|About | Contact | Mongabay on Facebook | Mongabay on Twitter | Subscribe|
Philippines - GOVERNMENT
AS PRESIDENT CORAZON C. AQUINO entered the final year of her six-year term in 1991, she presided over a demoralized nation reeling from the effects of natural calamities and economic malaise. The country had slid into dictatorship and gross economic mismanagement during Ferdinand E. Marcos's twenty-year presidency. When Aquino was elevated to the presidency in an inspiring People's Power Revolution in 1986, Filipinos' hopes rose. Inevitably, the stark realities of the nation's economic and political predicaments tarnished Aquino's image.
Aquino's achievements, however, were significant. She helped topple a dictator who had unlimited reserves of wealth, force, and cunning. She replaced a disjointed constitution that was little more than a fig leaf for Marcos's personalistic rule with a democratic, progressive document that won overwhelming popular approval in a nationwide plebiscite. She renounced the dictatorial powers she inherited from Marcos and returned the Philippines to the rule of law; she lived with the checks on her own power inherent in three-branch government; and she scheduled national elections to create a two-chamber legislature and local elections to complete the country's redemocratization.
The 1987 constitution returned the Philippines to a presidential system. The national government is in theory highly centralized, with few powers devolving to provincial and municipal governments. In fact, local potentates often reserve powers to themselves that the national government is not even aware of. The national government consists of three branches: the executive, headed by the president; two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives; and the Supreme Court, which heads an independent judiciary. A bill of rights guarantees political freedoms, and the constitution provides for regular elections.
The performance of these institutions was, of course, conditioned by Philippine history and culture, and by poverty. For example, the twenty-four members of the Senate, elected by nationwide ballot, in the 1980s were drawn almost entirely from old, prominent families. Senators staked out liberal, nationalist positions on symbolic issues, such as military base rights for the United States, but were exceedingly cautious about any structural changes, such as land reform, that could jeopardize their families' economic positions.
Political parties grew in profusion after the Marcos martiallaw regime (1972-81) was ended. There were 105 political parties registered in 1988. As in the pre-Marcos era, most legal political parties were coalitions, built around prominent individuals, which focused entirely on winning elections, not on what to do with the power achieved. There was little to distinguish one party from another ideologically, which was why many Filipinos regarded the political system as irrelevant.
President Aquino's early years in office were punctuated by a series of coup attempts. Her greatest frustration, and a most serious impediment to economic development, was a fractious, politicized army. Some officers wanted to regain the privileges they enjoyed under Marcos; others dreamed of saving the nation. Although all coup attempts failed, they frightened away foreign investors, forced Aquino to fire cabinet members of whom the army did not approve, pushed her policies rightward, and lent an air of impermanence to her achievements.
Criticism of the Aquino administration came from all parts of the political spectrum. Filipino communists refused to participate in a government they saw as a thin cover for oligarchy. The democratic left criticized Aquino for abandoning sweeping reform and for her probusiness and pro-American policies. Her own vice president, Salvador H. Laurel, castigated her mercilessly from the beginning and even encouraged the army to overthrow her. The far right (sugar barons, military malcontents, and ex-Marcos cronies) characterized her as naive and ineffective and ridiculed her for being what she always said she was, a "simple housewife." In reality she was far more than that. Amidst this cacophony, Aquino seemed to have calmly accepted that she would not be able to resolve the Philippines' deeply rooted structural problems and that it would be enough to have restored political democracy. She prepared the ground for her successor.
The Roman Catholic Church also was a major political factor. It had reverted to a less visible (but no less influential) role than in the declining years of Marcos's rule, when its relative invulnerability to harassment spurred priests and nuns to become political activists. Most church leaders criticized human rights abuses by military units or vigilantes, but they supported constitutional government. Cardinal Jaime Sin, who played such a pivotal role in Aquino's triumph over Marcos, recognized her personal virtue but denounced the corruption that stained her administration. Some parish priests, disgusted by the country's extreme polarization of wealth and power, cooperated with the New People's Army.
The communist insurgency had not been eradicated, although guerrillas posed less of a threat than they did before 1986. They conducted murderous internal purges. Still, if a guerrilla army wins by not losing, the New People's Army was a real alternative to the elected government. It fought for more than twenty years, and the class inequities it condemned continued to grow in the early 1990s. The fight against Filipino Muslim separatists in Mindanao likewise continued, also at a diminished level.
Philippine foreign relations in the late 1980s and early 1990s were colored by the contradiction between subjective nationalism and objective dependency. After nearly fifty years of independence, Filipinos still viewed their national identity as undefined and saw international respect as elusive. They chafed at perceived constraints on their sovereign prerogatives and resented the power of foreign business owners and military advisers. Yet, as a poor nation deeply in debt to private banks, multilateral lending institutions, and foreign governments, the Philippines had to meet conditions imposed by its creditors. This situation was galling to nationalists, especially because the previous regime had squandered its borrowed money. Filipinos also sought to achieve a more balanced foreign policy to replace the uncomfortably close economic, cultural, military, and personal ties that bound them to the United States, but this was unlikely to happen soon.
<> FOREIGN AFFAIRS
In 1991 the government was led by President Corazon C. Aquino, who was head of state, chief executive, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The vice president, who under the Philippine Constitution need not belong to the same party as the president, was Salvador H. Laurel. Aquino did not seek to create a political party to perpetuate her rule, preferring instead to rely on her personal popularity, which initially was strong but diminished throughout her term.
The Philippines has a long history of democratic constitutional development. The Malolos Constitution of 1898-99 reflected the aspirations of educated Filipinos to create a polity as enlightened as any in the world. That first constitution was modeled on those of France, Belgium, and some of the South American republics. Powers were divided, but the legislature was supreme. A bill of rights guaranteed individual liberties. The church was separated from the state, but this provision was included only after a long debate and passed only by a single vote. The Malolos Constitution was in effect only briefly; United States troops soon installed a colonial government, which remained in effect until the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935.
The 1935 constitution, drawn up under the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which created the Philippine Commonwealth, also served as a basis for an independent Philippine government from 1946 until 1973. The framers of the Commonwealth Constitution were not completely free to choose any type of government they wanted, since their work had to be approved by United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt, but as many were legal scholars familiar with American constitutional law, they produced a document strongly modeled on the United States Constitution. In fact, the 1935 constitution differed from the United States document in only two important respects: Government was unitary rather than federal, local governments being subject to general supervision by the president, and the president could declare an emergency and temporarily exercise near-dictatorial power. This latter provision was used by Marcos after September 1972, when he declared martial law.
The 1935 constitution seemed to serve the nation well. It gave the Philippines twenty-six years of stable, constitutional government during a period when a number of other Asian states were succumbing to military dictatorship or communist revolution. By the late 1960s, however, many Filipinos came to believe that the constitution only provided a democratic political cloak for a profoundly oligarchic society. A constitutional convention was called to rewrite the basic law of the land.
The delegates selected to rewrite the constitution hoped to retain its democratic essence while deleting parts deemed to be unsuitable relics of the colonial past. They hoped to produce a genuinely Filipino document. But before their work could be completed, Marcos declared martial law and manipulated the constitutional convention to serve his purposes. The 1973 constitution was a deviation from the Philippines' commitment to democratic ideals. Marcos abolished Congress and ruled by presidential decree from September 1972 until 1978, when a parliamentary government with a legislature called the National Assembly replaced the presidential system. But Marcos exercised all the powers of president under the old system plus the powers of prime minister under the new system. When Marcos was driven from office in 1986, the 1973 constitution also was jettisoned.
After Aquino came to power, on March 25, 1986, she issued Presidential Proclamation No. 3, which promulgated an interim "Freedom Constitution" that gave Aquino sweeping powers theoretically even greater than those Marcos had enjoyed, although she promised to use her emergency powers only to restore democracy, not to perpetuate herself in power. She claimed that she needed a free hand to restore democracy, revive the economy, gain control of the military, and repatriate some of the national wealth that Marcos and his partners had purloined. Minister of Justice Neptali Gonzales described the Freedom Constitution as "civilian in character, revolutionary in origin, democratic in essence, and transitory in character." The Freedom Constitution was to remain in effect until a new legislature was convened and a constitutional convention could write a new, democratic constitution to be ratified by national plebiscite. The process took sixteen months.
Although many Filipinos thought delegates to the Constitutional Commission should be elected, Aquino appointed them, saying that the Philippines could not afford the time or expense of an election. On May 25, 1986, she selected forty-four names from hundreds suggested by her cabinet and the public. She appointed respected, prominent citizens and, to be on the safe side, prohibited them from running for office for one year after the constitution's ratification. Delegates had the same profile as those who had drawn up the constitutions of 1898 and 1935: they were wealthy and well educated. They represented a range of political stances: some were leftists and some were ardent nationalists, but moderate conservatives held a majority. There were thirty lawyers, including two former Supreme Court justices. A nun, a priest, and a bishop represented the interests of the Catholic Church. Eight commissioners had also served in the aborted constitutional convention of 1972. Five seats on the fifty-member commission were reserved for Marcos supporters, defined as members of Marcos's New Society Movement, and were filled by former Minister of Labor Blas Ople and four associates. One seat was reserved for the Iglesia ni Kristo (Church of Christ), which, however, declined to participate. One of Aquino's appointees, leftist movie producer Lino Brocka, resigned, so the final number of commissioners was forty-eight.
The commission divided itself into fourteen committees and began work amidst great public interest, which, however, soon waned. Long, legalistic hearings were sometimes poorly attended. Aquino is known to have intervened to influence only one decision of the commission. She voiced her support of a loophole in the constitution's antinuclear weapons provision that allowed the president to declare that nuclear weapons, if present on United States bases, were "in the national interest."
The commissioners quickly abandoned the parliamentary government that Marcos had fancied, and arguments for a unicameral legislature also were given short shrift. Most delegates favored a return to something very much like the 1935 constitution, with numerous symbolic clauses to appease "cause- oriented" groups. The most controversial proposals were those pertaining to the Philippine claim to Sabah, presidential emergency powers, land reform, the rights of labor, the role of foreign investment, and United States military base rights. Special attention focused on proposals to declare Philippine territory a nuclear-free zone.
Aquino had asked the Constitutional Commission to complete its work within ninety days, by September 2, 1986. Lengthy public hearings (some in the provinces) and contentious floor debates, however, caused this deadline to be missed. The final version of the Constitution, similar to a "draft proposal" drawn up in June by the University of the Philippines Law School, was presented to Aquino on October 15. The commission had approved it by a vote of forty-four to two.
The constitution, one of the longest in the world, establishes three separate branches of government called departments: executive, legislative, and judicial. A number of independent commissions are mandated: the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit are continued from the old constitution, and two others, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on Good Government, were formed in reaction to Marcos's abuses. The Commission on Good Government is charged with the task of repossessing ill-gotten wealth acquired during the Marcos regime.
Some ambitious Filipino politicians hoped that the new Constitution would invalidate the 1986 presidential election and require that a new election be held. Their hopes were dashed by the "transitory provisions" in Article 17 of the new constitution that confirmed Aquino in office until June 30, 1992. Other officials first elected under the new constitution also were to serve until 1992.
Article 3, the bill of rights, contains the same rights found in the United States Constitution (often in identical wording), as well as some additional rights. The exclusionary rule, for example, prohibits illegally gathered evidence from being used at a trial. Other rights include a freedom-of-information clause, the right to form unions, and the requirement that suspects be informed of their right to remain silent.
The church and state are separated, but Catholic influence can be seen in parts of the Constitution. An article on the family downplays birth control; another clause directs the state to protect the life of the unborn beginning with conception; and still another clause abolishes the death penalty. Church-owned land also is tax-exempt.
The explosive issue of agrarian reform is treated gingerly. The state is explicitly directed to undertake the redistribution of land to those who till it, but "just compensation" must be paid to present owners, and Congress (expected to be dominated by landowners) is given the power to prescribe limits on the amount of land that can be retained. To resolve the controversial issue of United States military bases, the Constitution requires that any future agreement must be in the form of a treaty that is ratified by two-thirds of the Senate and, if the Congress requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a national referendum.
Many provisions lend a progressive spirit to the Constitution, but these provisions are symbolic declarations of the framers' hopes and are unenforceable. For example, the state is to make decent housing available to underprivileged citizens. Priority is to be given to the sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children. Wealth and political power are to be diffused for the common good. The state shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service. To be implemented, all of these declarations of intent required legislation.
Aquino scheduled a plebiscite on the new constitution for February 2, 1987. Ratification of the constitution was supported by a loose coalition of centrist parties and by the Catholic Church. The constitution was opposed by both the Communist Party of the Philippines--Marxist Leninist (referred to as the CPP) and the leftist May First Movement (Kilusang Mayo Uno) for three reasons: It was tepid on land reform, it did not absolutely ban nuclear weapons from Philippine territory, and it offered incentives to foreign investors. But the communists were in disarray after their colossal mistake of boycotting the election that overthrew Marcos, and their objections carried little weight. The constitution faced more serious opposition from the right, led by President Aquino's discontented, now ex-defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, who reassembled elements of the old Nacionalista Party to campaign for a no vote to protest what he called the "Aquino dictatorship."
Aquino toured the country campaigning for a yes vote, trading heavily on her enormous personal prestige. The referendum was judged by most observers to turn more on Aquino's popularity than on the actual merits of the Constitution, which few people had read. Her slogan was "Yes to Cory, Yes to Country, Yes to Democracy, and Yes to the Constitution." Aquino also showed that she was familiar with traditional Filipino pork-barrel politics, promising voters in Bicol 1,061 new classrooms "as a sign of my gratitude" if they voted yes.
The plebiscite was fairly conducted and orderly. An overwhelming three-to-one vote approved of the Constitution, confirmed Aquino in office until 1992, and dealt a stunning defeat to her critics. Above all else the victory indicated a vote for stability in the midst of turmoil. There was only one ominous note--a majority of the military voted against the referendum. Aquino proclaimed the new Constitution in effect on February 11, 1987, and made all members of the military swear loyalty to it.
<> Local Government
Under the Constitution, the government is divided into executive, legislative, and judicial departments. The separation of powers is based on the theory of checks and balances. The presidency is not as strong as it was under the 1973 constitution. Local governments are subordinated to the national government.
Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution restores the presidential system with certain modifications. The president is elected by a direct vote of the people for a term of six years and is not eligible for reelection. The president must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, at least forty years of age, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election.
The president is empowered to control all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices, and to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Presidential nominations of heads of executive departments and ambassadors are confirmed by a Commission on Appointments, consisting of twelve senators and twelve representatives. The president may grant amnesty (for example, to former communists, Muslim rebels, or military mutineers) with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of Congress and, as chief diplomat, negotiate treaties, which must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate.
The constitution contains many clauses intended to preclude repetition of abuses such as those committed by Marcos. The president's spouse cannot be appointed to any government post (a reaction to Imelda Marcos's immoderate accumulation of titles and powers). The public must be informed if the president becomes seriously ill (a reaction to the belated discovery of numerous kidney-dialysis machines in Marcos's bedroom in Malacaņang). The president is prohibited from owning any company that does business with the government. And the armed forces must be recruited proportionately from all provinces and cities as far as is practicable, in order to prevent a future president from repeating Marcos's ploy of padding the officer corps with people from his home province.
Constitutional safeguards also prevent the president from ruling indefinitely under emergency powers. Martial law may be proclaimed, but only for sixty days. The president must notify Congress of the institution of martial law within forty-eight hours, and Congress can revoke martial law by a simple majority vote. The president may not abolish Congress. The Supreme Court may review and invalidate a presidential proclamation of martial law. Of course, Congress can grant the president emergency powers at any time.
The vice president has the same term of office as the president and is elected in the same manner. The vice president also may serve as a member of the cabinet. No vice president may serve for more than two successive terms. The president and vice president are not elected as a team. Thus, they may be ideologically opposed, or even personal rivals.
In 1991 the president's cabinet consisted of the executive secretary (who controlled the flow of paper and visitors reaching the president), the press secretary, the cabinet secretary, and the national security adviser, and the secretaries of the following departments: agrarian reform; agriculture; budget and management; economic planning; education, culture, and sports; environment and natural resources; finance; foreign affairs; health; interior and local governments; justice; labor and employment; national defense; public works and highways; science and technology; social welfare and development; <>tourism; trade and industry; and transportation and communications. Cabinet members directed a vast bureaucracy--2.6 million Filipinos were on the government payroll in 1988.
The bureaucracy in the late 1980s was overseen by a constitutionally independent Civil Service Commission, the members of which were appointed by the president to a single nonrenewable term of seven years. Because the Constitution prohibits defeated political candidates from becoming civil servants, bureaucratic positions cannot be used as consolation prizes.
Two problems, in particular, have plagued the civil service: corruption (especially in the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue) and the natural tendency, in the absence of a forceful chief executive, of cabinet secretaries to run their departments as independent fiefdoms. Bribes, payoffs, and shakedowns characterized Philippine government and society at all levels. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimated in 1988 that one-third of the annual national budget was lost to corruption. Corruption also occurred because of cultural values. The Filipino bureaucrat who did not help a friend or relative in need was regarded as lacking a sense of utang na loob, or repayment of debts. Many Filipinos recognize this old-fashioned value as being detrimental to economic development. A 1988 congressional study concluded that because of their "personalistic world view," Filipinos were "uncomfortable with bureaucracy, with rules and regulations, and with standard procedures, all of which tend to be impersonal." When faced with such rules they often "ignore them or ask for exceptions."
The Philippines is unusual among developing countries in having a strong, bicameral legislature. The constitution establishes a 24-seat Senate and a House of Representatives with 200 elected representatives and up to 50 more appointed by the president. Senators are chosen at large, and the twenty-four highest vote-winners nationwide are elected. Senators must be native-born Filipinos at least thirty-five years old. The term of office is six years, and senators cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.
House of Representatives members are elected in single-member districts (200 in 1991), reapportioned within three years of each census. Representatives must be native-born Filipinos and at least twenty-five years of age. Their term of office is three years, except that those elected in May 1987 did not have to face the electorate until 1992. They may not serve for more than three consecutive terms. In addition, President Aquino was to be empowered to appoint to the House of Representatives up to twenty-five people from "party lists." This stipulation was intended to provide a kind of proportional representation for small parties unable to win any single-member district seats. However, Congress did not pass the necessary enabling legislation. The president also is allowed to appoint up to twenty-five members from so-called sectoral groups, such as women, labor, farmers, the urban poor, mountain tribes, and other groups not normally well-represented in Congress, "except the religious sector." Making these appointments would have provided an opportunity for Aquino to reward her supporters and influence Congress, but she has left most such positions unfilled. All members of both houses of Congress are required to make a full disclosure of their financial and business interests.
The constitution authorizes Congress to conduct inquiries, to declare war (by a two-thirds vote of both houses in joint session), and to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses. All appropriations bills must originate in the House, but the president is given a line-item veto over them. The Senate ratifies treaties by a two-thirds vote.
The first free congressional elections in nearly two decades were held on May 11, 1987. The pre-martial law Philippine Congress, famous for logrolling and satisfying individual demands, was shut down by Marcos in 1972. The 1973 constitution created a rubber-stamp parliament, or National Assembly, which only began functioning in 1978 and which was timid in confronting Marcos until some opposition members were elected in May 1984. In the 1987 elections, more than 26 million Filipinos, or 83 percent of eligible voters, cast their ballots at 104,000 polling stations. Twenty-three of twenty-four Aquino-endorsed Senate candidates won. The lone senator opposed to Aquino was former Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, her husband's former jailer and her one-time defender. Enrile was seated as the twenty-fourth and final member of the Senate, after the Supreme Court ordered the Commission on Elections to abandon plans for a recount. The new legislature was formally convened on July 27, 1987. The leader of the Senate is the Senate president, who stands next in the line of succession for the presidency after the country's vice president. Generally, the Senate had a reputation as a prestigious body with a truly national outlook, in contrast to the House of Representatives, which had more parochial concerns.
At least three-quarters of those elected to the House were endorsed by Aquino, but her influence was less than these results might seem to indicate. She never formed her own political party but merely endorsed men and women with various ideologies who, because of their illustrious family names and long political experience, were probably going to win anyway. Out of 200 elected House members, 169 either belonged to or were related to old-line political families. Philippine politics still was the art of assembling a winning coalition of clans.
Congress did not hesitate to challenge the president. For example, in September 1987, less than two months after the new Congress convened, it summoned the presidential executive secretary to testify about the conduct of his office. The following year, Congress also rejected Aquino's proposed administrative code, which would have conferred greater power on the secretary of national defense.
The internal operation of Congress has been slowed by inefficiency and a lack of party discipline. Legislation often has been detained in the forty-three House and thirty-six Senate committees staffed with friends and relatives of members of Congress. Indicative of the public frustration with Congress, in 1991 the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and the Makati Business Club formed a group called Congresswatch to monitor the activities of sitting congress members and promote accountability and honesty.
The legal system used in the early 1990s was derived for the most part from those of Spain and the United States. Civil code procedures on family and property and the absence of jury trial were attributable to Spanish influences, but most important statutes governing trade and commerce, labor relations, taxation, banking and currency, and governmental operations were of United States derivation, introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Judicial power is vested in a Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. The 1981 Judicial Reorganization Act provides for four main levels of courts and several special courts. At the local level are metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts, and municipal circuit trial courts. The next level consists of regional trial courts, one for each of the nation's thirteen political regions, including Manila. Courts at the local level have original jurisdiction over less serious criminal cases while more serious offenses are heard by the regional level courts, which also have appellate jurisdiction. At the national level is the Intermediate Appellate Court, also called the court of appeals. Special courts include Muslim circuit and district courts in Moro (Muslim Filipino) areas, the court of tax appeals, and the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan tries government officers and employees charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Supreme Court, at the apex of the judicial system, consists of a chief justice and fourteen associate justices. It has original jurisdiction over cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and over petitions for injunctions and writs of habeas corpus; it has appellate jurisdiction over all cases in which the constitutionality of any treaty, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, or regulation is questioned. The Supreme Court also may hear appeals in criminal cases involving a sentence of life in prison. Article 3 of the Constitution forbids the death penalty "unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it."
The Supreme Court also regulates the practice of law in the Philippines, promulgates rules on admission to the bar, and disciplines lawyers. To be admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, candidates must pass an examination that is administered once annually. Professional standards are similar to those of the United States; the Integrated Bar Association's code borrows heavily from the American Bar Association's rules. Some 30,000 attorneys practiced law in the Philippines in the mid1980s , more than one-third of them in Manila. Counsel for the indigent, while not always available, is provided by government legal aid offices and various private organizations. Many of the private groups are active in representing "social justice" causes and are staffed by volunteers.
Members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts are appointed by the president from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. The Judicial and Bar Council consists of a representative of the Integrated Bar, a law professor, a retired member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector. Presidential appointments do not require confirmation. Supreme Court justices must be at least forty years of age when appointed and must retire at age seventy. According to Article 11 of the constitution, members of the Supreme Court "may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust." The House has exclusive power to initiate cases of impeachment. The Senate tries such cases, and two-thirds of the Senate must concur to convict someone. The judiciary is guaranteed fiscal autonomy.
The armed forces maintain an autonomous military justice system. Military courts are under the authority of the judge advocate general of the armed forces, who is also responsible for the prosecutorial function in the military courts. Military courts operate under their own procedures but are required to accord the accused the same constitutional safeguards received by civilians. Military tribunals have jurisdiction over all activeduty members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The traditional independence of the courts had been heavily compromised in the Marcos era. Because the 1973 constitution allowed Marcos to fire members of the judiciary, including members of the Supreme Court, at any time, anyone inclined to oppose him was intimidated into either complying or resigning. None of his acts or decrees was declared unconstitutional. The thirteen Marcos-appointed Supreme Court justices resigned after he fled, and Aquino immediately appointed ten new justices.
The Philippines has always been a highly litigious society, and the courts often were used to carry on personal vendettas and family feuds. There was widespread public perception that at least some judges could be bought. Public confidence in the judicial system was dealt a particular blow in 1988 when a special prosecutor alleged that six Supreme Court justices had pressured him to "go easy" on their friends. The offended justices threatened to cite the prosecutor for contempt. Aquino did not take sides in this dispute. The net effect was to confirm many Filipinos' cynicism about the impartiality of justice.
Justice was endlessly delayed in the late 1980s. Court calendars were jammed. Most lower courts lacked stenographers. A former judge reported in 1988 that judges routinely scheduled as many as twenty hearings at the same time in the knowledge that lawyers would show up only to ask for a postponement. One tax case heard in 1988 had been filed 50 years before, and a study of the tax court showed that even if the judges were to work 50 percent faster, it would take them 476 years to catch up. Even in the spectacular case of the 1983 murder of Senator Benigno Aquino, the judicial system did not function speedily or reliably. It took five years to convict some middle-ranking officers, and although the verdict obliquely hinted at then-Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver's ultimate responsibility, the court never directly addressed that question.
The indictment of former Minister of Defense Enrile on the charge of "rebellion with murder" shows that the courts can be independent of the president, but also that powerful people are handled gently. Enrile was arrested on February 27, 1990, for his alleged role in the December 1989 coup attempt in which more than 100 people died. Because Enrile was powerful, he was given an air-conditioned suite in jail, a telephone, and a computer, and a week later he was released on 100,000 pesos bail. In June 1990, the Supreme Court invalidated the charges against him. A further test of the court system was expected in the 1990s when criminal and civil charges were to be brought against Imelda Marcos. In 1991 Aquino agreed to allow the former first lady, who could not leave New York City without the permission of the United States Department of Justice, to return to the Philippines to face charges of graft and corruption. Swiss banking authorities agreed to return approximately US$350 million to the Philippine government only if Marcos were tried and convicted. Marcos did not seem to be reluctant to face the Philippine courts.
The national government in the 1990s sought to upgrade local government by delegating some limited powers to local subdivisions and by encouraging people to participate in community affairs. Local autonomy was balanced, however, against the need to ensure effective political and administrative control from Manila, especially in those areas where communist or Muslim insurgents were active. In practice, provincial governors gained considerable leverage if they could deliver a bloc of votes to presidential or senatorial candidates. Control over provinces generally alternated between two rival aristocratic families.
During Marcos's authoritarian years (1972-86), a Ministry of Local Government was instituted to invigorate provincial, municipal, and barangay governments. But, Marcos's real purpose was to establish lines of authority that bypassed provincial governments and ran straight to Malacaņang. All local officials were beholden to Marcos, who could appoint or remove any provincial governor or town mayor. Those administrators who delivered the votes Marcos asked for were rewarded with community development funds to spend any way they liked.
After the People's Power Revolution, the new Aquino government decided to replace all the local officials who had served Marcos. Corazon Aquino delegated this task to her political ally, Aquilino Pimentel. Pimentel named officers in charge of local governments all across the nation. They served until the first local elections were held under the new constitution on January 18, 1988. Local officials elected in 1988 were to serve until June 1992, under the transitory clauses of the new constitution. Thereafter, terms of office were to be three years, with a three-term limit.
The 1987 Constitution retains the three-tiered structure of local government. There were seventy-three provinces in 1991. The province was the largest local administrative unit, headed by the elected governor and aided by a vice governor, also elected. Other officials were appointed to head offices concerned with finance, tax collection, audit, public works, agricultural services, health, and schools. These functionaries were technically subordinate to the governor but also answered to their respective central government ministries. Lower ranking functionaries, appointed by the governor, were on the provincial payroll.
Chartered cities stood on their own, were not part of any province, did not elect provincial officials, and were not subject to any provincial taxation, but they did have the power to levy their own taxes. As of 1991, there were sixty-one chartered cities headed by a mayor and a vice mayor. The mayor had some discretionary power of local appointment.
Municipalities were subordinate to the provinces. In 1991 there were approximately 1,500 municipalities. At the lowest level, with the least autonomy, were barangays, rural villages and urban neighborhoods that were called barrios until 1973. In 1991 there were about 42,000 barangays.
Various reorganization schemes have been undertaken to invigorate local government. One of the most far-reaching and effective was the creation of a Metro Manila government in the mid-1970s to bring the four cities and thirteen municipalities of the capital region under a single umbrella. Metro Manila is an example of what geographers call the Southeast Asian primate city, a single very large city that is the center of industry, government, education, culture, trade, the media, and finance. No other Philippine city rivaled Manila; all others were in a distinctly lesser league. Continued rapid population growth meant that the boundaries of Metro Manila were expected to expand in the 1990s.
During martial law, the provinces were grouped into twelve regions, and that arrangement was continued in the Apportionment Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution. Because these regions did not have taxing powers or elected officials of their own, however, they were more an administrative convenience for the departments of the national government than a unit of genuine local importance. In 1991 approximately 90 percent of government services were provided by the national government. Attempts by Aquino to decentralize delivery of some services were resisted by members of Congress because such moves deprived them of patronage.
The single biggest problem for local government has been inadequate funds. Article 10 of the Constitution grants each local government unit the power to create its own sources of revenue and to levy taxes, but this power is "subject to such guidelines and limitations as the Congress may provide." In practice, taxes were very hard to collect, particularly at the local level where officials, who must run for reelection every three years, were concerned about alienating voters. Most local government funding came from Manila. There is a contradiction in the Constitution between local autonomy and accountability to Manila. The Constitution mandates that the state "shall ensure the autonomy of local governments," but it also says that the president "shall exercise general supervision over local governments." The contradiction was usually resolved in favor of the center.
By the 1990s, Philippine nationalism had not fully penetrated two regions of the country inhabited by national minorities: the Muslim parts of Mindanao and the tribal highlands of northern Luzon. Some Muslims and hill tribespeople did not consider themselves Filipinos, although they were citizens. Muslim separatism has a very long history. The Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese all had difficulty integrating the fiercely independent Moros into the national polity, and independent governments in Manila since 1946 have fared little better. The Moro insurgency has waxed and waned but never gone away. Enough Muslims participated in the 1987 elections to elect two of the twenty-four senators, but continuing land disputes were major factors preventing reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao. The grievances of tribal groups, such as the Ifugao and Igorot, in northern Luzon were of more recent origin, having been stoked by ill-considered Marcos administration dam-building schemes that entailed flooding valleys in the northern Luzon cordillera where the tribal groups lived. When Aquino came to power, she was confronted with a Moro National Liberation Front demand for separation from the Philippines, and a Cordillera People's Liberation Army allied with the New People's Army. Aquino boldly negotiated a cease-fire with the Moro National Liberation Front, and her constitutional commissioners provided for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim parts of Mindanao and tribal regions of northern Luzon.
Article 10 of the Constitution directed Congress to pass within eighteen months organic acts creating autonomous regions, providing that those regions would be composed only of provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting to be included in an autonomous region. Congress passed a bill establishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with Cotabato City designated as the seat of government, and Aquino signed it into law on August 1, 1989. The required plebiscite was set for November 19, 1989, in thirteen provinces in Mindanao and the island groups stretching toward Borneo. The plebiscite campaign was marred by violence, including bombings and attacks by rebels. Aquino flew to Cotabato on November 6, 1990, to formally inaugurate the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. She had already signed executive orders devolving to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao the powers of seven cabinet departments: local government; labor and employment; science and technology; public works and highways; social welfare and development; <>tourism; and environment and natural resources. Control of national security, foreign relations, and other significant matters remained with the national government. Because many of the provinces to be included actually had Christian majorities, and because the Moro National Liberation Front, dissatisfied with what it perceived to be the limitations of the new law, urged a boycott, only four provinces (Tawitawi, Sulu, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur) elected to join the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Cotabato City itself voted not to join. So, a new capital had to be identified. In 1991 Maranaos, Maguindanaos, and Tausugs were disputing where the capital should be. Indications were that the government of the autonomous region would not have supervisory power over local government officials.
Congress passed a similar law creating a Cordillera Autonomous Region, but in a referendum held in five provinces (Abra, Benguet, Mountain, Kalinga-Apayao, and Ifugao) on January 29, 1990, autonomy failed in all provinces except Ifugao. The reasons for rejection were thought to be fear of the unknown and campaigning for a no vote by mining companies that feared higher taxation. In 1991 the Supreme Court voided the Cordillera Autonomous Region, saying that Congress never intended that a single province could constitute an autonomous region.
In 1991 Philippine politics resembled nothing so much as the "good old days" of the pre-martial law period--wide-open, sometimes irresponsible, but undeniably free. Pre-martial law politics, however, essentially were a distraction from the nation's serious problems. The parties were completely nonideological. Therefore, politicians and office-holders switched parties whenever it seemed advantageous to do so. Almost all politicians were wealthy, and many were landlords with large holdings. They blocked moves for social reform; indeed, they seemed not to have even imagined that society required serious reform. Congress acquired a reputation for corruption that made the few honest members stand out. When Marcos closed down Congress in 1972, hardly anyone was disappointed except the members themselves.
The February 1986 People's Power Revolution, also called the EDSA Revolution had restored all the prerequisites of democratic politics: freedom of speech and press, civil liberties, regularly scheduled elections for genuine legislatures, plebiscites, and ways to ensure honest ballot counting. But by 1991 the return to irrelevant politics had caused a sense of hopelessness to creep back into the nation that five years before had been riding the euphoric crest of a nonviolent democratic revolution. In 1986 it seemed that democracy would have one last chance to solve the Philippines' deep-rooted social and economic problems. Within five years, it began to seem to many observers that the net result of democracy was to put the country back where it had been before Marcos: a democratic political system disguising an oligarchic society.
<> Corazon Aquino
<> Political Parties
<> Voting and Elections
<> Return of Old-Style Politics in the Countryside
<> Church-State Relations
<> Civil-Military Relations
<> The Media
Democratic institutions were introduced to the Philippines by the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. The apparent success of these imported practices gave the Philippines its reputation as "the showcase of democracy in Asia." Before 1972 the constitutional separation of powers was generally maintained. Political power was centralized in Manila, but it was shared by two equally influential institutions, the presidency and Congress. The checks and balances between them, coupled with the openness of bipartisan competition between the Nacionalista and Liberal parties, precluded the emergence of one-person or one-party rule. Power was transferred peacefully from one party to another through elections. The mass media, sensational at times, fiercely criticized public officials and checked government excess.
Marcos inflicted immeasurable damage on democratic values. He offered the Filipino people economic progress and national dignity, but the results were dictatorship, poverty, militarized politics and a politicized military, and greatly increased dependence on foreign governments and banks. His New Society was supposed to eliminate corruption, but when Marcos fled the country in 1986, his suitcases contained, according to a United States customs agent, jewels, luxury items, and twenty-four gold bricks. Estimates of Marcos's wealth ran from a low of US$3 billion to a high of US$30 billion, and even after his death in 1989, no one knew the true value of his estate, perhaps not even his widow.
If Marcos had been merely corrupt, his legacy would have been bad enough, but he broke the spell of democracy. The long evolution of democratic institutions, unsatisfactory though it may have been in some ways, was interrupted. The political culture of democracy was violated. Ordinary Filipinos knew fear in the night. An entire generation came of age never once witnessing a genuine election or reading a free newspaper. Classes that graduated from the Philippine Military Academy were contemptuous of civilians and anticipated opportunities for influence and perhaps even wealth. Marcos's worst nightmare came true when Corazon Aquino used the power of popular opinion to bring him down.
Aquino inherited a very distorted economy. The Philippines owed about US$28 billion to foreign creditors. Borrowed money had not promoted development, and most of it had been wasted on showcase projects along Manila Bay, or had disappeared into the pockets and offshore accounts of the Marcos and Romualdez families and their friends and partners. Many Filipinos believed that they would be morally justified in renouncing the foreign debt on grounds that the banks should have known what the Marcoses were doing with the money. Even Cardinal Jaime Sin declared it "morally wrong" to pay foreign creditors when Filipino children were hungry. Aquino, however, resolutely pledged to pay the debt. Otherwise, the nation would be cut off from the credit it needed. Although the Philippines could pay the interest on the debt every year, it could not pay the principal. This never-ending debt naturally inflamed Filipino nationalism. A Freedom From Debt Coalition advocated using the money to help the unemployed instead of sending the hard currency abroad.
Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, universally and affectionately known as "Cory," was a Philippine president quite unlike those who preceded her. Observers have groped for the right word to characterize the Aquino presidency. She was first called a "revolutionary," but later a mere "reformer." When the old landed families recaptured the political system, she was called a "restorationist."
She was born in 1933 into one of the richest clans in the Philippines, the powerful Cojuangcos of Tarlac Province. Her maiden name indicates Chinese mestizo ancestry; her Chinese great-grandfather's name could have been romanized to Ko Hwan-ko, but, following the normal practice of assimilationist Catholic Chinese-Filipinos, all the Chinese names were collapsed into one, and a Spanish first name was taken. Aquino neither sought power nor expected it would come to her. Her life was that of a privileged, well-educated girl sent abroad to the Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia, the Notre Dame Convent School in New York, and Mount St. Vincent College, also in New York. She studied mathematics and graduated with a degree in French in 1953, then returned to the Philippines to study law, but soon married the restless, rich scion of another prominent Tarlac family, Benigno ("Ninoy") Aquino, Jr. Benigno Aquino became a mayor, a governor, and a flamboyant senator, and he probably would have been elected president of the Philippines in 1973 had Marcos not suspended elections. On the same night in 1972 when Marcos declared martial law, he sent troops to arrest Benigno Aquino. Senator Aquino was incarcerated for some seven years, after which Marcos allowed him to go to the United States. In August 1983, believing that Marcos was dying, Aquino ventured back to Manila and was gunned down just seconds after being escorted from the airplane. Aquino's murder galvanized the Filipino people and was the beginning of the end for Marcos.
Ferdinand Marcos had perfected the art of ruling by dividing his enemies: scaring some, chasing others out of the country, playing one clan against another, and co-opting a few members of each prominent provincial family. The "oppositionists," as the controlled Manila press called them, were never united while Marcos was in Malacaņang, and only through the intervention of Cardinal Jaime Sin did they agree on a unified ticket to oppose Marcos in the "snap election" that the ailing dictator suddenly called for February 1986. The widow Aquino had public support but no political organization, whereas the old-line politico Salvador H. "Doy" Laurel had an organization but little popular support. After difficult negotiations, Laurel agreed to run for vice president on a ticket with Aquino. Aquino won on February 7, 1986, but the margin of victory will never be known, for the election was marred by gross fraud, intimidation, ballot box stuffing, and falsified tabulation.
Aquino had to perform a delicate balancing act between left and right, within society at large and later within her own cabinet. Aquino and Laurel triumphed in good part because of the defection of Enrile, who was then minister of defense, and Fidel V. Ramos, the acting Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff. Both men had served Marcos loyally for many years but now found themselves pushed aside by General Fabian Ver, Marcos's personal bodyguard and commander of the Presidential Security Command. They risked their lives defying Marcos and Ver at the crucial moment. Enrile and Ramos conceived of the new government as a coalition in which they would have important roles to play. Laurel saw it the same way.
In one sense, the Aquino government initially was a coalition--it drew support from all parts of the political spectrum. The middle class was overwhelmingly behind "Cory," the democratic alternative to Marcos. Most leftists saw her as "subjectively" progressive even if she was "objectively" bourgeois. They hoped she could reform Philippine politics. On the right, only those actually in league with Marcos supported him. Aquino's support was very wide and diverse.
The coalition, however, began unraveling almost immediately. Enrile thought that Aquino should declare her government "revolutionary," because that would mean that the 1986 elections were illegitimate and that new presidential elections would be held soon. When Aquino made it clear that she intended to serve out her entire six-year term, Enrile and Laurel set out to undermine her. Ramos took a cautiously ambivalent position but ultimately supported Aquino. Without his loyalty, Aquino would not have survived the many coup attempts she successfully put down.
Aquino's political honeymoon was brief. Arturo Tolentino, Marcos's running mate in the February election, proclaimed himself acting president on July 6, 1986, but that attempt to unseat Aquino was short-lived. By October 1986, Enrile was refusing to attend cabinet meetings on the grounds that they were "a waste of the people's money." Aquino fired him the next month, after he was implicated in a coup plan code-named "God Save the Queen" (presumably because the conspirators hoped to keep Aquino on as a figurehead). The plotters were suppressed, and on the morning of November 23, Aquino met with her entire cabinet, except for Laurel, who was playing golf. She asked for the resignations of all other members of her cabinet and then jettisoned those leftists who most irritated the army and replaced Enrile with Rafael Ileto as the new minister of national defense. Aquino started a pattern, repeated many times since, of tactically shifting rightward to head off a rightist coup.
Enrile was out of the government, but Laurel remained in, despite his vocal, public criticism of Aquino. She relieved him of his duties as minister of foreign affairs on September 16, 1987, but could not remove him from the vice presidency. A month later, Laurel publicly declared his willingness to lead the country if a coup succeeded in ousting Aquino. The next year, he told the press that the presidency "requires a higher level of competence" than that shown by Aquino.
The disintegration of the original Aquino-Laurel-Enrile coalition was only part of a bigger problem: The entire cabinet, government, and, some would say, even the entire nation, were permeated with factionalism. Aquino also had difficulty dealing with the military. The first serious dispute between Aquino and the military concerned the wisdom of a cease-fire with the New People's Army. Aquino held high hopes that the communists could be coaxed down from the hills and reconciled to democratic participation if their legitimate grievances were addressed. She believed that Marcos had driven many people to support the New People's Army.
The Philippine military, which had been fighting the guerrillas for seventeen years, was hostile to her policy initiative. When talks began in September 1986, military plotters began work on the "God Save the Queen" uprising that was aborted two months later. Aquino tried reconciliation with the Moro National Liberation Front and sent her brother-in-law to Saudi Arabia, where he signed the Jiddah Accord with the Moro National Liberation Front on January 4, 1987. A coup attempt followed three weeks later. In the wake of these coup attempts, Aquino reformed her cabinet but she also submitted to military demands that she oust Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo, a political activist and her longtime confidant. Her legal counsel, Teodoro Locsin, whom the military considered a leftist, and her finance secretary, Jaime Ongpin, also had to go. (Ongpin was later found dead; the coroner's verdict was suicide, although he was lefthanded and the gun was in his right hand.)
Aquino had been swept into office on a wave of high expectations that she would be able to right all of the wrongs done to the Philippines under Marcos. When she could not do this and when the same problems recurred, Filipinos grew disillusioned. Many of Aquino's idealistic followers were dismayed at the "Mendiola Massacre" in 1987 in which troops fired into a crowd of protesting farmers right outside Malacaņang. The military was simply beyond her control. The entire staff of the Commission on Human Rights resigned in protest even though Aquino herself joined the protestors the next day. Those people who hoped that Aquino would liberally use emergency power to implement needed social changes were further dismayed by the fate of her promised land reform program. Instead of taking immediate action, she waited until the new Congress was seated, and turned the matter over to them. That Congress, like all previous Philippine legislatures, was dominated by landowners, and there was very little likelihood that these people would dispossess themselves.
Aquino's declining political fortunes were revealed in public opinion polls in early 1991 that showed her popularity at an alltime low, as protesters marched on Malacaņang, accusing her of betraying her promises to ease poverty, stamp out corruption, and widen democracy. Nevertheless, Aquino's greatest achievement in the first five years of her term was to begin the healing process.
Philippine politics between 1986 and 1991 was punctuated by President Aquino's desperate struggle to survive physically and politically a succession of coup attempts, culminating in a large, bloody, and well-financed attempt in December 1989. This attempt, led by renegade Colonel Gregorio Honasan, involved upwards of 3,000 troops, including elite Scout Rangers and marines, in a coordinated series of attacks on Camp Crame and Camp Aquinaldo, Fort Bonifacio, Cavite Naval Base, Villamor Air Base, and on Malacaņang itself, which was dive-bombed by vintage T-28 aircraft. Although Aquino was not hurt in this raid, the situation appeared desperate, for not only were military commanders around the country waiting to see which side would triumph in Manila, but the people of Manila, who had poured into the streets to protect Aquino in February 1986, stayed home this time. Furthermore, Aquino found it necessary to request United States air support to put down this uprising.
Politically this coup was a disaster for Aquino. Her vice president openly allied himself with the coup plotters and called for her to resign. Even Aquino's staunchest supporters saw her need for United States air support as a devastating sign of weakness. Most damaging of all, when the last rebels finally surrendered, they did so in triumph and with a promise from the government that they would be treated "humanely, justly, and fairly."
A fact-finding commission was appointed to draw lessons from this coup attempt. The commission bluntly advised Aquino to exercise firmer leadership, replace inefficient officials, and retire military officers of dubious loyalty. On December 14, 1989, the Senate granted Aquino emergency powers for six months.
One of the devastating results of this insurrection was that just when the economy had finally seemed to turn around, investors were frightened off, especially since much of the combat took place in the business haven of Makati. <>Tourism, a major foreign-exchange earner, came to a halt. Business leaders estimated that the mutiny cost the economy US$1.5 billion.
Philippine political parties are essentially nonideological vehicles for personal and factional political ambition. The party system in the early 1990s closely resembled that of the premartial law years when the Nacionalista and Liberal parties alternated in power. Although they lacked coherent political programs, they generally championed conservative social positions and avoided taking any position that might divide the electorate. Each party tried to appeal to all regions, all ethnic groups, and all social classes and fostered national unity by never championing one group or region. Neither party had any way to enforce party discipline, so politicians switched capriciously back and forth. The parties were essentially pyramids of patronclient relationships stretching from the remotest villages to Manila. They existed to satisfy particular demands, not to promote general programs. Because nearly all senators and representatives were provincial aristocrats, the parties never tackled the fundamental national problem--the vastly inequitable distribution of land, power, and wealth.
Ferdinand Marcos mastered that party system, then altered it by establishing an all-embracing ruling party to be the sole vehicle for those who wished to engage in political activity. He called it the New Society Movement (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). The New Society Movement sought to extend Marcos's reach to far corners of the country. Bureaucrats at all levels were welladvised to join. The New Society Movement offered unlimited patronage. The party won 163 of 178 seats in the National Assembly in 1978 and easily won the 1980 local elections. In 1981 Marcos actually had to create his own opposition, because no one was willing to run against him.
The New Society Movement fell apart when Marcos fled the country. A former National Assembly speaker, Nicanor Yniguez, tried to "reorganize" it, but others scrambled to start new parties with new names. Blas Ople, Marcos's minister of labor, formed the Nationalist Party of the Philippines (Partido Nationalista ng Pilipinas) in March 1986. Enrile sought political refuge in a revival of the country's oldest party, the Nacionalista Party, first formed in 1907. Enrile used the rusty Nacionalista machinery and an ethnic network of Ilocanos to campaign for a no vote on the Constitution, and when that failed, for his election to the Senate. Lengthy negotiations with mistrustful political "allies" such as Ople and Laurel delayed the formal reestablishment of the Nacionalista Party until May 1989. Enrile also experimented with a short-lived Grand Alliance for Democracy with Francisco "Kit" Tatad, the erstwhile minister of information for Marcos, and the popular movie-star senator, Joseph Estrada. In 1991 Enrile remained a very powerful political figure, with landholdings all over the Philippines and a clandestine network of dissident military officers.
Vice President Laurel had few supporters in the military but long-term experience in political organizing. From his family base in Batangas Province, Laurel had cautiously distanced himself from Marcos in the early 1980s, then moved into open opposition under the banner of a loose alliance named the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). Eventually, the UNIDO became Laurel's personal party. Aquino used the party's organization in February 1986, although her alliance with Laurel was never more than tactical. UNIDO might have endured had Aquino's allies granted Laurel more patronage when local governments were reorganized. As it was, Laurel could reward his supporters only with positions in the foreign service, and even there the opportunities were severely limited. The party soon fell by the wayside. Laurel and Enrile formed the United Nationalist Alliance, also called the Union for National Action, in 1988. The United Nationalist Alliance proposed a contradictory assortment of ideas including switching from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government, legalizing the Communist Party of the Philippines, and extending the United States bases treaty. By 1991 Laurel had abandoned these ad hoc creations and gone back to the revived Nacionalista Party, in a tentative alliance with Enrile.
In 1991 a new opposition party, the Filipino Party (Partido Pilipino), was organized as a vehicle for the presidential campaign of Aquino's estranged cousin Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco. Despite the political baggage of a long association with Marcos, Cojuangco had the resources to assemble a powerful coalition of clans.
The Liberal Party, a democratic-elitist party founded in 1946, survived fourteen years of dormancy (1972 to 1986), largely through the staunch integrity of its central figure, Senate president Jovito Salonga, a survivor of the Plaza Miranda grenade attack of September 1971. In 1991 Salonga also was interested in the presidency, despite poor health and the fact that he is a Protestant in a largely Catholic country.
In September 1986 the revolutionary left, stung by its shortsighted boycott of the February election, formed a legal political party to contest the congressional elections. The Partido ng Bayan (Party of the Nation) allied with other leftleaning groups in an Alliance for New Politics that fielded 7 candidates for the Senate and 103 for the House of Representatives, but it gained absolutely nothing from this exercise. The communists quickly dropped out of the electoral arena and reverted to guerrilla warfare. As of 1991, no Philippine party actively engaged in politics espoused a radical agenda.
In 1978 the imprisoned former senators Benigno Aquino and Lorenzo Taņada organized a political party named Lakas ng Bayan (Strength of the Nation; also known by its abbreviated form, LABAN, meaning fight). LABAN won 40 percent of the Manila vote in parliamentary elections that year but was not given a single seat in Marcos's New Society Movement-dominated parliament. After Aquino went into exile in the United States, his wife's brother, former Congressman Jose Cojuangco, managed LABAN. Cojuangco forged an alliance with the Pilipino Democratic Party (PDP), a regional party with strength in the Visayas and Mindanao, that had been organized by Aquilino Pimentel, the mayor of Cagayan de Oro City. The unified party was thereafter known as PDP-LABAN, and it--along with UNIDO conducted Corazon Aquino's presidential campaign against Marcos.
In its early years, PDP-LABAN espoused a strongly nationalist position on economic matters and United States base rights, aspiring to "democratize power and socialize wealth." Later, after Aquino became president, its rhetorical socialism evaporated. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, PDP-LABAN had the distinct advantage of patronage. Aquino named Pimentel her first minister of local government, then summarily dismissed every governor and mayor in the Philippines. Pimentel replaced them with officers in charge known personally to him, thereby creating an instant pyramid of allies throughout the country. Some, but not all, of these officers in charge won election on their own in the January 1988 local elections.
PDP-LABAN was not immune from the problems that generally plagued Philippine political parties. What mainly kept the party together was the need to keep Aquino in power for her full sixyear term. In June 1988 the party was reorganized as the Struggle of Filipino Democrats (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino). Speaker of the House Ramon Mitra was its first president, but he resigned the presidency of the party in 1989 in favor of Neptali Gonzales.
In 1990 Aquino announced the formation of a movement called Kabisig (Arm-in-Arm), conceived as a nongovernmental organization to revive the spirit of People's Power and get around an obstinate bureaucracy and a conservative Congress. By 1991 its resemblance to a nascent political party worried the more traditional leadership, particularly Mitra. Part of Aquino's governing style was to maintain a stance of being "above politics." Although she endorsed political candidates, she refused to form a political party of her own, relying instead on her personal probity, spirituality, and simple living to maintain popular support.
Elections in the Philippines are the arena in which the country's elite families compete for political power. The wealthiest clans contest national and provincial offices. Families of lesser wealth compete for municipal offices. In the barangays, where most people are equally poor, election confers social prestige but no real power or money.
Voting rates have generally been high (approximately 80 to 85 percent in national elections), despite obstacles such as difficult transportation, the need to write out the names of all candidates in longhand, and, occasionally, the threat of violence. Filipinos enjoy and expect elections so much that even Ferdinand Marcos dared not completely deny them this outlet. Instead, he changed the rules to rig the elections in his favor.
Until 1972 Philippine elections were comparable to those in United States cities during early industrialization: flawed, perhaps, by instances of vote-buying, ballot-box stuffing, or miscounts, but generally transmitting the will of the people. A certain amount of election-related violence was considered normal. Marcos overturned this system with innovations such as asking voters to indicate by a show of hands if they wanted him to remain in office. In the snap election of 1986, Marcos supporters tried every trick they knew but lost anyway. The heroism of the democratic forces at that time inspired many Filipinos.
The 1987 constitution establishes a new system of elections. The terms of representatives are reduced from four years to three, and the presidential term is lengthened from four years to six. Senators also serve a six-year term. The Constitution's transitory provisions are scheduled to expire in 1992, after which there is to be a three-year election cycle. Suffrage is universal at age eighteen. The constitution established a Commission on Elections that is empowered to supervise every aspect of campaigns and elections. It is composed of a chairperson and six commissioners, who cannot have been candidates for any position in the immediately preceding elections. A majority of the commissioners must be lawyers, and all must be college-educated. They are appointed by the president with the consent of the Commission on Appointments and serve a single seven-year term. The Commission on Elections enforces and administers all election laws and regulations and has original jurisdiction over all legal disputes arising from disputed results. To counter the unwholesome influence occasionally exercised by soldiers and other armed groups, the commission may depute law enforcement agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In dire situations, the commission can take entire municipalities and provinces under its control, or order new elections.
The constitution also empowers the commission to "accredit citizens' arms of the Commission on Elections." This refers to the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), a private group established in the 1950s, with advice and assistance from the United States, to keep elections honest. NAMFREL was instrumental in the election of President Ramon Magsaysay in 1953, and played a minor role in subsequent presidential elections. It lapsed into inactivity during the martial law years, then played an important role in Aquino's 1986 victory. NAMFREL recruited public-spirited citizens (320,000 volunteers in 104,000 precincts in the 1987 congressional elections) to watch the voting and monitor ballot-counting, and it prepared a "quick count," based mostly on urban returns, to publicize the results immediately. Because the Commission on Elections can take weeks or even months to certify official returns, the National Movement for Free Elections makes it harder for unscrupulous politicians to distort the results. NAMFREL itself has sometimes been denounced by election losers as being a tool of United States intervention and has not always been impartial. In 1986 it favored Aquino, and its chairman, Jose Concepcion, was subsequently named Aquino's minister of trade and industry.
The final decision on all legislative elections rests with the electoral tribunals of the Senate and House of Representatives. Each electoral tribunal is composed of nine members, three of whom are members of the Supreme Court designated by the chief justice. The remaining six are members of the Senate or the House, chosen on the basis of proportional representation from parties in the chamber.
The first congressional elections under the 1987 constitution were held on May 11, 1987. Political parties had not really coalesced. Seventy-nine separate parties registered with the Commission on Elections, and voters had a wide range of candidates to choose from: 84 candidates ran for 24 Senate seats, and 1,899 candidates ran for 200 House seats. The elections were considered relatively clean, even though the secretary of local government ordered all governors and mayors to campaign for Aquino-endorsed candidates. There were sixty-three electionrelated killings. Some of these deaths were attributable to small-town family vendettas, whereas others may have had ideological motives. The armed forces charged that communists used strong-arm tactics in areas they controlled, and the communists in turn claimed that nineteen of their election workers had been murdered. Election results showed a virtual clean sweep for candidates endorsed by Aquino.
The next step in redemocratization was to hold local elections for the first time since 1980. When Aquino took office, she dismissed all previously elected officials and replaced them with people she believed to be loyal to her. Local elections were originally scheduled for August 1987, but because many May 1987 congressional results were disputed and defeated candidates wanted a chance to run for local positions, the Commission on Elections postponed local elections first to November 1987 and then to January 18, 1988. More than 150,000 candidates ran for 16,000 positions as governor, vice governor, provincial board member, mayor, vice mayor, and town council member, nationwide.
More than a hundred people were killed in election-related violence in 1988. Elections had to be postponed in six Muslim provinces, two Ilocano provinces, two New People's Army-dominated provinces, and Ifugao because of unsettled conditions. The Commission on Elections assumed direct control of many towns, including some parts of Manila. The formerly unwritten rule of Filipino politics that political killings be confined to followers and henchmen and not to the candidates themselves now seemed to have been broken: Thirty-nine local candidates were killed in the 1988 campaign. Aquino remained aloof from the 1988 local elections, but many candidates claimed her backing. Personalities and clan rivalries seemed to take precedence over ideological issues.
The final step in redemocratization was the thrice-postponed March 1989 election for barangay officials. Some 42,000 barangay captains were elected. At this level of neighborhood politics, no real money or power was involved, the stakes were small, and election violence was rare. The Commission on Elections prohibited political parties from becoming involved.
Philippine politics, along with other aspects of society, rely heavily on kinship and other personal relationships. To win a local election, one must assemble a coalition of families. To win a provincial election, the important families in each town must be drawn into a wider structure. To win a national election, the most prominent aristocratic clans from each region must temporarily come together. A family's power is not necessarily precisely correlated with wealth--numbers of followers matters more--but the middle class and the poor are sought mainly for the votes that they can deliver. Rarely will they be candidates themselves.
The suspension of elections during martial law seemed at first to herald a radical centralization of power in Manila, specifically in the Marcos and Romualdez clans, but traditional provincial oligarchs resurfaced when Aquino restored elections. To the dismay of her more idealistic followers, Aquino followed her brother's advice and concluded agreements with many former Marcos supporters who were probably going to win elections anyway. About 70 percent of the candidates elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 were scions of political dynasties. They included five relatives of Aquino: a brother, an uncle, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a cousin. Another brotherin -law was elected to the Senate. The newly elected Congress passed a bill prohibiting close relatives of government officials from becoming candidates, but it did not take effect until after the 1988 local elections. Many of the same prominent families who had dominated Philippine society from the Spanish colonial period returned to power. Commonly, the same two families vie for control of provinces. The specific reason for social and political bipolarity is not known, but it nourishes feuds between rival clans that are renewed generation after generation.
Coercion is an alternative to buying votes. Because the population of the Philippines has multiplied by a factor of nine in the twentieth century, there is not enough land to go around. As a result, tenant-landlord relationships have become more businesslike and less personal, and some old elite families now rely on force to protect their interests. Article 18 of the constitution directs the dismantling of all "private armies," but it seemed unlikely that it could be enforced.
During the Spanish colonial period, the Catholic Church was extensively involved in colonial administration, especially in rural areas. With the advent of United States control, the Catholic Church relinquished its great estates. Church and state officially were separated, although the church, counting more than 80 percent of the population as members, continued to have influence when it wanted to exert it. For much of the Marcos administration, the official church, led by archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, adopted a stance of "critical collaboration." This meant that although Sin did not flatly condemn Marcos, he reserved the right to criticize. Below the cardinal, the church was split between conservative and progressive elements, and some priests joined the communistdominated National Democratic Front through a group named Christians for National Liberation. Cardinal Sin was instrumental in the downfall of Marcos. He brokered the critical, if temporary, reconciliation between Aquino and Laurel and warned the Marcoses that vote fraud was "unforgivable." In radio broadcasts, he urged Manileņos to come into the streets to help the forces led by Enrile and Ramos when they mutinied in February 1986. The church, therefore, could legitimately claim to be part of the revolutionary coalition.
Aquino is a deeply religious woman who has opened cabinet meetings with prayers and sought spiritual guidance in troubled times. Although there were reports that the Vatican in late 1986 had instructed Cardinal Sin to reduce his involvement in politics, Aquino continued to depend on him. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter urging people to vote yes in the 1987 constitutional plebiscite. In March 1987, Sin announced that he was bowing out of politics, but two months later he broadcast his support for ten Aquino-backed candidates for the Senate and recommended that voters shun candidates of the left. In 1990 Sin defined his attitude toward the government as one of "critical solidarity."
The church was very pleased with provisions of the 1987 Constitution that ban abortion and restore a limited role for religion in public education. The Constitution is essentially silent on the matter of family planning. The church used its very substantial influence to hinder government family-planning programs. Despite the fact that the population grew by 100,000 people per month in the late 1980s, Cardinal Sin believed that the Marcos government had gone too far in promoting contraception. He urged Aquino to "repeal, or at least revise" government family-planning programs. In August 1988, the bishops conference denounced contraception as "dehumanizing and ethically objectionable." For churchmen, this was an issue not to be taken lightly. One bishop called for the church to "protect our people from the contraceptive onslaught" and the bishops conference labelled rapid population growth a "nonproblem." In 1989 the United States Department of Commerce projected the Philippine population at 130 million by the year 2020--in a country the size of California.
The Philippines had an unbroken tradition of civilian control of the military until martial law was imposed in 1972. Under Article 2 of the 1987 Constitution, civilian authority is again, "at all times, supreme over the military." Many military leaders found this difficult to accept. Under Marcos, they could count on authorization to take a hard line against communists and Muslim separatists, on opportunities to run civilian businesses and industries, and on being consulted on most matters.
Under Aquino, the officers could feel a chill coming from Malacaņang. Aquino retired all "overstaying generals," signed cease-fires with the communists and the Moro National Liberation Front, harbored "leftist" advisers in her presidential office, released political prisoners (including New People's Army founder Jose M. Sison), and only grudgingly improved military pay. Aquino also established a Commission on Human Rights to investigate and publicize instances of military abuse and only later broadened the commission's mandate to include atrocities committed by the New People's Army.
In 1983, the year of crisis resulting from the Benigno Aquino assassination, members of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1971 formed the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). Notable among its leaders was the chief of Enrile's security detail, Colonel Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan. RAM first demonstrated against corruption in the armed forces in 1985, while Marcos was president. Most RAM officers, including Honasan, have not supported a political idealogy. They viewed themselves as protectors of the people against corrupt, incompetent civilians. Others espoused an agenda with a populist, or even leftist tone. By 1990 RAM was said to no longer stand for Reform the Armed Forces Movement but rather for Rebolusyonariong Alyansang Makabayan, or Revolutionary Nationalist Alliance.
The military in 1991 contained many factions based on loyalties to military and civilian patrons, military academy class ties, linguistic differences, and generational differences. One faction consisted of those still loyal to Marcos; others consisted of those loyal to Enrile or to Ramos. Discord existed between Tagalogs and Ilocanos. Graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio were at odds with reserve and noncommissioned officers. Within the Philippine Military Academy faction, loyalties ran according to year of graduation. Another faction, the Young Officers' Union (YOU), was made up of a younger group of officers, distinct from RAM. YOU leaders were well educated; some were intelligence officers who had penetrated the communist underground and might have gained some respect for communist organizing principles, revolutionary puritanism, and dedication to ideology. They studied the writings of the late Filipino nationalist Claro M. Recto, espoused a doctrine they called Philippine nationalism, and were reported to believe that a social revolution could be sparked by a military uprising. By 1991 politicized military officers began to focus less on Aquino than on her possible successors. Whatever political leaders it supported, the Philippine military in the 1990s was expected by some observers to remain fractured, factionalized, and frustrated, and civilian control was by no means guaranteed.
Starting in 1987 a new, unsettling element clouded civilmilitary relations: vigilante groups that hunted down suspected communists and other leftists. The first and most famous such group was Alsa Masa (Masses Arise), which virtually eliminated communist influence from the Agdao slum area of Davao City. The potential for civilians to accomplish what the military could not aroused official interest. Soon there were more than 200 such groups across the country, with names that hinted at their violent, cult-like nature: Remnants of God; Guerrero of Jesus; Sin, Salvation, Life, and Property; Rock Christ; and, the frightening Tadtad (Chop-Chop), which liked to pose its members for photographs with the severed heads of their victims. Vigilantes often carried magical amulets to ward off bullets, and their rituals were sometimes performed to loud rock music.
Domestic human rights groups, such as Task Force Detainees, and international monitors, such as Amnesty International, publicized incidents of torture. Amnesty International asserted that torture of communist rebels and sympathizers had become a common practice. One paramilitary group in 1988 responded to such criticism by shooting the Filipino regional chairman of Amnesty International. Six human rights lawyers were killed in the first three years of the Aquino government. More than 200 critics of the government were victims of extrajudicial executions. Many vigilantes carried pistols; others were skilled with long, heavy knives called bolos.
Despite many documented abuses, United States and Philippine government officials have spoken in support of some vigilante groups. Aquino cited Alsa Masa's success in Davao as a legitimate exercise of People's Power. Her secretary of local government, Jaime Ferrer, ordered all local officials to set up civilian volunteer organizations or face dismissal. Ferrer was gunned down on August 2, 1987, for this and other anticommunist activities. The government made a distinction between ad hoc vigilante groups and the civilian volunteer organizations. The latter, which included Nation Watch (Bantay Bayan), were to conform to the following guidelines set forth on October 30, 1987, by the Department of National Defense: membership in the organizations was to be voluntary, members would be screened by the police, the organizations were to be defensive, and they were to eschew identification with individual landowners or politicians. Ramos fully supported the civilian volunteer organizations. He described their relationship to the uniformed military as "synergistic" and in 1989 grouped all 20,000 civilian volunteer organizations together under an umbrella organization called the National Alliance for Democracy. In reality, the lines between official and unofficial vigilante groups are often blurred. Large businesses have donated money to the National Alliance for Democracy and used its members as strikebreakers to counter leftist unions.
The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and also provides free access to records, documents, and papers pertaining to official acts. Government officials, however, tended to be leery of reporters, who sometimes ran stories gathered from a single source or based on hearsay. Libel suits were frequent in the 1980s.
Traditionally, major newspapers published in Manila have been owned by elite families. Prior to 1972 Philippine newspapers were freewheeling, often publishing unsubstantiated stories, but willing to expose wrongdoing in high places. When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he confiscated the assets of newspapers owned by families not part of his coalition. From 1972 to 1986, although newspapers were not officially government-owned or government-supported, they were controlled by Marcos's relatives, friends, and cronies. After the August 1983 Aquino assassination, newspapers gradually became more politically independent. When Marcos fled in 1986, the Commission on Good Government confiscated the assets of crony-owned newspapers and the exuberant Philippine press revived quickly; in many cases newspapers were operated by the families that had controlled them prior to martial law. In 1991 there were approximately thirty daily newspapers in the Philippines. Twelve mainly Englishlanguage broadsheets provided serious news. Fourteen tabloids, mostly Tagalog and Cebuano, offered sensationalism. Four newspapers were printed in Chinese. Only one newspaper, the Manila Bulletin, had consistently shown a profit. Another, the Inquirer, began to show a profit in 1990. Most other newspapers were losing concerns used by the businesspeople who owned them to influence government policy and officials.
Television stations in Manila were very profitable to the wealthy investors who owned them. They also emerged as a significant political factor, and coup attempts often featured assaults on television stations. There were very few television stations outside Manila. Radio reached people in remote areas, even villages without electricity. Radio stations in the provinces tended to be owned by wealthy local families involved in politics.
Philippine foreign policy in the early 1990s was broadly prodemocratic and pro-Western in orientation. Philippine international prestige was at an all-time high when Marcos was overthrown. During the Aquino administration, the Philippines pursued active, nationalist policies aimed at promoting "genuine independence" and economic development. As a charter member of the United Nations, the Philippines participated in all its functional groups, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization; the World Health Organization; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. In addition, the Philippines has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Philippines was a founding member of the Asian Development Bank, which is headquartered in Manila.
Article 2 of the Constitution states that "the State shall pursue an independent foreign policy." For historical, economic, cultural, and strategic reasons, the Philippines has been tied most closely to the United States. Economic necessity dictated maintaining a smooth working relationship with Japan. Filipinos wanted a foreign policy oriented more toward their Southeast Asian neighbors, but for most purposes implementing such a policy was not high on their agenda. The proximity and large population of China, plus the presence of Chinese in the Philippines, required amicable relations with Beijing. Because of the Muslim separatist movement, and also for economic reasons, relations with Middle Eastern countries became more important in the 1970s and 1980s.
Filipino nationalism, which is an important element of foreign policy, showed every sign of intensifying in the early 1990s. Diverse elements in Philippine society have been united in opposition to their common history of foreign subjugation, and this opposition often carried an anti-American undertone.
Leftists have long held that Philippine history is a story of failed or betrayed revolutions, with native compradors selling out to foreign invaders. In the post-Marcos years, this thesis received wide acceptance across the political spectrum. The middle class was deeply disillusioned because five successive United States administrations had acquiesced to Marcos's dictatorship, and Filipino conservatives nursed grievances long held by the left.
Relations with the United States
<> Relations with Asian Neighbors
Precisely because the "special relationship" between the United States and the Philippines has been lengthy and intimate, it sometimes has resembled a family feud. Aquino enjoyed great prestige and popularity in the United States and was named Time magazine's "Woman of the Year" for 1986. Aquino had spent much of her early life in the United States and returned in September 1986 for a triumphant tour of Washington, New York, Boston, and San Francisco, culminating in an address to an emotion-filled joint session of the United States Congress and a congressional pledge of strong support for her government. Soon after, however, Philippine and United States government leaders faced substantial differences on economic and military issues.
United States officials frequently expressed concern that Aquino was not reforming her government quickly enough to preempt the New People's Army's appeal. And, although United States officials repeatedly warned coup plotters that the United States would cut military aid if they overthrew Aquino, many Filipinos worried that what they perceived as the United States government's obsession with national security might tempt the United States to support a military coup. To allay these fears, the United States dispatched two fighter planes to protect Aquino during the December 1989 coup attempt. Nevertheless, recriminations resumed within months. Irritated by US$96 million in aid cuts, Aquino refused to meet Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney when he visited Manila in February 1990.
In the late 1980s, Philippine-United States relations were bedeviled by a new problem: heightened concern for the safety of United States military and civilian personnel in the Philippines. Two United States airmen were shot and killed in Angeles City in 1987. In 1989 Colonel James N. Rowe, who was serving with the United States Joint Military Advisory Group, was assassinated near the United States military compound in Quezon City. (In February 1991, two communists were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Rowe.) At least ten other United States citizens were killed by communists in the Philippines between 1986 and 1991. United States Peace Corps volunteers were withdrawn in 1990, when intelligence sources claimed to have uncovered plans for mass abductions. One volunteer was said to have been kidnapped by the New People's Army, but he emerged unharmed. Finally, in 1990 the United States government authorized hazardous duty pay for diplomats, troops, and other federal employees in the Philippines.
United States access to air and naval bases in the Philippines dominated Philippine-United States relations in 1991, with emotional issues of Philippine nationalism often weighing more heavily than economic or strategic arguments. The Military Bases Agreement of 1947, as amended in 1979 and updated in 1983 and 1988, was set to expire in September 1991. Clark Air Base, located north of Manila in the plain of Central Luzon, was a logistical hub for the United States Thirteenth Air Force, and Subic Bay Naval Base was an extremely valuable repair and resupply facility for the United States Seventh Fleet. Approximately 15,000 United States military personnel (exclusive of sailors temporarily ashore at Subic), 1,000 defense civilians, and 24,000 military dependents were assigned to the bases. The United States maintained that both bases were vital for power projection in the western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Middle Eastern theaters and wanted indefinite access to both facilities, along with the Crow Valley gunnery range north of Subic Bay and some smaller communications installations.
Extension of United States base rights became a pivotal issue in Manila politics. The need for some sort of military alliance with the United States was rarely questioned, but the physical presence of the bases has irritated nationalists beyond endurance. The socially deformed communities outside their gates were seen as a national disgrace. Angeles City (near Clark) and Olongapo City (near Subic) had innumerable bars and thousands of prostitutes, which caused Filipinos to be concerned about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). There were numerous criminal gangs and smugglers and criminal jurisdiction was a perennial problem.
The nuclear issue complicated matters. Article 2 of the Constitution says that the Philippines, "consistent with national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory." Interpreted strictly, this article challenged the United States policy of never confirming or denying the presence of nuclear weapons at any specific location. Aquino finessed the issue, apparently determining that it was in the national interest not to do anything to make the United States leave the bases. But the Philippine Senate in June 1988 passed by a vote of nineteen to three a bill that would have banned from the Philippines the "development, manufacture, acquisition, testing, use, introduction, installation, or storage" of nuclear weapons. The bill was defeated in the House, but its margin of passage in the Senate indicated potential difficulty in obtaining the votes of the two-thirds of the Senate required to ratify any future base agreement.
Despite negative developments in Philippine-United States relations, congruent interests in the early 1990s bound the two countries. United States foreign aid to the Philippines in 1990 reached nearly US$500 million; United States private investment stood at more than US$1 billion; and the United States and Japan were key donors to the Multilateral Aid Initiative, also known as the Philippine Assistance Plan, which offered some debt relief and new credit in return for desired structural reforms. Political activity in FilipinoAmerican communities in the United States added another dimension to Philippine-United States relations. Early maneuvering for the 1992 Philippine presidential election was as feverish among these communities on the United States west coast as it was in Manila.
For decades the Philippines was an active proponent of regionalism. In 1954 it joined Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the United States in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization against the perceived threat from the Chinese and Indochinese communist regimes. This alliance was phased out in 1977.
Manila's quest for regional cooperation received a significant boost in the 1965-66 period, when bilateral problems between Indonesia and Malaysia that had been known as the confrontation--until then the main obstacle to regionalism in Southeast Asia--gave way to neighborliness. In August 1967 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was formed by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to pursue economic, social, cultural, and technical cooperation.
The Philippines was also party to a multilateral dispute over ownership of the Kalayaan Islands, as Filipinos call some of the Spratlys, a scattered group of atolls west of the Philippine island of Palawan and east of Vietnam, also claimed in toto or partially by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Tomas Clomas, a Manila lawyer, visited the islands in 1956, claimed them for himself, named them Kalayaan (Freedomland), then asked the Philippine government to make them a protectorate. Philippine troops were sent to the Kalayaans in 1968. All parties to the dispute were interested in possible offshore oil around the islands. The law of the sea grants to any country that receives international recognition of a claim to even a rock sticking out of the water exclusive economic rights to all resources, including oil, within a 200-nautical-mile radius of that point. Manila regularly tried to extract from the United States a declaration that it would defend the Philippines' claim to the Kalayaans as part of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America, but the United States just as regularly refused so to interpret that treaty.
Aquino broke the tradition that a Philippine president's first overseas trip was to Washington. She visited Jakarta and Singapore in August 1986. Indonesian president Soeharto promised not to aid Muslim separatists in Mindanao but cautioned Aquino not to attempt reconciliation with communist insurgents. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew echoed Soeharto's warning. Both leaders encouraged the Philippines to find a way to extend United States base rights. Although the governments espoused differing world views, the Philippines has had few disputes with Indonesia or Singapore, and relations remained neighborly in the early 1990s. The Philippines enjoyed a cooperative relationship with Thailand. The two countries in 1991 had no disputes and many common interests, including a history of security cooperation with the United States.
Philippine relations with Malaysia have been bedeviled by a lingering dispute over the status of Sabah, the northeast corner of Borneo. The Philippines based its case on a claim to territories that were part of the former Sultanate of Sulu, a nineteenth-century entity whose territory straddled the present maritime boundary between Malaysia and the Philippines. In 1991 one descendent of the sultan, a Filipino citizen, still received a stipend stemming from cession of the sultanate to a British company. Philippine presidents have revived this claim occasionally. It was revealed in 1968 that Marcos was training a team of saboteurs on Corregidor for infiltration into Sabah. Marcos later decided to drop the claim, but the aggrieved Malaysians insisted on such an explicit, humiliating public renunciation that no Philippine president could meet their conditions. The Philippine constitution, by not mentioning Sabah, seems to have dropped the claim. Aquino rushed a bill to Congress in November 1987 to renounce the claim once and for all, hoping to get the issue out of the way before Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad arrived for the ASEAN summit in December, but Congress did not act.
There was little diplomatic or cultural intercourse between the Philippines and Vietnam until the 1960s. The Philippines contributed a small civic action unit to the United States effort during the Vietnam War but refused to allow the United States to mount B-52 bombing runs from Clark Air Base. (The aircraft flew from Guam, and were refueled from Clark.) Beginning in 1975, tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees entered the model refugee camp set up by the United Nations at Morong on the Bataan Peninsula. A clean, well-run place, it provided Vietnamese and Cambodians bound for the United States with training in English, American history, and vocational skills. The Philippines joined other ASEAN states in opposing Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia, even indicating a willingness to support the Khmer Rouge, if necessary, to rid Cambodia of Vietnamese forces.
Philippine-Japanese relations were smooth and successful in the early 1990s, despite bitter memories of the cruelty of the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippines in World War II. In mid-1986 the Philippines, concerned about Japan's possible remilitarization, joined with other Asian nations to protest the adoption of revisionist history textbooks by the Japanese education ministry. For the majority of Filipinos, however, World War II memories have faded or are nonexistent. Japan was a major source of development funds, trade, investment, and <> tourism in the 1980s, and there have been few foreign policy disputes between the two nations.
Aquino visited Japan in November 1986 and met with Emperor Hirohito, who offered his apologies for the wrongs committed by Japan during World War II. New aid agreements also were concluded during this visit. Aquino returned to Japan in 1989 for Hirohito's funeral and in 1990 for the enthronement of Emperor Akihito.
Philippine relations with China and Taiwan were cautious in the 1990s. Manila's relations with Beijing were hostile in the 1950s and 1960s. The unspoken threat of Chinese aid to the New People's Army was ever present but never materialized. By contrast, the Filipino-Chinese business community had many connections with relatives and partners in Taiwan. Diplomatic relations between Manila and Beijing were opened in 1973. Since that time, the relationship has been correct but not warm.
In 1988 Aquino visited China, met with elder statesman Deng Xiaoping, and made a ceremonial pilgrimage to her ancestral home and temple in Fujian Province. The closer relationship fostered by that trip later dissipated because of Beijing's sensitivity to what was perceived as a Philippine bias in favor of Taiwan. A Philippine government spokesperson had inadvertently referred to a visiting delegation from Taiwan as representatives of "the Republic of China." The disclosure of a secret visit to Taiwan, made by the Philippine secretary of foreign affairs, Raul Manglapus, in October 1989, upset Beijing even more. In 1990 Aquino reaffirmed the Philippines' one-China policy, but she reserved the right to develop trade and economic ties with Taiwan. China, for its parts, has sought with limited success to conduct an "oil diplomacy" with the Philippines, a country completely dependent on imported oil. In December 1990 Aquino welcomed the Chinese premier, Li Peng, to Manila after earlier having suspended official contacts in the wake of the June 1989 violence around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
|what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact
Copyright 2013 Mongabay.com