Philippines Politics in 1970’s

In February 1975 the Filipinos were called to the polls to express their consent to the maintenance of the martial law proclaimed in January 1973, which had given President Philippines Marcos extraordinary powers. The polls, given the climate of intimidation and violence in which the consultation took place, proved the president right: about 90% of the voters approved the maintenance of the law. In October 1976 the people were asked to express their opinion, as well as on the extension of martial law, on a constitutional amendment aimed at abrogating the National Assembly, which was never called. Beyond the results in favor of the regime, popular opposition manifested itself in violent clashes and demonstrations in the days preceding the referendum.

On the guerrilla front, after the occupation (February 1974) of the city of Jolo, capital of the Sulu Islands, by the Moro National Liberation Front which proposed the independence of the Muslim territories and the creation of a Bangsa Moro Republic, and a tightening of military operations, the situation changed in December 1976, when the president of the Moro Front, N. Misuari, and a Philippine government delegation signed a ceasefire agreement in Tripoli, with Libyan mediation. In March 1977, Marcos granted autonomy to a large southern strip of the Philippines (the island of Palawan, the Sulu archipelago and about half of the island of Mindanao) with the establishment of a provisional government open to the participation of the adherents. at the Fronte Moro.

In foreign policy, the new US policy towards South East Asia and the Philippine internal situation, where the regime had to face the rebellion of the Moro Front in the South and the Communists in the North, forced Marcos to review the diplomatic line that took shape. in his official visit to Beijing (7-11 June 1975) with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China and the break with Taiwan. In June 1976 the Philippines normalized relations with the USSR, after an official visit by Marcos to Moscow.

In April 1978, in a country ruled by a single regime party for six years, general elections were called. Taking advantage of the precarious opportunity that the regime offered, the democratic movement Popular Power (Lakas Ng Bayan) or Laban, of liberal tendency, participated in the consultation, whose leader, Senator B. Aquino, for six years in prison and sentenced to death by the courts Marcos, was allowed to run as a candidate but not to run the electoral campaign. The Movement for the New Society (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan), political expression of the Marcos regime. Immediately after the electoral result, in favor of the pro-government party, even if with fewer votes than expected, many Laban candidates were arrested on charges of subversion. B. Aquino saw his stature as national leader rise and became the “ reserve man ” of Filipino political life. To him, in January 1980, Marcos offered him freedom and a position of councilor in a constituting ” Council of Chiefs ”.

Martial law was repealed in January 1981, except for the southern islands of the archipelago where the Moro Front formations still operated, albeit on a smaller scale. This passage from authoritarianism to “ guided democracy ” was the consequence of a new development of the internal Philippine situation: the weakening of the communist-inspired revolutionary guerrillas in the north of the archipelago, the crisis of the Moro Front in the South and a more favorable economic situation. The annual national income per capita it went from $ 214 to $ 755 from 1973 to 1980, while exports – timber, sugar, copra and coconut oil – saw a slight rise on world markets. However, the development of Philippines remained the most precarious among the ASEAN countries. To remedy the chronic fragility of the economy, in April 1981 C. Virata was appointed prime minister and minister of the economy, an expert in economic and financial problems who, however, forced to operate within the old established schemes and mechanisms from Marcos, he was unable to change the country.

While the Catholic Church itself, through the voice of Cardinal J. Sin, openly opposed the Marcos regime, calling for his resignation and underlining the seriousness of the problems that the country had to face after sixteen years of autocratic rule, the Philippine president completed (September 1982) an official trip to the United States, to sanction a rapprochement between Manila and Washington after the difficult years of the Carter presidency. The purpose of the trip was to obtain new economic aid that would allow the country to get out of the critical economic situation (galloping inflation, rising unemployment, stagnation of exports) and direct it towards a ” new course ”. In exchange Marcos renewed the concession of the two air bases of Subic Bay and Clark,

On August 21, 1983, B. Aquino, Marcos’ main opponent, was assassinated at Manila airport, on his return home after three years of exile in the USA, who intended to run for the presidential elections scheduled for 1984. How he would later established a commission of inquiry, the responsibility for the murder fell on General Philippines Ver, chief of staff of the army and Marcos’ right hand man. Following this event, the regime’s credibility reached its lowest point and Aquino’s funeral turned into a gigantic demonstration against President Marcos. Despite the discredit fallen on the government, the regime could still count on the support of the armed forces, big finance and above all the United States. However, the problem of the succession to Marcos began to emerge, both due to the worsening of his state of health and the worsening of the conflicts within the palace and between the military, while the economy set the pace. The weight had to be devalued by 20%, external credit lines were deferred and industrial expansion projects suspended.

In May 1984, the elections for the renewal of the National Assembly saw the success of the opposition parties, Laban and UNIDO (United Nationalist Democratic Organization), which won 61 of the 183 seats. Following the conclusions of the commission of inquiry into the murder of B. Aquino in 1985, the Philippine armed forces were reorganized at all levels. At the end of the same year, Corazon (known as Cory) Aquino, widow of the leader assassinated, he put up his candidacy in the presidential elections of 1986, gathering around him all the Filipino opposition with the exception of the Communists, who decided to boycott the electoral consultation. This, which took place on 7 February 1986, in a climate of intimidation, violence (23 dead) and threats to opponents, saw the victory of C. Aquino, despite the very serious manipulations in the counting of votes and electoral fraud.

Despite this, Marcos elected himself president and C. Aquino launched the slogan of civil disobedience on February 16 while the Catholic Church accused the regime of no longer having a basis of morality. While the most enlightened sections of the bourgeoisie, the Catholic Church and the reform movement within the armed forces sided with Aquino in fear that the continuation of the Marcos regime would quickly bring the Communists to power, numerous members of the government and of the Filipino establishment began to abandon the regime. An identical attitude was taken by the United States, which remained neutral between the two contenders, but determined not to endorse an electoral fraud for fear of a civil war.

On February 22, 1986, the Minister of Defense, J. Ponce Enrile, and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, Philippines Ramos, urged Marcos to “resign without delay” and urged the armed forces to disobey government orders. Abandoned by all and deprived of the support of Washington, Marcos left the Malacanang palace and took refuge in the American base in Clark, while C. Aquino took office as president and head of a provisional government.

The first and most pressing problems that the new president found himself facing were both of an economic nature and related to the guerrillas, the communist one in the north of the country, and that of the Moro Front in the south. In September 1986 an agreement was signed with the leaders of the two ceasefire movements. However, in the guerrilla areas, the situation remained hot and the attacks and fighting against government forces continued on the communist side. In domestic politics, from July to November 1986, the army carried out three coup attempts, the last of which led to the expulsion of the Minister of Defense, General Enrile.

In the autumn of the same year, the new president of the Philippines made his first trip abroad. In Washington he obtained from R. Reagan economic and military aid worth 200 million dollars. Sympathy for the Filipino ” new course ” materialized in substantial credit openings also by Australia, Germany, France, Canada and Singapore.

Inside, the National Democratic Front, which was negotiating on behalf of the guerrillas, suspended peace talks with the government, which turned out to be completely useless, and both the Communists and the members of the Moro Front took up arms. In August 1987, yet another coup attempt, led by Colonel G. Honasan, former right-hand man of Enrile, made even weaker the position of President C. Aquino, whose administration was under accusation, even by the Church Catholic, for malpractice and corruption. C. Aquino, to calm the discontent of the soldiers who had remained loyal to her, and of the business world, had to yield to their requests by firing his two closest collaborators and replacing them with characters from the past regime. Vice President S. Laurel also distanced himself from his government,

Even if the corruption and the lack of political renewal disappointed the expectations of the Filipinos, from 1988 the power of C. Aquino was slowly consolidating. The economy itself registered an improvement: 3 million new jobs, an industrial expansion of about 9%, the application of the land reform that distributed 145,000 property titles, gave hope for a better future.

The death of Marcos, which occurred in Honolulu on September 28, 1988, did not, however, help eliminate all the dangers that hung over the stability of the country. In December 1989 there was an attempted coup which was crushed after five days of furious fighting and thanks to the demonstration intervention of the American air force and the mediation of Cardinal Sin. In February 1990, General Enrile and Colonel Honasan were arrested on charges of having been the inspirers of the coup. In October of the same year, about a hundred soldiers, under the command of Colonel A. Noble, mutinied in Mindanao and proclaimed the island an independent republic. The revolt, although quelled within 24 hours, highlighted the inability and total lack of reliability of the pro-government troops and gave a further blow to the prestige of C. Aquino. The difficult situation was also complicated by separatist attempts by Muslims in the south of the country (mainly from Mindanao) that Aquino herself tried to counter, albeit with little success, by granting a certain autonomy to the regions affected by the guerrillas (February 1990). In May 1992 Philippines Ramos was elected to the presidency of the Republic, a candidate supported by Aquino after the latter’s decision not to reappear. The novelty represented by this election is linked to the fact that Ramos is a Protestant (in a country where the influence of the Catholic Church in political affairs) and does not belong to the families of the country’s large landowners. The return from exile of I. Marcos, the dictator’s widow, in November 1991 was without political results.

Philippines Politics in 1970's