Archive for June 15, 2018


Political contenders in martial law Philippines

 

The corpse of Benigno Aquino Jr being loaded into a military wagon after his assassination at the Manila International Airport on 21 August 1983

 

As we did in the earlier parts of this blog series, we now specify the political contenders in martial law Philippines (1972-1986) and the political games they play.  We pay special attention to the political contests during the 1980s that ultimately led to the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986 through the unprecedented EDSA People Power Revolution.

Ferdinand Marcos and his cousin, AFP COS General Fabian Ver during the EDSA People Power Revolution

Similar to the Soviet political scene during the Mikhail Gorbachev leadership, there are three key players in martial law Philippines.  The regime is personified by the dictator, President Ferdinand Marcos, and is generally considered to be strongest political actor at the time.  Arrayed against the Marcos dictatorship were the radical armed insurgents led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (personified by CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison) and the moderate opposition led by the widow Corazon C. Aquino (affectionately called Tita Cory).  Tita Cory was the widow of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. (affectionately called Ninoy),  one of the leaders of the moderate opposition, who was murdered immediately after he deplaned from a flight at the Manila International Airport on 21 August 1983. 

 

Cory Aquino

Corazon Cojuangco Aquino

 

The outrage generated by the blatant assassination of Ninoy while under the custody of Marcos’s troops in fact was the impetus that revived the political strength of the moderate opposition.  Prior to Ninoy’s murder, the political situation got so polarized between the Marcos dictatorship and the armed communists.  It was generally believed that if the dictatorship fell, it will be through a military victory of the communist forces.  In fact, many observed that the dictatorship itself was the main recruiter, by way of its abuses, for communist guerillas.  Prior to August 1983, therefore, the moderate opposition was a minor political actor and had to be content with a junior partnership with the more muscular left through the latter’s legal mass organizations and alliances. 

 

npa fighters in isabela

NPA guerillas in Isabela, Northern Luzon

 

To be sure, there are other political players in the Philippines during that period like the Catholic Church, business groups, professional associations, trade union federations, and the like.  We should never forget to include the US government, represented by its Ambassador and his embassy staff, as a key player.  However, each of these forces will inevitably align themselves with each of the three key political contenders in the August 1983-February 1986 end-games. 

 

What were the political objectives of the major political contenders?  The obvious political objective of the Marcos dictatorship (and the dictator himself) was to stay in power and stave off the challenges from the two other players.  Ferdinand Marcos was believed to be ill since 1982 and had prepared for a successor regime in case of his demise or incapacitation.  The armed communists meanwhile hoped to seize state power through armed revolution aka protracted people’s war (PPW).  They in fact believed that they are making progress and had reached, by the early 1980s (prior to Ninoy’s assassination) a new stage in their armed struggle: that of an advanced sub-stage in the strategic defensive poised to a strategic stalemate with the dictatorship’s military forces.[1]  Prior to Ninoy’s murder, the moderate opposition simply wanted to survive given that much of their ranks were reduced through cooptation, murder, exile, imprisonment and cowardice.  However, given the tremendous political stimulus generated by Ninoy assassination, it began to entertain thoughts that it could replace the regime in power through non-armed means.

 

In the few months after Ninoy’s assassination, the moderate opposition was content to continue playing junior partner to the revolutionary Left in a now more energized anti-dictatorship movement.  They joined the communists and their allies in the broad alliance called Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA).  Nonetheless, they began organizing their own forces through such vehicles as the August Twenty One Movement (ATOM), spearheaded by Ninoy’s brother, Agapito ‘Butch’ Aquino.  Both political forces were able to mount regular protest actions against the dictatorship for the remainder of 1983.

 

The dictatorship found itself on the defensive after the Aquino assassination and sought to douse the opposition.  It first set up a fact-finding commission headed by the sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice Enrique Fernando.  However, the members of this commission resigned after legal challenges to its composition.  On October 14, 1983, President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1886, creating an independent board of inquiry, called the “Agrava Commission” or “Agrava Board”. The board was composed of former Court of Appeals Justice Corazon J. Agrava as chairwoman, with lawyer Luciano E. Salazar, businessman Dante G. Santos, labor leader Ernesto F. Herrera, and educator Amado C. Dizon as members.

 

The Agrava Fact-Finding Board convened on November 3, 1983.  Before it could start its work President Marcos accused the communists of the killing of Senator Aquino: The decision to eliminate the former Senator, Marcos claimed, was made by none other than the general-secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Rodolfo Salas. He was referring to an earlier claim that Aquino had befriended and subsequently betrayed his communist comrades.

 

The Agrava Board conducted public hearings and requested testimony from several persons who might shed light on the crimes, including the First Lady, Imelda Marcos, and General Fabian Ver, AFP chief of staff.  After a year of investigation – with 20,000 pages of testimony given by 193 witnesses, the Agrava Board submitted two reports to President Marcos – the Majority and Minority Reports. The Minority Report, submitted by Chairman Agrava alone, was submitted on October 23, 1984. It confirmed that the Aquino assassination was a military conspiracy, but it cleared General Ver. Many believed that President Marcos intimidated and pressured the members of the Board to persuade them not to indict Ver, his first cousin and most trusted general. Excluding Chairman Agrava, the majority of the board submitted a separate report – the Majority Report – indicting several members of the AFP including Ver, General Luther Custodio, and General Prospero Olivas, head of Aviation Security Commands (AVSECOM).

 

Marcos lost so much credibility even prior to the assassination and the Agrava Commission’ reports did not help in any way.  In 1985, 25 military personnel, including several generals and colonels, and one civilian were charged for the murders of Benigno Aquino Jr. and Rolando Galman (the alleged assassin who was immediately killed by soldiers also on the international airport tarmac. President Marcos relieved Ver as AFP Chief and appointed his second cousin, General Fidel V. Ramos as acting AFP Chief. The accused were tried by the Sandiganbayan (a special court). After a brief trial, the Sandiganbayan acquitted all the accused on December 2, 1985.  Immediately after the decision, Marcos re-instated Ver. The Sandiganbayan ruling and the reinstatement of Ver were widely denounced as a mockery of justice.

The assassination of Ninoy helped caused the Philippine economy to deteriorate even further, and the government plunged further into debt. By the end of 1983, the Philippines was in an economic recession, with the economy contracting by 6.8 percent.  The downturn continued in 1984-85 precipitating the worst economic crisis for the Philippines since the Second World War.  His assassination shocked and outraged many Filipinos, most of whom had lost confidence in the Marcos administration. The event led to more suspicions about the government, triggering non-cooperation among Filipinos that eventually led to outright civil disobedience that eventually climaxed in the 1986 people power revolution,  It also shook the Marcos government, which was by then deteriorating due, in part, to Marcos’ worsening health.  

By the end of 1985, the Marcos dictatorship had to contend with a worsening twin political-economic crisis.  Marcos took an unprovoked gamble and announced a snap elections scheduled for 7 February 1986 during a televised interview with an American host.  The stage was set for an electoral battle between himself and Tita Cory.  With their decision to boycott the 1986 snap elections, the communists eliminated themselves from the Philippine political center-stage.  

 

The moderate opposition made further gains during the May 1984 elections to the Batasang Pambansa, the unicameral legislative body formed after the cosmetic lifting of martial law in 1981.  Through this electoral process, they were able to rebuild their national organizations in time for the great contest in the 1986 snap elections.

 

It was indeed wise for the moderate opposition to unite behind a single presidential candidate, Tita Cory, against President Marcos.  The veteran, Salvador Laurel, agreed to be Cory’s running mate as the moderate opposition’s candidate for vice president.  The communists boycotted the 1984 elections and decided to boycott the 1986 snap elections anew.  However, many CPP members especially those deployed in the Greater Manila area and other urban centers of the country felt that boycotting the snap elections was a mistake and that the communists will be seen as being aligned with Marcos.  A boycott they opined will only help Marcos stay in power.  This disagreement, among others, will trigger the splits within the CPP in the early 1990s.

 

By boycotting the 1986 snap elections, the communists and their allies eliminated themselves as a key political player.  The key political exercise was the 1986 snap presidential elections and the communist-led NPA had no potency whatsoever in affecting the outcome of said election.  For a quarter (December 1985-February 1986) therefore, the three-player contest morphed into a polarized two-player game.  It was an electoral game, a political process that the communists boycotted.  I will argue that even if the communists did not boycott the elections and supported Cory, it would not have been able to play a significant role in the Cory government formed after the ouster of Marcos.  The other political actors that aligned eventually behind Cory—the Catholic Church, big business, the US Embassy, and the military rebels–were staunchly anti-communist and will not countenance any CPP participation in her government.

 

A polarized two-person game produces clearer results in that a winner eventually emerges.  This is especially true if the game is an electoral game.  Nonetheless, the change wrought in February 1986 did not represent a regular transition from an outgoing government to an incoming government that newly obtained an electoral mandate.  Though fraud and massive vote buying, Marcos sought victory at all costs even in the full view of an army of international journalists and foreign government observers.  The subservient parliament proceeded to declare him the winner of the February 1986 snap elections.  The electoral fraud was so blatant that Tita Cory and her lieutenants in the moderate opposition was able to whip up a substantial civil disobedience campaign after she announced her own victory in the Luneta Park.  The dictatorial regime’s weakness will be further revealed by the military mutiny led by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and his own cousin, General Fidel Ramos.[2]

 

When the few military mutineers were slowly being cocooned by hundreds of thousands of peaceful anti-Marcos civilians (jointly mobilized by the Catholic Church through the controversial Cardinal Sin, other Christian churches and religious groups, moderate opposition political parties, civic clubs , professional associations as well as by dissenting CPP cadres),  the character of the political contest changed overnight.  Over a few days, the balance of forces tilted against Marcos until finally he was persuaded by Republican Senator Richard Lugar, a key representative of President Ronald Reagan to give up.  Marcos finally left the Palace in the evening of February 25, 1986 aboard USAF helicopters to Clark Air Base in Central Luzon.  From thence, he and his entourage (and ill-gotten material assets) were flown to Hickam Air Base, Hawaii.  In this unprecedented manner, the Marcos dictatorship passed into the pages of history. [(For a fuller account, please read Mendoza (2009/2011),  This book chapter can be downloaded from http://www.academia.com].

 

 

 

________________________________________________________

[1] Influenced by Mao Ze-dong’s military writings, the CPP argued that their protracted people’s war [prosecuted mainly through its New People’s Army (NPA)], had reached a new stage—the advanced sub-stage of the strategic defensive stage—because of its capacity to deploy regular mobile forces of up to battalion-size (300-500 fighters equipped with assault rifles) in so-called tactical offensives (TOs) together with guerilla fighters in many parts of the Philippines, especially in Mindanao.  The communists also noted a newly-developed capability to launch crippling people’s strikes (welgang bayan) as additional evidence for reaching that new stage.  In Mao’s military theory, a protracted people’s war has three major stages: strategic defensive, strategic stalemate, and strategic offensive.  The CPP believed that a few years in advanced sub-stage will enable them to achieve strategic parity with the dictatorship’s military forces.

[2] Ponce Enrile reportedly broke from Marcos since he was competing with the Imelda Marcos-Fabian Ver faction.  When he supposedly learned of the Marcosian decree designating Imelda as chair of the successor ruling committee, Ponce Enrile started forming a military faction of his own headed by his protégé, Colonel Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan.  This faction was officially camouflaged under the name Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM).  The military mutiny was sparked by the discovery by Marcos of a RAM plot to attack the Presidential Palace.  Fearing arrest and even death, Ponce Enrile, Fidel Ramos, Honasan, and a few hundred RAM military rebels holed themselves in a a military camp and announced withdrawing their loyalty from Marcos and eventual support for President Cory. 

 

Reference

 

Mendoza, Amado Jr. (2009/2011). “’People Power’ in the Philippines, 1983-86”. In Civil resistance & power politics: The experience of non-violent action from Gandhi to the present, pp. 179-196. Eds. Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash. Oxford University Press.


 

PG_2017.10.16_Global-Democracy_0-01

 

Part II:  Democracy, human development and political values

 

The felicitous relationship between human development, preference for democracy, and other positive political values has been argued in extant literature.

Welzel, Inglehart and Klingemann (2003) demonstrated that socioeconomic development, emancipative cultural change and democratization constitute a coherent syndrome of social progress – a syndrome whose common focus has not been properly specified by classical modernization theory. 

 

They specified this syndrome as ‘human  development’, arguing  that  its three  components have a common  focus on broadening human  choice. Socioeconomic development gives people  the objective  means  of  choice  by  increasing  individual  resources; rising  emancipative  values strengthen people’s  subjective  orientation towards  choice; and  democratization provides  legal  guarantees  of  choice  by  institutionalizing  freedom   rights.  Analysis  of  data   from the  World  Values  Surveys  demonstrates that  the  linkage  between  individual  resources, emancipative values and freedom rights is universal  in its presence across nations, regions and  cultural  zones; that  this  human  development  syndrome is shaped  by a causal  effect of  individual  resources and  emancipative values  on  freedom rights;  and  that  this  effect operates  through its impact  on  elite integrity, as the  factor  which  makes  freedom  rights effective.

 

In a related work, Welzel and Inglehart (2005) examined democratization as an aspect of human development: human development progresses when people attain greater autonomous choice in shaping their lives.  Democratization promotes this process in so far as it institutionalizes freedom of choice based on civil and political liberties.

 

This perspective allows one to integrate modernization-based explanations and civic culture-based explanations of democratization under a common theoretical umbrella. Both types of explanations reflect aspects of human development. Modernization provides socioeconomic resources that increase people’s capabilities to act in accordance with their autonomous choices; and the rise of a civic culture promotes post-materialist values that increase people’s emphasis on autonomous choices. Linked through their common focus on autonomous human choice, socioeconomic resources and post-materialist values provide overlapping sources of pressure for the growth of freedom. Within the limits set by the extent to which freedom is not yet present, socioeconomic resources and post-materialist values are conducive to the growth of political freedom in interchangeable ways.

 

These hypotheses are tested against the massive wave of democratization processes that occurred from the 1980s to the 1990s, using data from 62 nations of the World Values Surveys. We find that democratization is driven by social forces that focus on the growth of autonomous human choice, reflecting human development. From this perspective, modernization-based and civic culture-based explanations of democratization are manifestations of the same theme: the expansion of autonomous human choice.

It is obvious that a culture of dependence and fear reflects scarcity of socio-economic resources and instrumental/materialist values.  The love, nay need for, of a strong leader, betrays a society that is fundamentally authoritarian even if garbed in democratic integuments. The newest term for this socio-cultural complex is offered by North, Wallis and Weingast (2010): the natural state. For the trio, the natural state is a limited access society that limits violence by political manipulation of a few powerful actors but doing so hinders both economic and political development.  In contrast, modern societies create open access to economic and political organizations, fostering political and economic competition.

 

But democracy does (and did) not always have good reviews.  One can only recall how the ancient Athenian philosopher Aristotle depicted democracy as the perverted version of the ‘rule of many’—akin to mob rule since the many (who are poor) will most likely violate the rights (particularly property rights) of the few (who are rich).  He further argued that democracy also stunts economic growth because the numerous poor people will demand an increase in (present) consumption expenditures that will in turn decrease the amount of investible funds—the key to expanded economic growth.  In effect, Aristotle developed a political Malthusian theorem: a growing population of enfranchised poor people will swamp and starve an economy of investment funds needed to fund future economic growth. 

 

During the last half of the 20th century, many authoritarian regimes were established in formerly democratic states in Latin America, Africa and Asia (the Philippines, included) based on a Faustian social contract: suspend democracy in exchange for economic prosperity.  The underlying premise: democracy was a luxury reserved only for prosperous societies.  It imposes too much transactions costs; it is too messy and cumbersome; it leads to dissension and disunity—and thus it does not promote economic growth.

 

With the third democratization wave that started in Southern Europe in the late 1970s and culminated with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet bloc, the intellectual opinion turned in favor of democracy.  Admittedly, the demise of Soviet-type regimes was prematurely celebrated by the likes of Francis Fukuyama in his End of History and had led to the erroneous conflation of democracy with capitalism.  The competing metaphors?  The ‘grabbing hand’ versus the ‘invisible hand’!  Much of the theoretical reasoning centers on the virtues of democratic systems vis-à-vis property rights.  It is a stylized fact that democracies are associated with individual rights, including property rights. Secure property rights supposedly encourage entrepreneurship and investments as investors are assured that the gains from investments will not be arbitrarily taken away from them by an authoritarian state.

 

However, the experience of foreign capitalists with the People’s Republic of China belies the strong association between democratic polities and secure property rights.  China has proven that even a communist state can protect property rights of capitalists for the mutual benefit of both parties.  While there may be some feeble debate whether the political economy of China is socialist and/or non-capitalist, the political dominance of the Chinese Communist Party is beyond dispute. 

 

Global public opinion on democracy appears to be more complex.  A global survey done by the Pew Research Center in late 2017 found that majorities in each of the 38 countries polled consider representative democracy a very or somewhat good way to govern their country.  Majorities in nearly all of the surveyed countries said the same thing about direct democracy. But nondemocratic alternatives also had support.  Across the surveyed countries, a median of 49% said governance by experts would be a good way to run their nation.  The corresponding figures for military rule and rule by a strong, unconstrained executive were 24% and 26%, respectively (See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/06/despite-concerns-about-global-democracy-nearly-six-in-ten-countries-are-now-democratic/ and http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/10/16/globally-broad-support-for-representative-and-direct-democracy/).  What is quite disturbing is that even in rich, well-established democracies, non-democratic political models find support  This is true even if in general, public commitment to representative democracy is highest in rich countries that have a well-functioning democracy.

 

PG_2017.10.16_Global-Democracy_0-02

 

The same Pew survey indicated that in the Philippines, only 15% of respondents were committed to representative democracy while a close 12% were open to non-democratic options.  Indonesian had a lower commitment of 12% while India registered a very low 8% commitment even as it reported, together with the Philippines, a 67% shallow commitment to representative democracy.  This phenomenon has been analyzed by scholars and had led many to qualify such democracies as ‘low-performing democracies’.  Citizens of such democracies have low opinions of democratic processes and retain significant preference for authoritarian politics due to the inability of their albeit-democratic governments to provide adequate bundles of public goods for their constituents. 

 

The Pew Research Center recently reported that Americans generally agree on democratic ideals and values that are important for the United States. But for the most part, they see the country falling well short in living up to these ideals, according to a new study of opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of key aspects of American democracy and the political system (See http://www.people-press.org/2018/04/26/the-public-the-political-system-and-american-democracy/). 

 

To be continued…


Kim Trump summit photo

 

 

Of course, I am referring to the unprecedented (and hilariously touchy-feely) meeting between US President Donald J. Trump (formerly known as ‘Dotard’ as far as the North Koreans were concerned) and North Korean leader Kim Jung-un (formerly known as ‘Rocketman’ according to Trump himself) in Singapore a few days ago.  And the simple and stark document (supposedly long on motherhood statements and short on details) regarding the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula signed by both leaders before they each left for different destinations.

 

The proverbial ink on the document was still wet yet complaints and sour-graping in many parts of the United States slowly rose in a crescendo.  A number complained that the US inexplicably backed down from its initial position of securing a complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (aka CVID) commitment from Kim.  Others said meeting Kim on such a prominent world stage was a major win for the latter and his bid to legitimize his country and oppressive regime officiated by no less than the leader of the so-called free world.    In fact, Kim also secured an invitation from Trump to visit the White House very soon.  A few focused on Trump’s faux pas when he saluted a North Korean general after the latter saluted him rather than shake his proferred hand.  Before long, cable TV commentators started characterizing Trump no longer a bully but now a ‘pussy cat’.

 

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/12/politics/what-really-came-out-of-the-trump-kim-summit/index.html

 

As if that was not enough, many (specially in Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo) were alarmed by Trump’s unilateral cancellation of joint US-South Korean military exercises in his solo press conference after his meeting with Kim, ostensibly for economic reasons.  For this reason, newly-designated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had to assure American allies that Trump did not give away too much to Kim and that sanctions will be lifted only after denuclearization had been completed ( See http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/diplomacy/article/2150404/mike-pompeo-calls-counterparts-japan-and-south-korea-brief-them and https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/13/politics/pompeo-north-korea-verification/index.html).  

 

One must ask:  What can be reasonably expected from a five-hour meeting that was almost scuttled at the 11th hour?  

My answer:  what resulted!

President Trump, I believe, won’t get cheated of his media moment, by insisting on a long document that lists all the doables on both sides (more particularly by the North Koreans) and the corresponding detailed timetable.  Those particulars must be sweated out by diplomatic teams on both sides.  If and when such a detailed agreement is ready, expect another and a more spectacular summit between Trump and Kim.  Perhaps by that time, both may have been nominated for (or have even won) the Nobel Peace Prize.  For Trump, preferably that second summit will happen before the midterm elections or at least before his term ends.  Kim meanwhile is prepared for the long haul.

 

So, we just have to wait and see.  Who knows?  Drafts of that detailed agreement may be subject of talks between the two sides when Kim visits the White House soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Kim summit picture


written with Professor Joseph Capuno of the UP School of Economics

 

 

 

Bonifacio and Katipunan

 

Introduction

It is the common belief among Filipinos that we are freedom-loving and that we prefer democracy over all other political arrangements.  This belief supposedly stems from a long history of rebelliousness against centuries of Spanish, American and Japanese colonialism.  In recent years, the preference for democracy and freedom was supposedly affirmed by the struggle against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos from 1972 to 1986 and was consolidated in the national psyche by the EDSA I people power phenomenon.  This narrative has been the staple of Filipino pop culture–movies, television serials, radio drama, literature and the like.

 

Bud Bajo massacre

American soldiers posing with killed Moro insurgents in the Bud Bajo massacre (Source: https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/moro-insurgents-1906/)

 

Filipino anti-Japanese guerillas in Mindanao

Filipino anti-Japanese guerillas in Mindanao.  See http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/981299/more-ph-war-files-not-yet-accessible

However, scholarly opinion differs from this popular perception.  Apparently, Filipinos depend on their betters, bow to power, and prefer to be led by a strong and forceful leader, one even willing to brush aside the legal niceties to get things done, and quickly.  

There is a strong literature on a ‘big men’ tradition in Southeast Asia and elsewhere (Abinales 2000, Alagappa 1995, Bayart 1993, Bratorry and van de Walle, Brown 1990, Clapham 1982, Ellen 2011, Ileto 2007, Hagesteijn and van de Velde 1996, Kathirithamby-Wells 1986, Kulke 1986, Sahlins 1963, Soenarno 1960, and Wolters 1999).  Native terms—orang besar (big men) and orang kaya (rich men) were developed.  The American Southeast Asianoligist, Wolters (1999) offered the term ‘men of prowess’.  The pioneering Filipino political scientist Remigio Agpalo (1973) asserted that Filipinos respect and fear authority and subscribe to a leader who called the shots.  Agpalo indigenized the Platonic ‘medicinal lie’ and formulated his so-called organic-hierarchical paradigm. In Plato’s writings on the role of different men in society, he likened merchants and farmers to the stomach of a person and the soldiers to the arms.  For Plato, the rulers of a society correspond to the head or brains.  Later, Agpalo will call his paradigm the Pangulo regime (with ulo referring to the head).  Even if Agpalo was obviously responding to the strength and charisma of the then newly-installed dictator Marcos, he may not be blamed since some 30 million Filipinos (given a few exceptions such as the Communists and Bangsa Moro insurgents) docilely accepted the Marcosian New Society under the joint leadership and reign of Malakas II (Ferdinand) and Maganda II (Imelda).

 

Remigio Agpalo

Prof. Remigio Agpalo

 

The play “Fake” by Floy Quintos (directed by Tony Mabesa) reminded one of William Henry Scott’s demolition of the efforts of the antiquarian Juan Marco of Pontevedra, Negros–not far from Bacolod City, not far from the fabled convent of Frayle Pavon–whose manuscripts that referred to the now-discredited Code of Kalantiaw, were earlier considered evidence of ancient pre-colonial civilizations complete with strong leaders and penal codes.

 

Fake by Floy Quintos

 

 

 

Earlier, Lande (1964) recast the ‘big men’ as the patrons in a super-ordinate relationship with subordinate clients.

Carl Lande

Professor Carl Herman Lande

The classic patron-client relationship is that between the landlord and his landless tenant.  Related to the ‘big men’ literature is an equally rich one on the role of prominent families and clans in Philippine politics best exemplified by McCoy (1999) and Simbulan (2005).  Sidel (1999) meanwhile, highlighted the ubiquity of threats, armed violence, and fraud in the rise and demise of local strong men in Philippine politics.

Immediately after the EDSA 1986 People Power Revolution, an American journalist,  James Fallows, (writing in The Atlantic Monthly) referred to the Filipinos’ damaged culture, a play on the lethal mix of almost-400 years in a “Spanish convent” and 40 years in an “American whorehouse or bordello”  (For this, please click https://www.theatlantic.com/…/11/a-damaged-culture/505178/ ).  He noted the divergence from formal institutions and de facto  behavior.  Fallows argued that Filipinos from all walks of life are not nationalistic and do not have national pride, unlike its Asian neighbors.  he went on to say that this cultural flaw is the main reason why Philippine society will remain in a muddle and economic growth will continue to be middling.

De Dios (2008) revisits the question in his inquiry into the institutional constraints to Philippine economic growth. Among other factors, he also draws attention to the same phenomenon, this time called cognitive dissonance, the divergence between formal institutions and actual practice and that this divergence from rules creates ‘pathologies’ such as corruption, boom-and-bust economic cycles, and political instability, among others.  De Dios goes further and explains why the divergence exists: coexistence of foreign and indigenous institutions and corresponding world-views, which look at the same practice differently. For instance, Westerners may call it corruption while Filipinos and other Asians would simply consider it gift-giving or grease (padulas) to facilitate transactions especially between strangers. Westerners insist on impersonal, arms-length relationships while Filipinos are socialized to valorize the family.  Former UPSE Dean Prof. Raul Fabella weighed in and talked about the contagion effect: when leaders do not walk their talk, those below them will follow suit and dissonance becomes society-wide; except in Subic and other few places where rules are implemented.

Where lies the truth?  With the experts and academics?  Or with popular perceptions?  This question is interesting and gains traction given the rise of another ‘strong man’ in the person of Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the country’s president (Curato 2017 and Heydarian 2018).  Duterte apparently models himself after Ferdinand Marcos, not hiding his admiration for the deceased dictator by having his remains buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani almost immediately after he was sworn into office in July 2016.

 

PRRD gesturing with hands

President Rodrigo Duterte (VOA photo)

 

Or perhaps, it is erroneous to generalize on the political values and attitudes of Filipinos.  After all, we are such a diverse lotIt would be interesting to find out if variables which differentiate Filipinos from each other (such as ethnic origin, educational attainment, employment and income status, religious affiliation, etc.) would be associated with differences in views regarding democracy (and related phenomena such as leadership and the role of the military in our political system) and social capital and trust; or whether Filipinos hold common values regardless of the aforementioned differences. 

It may be an opportune time to examine the relevant survey data.

 

FM in his 1986 inauguration

A defiant President Ferdinand Marcos in the morning of February 25, 1986, hours before he was spirited away from the Presidential Palace by USAF helicopters

 

To be continued…

 

Bibliography

Abinales, Patricio. 2000. “From orang besar to colonial big man: Datu Piang of Cotabato and the American colonial state. In Lives at the margin: Biography of Filipinos obscure, ordinary and heroic. Ed. Alfred McCoy. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Agpalo, Remigio. 1973. The organic-hierarchical paradigm and politics in the Philippines. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

Alagappa, Muhtiah. 1995. Political legitimacy in Southeast Asia: The quest for moral authority. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Bayart, Jean-Francois. 1993. The state in Africa: The politics of the belly. London: Longman.

Bratorry, M. and N. Van de Walle. 1994. “Neopatrimonial regimes and political transition in Africa.” World Politics 46(4): 453-489.

Brown, Paula. 1990. “Big Man, Past and Present: Model, Person, Hero, Legend.” Ethnology 29(2): 97-115.

Clapham, Christopher. 1982. Patronage and Political Power. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Curato, Nicole, ed. 2017. A Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on the Early Rodrigo Duterte Presidency. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

De Dios, Noel. 2008. Institutional Constraints on Philippine Growth. UP School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 0806.

Ellen, Roy. Ed. 2011. Modern Crisis and Traditional Strategies: Local Ecological Knowledge in Island Southeast Asia. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.

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