic   parties.   It   was   simply   anti­Marcos.   Thus,   if   the   political 
center and right would persist in shunning nationalism, the left, either legal 
and non­communist or illegal and communist, would continue to be the voice 
of Filipino nationalism.

Moreover, because of the establishment's weakness or servility relative to 
the United States, the nationalism of the left had to be essentially defined 
by   anti­Americanism.   Although   unavoidable,   this   narrow   definition   of 
nationalism   almost   exclusively   in   terms   of   pro­   or   anti­United   States 
policies   or   measures   distracted   the   Filipinos   from   a   positive   or   holistic 


understanding and practice of nationalism.

The absence of a nationalistic commitment at the top levels of leadership 
had a subtle and unappreciated result. It allowed the deterioration of a vital 
national institution: the civil service. The civil service or bureaucracy is the 
only instrument through which government can execute the laws, manage 
the   public   affairs,   and   serve   the   people.   The   colonial   civil   service   was 
efficient,   partly   by   design   and   partly   because   its   task   was   simple:   to 
administer   a   colony.   The   occupation   regime   was   concerned   neither   with 
transforming nor democratizing Filipino society. It merely set up an elitist 
system of government and politics.

When the old colonial bureaucracy became the civil service of a republic, 
the tasks of government not only expanded but became more diverse and 
complex. The leaders talked of democracy, social justice, and development 
through   modernization   and   industrialization.   The   bureaucracy   therefore 
had to perform an expanded array of functions. But then the first thing that 
the political parties did was to destroy the neutrality of the service.

By the 1950s political influence through letters of recommendation and 
similar pressures from party leaders had become common and then decisive 
in   appointments   to   key   career   positions.   Technical   and   professional 
qualifications became secondary and often as not ignored. By the 1970s the 
assault by the parties had virtually destroyed the competitive examinations 
system. Most of the political proteges at the lower levels were dead beats, 
repelling   the  public   by   their   uselessness;   they   spent   office   time   peddling 
items of clothing and jewelry or food to office mates. The more privileged 
were "15­30s"; they reported on the 15th and 30th each month only to collect 
their salaries. Meantime, the civil service commission lost control over entry 
into the service. By the 1980s politics had reduced  the commission to an 
ineffectual personnel records office.

The   destruction   of   neutrality   went   hand   in   hand   with   erosion   of 

efficiency. Even if the majority of civil servants did their jobs when treated 
as   professionals,   the   politicalization   of   most   positions   was   demoralizing. 
Civil servants lost public regard and their once high social status, with the 
added result that their bargaining power for proper salaries was weakened.


Every president allowed his party to inflict more politics on the service. 
The latter was “strengthened” over and over by reorganization. This meant 
harassment   or   reorganizing   out   of   the   misfits   appointed   in   the   past 
administration   and   replacing   them   with   new   misfits,   who   would   in   turn 
leave or be separated during each new administration. No president called 
for a return to the tried and true systems of recruitment on the basis of 
proper   qualifications,   merit   selection   via   competitive   examinations, 
probationary training and career development, incentives, job ratings, and 
so   forth.   These  were   too  humdrum   measures   for  presidents   who   thought 
they were statesmen; they did not bother to protect the organization that 
delivered services to the people.

The   long   neglect   of   social   justice   during   the   elitist   politics   of   the 
American regime, the deterioration of the civilian bureaucracy since 1946, 
and the attendant and galloping corruption that was eroding government 
itself into the late 1980s, meant omission or failure to provide basic services 
to   the   lower   classes,   especially   the   rural   masses.   These   services   were 
simple: roads, good seed, schooling, medical attention, and judicial redress. 
Their denial to the rural folk, institutionalized as social injustice, was the 
foundation   of   the   agrarian   unrest   since   the   1920s;   of   its   growth   into   a 
communist­oriented movement on the eve of World War II; and then of its 
emergence as a full­blown revolutionary movement in the 1950s.

The   communists/socialists   were   the   only   “unpro­American”   and   anti­

Japanese­ fighting group during the Japanese occupation. They fought as 
the HUKBALAHAP (People's Army Against Japan). They were rural based, 
and the movement gathered strength during the early postwar confusion. 
They were contained during the Ramon Magsaysay presidency (1953­1957). 
Their   regroupment   and   buildup   after   1957   prefaced   the   more   vigorous 
revolutionary   challenge   during   Marcos'   second   term   (1969­1973).   In   the 
meantime, their new New People's Army (NPA) had succeeded in gaining 
some support in urban centers as well, including Metro Manila.

The Marcos administration thought to undercut rural support of the 
insurgency through “countryside development” and civic action programs. 
These were palliatives that could never make up for the generations of 
political neglect or civilian government failure, but there was little choice. 


But instead of renewing the civilian government to enable it to deliver 
services to the barrio folk on a continuing basis, Marcos assigned what were 
basically civilian programs to the least suitable arm of government: the 
military. The rural folk had to muse: "When the soldiers leave, what then? 
Back to the old neglect, the same inefficient and corrupt system? Or will the 
soldiers be with us always?" The problem would therefore grow. So long as 
the civil service was not revitalized, the governments would fail to serve the 
barrios, and assigning civilian work to the military would only confuse it, 
without adding to the efficiency of the civilian government.

The cancer in Filipino politics was the party system. Academic writing 
about the parties viewed them as sociological phenomena. We learn that the 
Filipino   political   party   has   no   organizational   members,   and   therefore   no 
membership  lists.  We learn that  it  has no  party funds,  and  therefore no 
honest financial and accounting records, but that millions and millions of 
pesos   are   spent   in   the   course   of   an   election   campaign.   We   learn   that 
campaign expenditures normally cover the cost of private armies, printing of 
fake and sample ballots, vote buying, and preparing election protests before 
the votes are in. The parties are said to have no philosophies of government 
or  politics,  and   the  system   breeds   “political   butterflies”   or  turncoats   who 
always defect toward the party with the spoils. Among others, finally, it is 
said   that   the   system   has   a   democratic   by­product   because   the   treasure 
spent by the parties is redistributed among the poor.

The party system was all these, but the proper measure of it is ethics. 
The system was, as it had been since 1907, almost destitute of nationalism; 
it was, since 1946, guided by no shred of social ethics except opportunism. It 
almost invariably corrupted honorable men and women, making the honest 
dishonest. It twisted civic values; it mis­educated the youth; it was a dark 
and impenetrable screen that concealed  every long­term national interest 
from the electorate.

Worst   of   all,   the   party   system   was   a   consistent   failure   at   its   societal 
function: to instruct the community on political issues and structure public 
opinion   so   as   to   produce   electoral   decisions   about   the   direction   of   the 
national life, as a guide for government. The system allowed the people only 
the knowledge, after the elections were over, that this candidate won and 


that one lost. The Filipinos never knew what the new gang in government 
meant to do. After the dead in “election­related incidents” were buried, the 
winning candidates would confess that their victory meant the triumph of 
nationalism and democracy, which enlightened nobody.

Filipino politics was unique that way. Maybe cultural factors rather than 
the   party   system  per   se  would   explain   why   candidates   in   local   elections 
always strove to get 100 per cent of the votes with a big fat ZERO for their 
opponents, in as many precincts as possible. This meant a prodigious, total, 
no­holds­barred and no­quarters­given effort. It was not politics; it was war. 
But the presidential candidates were driven by the same atavistic urges. 
Their   goal   was   no   less   than   to   destroy,   extinguish,   or   annihilate   the 
“enemy.”   Filipino   politics   was   quite   unlike   politics   in   most   mature   and 
stable   democracies   where   the   majority   parties   win   the   mandate   by   slim 
electoral pluralities. Hence it may be said that in every Filipino president 
beats the heart of a tribal chief.

Nevertheless, the seeming intensity of politics characterized only a sub­
sector of the nation. It was the hallmark of electoral politics in the urban 
centers, especially in Metro Manila where provincial governors, city mayors, 
and even town mayors from all over the country had second homes. In the 
provinces politics was feuds among the combative families and fiestas for 
the folk.

That the politics of the metropolis seemed to be the politics of the country 
was   because   the   media,   especially   the   print   media,   was   almost   totally   a 
Manila affair; it was modern, ebullient, and sensation­oriented, enlivened 
by  hundreds   of columnists.  Filipino  journalism  had   not  produced   a  great 
reporter   for   years.   That   the   languages   of   public   affairs   were   historically 
foreign languages  ­ Spanish and English since 1900, English after World 
War II, with Tagalog picking up later – added to the divide between Manila 
and   the   rural   areas.   But   the   media's   concept   of   politics   was   limited   to 
electoral politics. It regarded the permanent poverty of rural life and neglect 
of the rural areas by government in moral terms, not as pragmatic political 
issues – that is, matters basic to the operation of the political community.

The media could not register the rural masses' indifference to national 


politicians.   For   centuries   alien   governors­general   had   ruled   and   then 

departed,   and   Filipino   presidents   and   legislators   had   come   and   gone 
through generations, without government having had real impact on rural 
life. The masses were not given the vote during the American occupation, 
although   the   Filipino   legislature   had   authority   to   expand   the   small 

The people in the pueblos during the nineteenth century had a saying: 
“The governor­general is in Manila, far away; the king is in Spain, farther 
still; and God is in Heaven, farthest of all.” The distance between the rural 
folk and their rulers was not only geographical; it was political distance, and 
this distance became deeply embedded in the memory of the folk.

This   distance   continued   into   the   1980s.   The   rural   folk's   relationships 
with the communists were different. The NPA insurgents spoke and dressed 
like the barrio folk, showed sympathy for them and gave them hope and at 
times   promised   to   avenge   their   abusers.   The   barrio   people   reciprocated, 
because   the   governments   in   Manila   and   the   tenant   in   Malacañang   were 
remote and inaccessible. To the barriofolk the presidents were much like the 
governors­general. To them a tenant in Malacañang was little more than a 
celebrity of the season, with the exception; perhaps, of Magsaysay. Between 
them there was no political bond.

For instance, in 1988 the President declared that her family's hacienda 
was to be subject to land reform. But there was silence, no news of jubilation 
or   gratitude   from   the   tenants.   This   silence   was   their   response   to 
Malacañang's historic neglect.

The rural folk's indifference was in fact a primary factor for the stability 
of   the   political   and   governmental   system.   Had   they   become   direct 
participants or activists in politics, had they had their own organizations 
and candidates in elections (not spurious “farmers federations” headed by 
urban lawyers in Manila offices staffed by their relatives and financed by 
foreign   foundations),   the   political   system   would   have   been   subjected   to 
radical change long before the 1980s.

It might be said that “the discipline of the oath of loyalty to the United 


States” governed  the politicians from 1907 to 1946. Thereafter they were 
free of any checks except what each fancied. The resulting deterioration in 
administrative   institutions   and   in   politics   in   turn   led   to   unmet   needs, 
frustrations, and injustice. The lack of one recognized unifying or guiding 
value in politics and society had to lead to crisis.

The escalation of violence in the vocabulary of politics was a reflection of 
the   violence   in  the  streets   of   Manila,  in  the  countryside,   and   in   Marcos' 
relations with his political enemies when he staged his coup d' etat of 1972. 
It was an anti­democratic but constitutional coup.

Many Filipinos would recall that the martial law regime began well. But 
it   was   strained   by   the   oil   crisis   of   1973,   the   growing   insurgency,   and 
economic crises that massive foreign debts could only partly relieve. Its anti­
inflation   measures   during   the   early   1980s   only   mopped   up   the   “excess 
liquidity of the poor.”

The   Benigno   Aguino   assassination   in   1983   united   all   the   people   that 
Marcos had hurt and hounded since 1972 in a vast anti­Marcos front. When 
this front began to move, it was against an isolated Marcos. The general 
perception   was   that   he   was   an   aging,   ailing   man,   with   a   bad   case   of 
megalomania, prone to play loose with the constitution, quick to violate his 
own decrees, unwilling to rein in the outlandish and acquisitive instincts of 
his wife, and with no sure loyalty from the restive military.

A   military­led   mutiny   won   civilian   support   and   exploded   into   a 

democratic but unconstitutional coup in 1986. The resulting revolutionary 
government transformed itself into a constitutional regime in 1987 and had 
to cope with aborted coups.

The Filipinos thought that these were their very first coups. In fact they 
had   repeatedly   watched   their   elections   progressively   deteriorate   into 
institutionalized   seizures   of   political   power   by   violence:   the   violence   of 
money,   murder,   and   deceit.   The   Marcos   coup   altered   the   old   balance   in 
Filipino politics. The new post­Marcos alignment was precarious, featured 
by   the   entry   of  “cause­oriented  groups”   cheek   by  jowl  with   anachronistic 
parties   and   new   coalitions,   an   activist   clergy,   as   well   as   by   an   openly 


political   role   for   the   military.   Filipino   politics   would   never   be   the   same 
again,   and   an   obvious   relapse   into   old   habits   that   were   surfacing   anew 
during the eve of the 1990s could only mean that the Filipinos had not seen 
their last coups.

Mrs.   Corazon   Aquino,   Marcos'   successor,   was   faced   with   awesome 

problems. She seemed to be meeting them with nerve into 1988, but nerve 
and calm would not solve them. Most of the problems were by nature tests 
of nationalism.

The US military bases issue was the archetypal test. Needless to say, the 
existence of the bases not only had a divisive effect on the people. The bases 
issue   was   a   distorting   and   contaminating   factor   in   Filipino   politics.   The 
persons did not  matter. The outs would  assail either the presence of the 
bases   or   the   terms   of   the   agreement,   while   the   tenants   in   Malacañang 
would   defend   them.   But   once   in   office,   the   erstwhile   critics   became   the 
champions of the bases. This was because of the “realities”: their weakness 
under American pressure, their imagined need for American aid dollars, so 
that the bases metamorphosed from “magnets for nuclear attack” into “vital 
defenses of democracy against the communist threat.”

There was the case in December 1984 when Mrs. Aquino and some men 
who   later   became   leading   figures   in   her   administration   signed   a   brave 
declaration stating, among others, that “foreign military bases on Philippine 
territory   must   be   removed.”   And   predictably,   soon   after   she   was   in   the 
presidency, Mrs. Aquino executed a neat volte­face, declaring that she would 
keep her options open until 1991. The presence of the bases by virtue of an 
utterly   obsolete   agreement   would   continue   to   be   a   pollutant   in   Filipino 

Most Filipinos failed to realize that the American position on the bases 
issue   was   in   firm   pursuit   of   the   national   interests   of   one   of   the   most 
nationalistic countries in the world. Filipinos, a charming people, clung to 
righteousness   and   emotion.   They   would   not   devote   months   of   intensive 
studies to their policy problems. They knew that they had something that 
the United States wanted, but their own understanding of nationalism was 
limited from want of its practice, and so they always ended up pleading in 


vain for rentals, and the Americans would never pay.

In   advance   of   the   1988   review   sessions,   Mrs.   Aquino's   declaration   of 

“open options” undercut the Philippine position. In fact the government did 
not have to participate in the review at all. The quinquennial review merely 
divided   public   opinion   needlessly,   serving   to   alert   the   Americans   to   the 
Filipino   mood,   and   allowing   them   to   gauge   the   latter's   weak   and   strong 
points in preparation for the subsequent negotiations.

The Filipinos inexplicably treated the bases agreement just as if it were a 
treaty, not an executive agreement between two chief executives. After the 
1983   review,   for   instance,   the   US   President   wrote   to   Manila   that   he 
intended, on a best­effort basis, to seek the approval of the US Congress to 
appropriate the funds agreed upon during the review. The Filipinos could 
have   moved   for   termination   of   the   agreement   during   the   1988   US 
presidential   election   period,   on   the   perfectly   valid   ground   that   the   US 
President was a lame duck president, and that it was desirable to deal with 
his   successor.   After   the   1988   review   agreement   Mrs.   Aquino   received   a 
letter   from   the   out­going   US   president   that   was   similarly   worded   to   the 
latter's 1983 letter to President Marcos.

Filipino   negotiators   invariably   tended   to   become   prisoners   of   the 

documents, chipping and whittling away at clauses in order to win marginal 
improvements.   For   decades   they   missed   the   impact   of   scientific   and 
technological   developments   on   the   nature   of   the   US   bases:   dazzling 
sophistication   in   weaponry,   delivery   systems,   and   global   electronic   and 
satellite   communications.   Their   preoccupation   with   the   paper   of   the 
agreement also kept them from noticing the erosion of the “mutual security” 
principle of the 1947 agreement as a result of the worldwide expansion of 
American political and strategic military concerns and commitments.

They did not realize that the United States global “projection of force” 
vis­á­vis the USSR meant that the use and deployment of the Clark and 
Subic capabilities covered the vast Western Pacific Region (from Vladivostok 
down)   and   all   the   way  again   around   until   the  Indian   Ocean   Region  and 
Persian   Gulf   area.   Such   missions   and   deployment   in   such   far   regions   of 
Philippine­based   United   States   weapons   and   equipment   and   support 


facilities completely destroyed the mutuality of interest with the Philippines 
that was a basic principle of the 1947 agreement.

The  1979  amendments were pointless. They stated that each base was 

under the command of a Filipino base commander, but that the US military 
facilities within the base area were to be under the “effective command and 
control” of the US, through its facilities commander. The  1983  review also 
provided that the base commander had no access to “cryptographic areas 
and   areas   where   classified   equipment   or   information   is   located.”   The 
Filipino base commander was only a no­hear, no­see, fixture.

Worse, the Filipino flag flying over the bases was needlessly degraded. It 
became the symbol of some hollow sovereignty, mocked every time a foreign 
country's war craft were launched beneath it for destinations and missions 
unknown   to   the   Filipinos.   The   negotiators   of   the  1979  sovereignty 
amendments   imagined   that  they   had  scored   legal   points,   when   they   had 
succeeded only in exposing the nation's flag to derisory mockery.

In   any   event,   the   new   Philippine   Constitution   was   explicit   on   “the 

expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between the Republic of the Philippines 
and the United States of America concerning Military Bases” (Article XVIII, 
Section   25).   The   requirements   of   this   provision   upon   Philippine 
governments are clear. The latter have to do their homework. They have to 
prepare,   in   advance,   detailed   studies   of   the   phase   out   of   the   military 
facilities and the turn­over of the base lands; identify and mobilize needed 
task forces and other groups for planning; and see to the start­up funds and 
investments   for   the   development   and   operations   of   new   projects   in   the 
vacated base lands.

Philippine governments  have  to study and  prepare  alternatives  to the 

1947  military assistance agreement and  1951  mutual defense treaty with 
the  United  States. They  have to anticipate and  design  plans  for possible 
American   reactions,   diplomatic   and   otherwise.   And,   because   the 
Constitution included a provision governing the existence of foreign military 
bases on Philippine soil by treaty, the Philippine Government would have to 
weigh   the   wisdom   of   this   treaty   route   in   place   of   the   expiring   executive 
agreement. These tasks required a much stronger sense and understanding 


of nationalism than have been shown so far in the presidency.

That   the   Moro   National   Liberation   Front   (MNLF)   rebellion   broke   out 
only in 1972 was clear evidence of the patience of the Muslim Filipinos. The 
non­Muslims called it “the Muslim problem” when in fact it was a Christian 
problem. It was a ghost from the Spanish era. The Christian lawyers in the 
Malolos   Congress   suffered   from   the   mental   baggage   from   their   Spanish 
heritage and did not appreciate Aguinaldo's call for fraternity in a federal 
union   with   the   Muslims.   The   Muslims   were   not   part   of   the   Revolution 
because they were not part of colonized Filipinas; moreover, they had been 
at war with the Spaniards since the sixteenth century. The rebellion of the 
MNLF   was   the   inevitable   fruit   of   neglect   by   the   Christian   governments, 
since 1914, of the worth and integrity of the Muslim Filipinos. Rizal saw the 
Muslims as part of the Filipino nation since 1892; Aguinaldo wanted them 
to be part of the Republic.

The   MNLF   separatist   rebellion   was   a   more   serious   problem   than   the 
challenge from the communist insurgency. This was because the country's 
territorial   integrity   would   remain   intact   even   after   a   communist   victory, 
while an MNLF victory would mean impairment of the national territory. 
One   possibility   toward   this   outcome   would   be:   if   the   Christian   Filipinos 
played tough but were ill­prepared on the military bases issue, what would 
prevent the US CIA from turning to the MNLF and offering support toward 
the establishment of a breakaway Muslim state in the south in return for a 
US base in Zamboanga, Basilan, or Dadiangas, etc;? Some of the Filipinos' 
more difficult problems overlapped, because the problems were all results of 
the fading away of the nationalism of the Revolution.

Another   major   problem   was   the   foreign   debt.   Foreign   borrowings 

accelerated during the Marcos era. Then the debt service clock began to tick. 
The   Marcos   presidency   and   its   immediate   successor   ignored   the 
constitutional questions arising from their agreeing to submit the economic 
recovery   programs  of  a   sovereign  republic  to  an  assortment   of  some  480  
foreign   bankers   who   were   unknown   and   unaccountable   to   the   Filipino 
people. The bankers knew more about the programs than the people whose 
taxes funded both the costs of “economic recovery” and debt repayment. The 
act of submission was pusillanimous. The President of the Philippines was 


somewhat like a tribal chief making obeisance to some Great White Father.

The Filipinos took it in stride, perhaps because they did not sense the 
problem.   Nonetheless,   someone   might   some   day   raise   the   matter   as   an 
impeachable act, most seasonably during the period of jockeying before a 
presidential election.

The government dealt with the debt problem with cut­and­dried financial 
and   economic   approaches.   Petulant   cries   of   “unilateral   repudiation”   were 
heard briefly. But there was no suggestion that the President call upon the 
financiers,   managers,   and   workers   of   a   nation   that   had   the   thirteenth, 
fourteenth, largest population in the world to liquidate the foreign debt with 
honor. There was no suggestion, for instance, that the leadership excite and 
inspire the labor force in a crusade of pride, discipline, and effort to liberate 
the children from the burden of their elders' debts. If half the labor force 
were   inspired   to   produce   an   incremental   US$500   each   annually,   for 
example,   the   additional   value   would   be   US$6   billion.   The   peso­dollar 
exchange rate would also improve in the process, and the US$28.5 billion 
foreign debt could be liquidated within a decade. But the leaders shunned 
the   nationalistic   solution.   It   was   easier   to   seem   to   be   working   hard, 
planning, regulating, controlling the economy, imposing new taxes, and the 
like, instead of firing up the people and their resources of pride and energy. 
In the meantime, the government would turn to a well used repertoire of 
methods of mendicancy: outstretched hands for aid, appeals for moratoria, 
for grace periods, restructuring, etc.

The problems of the late 1980s were tough: the dead weight of the party 
system; a damaged civil service; the foreign debt; the intrusive shadow of 
the   United   States;   social   injustice   and   the   communist   insurgency;   the 
MNLF separatist rebellion; the alienation and indifference of the masses.

The   Filipino   electorate   of   the   1980s   was   no   longer   the   upper­class 

electorate of the American occupation. It suddenly expanded in the 1950s, a 
result   of   Ramon   Magsaysay's   then   new   grassroots   campaign   style.   He 
brought into the electorate classes of people (mostly rural folk and the urban 
poor) that had not voted before. In the act of participation in politics they 
also brought with them their views of life, their values, their problems. But 


the traditional parties did not accommodate them; the politicians saw the 
masses simply as votes, not as the heart and rationale of a social democratic 
party   program.   The  communists  elected  to  be   doctrinaire;   they   remained 
illegal when they could have mobilized the new voters and served as their 
voice in electoral politics. The masses remained unorganized, a floating vote 
and a sleeping force. By 1987 some 85 per cent of the Philippine population 
had   been   born   after   World   War   II,   without   any   personal   memory   of   the 
colonial   period.   A  new   political   ethic   was   needed,   perhaps   also   a   new 
political system.

What the Filipinos needed during the drift of the earl post­Marcos years 
was fresh animus, to be called upon and enrolled in worthy and noble tasks. 
What they awaited, while they were still in a waiting mood, was that their 
leaders inspire and rally them, to employ government to eliminate injustice, 
to   unite   them   into   the   nation   that   their   heroes   envisioned  when   they 
believed that every Filipino was “a son of God in this land.”

A  striking  feature  of the 1986  coup  was  the  prominent   role of a  wide 

assortment of cause­oriented groups. The fore runners of these groups were 
the youth activists of the late 1960s that were anti­Marcos and tended to be 
leftist. Most went to ground during the early 1970s. During the latter year 
of   the   decade   they   began   to   include   older   people,   even   members   of   the 
clergy,   and   elements   that   could   only   be   described  as   rightist.   After   the 
assassination of Benigno Aquino their articulateness and organization made 
them a vital political element, until the heterogeneous civilian anti­Marcos 
group   momentarily   united   behind   the   1986   military   mutiny   to   install 
Aquino's widow in power.

Beyond their role in 1986, the groups were early signs of new trend. They 
could  not  organize  as   parties  during  the  martial   law  regime  because  the 
latter was inhospitable even to the traditional parties. But they did not form 
into parties even in 1987. This was important. Some of them had dissolved 
because they were merely anti­Marcos and Marcos was gone. The diehard 
leftists   went   back   underground   because   they   could   not   coexist   with   the 
military element in the coalition that Aquino needed to stay in power. But 
there were others that could not join the traditional political parties that 
surfaced soon after. This was because they stood for an array of social and 


political   values   and   aspirations,   as   well   as   discontent,   that   they   felt   so 
deeply   and   could   not   entrust   to   any   of   the   old   parties   to   symbolize   or 

By 1988 many of the 1986 activists had retired, disillusioned, unwilling 
to   join   or   ally   with   the   majority  LABAN  (Fight)   parties   that   wore   new 
names   but   had   old­politics   leaders.   It   was   the   non­integration   of   these 
elements   that   was   significant.   They   needed   a   “new   politics”   in   order   to 
survive. When they decide to return to politics and use “people power” in 
their own behalf and not just to install some establishment personality in 
office, the process of their reentry will herald the presence of those populist 
blocs   that   were   needed   to   expel   or   transform   the   anachronistic   and 
dysfunctional   party   system.   During   the   late   1980s   the   parties   that   were 
exhumed from the 1960s, as well as the new alliances made up of old faces 
and habits, were dinosaurs. They were unfit to guide the civic life of the 
young adults and citizens into the eve of the twenty­first century.

In   some   three   decades   the   Filipino   population   should   be   at   the 

100,000,000 level. That population will exert unimaginably heavy strains on 
the civil structures. These structures from the past, as they persisted into 
the late 1980s, will be replaced.

Inside of a generation, perhaps before the end of the century, Filipino 
politics will go through civil war or revolution or coup d'etat. The primary 
reason will be the proven incapacity of the political system – its leadership 
and institutions – to serve the basic needs of the masses and to win over the 
politicized youth. A civil war would be violent. A revolution or coup d' etat 
would   be   either   violent   or   peaceful.   The   children   of   the   1980s   who   will 
discover that they would be paying off the graft­ridden foreign debts of their 
elders will be an obvious part of the disaffected. These extra­constitutional 
processes will create either the new democratic leaders or new dictators. It 
is too early to tell, but perhaps even the new authoritarian leaders would 
not   be   viewed   as   worse   than   their   predecessors,   who   ignored   the 
nationalism of the Filipinos' first and one true Revolution.

On   the   eve   of   the   1990s,   time   was   running   out   on   democracy   in   the 
Philippines.   But   the   Filipinos   might,   against   all   odds,   keep   the   nation 


intact. They were, after all, the first people in Asia to wage a nationalistic 
revolution   against   western   colonialism;   they   did   it   all,   they   took   their 
destiny   into   their   hands,   and   triumphed,   and   founded   the   first   Asian 
republic with a democratic constitution.