Archive for the ‘Philippine politics’ Category


 

Yeltsin atop a tank

Boris Yeltsin (holding a piece of paper) atop a tank in front of the Russian Parliament rallying support against the August 1991 coup

In this paper, we sought to develop three-player game-theoretic models to depict the transition from authoritarianism in both the Soviet Union and the Philippines in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  We noted that while the same models apply in both countries, the outcomes of the transitions were dissimilar.  In the Soviet Union, the radical transformer (personified by Boris Yeltsin) outmaneuvered both the conservative standpatter (personified by Yegor Ligachev) and the centrist reformer (personified by Mikhail Gorbachev) and presided over the demise of the Soviet state.  In the Philippines, meanwhile, the Johnny-come-lately centrist reformer (personified by Cory Aquino) overcame the first-mover advantage of the radical revolutionary (personified by Jose Ma. Sison), who bore the brunt of the struggle against the dictatorship of the conservative standpatter (personified by Ferdinand Marcos).

 

Gorbachev in first public appearance after Augist coup

Mikhail Gorbachev returns to Moscow after coup was crushed

 

While we may have to discount the obvious differences between the Soviet Union and the Philippines, what key variables may account for the contrasting outcomes in these transitions from authoritarianism?  The first one is the international environment (both material and ideational).  It could be argued that the prevailing international environment was friendlier to the eventual fall of communism in the Soviet Union but hostile to a communist victory in the Philippines.  Ideationally, the Marxist ideology and the communist project have been on the defensive globally and in both locations.   Stalinism in the Soviet Union is a blot on Marxism and on the Soviet communist state and party.  Stalinist practice had revealed the gap between the humane and progressive promise offered by Marx in his voluminous writings and gave rise to the phenomenon of ‘actually existing socialism’ or realsozialismus.  That reformers have been active since the late 1950s in the Soviet Union is a clear indication that realsozialismus either has lost steam after its initial successes or is essentially flawed.  The United States, arguably the more powerful state in the Cold War dyad, has not masked its goal of regime change in the Soviet Union and has worked hard, together with its global allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and elsewhere to achieve such an objective.  On the other hand, the Sino-Soviet split which divided the international communist movement in the 1960s also weakened the Soviet Union as well as helped discredit Marxist ideology.  When the United States normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China in the early 1970s, the Soviet Union had to contend with a de facto Sino-American-Western European anti-Soviet alliance.  The Soviet allies in the Warsaw Pact were a collection of weaker powers beset with the same sclerotic economies.  In effect, the balance of power and influence during the late 1980s and early 1990s were against the Soviet Union.

 

Similarly, the United States was likewise hostile to a communist victory in the Philippines, a country which hosts the largest US military bases outside continental United States.  While President Ronald Reagan was quite reluctant in ditching his personal friend, Ferdinand Marcos, he was eventually made to see the light by more prescient US officials, especially the US Ambassador and other senior staff members at the US State Department—that Marcos was a liability to the United States, that his continued rule encouraged the growth of the Communist insurgency, and that supporting Cory Aquino and her allies was the best alternative to protect US interests in the Philippines.

 

The communist insurgency in the Philippines was generally bereft of international allies.  Save for a few left-leaning parties and Church-based organizations movements in Western Europe and the United States, the Filipino communists were practically isolated from the rest of the world.  China has stopped assisting them after Marcos, following the US’ lead, normalized Philippine-China relations and adopted a one-China policy[1].  The Filipino communists’ association with China and Maoism may also be a reason why the Vietnamese communists ignored them even after their victory in 1975.  The CPP could not even forge a strategic alliance with the Bangsa Moro insurgents even if both shared the Marcos dictatorship as a common enemy given the former’s communist ideology.  For this reason, the international supporters of the Bangsa Moro insurgent secessionists were either hostile or lukewarm to the Filipino communists.  Lacking external assistance, the communist insurgency remained unable to advance beyond guerilla warfare notwithstanding its glowing self-assessments.

 

A Soviet soldier loyal to the coup

A sullen pro-coup soldier atop his tank in Moscow

 

Another important variable is the domestic balance of power in both countries.  In the Philippines, the balance of forces is arguably against the possibility of a communist victory.  Through its own decision of boycotting the 1984 parliamentary elections and more importantly, the February 1986 snap presidential elections, the CPP severed its alliance with Cory Aquino’s camp and practically removed itself from the political center stage.  The Filipino communists were practically allied with the Marcos dictatorship in this regard since an election boycott objectively helps keep the dictatorship in power.  All major anti-Marcos political forces—the US government, the Catholic Church, non-crony big business, military rebels—were hostile to a communist victory and supported the centrist reformers led by Cory Aquino for a non-communist post-Marcos polity. 

 

FM in his 1986 inauguration

A defiant dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, rallies his supporters hours before he fled from the presidential palace on February 25, 1986

 

Our understanding of what happened to Gorbachev and the Soviet Union will be facilitated if distinct phases are identified.  The Gorbachev period could be divided into four phases: 1985-86, the ‘early’ phase; 1987-1989, the ‘peak’ phase; late 1989-August 1991, the ‘confused’ or ‘retreat’ phase; and August to December 1991, the phase of ‘liquidation and reconstitution’.  The early phase represented a ‘groping’ period for Gorbachev as most of the initiatives for economic reform were simply variations of previous programs.  What was novel and refreshing in this period was the blossoming of glasnost (openness) and the friendly foreign policy initiatives to the West.  The ‘peak’ period was distinguished by moves to effect comprehensive restructuring, especially on the economic, political and ideological fronts.  The ‘retreat’ phase saw economic reform getting mired as the CPSU sustained significant political setbacks, opposition to reform got consolidated, and as the nationalities problem boiled over. The failed August 1991 coup marked the transition into the fourth phase, a relatively short one that ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

 

Yegor Ligachev

Conservative leader Yegor Ligachev

Changes in the balance of power could be charted through these four phases.  In the early phase, none of the three factions—conservative, centrist, and radical—was ascendant.  Gorbachev’s faction was clearly dominant during the peak phase.  However, Yeltsin’s faction rose in power during the ‘retreat’ phase as Gorbachev got associated with the conservatives especially on the nationalities question.  The fourth period saw the final triumph of the Yeltsin faction, the ascendance of the Russian Federation, and the disappearance of the Soviet Union.

 

The main reason why political forces and factions are personified by political leaders in both transitions from authoritarianism is the importance of a third variable: the quality and political acumen of political leaders.  Conservatives in both countries, personified by Yegor Ligachev and Ferdinand Marcos, were discredited, tired, and lacking in political acumen.  Ligachev and his colleagues foolishly misread the temper of the times, over-estimated their political strength, and launched a botched coup.  Marcos meanwhile also misread his political strength and agreed to hold an unnecessary snap presidential election.  He was supposed to serve a six-year term after his ‘election in 1981 and the next regular elections should have been in 1987.   In contrast, Cory Aquino benefited from being the widow of the assassinated Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., who in his death was likened to the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal or even Jesus Christ.  Neither the dictatorship nor the communist insurgency had an equivalent figure (Mendoza 2009/2011).  The Filipino communists, personified by CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, also misread the political climate and erroneously removed themselves from the political center stage when they boycotted the February 1986 snap elections.  Gorbachev meanwhile tarnished his reformist image and lost a lot of his followers when he sided with the conservatives on the nationalities question.  He even lobbied hard to get conservative leader Gennady Yanaev named as his vice president (The Economist 1991d).  Yeltsin’s opposition to the coup elevated his political stock and enabled him to set Gorbachev aside as the death knell for the Soviet Union played during the last half of 1991.

 

Cory Aquino

Cory Aquino

 

 

What further insights could be gained from these two transitions from authoritarianism albeit in two most dissimilar countries?  First is the banal observation that a three-player political contest will most likely morph into a two-player game for a victor to emerge.  Otherwise, the political game will remain unresolved.  Second, reforms gain traction if first, they are initiated by factions of the ruling regime and second, if the ruling regime gets divided.  In both countries, the desire to end authoritarianism had been articulated by the relatively powerless underclasses and isolated political personalities.  Only after the cudgels of reform (and regime change) had been taken over by elite opposition leaders saw the creation and mobilization of a supportive political mass movement to win victory.  Of course, as noted earlier, the quality and political acumen of these elite opposition personalities matter.

 

NPA guerillas

Communist guerillas in the Philippines

 

Another insight concerns the non-violent character of both transitions from authoritarianism.  The non-violent removal of Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986 through a mass uprising that had started in 1983 was a landmark event both in the Philippines and internationally. It introduced the term ‘people power’ into academic and journalistic discourse and was used as a model for subsequent civil disobedience movements in Asia and the Soviet bloc.  The mobilized crowd is thus a key feature in both transitions.  The apparent key here was the side-lining of violence-prone political forces in both the Soviet Union and the Philippines.  The Soviet conservatives, rebuffed in the constitutional and parliamentary fronts, tried to win the political contest through a coup but were defeated anew ironically through non-violent means.  The Filipino communist revolutionaries were meanwhile sidelined by their own strategic error of isolating themselves from the anti-dictatorship movement that chose to fight the dictator through the ballot box and not through guns.  In both episodes, millions of aroused and mobilized unarmed civilians tipped the balance of power in favor of the eventual victors.  As a consequence, the Soviet Union disappeared and the Marcos dictatorship was ousted. 

_______________________________________________

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Books, book chapters and journal articles

Aslund, Anders (1991). “Gorbachev, Perestroyka, and Economic Crisis.” Problems of Communism 40(1-2): 18-41.

Bachrach, Michael (1976). Economics and the Theory of Games. London: Macmillan.

Bonner, Raymond (1987). Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy. New York: New York: Times Books.

Boudreau, Vince (2004). Resisting Dictatorship: Repression and Protest in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bova, Russell (1991). “Political Dynamics of the Post-Communist Transition: A Comparative Perspective.” World Politics 44(1): 113-138.

Carr, E.H. (1950). A History of Soviet Russia: The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, Vol. I. New York: MacMillan.

Ferrer, Ricardo (1990). “A Mathematical Formalization of Marxian Political Economy.”  UP School of Economics Seminar Papers.

International Monetary Fund, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and European Bank for Reconstruction (1990). The Economy of the USSR. Washington, D.C.: IMF.

Jones, Gregg (1989). Red Revolution: Inside the Philippines Guerrilla Movement. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Kagarlitsky, Boris (1990). Farewell Perestroika: A Soviet Chronicle. London: Verso Books.

Kochan, L. and Abraham, R. (1982). The Making of Modern Russia. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Mendoza, Amado Jr. (1992). “The Soviet Reform Process, 1956-1991: From Socialist Renewal to Liquidation.” MIS Thesis, University of the Philippines (ms.).

Mendoza, Amado Jr. (2009).  “’People Power’ in the Philippines, 1983–86.” In Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, pp. 179-196. Ed. Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash. Oxford University Press. 

Munting, Roger (1982). The Economic Development of the USSR. London: Croon Helm.

Nove, Alec (1982). An Economic History of the U.S.S.R. Penguin/Pelican Books.

Olcott, Martha (1991). “The Soviet (Dis)Union.” Foreign Policy No. 82, pp. 118-136.

Preobrazhensky, Eugen (1980). The Crisis of Soviet Industrialization: Selected Essays. London: MacMillan.

Snyder, Richard (1992). “Explaining Transitions from Neopatrimonial Dictatorships”. Comparative Politics 24 (4): 379–400.

Snyder, Richard (1998). “Paths out of Sultanistic Regimes: Combining Structural and Voluntarist Perspectives”.  In H. Chebabi and J. Linz (eds.). Sultanistic Regimes.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 49–81.

Thompson, Mark (1995). The Anti-Marcos Struggle: Personalistic Rule and Democratic Transition in the Philippines. New Haven: Yale University Press.

 

  1. Periodical articles

PDI (1991a). “Union treaty snagged over tax powers.” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 June 1991.

PDI (1991b). “9 republics back union treaty.” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 July 1991.

PDI (1991c). “Gorby plan draws party support.” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 July 1991.

The Economist (1990). “Tsar of a crumbling empire.” 17 March 1990.

The Economist (1991a). “Crime and punishment.” 19 January 1991, pp. 49-51.

The Economist (1991b). “Gorbachev bends to survive.” 27 April 1991.

The Economist (1991c). “And now, Ukraine.” 7 December 1991.

The Economist (1991d). “Superstar without superpolicy.” 5 January 1991.

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________Yeltsin atop a tank

 

 

[1] See Mendoza (2009/2011) and Casiple and Mendoza (2015) for further details.

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Amado M. Mendoza, Jr.

Department of Political Science

University of the Philippines (Diliman)

E-mail: ammendozajr@gmail.com

 

PRRD gesturing with hands

 

 

 

Democracy is the most difficult socio-political regime. It requires a critical mass of economically-independent citizens imbued with adequate intelligence and a healthy civic spirit to get engaged in public matters. Democracy demands a lot both from the governors and the governed. Authoritarianism does not. Democracy offers the possibility of a progressive empowerment of citizens. However, the process is not automatic or natural. The true sovereigns, the people, citizens and all in the body politic, must empower itself even as it is mindful of its public duties and responsibilities. After all, the default behavior of all if not most political leaders in any political regime is to fear and prevent the growth of an empowered citizenry.

 

 

PG_2017.10.16_Global-Democracy_0-02

 

The health and quality of a democracy depends on its capacity to unify a people divided regularly by elections. That used to be the strength of the US. No longer true since the election of Obama. Now, Donald J. Trump is president only of his political base like Rodrigo R. Duterte in the Philippines.

Unification after elections is achieved if the ruling government, together with its partisans, respects, defends, and promotes the legitimate interests of electoral minorities and political opposition. The primary obligation of all is to pay taxes and uphold the law.  Both chief executives revel at savaging political opponents and tilting against enemies and social ills (real and imagined), to catcalls, cheers and the great delight of their partisans.  Trump seems to be at war with his own Republican party. 

 

 

Kim Trump summit photo

US President Donald Trump enjoying a media moment with North Korean leader Kim Jung-un in Sigapore

Duterte did Trump one better recently and has upped the ante by repeatedly attacking the Catholic Church, its clergy, and even Jesus Christ and His teachings.  Earlier, he declared that the Philippine Constitution is just a piece of paper and that he is not bound by it.  In fact, he argued that the basic law of the land was being used by his political enemies to frustrate his ‘Change is Coming’ programme—a mishmash of promises and motherhood statements.  Instead of being appalled by an apparent volte-face from his oath of office, Duterte is cheered on by his followers who seems amenable to the establishment of a nebulous ‘RevGov’ or revolutionary government.   Instead of being impeached for culpable violation of the Constitution, a pliant legislature initiated impeachment proceedings against one of his most prominent critics instead.  Instead of arresting him, the Philippine National Police (PNP) recently declared that his will is the law.

 

On the whole, both presidents are the latest exemplars of uncivil demagoguery and uncouth thuggery, though Trump seem to be copying from Duterte’s playbook.  Notwithstanding their departures from usual norms of civility and public conduct, both conduct themselves with great confidence buoyed by the support of subservient political lieutenants, legislators, judges, bureaucrats, and their defined political bases.

 

Southeast-Asia-Political-Map-CIA-2003

A number of my colleagues at the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science and College of Social Science and Philosophy had strongly suggested that it would be better for all if we stopped calling the socio-political system in the Philippines a democracy but label it instead as an electoral oligarchy–a political system ruled by a faction of the political-economic elites by voters in regular elections both at the local and national levels.

 

They make a very strong case. While indeed elections had been and being are mounted regularly (at least, after 1986 to present day; and between 1946 and 1972), the first test of being fair and fraud-free has not been met repeatedly. For this reason, losing candidates almost always claim that they had been cheated rather than bested in a fair electoral contest.  In many parts of the country, dependent voters either sell their votes or are cowed to vote according to the preferences of local strong men.  Anecdotal evidence suggest that in Muslim Mindanao, ballots are pre-accomplished and pre-counted inside municipal halls and police/military camps while voters innocently cast their votes in full-view and duly recorded by national mass media.  Entry into the candidates’ pool is restricted by laws banning supposedly nuisance candidates—laws which effectively bar less prosperous and less-connected citizens from running for public office.

 

Philippine congress

Philippine Congress hears President Aquino’s SONA

Secondly, virtually the same political families and clans have dominated Philippine politics since elections had been instituted by the American colonial authorities at the beginning of the 20th century as an anti-insurgency and anti-revolutionary strategy–that is to divide the Filipinos who wanted to complete the Philippine Revolution and establish an independent Philippine nation-state.  When outsiders from the under-classes managed to win electoral posts, the ruling oligarchy decided to kick them out of office by branding them as subversives.  If there were new entrants into the ruling circles at both the local and national levels, they are immediately socialized into the dominant political culture, the elements of which include these truisms: the public treasury is a private trough for politicians and other public servants!  And that one must be smart and fast enough to figure out how to get the most of it while in power.  It is never too early to prepare for re-election so good times will never end!  Political support is gained through the grant of special and divisible favors and goodies to supporters, backers, and financiers.  After all, we are above the law.  We are in fact the law.  We execute what we declare is law; we legislate; we interpret what is lawful; and we enforce the law!

Lastly, the country’s political system is hobbled by a flawed system design.  Marrying a multi-party system (which the political science literature finds to be best paired with a parliamentary system) with a presidential system, all chief executives since President Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1992) are minority presidents.  Notwithstanding the wisdom of having second round run-off elections, the country’s political leaders argued against the exercise deeming it to be too expensive and divisive (!).  Furthermore, the single presidential term limit had the unintended consequence of weakening already feeble political parties.  The outgoing president, nominally the leader of a ruling party, is reduced to being a lame-duck and cannot impose discipline.  In many instances, ambitious politicians who were unable to win their political parties’ nod found it easy to bolt and form new parties behind their candidacies.  In this respect, political parties remain candidate- centered rather than programmatic and served mainly as vehicles for the political ambitions of clan-supported politicians who, once in office, will rewards family, friends, supporters and financiers with political posts, juicy government contracts, and/or policy favors and preferential treatment.

 

To be continued…


Part VI: Modeling the Philippine political game (1983-1986)

As in the Soviet Union, we identify the Philippine political game during the late martial law period from August 21, 193 to February 25, 1986 as a three-person game.

FM in his 1986 inauguration

Let there be three players: Agent (1) is the moderate reformer [MR], who stakes out a ‘centrist’ (essentially unarmed contestation) programme for the Philippines because of the presence of agents (2) and (3). The second agent, Agent (2) is the conservative standpatter or regime stalwart [CO] and the third player, Agent (3) is the radical revolutionary [RR]. Each of these three agents in the Philippine political ‘game’ have distinct goal functions:

  • MR : G (MR)
  • CO: G (CO)
  • RR: G (RR)

The goal functions of these three agents could be construed as maximization problems subject to constraints. For example, the reformist goal function, G (MR) could be written as the Ferrerite function:

  • G (MR) = Max MR’ = Max (F, D, E)

= Min (UI, EW, SUS)

where MR’ is a row vector defined as:

  • MR’ = [C1, S1, C2e, C3e, S2e, S3e, I, T, r]

where

C1 = a measure of comprehensiveness of the reform program[1] and 0 < C1 < 1

C2e = MR’s expectation of the extent of Agent (2), or CO’s conservative program and 0 < C2e <1

C3e = MR’s expectation of the extent of Agent (3), or RR’s radical program and 0 < C3e < 1

S2e = MR’s expectation of Agent (2), or CO’s political strategy

S3e = MR’s expectation of Agent (3), or RR’s political strategy

S1 = MR’s political strategy for reform

I = measure of supportiveness of international environment and 0 < I < 1

T = state of available theoretical guidance and ideological support

and r = residuals

In this case, maximizing MR’ means maximizing (C1, S1) subject to the {C2o, C3o, S2o, I, T, r} constraint where the C2o, C3o, S2o, and S3o are the actually observed values rather than MR’s expectations regarding the program and strategy of the two other players. This means that there are solution values C1* and S1* equivalent to:

  • C1* = f(C2o, C3o, S2o, S3o, I, T, r)
  • S1* = g(C2o, C3o, S2o, S3o, I, T, r)

The goal functions of the two other agents could be cast similarly as constrained maximization problems. The contents of their goal functions will contain similar C2, C3, S2, and S3 factors. The same {I, T, r} constraint applies to all three agents. Part of the constraint for Agents (2) and (3) will be their opponents’ political program and strategy.

NPA guerillas

Even with distinct goal functions, one can conceive of all three agents participating in a political game of gathering the broadest support and amassing the maximum amount of resources and personnel to prevail and implement their respective programs. It seems realistic to assume, given the Philippine political situation immediately after Ninoy’s assassination, that most likely not a single anti-regime agent can win. In this case, two-person coalitions must and will be formed for a winning program to be adopted. Such a winning program will obviously be a compromise.

Cory Aquino

Should Agents (1) and (2) coalesce against Agent (3) [which is unlikely but is possible since both are united in opposing communism and are either opposed to or are wary of Agent (3)] and win, the solution values to the game will be represented by C1,2* and S1,2* equivalent to:

  • C1,2* = h(C3o, S3o, I, T, r)
  • S1,2* = i(C3o, S3o, I, T, r)

C1,2* could be construed as the political compromise forged between Agents (1) and (2) while S1,2* is their joint strategy versus Agent (3). The compromise between these two agents could be anywhere between the first and second scenarios outlined below. Perhaps the moderate reformer (MR) will get some foothold in the government in an elite power-sharing arrangement while the conservative gets assured that the he remains the leader of the Philippines. The moderate reformer (MR) might likewise gain some concessions for the participation of non-Marcos crony business firms in the commanding heights of the Philippine economy. Both actors will most likely allow the United States government to continuously play a prominent role in Philippine politics and foreign policy.

We can likewise work out similarly-structured solution values for coalitions between Agent (1), the moderate reformer, and Agent (3), the radical revolutionary. In fact, such a coalition existed after the Ninoy assassination in August 1983 up to eve of the May 1984 parliamentary elections. This coalition between Cory’s moderate opposition and the left led by Sison was practically dissolved when the latter refused to support the former and boycotted the 1984 parliamentary elections. The split between the two was further confirmed when leftist legal political forces formed Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (or BAYAN) while non-communist anti-dictatorship mass organizations coalesced in a rival alliance called BANDILA.

A coalition between Agent (2), the conservative standpatter, personified by the dictator himself, and Agent (3), the radical revolutionary personified by CPP founder Sison, is theoretically impossible since both fought each other in the battlefields. However, one can argue that such a coalition (albeit tactical) was practically formed when the CPP boycotted the snap presidential contest that pitted Marcos against Tita Cory. The CPP then had to share the defeat inflicted on Marcos by Cory’s political alliance which eventually included the US government, military rebels, the Christian churches, and big business.

If, as had actually happened (after the February 7, 1986 snap elections), Agent (1) opposed a coalition of Agents (2) and (3) and won, the relevant solution values are represented as:

  • C1* = j(C2,3o, S2,3o, I, T, r)
  • S1* = k(C2,3o, S2,3o, I, T, r)

The games that these three agents played were asymmetric PDs. This point could be seen if we subdivide the over-all game into 2-person sub-games. In the contest between the moderate reformer and the conservative, the reformer can only choose amongst the following options: compete, neutralize, compromise, or surrender. In contrast, aside from the above options, the conservative may cooperate with the moderate reformer against the radical revolutionary. The asymmetry can be seen also in their pay-offs. For the reformer, his positive and negative pay-off is quite discernible. From the conservative’s point of view, it is only his negative pay-off (in the event of the reformer’s triumph) that is clear. He loses power, perks and privileges. He is not sure what positive pay-offs are in store for him under a reformist regime. The positive pay-offs may only exist in the form of side-payments the reformist makes in his behalf to buy the conservative’s cooperation, or at least, his neutrality.

The contest between the conservative and the radical revolutionary seems to be a zero-sum game. One side’s gain is the other side’s loss. However, as had actually happened, Sison de facto allied with Marcos against Tita Cory when the CPP decided to boycott the 1986 snap elections over the objection of many CPP cadres and activists. The 3-person contest morphed into a 2-person game and with Sison sidelined from center-stage, Tita Cory’s side gained the biggest price—the presidency—when her alliance forced Marcos to flee to Hawaii.

An initial analysis of the Philippine political game during the late martial law period (August 1983-February 1986) indicate the following possible scenarios. The first and last scenarios are most unlikely with the last one having less chance than the first to happen.

  • First: No or very cosmetic change (classic authoritarianism): CO wins
  • Second: :Elite power sharing without substantial democratization: MR and CO coalition wins
  • Third: Democratization without significant socio-economic reform: MR and RR coalition wins or solo MR victory
  • Fourth: Democratization with substantial socio-economic reform: MR and RR coalition wins
  • Fifth: Installation of a communist-led government: RR wins

After the Ninoy assassination up to the eve of the 1984 parliamentary elections, one can argue that the Cory forces were courted by both sides for their own purposes. While the obvious alliance is against the dictatorial regime and between Cory’s and Sison’s forces, it could likewise be reasoned that Marcos placated the opposition by allowing the moderate opposition more seats in the parliament. In effect, a tactical Marcos-Cory alliance was formed to wean the moderate opposition from allying with the communists. Marcos apparently realized that the communists were a more implacable foe than Cory. If the communists won power in February 1986, among their most likely first acts would be a summary trial and the execution of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, plus General Ver.

1986-EDSA-1-People-Power-Revolution-Philippines-anti-Marcos

EDSA I, 1986

From December 1985 to February 1986, the Philippine political game clearly got transformed into a two-person non-cooperative zero-sum game between the Marcos faction and the moderate reformers (with the radical revolutionaries eliminating themselves from the political stage). The conservative position became increasingly unviable and Marcos became more and more isolated during the fateful four days of the unprecedented February 1986 People Power Revolution. He was asked to give up and leave the Palace by his main prop, the US government as most of his military commanders and troops withdrew their support and pledged their loyalty to Cory. Marcos had to go and his dictatorship had to end.

TO BE CONCLUDED


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.


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.

Hagesteijn, Renee and Piet van de Velde. 1996. Private politics: A multi-disciplinary approach to “Big-Man” systems. Leyden: Brill.

Heydarian, Richard. 2018. The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt against Elite Democracy. London: Palgrave Pivot.

Ileto, Rey C. 2007. Magindanao, 1860-1888: The career of Datu Utto of Buayan. Manila: Anvil Books.

Kathirithamby-Wells, J. 1986. “Royal Authority and the “Orang Kaya” in the Western Archipelago, circa 1500-1800.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 17(2): 256-267.

Kulke, Hermann. 1986. “The Early and the Imperial Kingdom in Southeast Asian History.” In Southeast Asia in the 9th to the 14th centuries. Ed. David Marr and Anthony Milner. Singapore: Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 1-22.

Lande, Carl. 1964. Leaders, Factions, and Parties: the Structure of Philippine Politics. Monograph No. 6. New Haven: Yale University — Southeast Asia Studies.

McCoy, Alfred. 1999. An Anarchy of Families: Family and State in the Philippines. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Sahlins, Marshall. 1963. “Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 10(3): 285-303.

Sidel, John. 1999. Capital, Coercion and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines. Stanford University Press.

Simbulan, Dante. 2005. The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy. Quezon City: UP Press.

Soenarno, Radin. 1960. “Malay Nationalism, 1896-1941.” Journal of Southeast Asian History 1(1): 1-28.

Strathern, Andrew. 1980. The rope of moka: Big-men and ceremonial exchange in Mount Hagen, New Guinea. Cambridge University Press.

Windybank, Susan and Mike Manning. 2003. “Papua New Guinea on the Brink.” Issue Analysis No. 30 <http://cis.org.au/images/stories/issue-analysis/ia30.pdf> March 30, 2011.

Wolters, O. W. 1999. History, Culture and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives, rev. ed. Ithaca, New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications in cooperation with Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.


It is the sad truth that a people deserve the government it gets. The poor quality of our polity is not merely or mainly due only to the poor quality of our politicians and bureaucrats but also due to the steady degradation of the quality of our own people and citizens most of which may be mired in the daily grind of making ends meet.

I speak as a senior citizen whose interest in politics and governance started decades ago–in my grade school years.

However, I also notice a similar lack of civic spiritedness and concern about the common weal among comfortable people thus material poverty may not be the cause for apathy. It is poverty of the human spirit.

Studying the history of other peoples, it seems that great shocks such as international war, revolution, and extensive natural disasters provide defining moments for a nation to unite and put its house in order. Should it come to that?

Reflecting on our own experience, I note that we have yet to unify around key ‘boundary’ questions:

1).

WHO/WHAT ARE WE?

Filipino?

Bangsa Moro?

Ilokano?

Bisaya?

midget Americans?

brown Chinese?

2).

WHERE DO WE LIVE?

 

Treaty of Paris limits?

plus the West Philippine archipelago?

plus the Philippine Rise?

 

3).

HOW DO WE CHOOSE OUR LEADERS?

Elections?

Coup d’etat?

People power?

Vote buying/selling?

Armed violence?

Rizal warned earlier that there are no tyrants unless there are slaves. Politics is really a relationship. Most of our despicable politicians were (sadly) elected into office. We are also complicit in the corruption of state officials and institutions. True, there are pathologies and imperfections in our instititutions. But these pathologies have long been analyzed and sensible solutions had been proposed. Why can’t we as a people adopt these solutions?

Is it because of the opposition of an intransigent political elite?

But then, who is truly sovereign?

Aren’t they our servants?

Or what we have here in the Philippines is an electoral oligarchy pretending to be a full-blooded democracy?

And that, we do not have what it takes to fix our house?

Comments. questions, and reactions are most welcome.


A Filipino Marxist, Ricardo Ferrer (1990) attempted to construct a formal mathematical model of Marxist political economy.  We use his model to illuminate and understand better the essence of the reform process in the Soviet Union and its ultimate outcome in late 1991.  After doing so, we explore the fitness of the same model in the analysis of the transit from authoritarianism in the Philippines since 1983 and beyond.

 

Ferrer’s model devoted attention to the Marxist propositions regarding the correspondence between so-called ‘forces of production’ and ‘relations of production’ as well as the appropriate state and/or state form.  His key insight: non-correspondence invites both reform and/or revolution.

 

The appropriate model is reproduced below.

 

Let L be the vector (L1, L2, …, Ln-1, Ln) which measures the development of the forces of production in society.[1]

 

We define q as the level of operation of the economy so that 0 ≤ q ≤1,

and Z as the ratio of surplus labor to total labor .

Then

(1)                             Z = Z (L, q)

 

In equation (1), Ferrer notes that Z may be thought of as the surplus product per worker divided by total product per worker, where the total includes, apart from the surplus, what is considered the necessary requirement (for consumption) of each worker on the average.  This is conceptually equivalent to the Marxian notion of surplus labor divided by total labor.

 

By definition, 0 ≤ Z < 1; meaning, necessary labor can never be equal to zero while surplus labor can.

 

At all levels of the economy, some amount of unproductive but socially necessary labor is needed.  For instance, trading firms facilitate the circulation of products while financial intermediaries expedite the flow of funds from surplus cash holders to borrowers-users.  In that case, Ferrer postulates a social cost function Cu:

(2)                Cu = Cu (L, R, RS, RS’, RI’, q)

 

Where

L      =  (L1, L2, …, Ln-1, Ln)

R     =  (R1, R2, …, Rn-1, Rn)

RS   = (RS1, RS2, …, RSn-1, RSn)

RS’  = RSR

RI    = (RI1, RI2, …, RIn-1, RIn)

RI’  = RIR

q =    level of operation of the economy

 

The variables R1 to Rn index relations of production; RS1 to RSn are the corresponding laws applicable to production relations R1 to Rn.  We would imagine that under a given state, laws would correspond to relations such that RSi = Ri (where i = 1, 2, …, n-1, n).  Similarly, RI1 to RIn are the ideological representations of the relations of production variables.  Ideally, they should also correspond wholly.  RS’ and RI’ measure deviations between actual relations of production and their legal and ideological representations.  Intuitively, we see that the larger RS’ and RI’ are, the larger the total social costs will be.

 

We know the last point to be true by noting that when property arrangements tend to run afoul of the law and social beliefs, it would be more costly to impose worker discipline.  In addition, if property rights are questioned, greater transactions cost will attend normal economic exchanges.  Unproductive labor will tend to be higher at all operational levels of the economy.

 

An efficient economy is one which is able to attain the maximum net surplus.  In that case, the economic problem is to maximize net surplus NZ which is the difference between Z and Cu by choosing the appropriate values for q, R, RS’ and RI’ given the level of development of productive forces L.  In notation, this is equivalent to

(3)          Max [Z(L, q) – Cu (L, R, RS’, RI’, q)]

{R, RS’, RI’, q}

 

Ferrer also shows that maximizing net surplus NZ is the same as minimizing total cost at a given level of the economy’s operation, i.e., at a given q.  This means that the social goal could also be written as

(4)           Min Cu (L, R, RS’, RI’)

{R, RS’, RI’}

 

Equations (3) and (4) indicate that relations of production and superstructure, laws and state action and ideology, correspond to the level of development of productive forces if they maximize net surplus NZ in society.  The object of any social reform (or revolution) is to remedy non-correspondence whenever and wherever such is present.  In case of correspondence, the social goal is to optimize the levels of L and q.  A greater reform project tries to effect correspondence as well as advance L and q simultaneously, or at least, sequentially after securing correspondence.  This appears to be Gorbachev’s intent.

 

The struggle for reform (or the revolutionary struggle) will be a political contest.  In such a contest, politicians of all stripes, from reactionaries to reformists to revolutionaries will participate and contend.  In such a struggle, even the variable L will be part of the political programme offered for the (s)electorate’s consideration apart from R, RS, and RI.  As Ferrer puts it: “The assumption that the development of L is entirely autonomous must be discarded, insofar as self-interest seeking men running political parties can benefit from some intervention in L, as the results of such intervention satisfies some demand, and would tend to maximize political parties’ chances of getting the reins of power” (Ferrer 1990: 106).  In other words, competing parties will offer complete programs which have political, economic, and cultural components.

 

To be continued…

 

Next part:  The Political Contenders and the Games They Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bova, Russell (1991). “Political Dynamics of the Post-Communist Transition: A Comparative Perspective.” World Politics 44(1): 113-138.

Ferrer, Ricardo (1990). “A Mathematical Formalization of Marxian Political Economy.”  UP School of Economics Seminar Papers.

Mendoza, Amado Jr. (1992). “The Soviet Reform Process, 1956-1991: From Socialist Renewal to Liquidation.” MIS Thesis, University of the Philippines (ms.).

Mendoza, Amado Jr. (2009).  “’People Power’ in the Philippines, 1983–86.” In Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, pp. 179-196. Ed. Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash. Oxford University Press. 

[1] In Ferrer’s model, there are eight (8) L variables which measure the degree of worker control over instruments of production (L1), raw materials (L2), the level of development of material instruments of production, or roughly, capital intensity (L3), level of development or processing of raw materials (L4), the level of development of labor power, which indicates the degree of substitutability between workers within enterprises (L5), within a particular economic sector (L6), within the entire economy (L7), and the level of development of economic space (L8).  Economic space, defined in Marxian terms, consists of total productive fixed capital stock (such as factory buildings, silos, roads, ports, etc.) in an economy.  All eight L variables have values between 0 and 1.  Thus, L is the vector (L1,…, L8).