Archive for the ‘Ferdinand Marcos’ 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. 



  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.


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]


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.


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.


written with Professor Joseph Capuno of the UP School of Economics




Bonifacio and Katipunan



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:


Filipino anti-Japanese guerillas in Mindanao

Filipino anti-Japanese guerillas in Mindanao.  See

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…/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…



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 <> 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.

NOVO TRENDS PH Survey March 21-16 2015

I may have written many times earlier about people power, specially people power in the Philippines.  Nevertheless, it lends to continuous reflection.  All historical events attract attention and are vulnerable to various interpretations and revisions (if you will).

For the first time, the anniversary of People Power 1986 will be commemorated in Cebu City instead of Malacañang (as announced earlier) or even EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) where hundreds of thousands of Filipinos cocooned soldiers rebelling against President Ferdinand Marcos.  To my mind, it was just right to celebrate in Malacañang–the seat of state power.  I can still recall the final night when ordinary people stormed what they thought was the Palace (it was the office of the National Media Production Center in the Palace grounds) and vented their rage on portraits of the dictator and his wife. I was a journalist with the Business Day then and together with colleagues, we were able to enter the inner sanctum with soon-to-be Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo.  I remember lusting after cartons upon cartons of new books in Marcos’ study and the smell of urine in his sleeping quarters.

Now that it will be celebrated in Cebu City, it may be seen as a corrective to the imperial Manila-centricity of EDSA (of all three EDSA people power episodes, for that matter).  It seems a stretch to say that Cebu City earned the “right” because Tita Cory was there with the nuns when Enrile and Ramos announced their defection in her favor.

Filipinos stood tall after the dictator and his entourage hitched a ride first to Clark Air Base (in Pampanga province) and thence to Hickam Air Base in Hawaii.

Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, and BongBong Marcos (now Senator) at the presidential balcony, morning of February 25, 1986

Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda Marcos, and BongBong Marcos (now Senator) at the presidential balcony, morning of February 25, 1986

Yet, 28 years after Marcos fled, the event has apparently lost its resonance and many Filipinos consider it as any other day of the year.

EDSA I, 1986

EDSA I, 1986

The disappointment is most likely the result of extremely high expectations of EDSA I.  February 1986 should be seen as the beginning rather the omega of our quest for a better society.  The limitations of EDSA I must be laid bare for all to acknowledge.  The economic and political crises that crippled the Philippines after the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983 convinced politically active Filipinos that the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos was the only solution.  For most, there was agreement that it must be accomplished in a non-violent manner, an accord not shared by communist insurgents and the military putschists.

No other consensus was possible within the anti-Marcos ranks. It was not feasible to agree on asset reform, tenure of the US military bases, prosecution of human rights violations, form of government, and other issues.  To force a consensus is to surely invite dissension and division and will surely surely weaken the anti-Marcos forces.

In this sense, EDSA I should be seen as necessary but insufficient to effect much needed reforms in our society.  It was necessary to break the stranglehold of the Marcoses and their cohort on political and economic power so the basic rules of the ‘game’–the Constitution could be written and adopted freely.  Ideally, the Constitution will govern the processes through we resolve our differences and our debates of national issues.

To be sure, EDSA I is a rupture from the political rules.  At certain historical junctures, rules get in the way of resolution of political conflict and politics take on an irregular route.  In this case, people power.  People power episodes, however, are short-lived and unstable.  For reason, the default behavior is to redraw rules and return to regular politics.

President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, 1998-2001

President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, 1998-2001

EDSA II offered a dilemma in that it was so different from EDSA I.  President Erap Estrada may be a corrupt president (who must be given his day in court) but he had an unquestionable electoral mandate.  He was no over-staying dictator like Marcos.  Nevertheless, rules were bent and he was (constructively) deposed by the perfumed set.

EDSA II, January 2001

EDSA II, January 2001

What probably broke the proverbial camel’s back was Erap’s humiliating arrest and mug shot aired on national TV.  Before the actual arrest and broadcast, I approved of it at the time as an instance of the rule of law.  Given the circumstances, however, I was not surprised by EDSA III, “poor people” power of April-May 2001, just a few months from EDSA II. EDSA III was also different in that tens of thousands stormed the Presidential Palace to oust the new President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. That the rebellion was crushed at the palace gates is another story.

Mugshot of President Joseph Estrada

Mugshot of President Joseph Estrada

Storming the Presidential Palace, EDSA III, May 1, 2001

Storming the Presidential Palace, EDSA III, May 1, 2001

As things stood, people power was used to change (or restore) leaders in the Philippines.  Two episodes succeeded while another failed.  Could it be because EDSA III’s agenda was more than a mere change in leadership?  In other instances, people power had been associated with sordid grabs for power by unelectable political actors.  All episodes inflated the role of the uniformed services in national life.

What next for people power? As we know it?

The Baltazar Aquino Papers (BAP) are documents generated by the ‘perpetuation of testimony’ proceedings (Special Proceedings No. 002) conducted by the Sandiganbayan from September 1988 to November 1989.  The Sandiganbayan is a special court created by the Philippine government to try corruption cases filed against government officials.

After the ouster of President Marcos in February 1986, the government of President Cory Aquino initiated several  moves for the general purpose of recovering so-called ‘ill-gotten wealth’ from the Marcoses and their cronies and to prosecute them for ‘grave crimes against the Filipino people.’  Among these moves included the creation of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the subsequent filing of several suits (civil and criminal) in various courts in the Philippines and in other countries.

The Sandiganbayan ‘perpetuation of testimony’ proceedings were conducted for the purpose of recording for posterity and future use the testimony of an ailing Baltazar A. Aquino (who was 78 years old in 1989), former Secretary (or Minister when the Philippines adopted a parliamentary form of government in 1978) of Public Highways during the Marcos highways.  The proceedings were actually done in conjunction with the hearing of several civil suits against Marcos, his family, and friends where Baltazar Aquino himself was a prosecution witness.  At the time, the government of President Cory Aquino had decided, based on national security considerations, against allowing the Marcoses to return to the country.  For this reason, only civil suits were filed against the Marcoses in Philippine courts.  Under existing Philippine laws, when a criminal case is filed, the defendant must be physically present in the court and face his accuser.


The perpetuation of Balatazar Aquino’s testimony was done before the 2nd division of the Sandiganbayan.  Meanwhile, the civil suit against Marcos, his family, and friends (Civil Case No. 0002) was heard at the graft court’s 3rd division up to November 1989.  Ferdinand Marcos died while in exile in Hawaii on 28 September 1989.  In the light of Marcos’ death, the perpetuation of Aquino’s testimony was terminated in early 1990.  Solicitor General Francisco I. Chavez withdrew the petition for the perpetuation of Aquino’s testimony on 2 February 1990.


A general picture of Marcos’ irregular relationships with Japanese firms and suppliers vying for Japanese government-funded projects in the Philippines emerges from the Aquino testimony, the papers supplied by Oscar Rodriguez, and documents pertaining to the Angenit Investment Corporation headed by Marcos crony and former parliamentarian Andres Genito Jr.  The Marcos-Japanese relationship started with the Japanese Reparations Program, administered by the Reparations Commission headed by Marcos war buddy Gen. Eulogio Balao.  It continued up to the last years of the Marcos presidency when the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) became the main conduit of Japanese public funds into the country following the end of the Reparations Program.


In general, the Japanese government-provided funds are to be used to finance several general infrastructure and development contracts in the Philippines.  The equipment requirements of these projects were to procured from Japanese manufacturers or suppliers in the usual manner of so-called ‘tied aid.’  Ostensibly, the Japanese contractors must compete with each other in a bidding process where the qualified bidder submitting the lowest bid was awarded the contract.


However, Marcos and his associates perfected a system wherein no Japanese firm could win a contract unless a 15 percent (of the total contract price) ‘commission’ was paid.  This ‘commission’ would be included in the total contract price to be paid by the Philippine government out of Japanese government-provided funds.


Except for a specific instance (i.e., the Cagayan Valley Electrification Project) where they attempted to win contracts without paying any ‘commission’ to Marcos, the Japanese firms generally acceded to the ‘commission’ system.  All qualified bidders, therefore, knew that they were expected to pay the ‘commission’ if they wanted to win a contract.  They would still ‘compete’ in the bidding process.  One cannot be blamed however for thinking that since all were willing players anyway, the contracts were judiciously assigned to individual contractors in some sort of a queueing system.  This meant that if a firm was unable to win a contract for a particular project, it was sure to get one for another project in the future.


The key Marcos aides involved in the operations were Gen Eulogio Balao, Secretary Baltazar Aquino, Deputy Secretary Oscar Rodriguez, and Andres Genito Jr.  Balao collected ‘commissions’ on projects financed under the Reparations Program; most of these projects were administered by Philippine government agencies other than the Department of Public Highways.  Genito took Balao’s place when the latter had a stroke and eventually died in 1977.  In a kind of division of labor, Aquino collected commissions on projects administered by the Department of Public Highways and financed by the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF).  Rodriguez, who was accountable only to Marcos, though technically Aquino’s subordinate, took care of the technical function of accepting and evaluating bids and recommending (to Marcos) the award of contracts to specific Japanese suppliers.  He could have been in charge of the ‘queueing’ system alluded to earlier.


The Japanese firms that paid regular contributions to Marcos through Balatazar Aquino included Sakai Heavy Industries, Sumitomo Corporation, Toyo Corporation, Nissho-Iwai, and Mitsui & Company.  Four representatives of Japanese firms–Susumu Makino of Sakai, Yoshio Kotake and Mr. Hara of Toyo Corporation, and Mr. Sato of Sumitomo–alternatively handed over these payoffs to Baltazar Aquino in Hongkong.


Among the key revelations of the Sandiganbayan proceedings include the following:


  1. On several occasions from July 1975 to July 1976, Secretary Aquino travelled to Hongkong to receive monies from Japanese firm representatives, particularly Susumu Makino of Sakai Heavy Industries.  Aquino would then deposit the money to a numbered account (No. 51960) with the Hongkong office of the Swiss Bank Corporation.  A Swiss Bank Corporation official in Hongkong, a Mr. Barasoni issued deposit receipts which Aquino will turn over to Marcos upon his return to Manila.
  2. Baltazar Aquino testified that Marcos instructed him to keep his Hongkong activities secret and unknown even to Aquino’s wife.  Aquino wrote Marcos a letter dated 25 May 1977 promising to keep his mouth shut.
  3. After Gen. Balao’s death, Marcos expressed some worry that Genito was not giving a proper accounting of ‘commissions’ received through Angenit Investment Corporation.  Rodriguez was asked to perform an audit and he was able to prepare a schedule of collections made by Balao and Genito.  Genito was found, in one instance, to be short of a hundred thousand dollars (US$100,000.00).  For his part, Genito tried to persuade Rodriguez to withhold his deficiency from Marcos.
  4. Yoshiko Kotake of Toyo Corporation wrote Genito to advise President Marcos not to use Baltazar Aquino to collect ‘commissions’ from Japanese firms.  Kotake warned of a possible scandal (similar to the Lockheed affair which led to the imprisonment of former Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka) since Aquino was a high government official.  Aquino was himself in charge of Japanese government-funded projects in the Philippines.


The papers collectively known as the Oscar Rodriguez Papers (ORP) are documents given to a parliamentary mission sent by the Japanese Socialist Party (that later changed its English name to Social Democratic Party of Japan in 1991) to the Philippines in March 1986.  The parliamentary mission was dispatched to Manila following the release of the Marcos Honolulu Papers (MHP) by the US government.  Media coverage of the MHP in Japan was extensive since the papers strongly hinted at corrupt business practices and other irregularities of several prominent Japanese business firms awarded contracts in connection with Japanese-government funded projects in the Philippines.

In Manila, the parliamentary mission was able to meet Oscar Rodriguez, who allowed the visiting parliamentarians to copy the almost 1,400-page document set he had in his possession.  Rodriguez, undersecretary of the Department (or Ministry) of Public Highways, was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos as the implementing officer of the Philippine-Japan Project Loan Assistance Program (PJLAP).  The PJLAP was a special government agency organized by President Marcos to oversee to oversee all Japanese government-funded yen credit projects in the Philippines after the imposition of martial law in September 1972.

Four years earlier, the Japanese Reparations Program ended.  A provision of the peace treaty between Japan and the victorious powers provided that Japan must pay indemnify the nations it conquered and occupied during the Second World War.  Under this program, the Philippines organized the Reparations Commission to receive the Japanese indemnifications used to finance infrastructure and other development projects.  The Commission was headed by Marcos’ friend, war-buddy, and fellow Ilocano, Senator (formerly General and Secretary of National Defense) Eulogio Balao of Cagayan province.

It could be discerned from the perpetuation of testimony proceedings of former Marcos cabinet member Baltazar Aquino (subject of another blog post), and documents pertaining to the Angenit Investment Corporation in the Marcos Honolulu Papers (MHP) that Balao ensured that percentages of Japanese reparation payments found their way into President Marcos’ bank accounts.  Since these Japanese public funds were used to purchase Japanese equipment and services (in the manner of ‘tied aid’), Japanese suppliers had to pay ‘commissions’ to Marcos through Balao so they can be awarded the suppliers’ contracts.

For his part, Baltazar Aquino said he collected ‘commissions’ arising from contracts with Japanese suppliers.  He also revealed that Balao collected these ‘commissions’ for Marcos when Balao headed the Reparations Commission Mission in Japan.  Andres Genito Jr., president of Angenit Investment Corporation and former Batasang Pambansa assemblyman took over Balao’s duties when the former general and senator died in 1977.

It appears that Rodriguez was on the technical, ‘clean’ side of the Marcos ‘squeeze’ operations on Japanese contractors.  His office coordinated, among others, the preparation of pre-bidding requirements and qualifications, and the acceptance and evaluation of bids from competing Japanese and (sometimes, Filipino) suppliers and contractors vying for Japanese government-funded projects.  This coordination function was needed because particular projects were handled by distinct public agencies.  For example, projects in the Bataan Export Processing Zone (BEPZ) were handled by the Export Processing Zone Authority (EZPA) while the National Power Corporation (NPC) had oversight over the Cagayan Valley Electrification Project.

In the ORP collection, one could find several letters of recommendation from the heads of such agencies and evaluation reports of these agencies’ technical committees and/or boards all addressed to Rodriguez.  He would then recommend to President Marcos the award of particular contracts to specific suppliers.  President Marcos would approve or disapprove Rodriguez’ recommendation through marginal notes on the same recommendation-memoranda.  Most of the documents in the ORP set are of this nature.  In a few instances, presidential approval was communicated by aides Jacobo Clave or Joaquin Venus Jr.

Rodrigues sometimes recommended the amendment of existing contracts.  Requests and recommendations for the purchase of additional equipment received by Rodriguez from various government agencies served as bases for these contractual changes.  The changes were then relayed by Rodriguez to the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF), the new Japanese new aid agency, that had first to approve the changes before the new contracts can be implemented.


In the evaluation of bids submitted by Japanese contractors for a particular project, the administering public agency solicited the technical opinion of hired project consultants.  These consultants included Filipino and Japanese experts and firms.  Some of these evaluation reports are included in the ORP set.  Also included in the collection are several offer/bid letters of Japanese suppliers addressed to Rodriguez as well as his letters to the latter.  In his replies, Rodriguez asked for improvements in the offers such as the shortening of delivery periods, assumption of supervisory expenses, and the like.


The ORP included summary reports that provide a macro-picture of Japanese government-funded projects in the Philippines during the Marcos years.  These documents include the following:


  1. The set of papers entitled “Approval of Awards of Contracts” lists the pertinent papers for several project contracts entered into by the governments of Japan and the Philippines from 1977 to 1986;
  2. A status report as of February 28, 1986 on Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) project loans.  The status report covered a total of 54 projects organized in 10 loan packages involving some 180.75 billion yen.  Of this total, 36 projects were completed while the rest were ongoing; and
  3. An untitled set of papers offer detailed information on loan use including the list of contracts concluded, description of contracts, name of contractor, contract identity number, and contracted amount.


[Subject of next blog post: Baltazar Aquino Papers (BAP)]