Posts Tagged ‘martial law’


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)]


On the night of 25 February 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos and their children plus their closest associates (like Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco) were whisked off Malakanyang Palace by USAF helicopters.  They spent the night at Clark Air Base and were subsequently flown to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii, headquarters of the US Pacific Command.

The Marcos Honolulu Papers (MHP) were documents seized by the US Customs Service from the Marcos party upon arrival at Hickam.  After being catalogued, the entire document set was turned over to the US State Department and Rep. Stephen Solarz, chairman of the House sub-committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Solarz then released copies of the MHP, except for at least a hundred pages which were supposed to be personal in nature, to the mass media and academics.  The Philippine government under President Cory Aquino then received its copy through the New York office of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency established by President Aquino to recover ill-gotten Marcos wealth.  The PCGG was subsequently able to obtain copies of the Solarz-withheld pages.

Logo of PCGG

In connection with a book project with Japanese colleagues on the corrupt collaboration between Marcos and private Japanese companies , I annotated every page of the almost 2,000 page MHP set.  [Unfortunately, I lost the electronic file of these annotations due to defective hard drives and floppy disks.)  An initial examination of the documents suggests two possible hypotheses about their nature.  The first and more plausible one avers that the MHP is composed both of papers kept personally and carefully by Marcos over the years and documents which were randomly picked up and packed in the confusion of his last days in Malakanyang Palace.  If this is the case, future analysts of the MHP must attempt to segregate one set from the other.

The second, and apparently less tenable thesis, holds that all of the papers were indeed carefully-kept personal files of Marcos.  If this interpretation was true, then seemingly innocuous papers, like the curriculum vitae of an assistant provincial fiscal or an obscure community nurse, must be studied for possible connections with the man himself.  Or could they simply indicate the broad range of concerns that occupied Marcos during his twenty-year rule.

As it is, the document set is a formidable collection of papers of diverse nature, including financial reports, stock certificates, letters, handwritten notes, business cards, and then some.  Instead of trying vainly to devise a scheme to tie all the papers into a unified, comprehensible lot,  it is better to highlight which ones are most interesting or useful in understanding what Marcos did during those years.

For those who are interested in the business activities of Marcos, his immediate family, and his close friends and cronies–the papers relating to the Herdis Group, Inc (HGI), Prime Holdings, Universal Holdings, financial reports prepared by Carlos J. Valdez, bank transaction reports, Roberto Benedicto, Rolando Gapud, Jose Y. Campos, Rodolfo Cuenca, and the Bataan Shipyard & Engineering Co., Inc. (BASECO) could be examined.  Included in this group are papers pertaining to the Angenit Investment Corporation, headed by Marcos crony and former Batasang Pambansa (National Parliament) assemblyman Andres Genito Jr.  The Genito papers are useful to investigators of transactions entered into between Japanese companies and Filipino firms concerning Philippine projects financed by Japanese official development assistance (ODA) funds. (I know that most of the names and firms mentioned here are relatively unknown to a contemporary audience.  I will discuss them in greater detail in a future blog post.)

The overpriced and never used Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

With the Herdis papers is a detailed accounting of the $60 million commission received by Herdis on Marcos’ behalf received from Westinghouse, the supplier of the Bataan nuclear power plant.  The Philippine government under Tita Cory submitted this report as evidence in the case it filed in a US court against Westinghouse for fraud.

The papers about the dissolution of the marriage and divorce of Ms. Aurora Pijuan (former Ms. International) and Mr. Tomas Manotoc (who later married Imee Marcos), the letter of Marcos’ nephew Michael Keon providing for the “settlement of all outstanding matters” between Keon and “the family of H. E. Ferdinand E. Marcos,” and the file on the American actress Dovie Beams, believed to have carried on a scandalous affair with Marcos in late 1970–will certainly appeal to those interested in the personal lives of the Marcoses.

Most of the papers initially withheld by the US authorities were secret or confidential Philippine government intelligence reports on various corrupt activities, including bribery, malversation, nepotism, and rape, of a high official of the Department of Local Government and Community Development (DLGCD) and the Metro Manila Commission, where Imelda Marcos served as chairperson.

Jimmy Carter, 1980 presidential candidate of Democratic Party

Gen. Fabian Ver, chief of Marcos’ praetorian guard

The collection includes pieces of evidence of how Marcos employed governmental power and resources for various ends.  Among them are reports on various ‘intelligence’ funds, and the apparent distribution of large sums of money during the February 7, 1986 snap elections.  Of particular interest is a statement of expenses of the Mabuhay Corporation which made several political contributions to American politicians and political parties, including $50,000 apiece to 1980 presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.  These contributions were cleared through Gen. Fabian Ver, commander of the Presidential Security Command.

Ronald Reagan, 1980 presidential candidate, Republican party

Ferdinand Marcos sent Imelda to meet with Mao Zedong, China’s leader, to establish diplomatic relations and end China’s support of Philippine communists

Several papers allude to the growing power and political role of Imelda Marcos.  An outstanding example is a handwritten presidential decree (numbered 731 and dated 7 June 1975) that provided for the creation of an executive committee to be headed by Imelda that would assume the powers and responsibilities of the President in the event of Marcos’ death or permanent disability.

The wealth and diversity of the papers contained in the collection make the MHP one of the “must-see” sources for serious students of the Marcos period.


In this post, I continue with the presentation I made at the UP College of Law remembering martial symposium last Friday, the 40th year anniversary of its imposition.

In previous entries, I already intimated that I was captured on September 16, 1973, tortured and interrogated for about two or three weeks, and detained until December 12, 1974.  I use the term “captured” instead of “arrested” because of the absence of arrest warrants.

How does torture feel like, look like?  I am sure a number of you in the audience are members of fraternities and you went through initiations.  I am a fratman and I went through an initiation before getting accepted.  A frat initiation is a dress rehearsal to torture but  is not its equivalent.  Take a fraternity initiation and multiply the intensity, the pain, the anxiety and what have you by a factor of 100 or a 1000 and you will have experienced tactical interrogation at the hands of intelligence operatives.

By and large, fraternity initiation masters want the neophytes to survive the initiation so the latter could graduate as brothers.  In contrast, the aim of tactical interrogators is to extract information.  If one gets maimed or killed as a result, that was the least of their concerns especially if the interrogation is done in their safe-houses.  If the captive dies, there’s deniability.

How reliable is the information extracted captives under duress?  There are two schools of the matter.  One asserts that the data extracted is useful and truthful.  A captive resists or withholds the truth but will do so to stop the pain.  The other school stresses the utility of other means like psychological warfare (sleep and food deprivation, disorientation, and humiliation)  and drug-aided (e.g. ‘truth serum’) questioning.  This approach believes that these techniques, since they are not frontal attacks on the person of the captive, are more effective since they either induce a false sense of security or disorientation.

In my own experience, there was a division of labor between those who deliver pain and those who ask questions.  The pain producers prepare you, soften you up for the inquisitors.  They are like a wrestling tag team.  Sometimes, if the interrogators do not get the info they you have, they send you back to the torturers.

You may have noticed that I am intellectualizing this part of my martial law experience.  It is not because I have forgotten.  It is because I cannot forget even if I wanted to.

After undergoing tactical interrogation, we were sent to the Ipil Rehabilitation Center (IRC), a minimum-security detention center inside Fort Bonifacio (now in the Global City area).  In comparison, Ninoy Aquino was detained in a maximum-security detention facility.  In Ipil, we had both an aboveground and underground organization.  Both were geared to organize our mass escape.  A month before the scheduled mass escape, the coordinators outside were captured.  As a result, the scale of the eventual escape was reduced but was still successful.

 

It was a propaganda coup for the anti-dictatorship movement and perhaps because of the embarrassment it caused, about 200 of us were released from detention on December 12, 1974.  Prior to our release, we were digging escape tunnels.

 

There were many more of us who were released than those who were left behind.  While I was generally happy, I also felt sad because of those still detained.

 

I went home to fully realize that  I now had  a family and that I had new responsibility.  My wife, who was also an activist, evaded capture and gave birth to our first child when I was still detained.  Upon my release, I had to work to support my family even if I did not have a bachelor’s degree.  I got employed in Makati through the help of former activists.  This new persona became the cover for my and my wife’s continued anti-dictatorship activities.

 

Of course, this continuing political activity caused anxieties within our families.  It narrowed our social circles to family and fellow activists.

 

It was a good thing that I eventually joined the UP faculty.  To my mind, it was the best cover.  It also afforded the most expansive environment for political activity, study, and reflection.  It also broadened my social circles to include students, colleagues and other professionals.  Notwithstanding martial law, I felt at home in UP.

 

If I were to sum, martial law made me, shaped me.  It may be over, but I am, together with many others, what I am because of it.

 

I do not consider myself as its victim because I think I emerged stronger.  What I believe is that the entire nation, except the Marcoses, their cronies and minions, were victimized by martial law.  Alas, a great number of them still strut around as if they have done nothing wrong.

 

 


This morning, I spoke at a symposium on martial law organized by the UP College of Law and the Alpha Sigma Fraternity together with General Victor Corpus (ret.) and Butch Dalisay, professor of English in UP.  All three of us were tortured and detained during the martial law period.  Admittedly, the most interesting story was that of then Lt. Corpus, who defected to the Communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) in December 1970 but got disillusioned and surrendered to the government, detained for 10 years, and released only after the ouster of Marcos in February 1986.  He will likewise be reinstated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines as commander of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), the same unit hunting him when he was with the communists.

The symposium organizers asked us to narrate our experiences under martial law and to explain how it shaped our lives.  Corpus decided instead to explain the hows and whys of his defection to the NPA.  Butch and I were obedient to the organizers’ preferences.

When my turn came, I emphasized that the imposition of martial on September 21, 1972 was an auto golpe, a power grab of the incumbent Marcos to perpetuate himself in power.  Under the prevailing 1935 Constitution, Marcos was limited to two terms as president and his second term was to end in 1973.

Since the Third Philippine Republic started in July 1946, an unwritten rule was followed by the two factions of the ruling elites organized as two contending political parties–the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party.  The rule stipulated that no standard bearer gets re-elected so that each faction takes turns in plundering the public treasury and milking the advantages of incumbency such as percentages on contracts, overpricing, etc.  Furthermore, the property rights of elites who lost the elections must be respected.  “What we stole remains ours” seemed to be the operational principle.

The re-election of Ferdinand Marcos in 1969 through the massive use of “guns, goons and gold” was seen by the Liberals was a rule violation.  Of course, that was par for the course among the elites but it caused great bitterness among the ranks of the defeated Liberal Party that they were ready to cooperate with Marcos’ other enemies.

The first effect of martial law: I did not become an electrical engineer.  In fact, I could not imagine why I ever thought I would become an electrical engineer.  Both of my parents were civil engineers and three of my uncles were engineers.  One of my older brothers was enrolled in engineering.  Upon graduation from high school, I won a 4-year college scholarship from the then National Science Development Board (NSDB), now the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).  I thought it was a good decision at the time.

My inadequacies were revealed in my Physics 44 class.  I had for my classmates the members of the first batch of graduates of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) like Rey Vea and Mario Taguiwalo (RIP).  I had to memorize formulas to solve problems in projectile motion and the like.  In contrast, the PSHS guys used calculus to derive the formulas and solve the problem.  Memorizing formulas is dicey. If you got the formula wrong, your solution will be wrong.

I will soon join Vea, Taguiwalo, Taguiwalo’s sister Judy, and many others in the UP Chapter of the youth activist group, Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (Organization of Democratic Youth).

In the middle of 1971, I decided to drop out from UP and be an activist in my hometown.  I worked primarily with students, especially my classmates from high school (who were then in college) and senior high school students.  That was where I was when martial law was imposed.

I forgot to tell my audience that martial law also prevented me from being a lawyer.  My father never thought I would actually become an engineer.  He would tell me later that he believed I was more suited for a legal career.  After I got of prison, I went back to school to finish a bachelor’s degree.  I had to go to summer camp to make up for my ROTC (military service) deficiencies.  When a friend asked to join him in taking the UP College of Law LAE (Law Aptitude Examination), I readily agreed if only to escape the misery of the summer camp on the UP DMST grounds.

I passed the written exam while my friend failed.  I was called for an interview.  I agreed once more for a respite from summer camp.  It was a panel interview to determine who among those who passed the written exam will get accepted as incoming Law students.

The questions were routine except the last one.

A panelist decided to be cute and play games.  He asked me: “Mr. Mendoza,  what makes you think you’ll be a hotshot lawyer some day?”

My response: “What makes you think you’re one right now?”

I know I have deviated from my actual presentation last Friday morning but I cannot resist including this vignette.  I was ready to spar the interviewers because I did not have any intention to be a lawyer under martial law.  What, be a lawyer to memorize and apply his presidential decrees and general orders?   No way!

 


In this post, I continue my recollection of martial law experiences some thirty-nine years ago.

If you were betrayed by a comrade, it is not possible to claim that you don’t know anything. The proper response is to admit to less important things and continually deny more important matters. Precinct 1 of the Manila Police Department was apparently not the place where we will be questioned thoroughly. We spent the night of September 16, 1973 planning how to react to tactical interrogation (questioning with torture) that we knew will come in the next days.

A tragicomedy happened to Mauro and me in the morning of the 17th. After spending a fitful night in the detention cell of Precinct 1, we (“The Betrayed”) were rounded up in the morning to be transferred somewhere. I am not sure we had breakfast (or even just a pandesal or two). As Lt. Nacu was leading us to the police vehicles, I saw my eldest brother, Edgardo, who was with the National Police Commission, approaching. He asked Nacu if he could talk to me. Nacu retorted that my brother should know the SOP; that I should be held incommunicado while interrogation was going on. Then he asked my brother what he was to me and Kuya Eddie said I was his youngest brother. Nacu asked me to confirm the relationship. I denied it; I wanted to preserve my identity as Roel Malaya. I did not want to be questioned about my previous activities in my hometown. For Nacu, that was that. He practically shooed my brother away.

From Balut, Tondo we practically crossed the metropolis to reach Camp Panopio (almost opposite Mar Roxas’ Balay) in Quezon City. My sister-in-law believes she saw while going to the market in Sampaloc, Manila. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why we made a pit stop in Panopio. We were led to an office on the second floor where a battery of officers either took turns or simultaneously asked questions and insulted us. Jun C and I were separated from the group and were led to a doctor’s clinic purportedly for medical examination. After assuring himself that both of us were still in good health (under the circumstances), the doctor started mauling us for a good thirty minutes or so. Since Jun was wearing braces, his mouth was bleeding. The doctor avoided my face and concentrated all of his blows on my chest, abdomen, and back of the head. I bet he told his wife about this under the heading “Another day in the clinic”!

In my opinion, the mad doctor tortured both Mauro and me simply because he wanted to. He did not ask any questions. He was not an intelligence officer. Simply wanting to torture is one of the reasons why uniformed grown men torture young activists.  Perhaps, in the eyes of the mad doctor, we were demons or sub-humans not worthy of humane treatment.

After the session with the mad doctor, we were transferred to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police and Investigation Service (MPIS) in Camp Crame. After the usual processing (finger printing, taking of ID pictures, etc.), we were led to the MPIS detention cells. After about an hour or so, Mauro and I were startled to hear our real names being paged over the PA system. Little did we know that Kuya Eddie managed to trace our whereabouts and insisted on seeing me. When we refused to budge, the PA blared–ilabas ang mga bagong dating (Bring out the new arrivals). So “The Betrayed” had to go to ante-room and a tough sergeant asked each one of one: Anong tunay mong pangalan? (What’s your real name?) Everybody gave their true names but we still hesitated. Kuya Eddie came in and pleaded that I own up to my real name since Papa and Mama and the rest of the family had been suffering since I went on the lam. I broke down and admitted that I used a false name. For emphasis, the sergeant asked for my real name and I gave it. Mauro had no choice but to give his real name too. We both knew we will be punished for this subterfuge.

Maintaining a cover story and identity is necessary for underground (and espionage) work. In Barrio Magsaysay, I was an underground activist. I did not want to reveal my true identity when I was captured because I operated on an aboveground/underground basis in my hometown. There, however, I could not hide my identity. Aboveground work means one operates using his true identity while living in his legal residence.  An activist can operate on both aboveground and underground basis.  This is true when martial law was imposed since all anti-Marcos political activities were proscribed.  When captured in Tondo, I wanted to maintain my false name so my hometown activities will not be covered by the interrogation. Well, so much for that wish.


Some 39 years ago today, I was awakened by a sharp blow delivered to my chest with the butt of an M16 assault rifle. When I came to, I was blinded by flashlights and poked by gun barrels to get up. That marked the start of the most horrifying three weeks of my life. Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law became so real to me.

I was captured in Barrio Magsaysay, Tondo, Manila on September 16, 1973. I was 19 at the time. The term “captured” is, I believe, more appropriate than “arrested” since no warrant of arrest was presented. I was captured by a composite team of police and military officers. They dragged me out of the shanty where I was staying temporarily and manhandled me on the sidewalk. Apparently they received intelligence reports that I brought an arms cache to Magsaysay to fight government’s plans to demolish the huge community of shanties. They kept on asking me where the weapons were while boxing and kicking me. Notwithstanding the pain, it was an easy question since there were no arms. I will later learn that I, together with a dozen others, was betrayed by a comrade who inflated my standing in the underground movement against Marcos authoritarianism.

Among my betrayed comrades was a town mate, who like me was assigned to Barrio Magsaysay. His cover was that of a vinegar vendor. Mine was probably not too strong. I was supposed to be a relative of the old couple I was living with looking for work in the big city. A residence certificate supported my cover which was why I got captured under the name Roel Malaya y Benitez.  In retrospect, a cover story collapses when one gets betrayed.

Let’s call my betrayed town mate Mauro (since he also had a false residence certificate like me). Mauro is younger (I think he was 15 or 16 at the time) and shorter than me; I was a 6-footer while Mauro was about 5’5. Try imagining this. I was handcuffed to him through my left wrist with the cuffs passing under my testicles and connecting to Mauro’s left (or was it right?) wrist.

All the betrayed will be brought to Precinct 1 of the Manila Police Department in Balut, Tondo together with the squealer–Eddie Babon. Separate office rooms were used for interrogation and temporary detention. Babon was kept separate from us and I guess he was questioned carefully ahead of us–to provide the basis for our own questioning later.  However, he knew that Mauro and I were not from Barrio Magsaysay and thus the conclusion–we were there on a mission.

The head of the composite grab team is a Lt. Nacu of the Metropolitan Police and Investigation Service (MPIS), with its headquarters in Camp Crame. While questioning Babon, I overheard Nacu shout: “Balikan ninyo yung babae!” (Go back for the woman!).  I feared for my wife Rosalie, who was also assigned to Barrio Magsaysay. I will learn later than she evaded capture for two reasons: Babon hesitated in identifying her, and her hosts strongly supported her cover story. Mabuhay ka Ka Flor sampu ng iyong pamilya!  After the grab team left, Rosalie also sought refuge elsewhere.

The rest of the day was spent on humdrum activities: finger printing, taking of photos (front, left, and right) with the obligatory identifying sign, and additional paperwork.  We were then led into the regular detention cell of Precinct 1–a 4 x 5 meter cell that can comfortably accommodate 30 persons.  At the time, it was standing room only (SRO with about 80 detainees.  Most of the 80 were charged with criminal offenses and heavily tattooed according to their gang affiliations.  It was a cause for worry and the new gang–“The Betrayed”–decided to close ranks and maintain vigilance.  It turned out that our fears did not materialize.  They kept a safe distance from us (even under SRO conditions).  A few of them expressed admiration for our cojones–for fighting the biggest gang of all–the Marcos government.

In subsequent posts, I will explain the events and decisions I made that led to September 16, 1973.  Of course, I will also write on what happened after this day.


Last Friday, I attended a symposium entitled ‘Will Elites Allow Reform: Property Rights Issues in the Philippines’ at the UP School of Economics. One of the speakers, Prof. John Nye of the George Mason University, argued that a necessary condition for economic growth is ending the vicious cycle of vindictiveness amongst the elite fractions in the country. He said that if those in power are (deadly) sure of being punished by incoming elites, the latter will cling to power by all means. In the end, these elite struggles will harm the prospects of economic growth.

UP SE dean Noel de Dios invited me to join John and others to dinner after the symposium. On our way to Trinoma, we mulled on the possibility of ending vindictiveness amongst elites and concluded that it was a problem of ‘credible commitment’. Absent a third party enforcer, how will the ‘ins’ be assured that the ‘outs’ will not punish them when the former were the new ‘outs’? Which led us to property rights issues.

The property rights system of the country is a product both of its colonial history and developments over the past few decades. The Spanish colonial state sought to impose property rights regimes that were alien to those previously instituted by the indigenous peoples of the archipelago, which included stewardship, usufruct, and communal ownership. In the process, massive asset theft typical of all colonial ventures occurred in the country. The main object of theft and ownership then was arable land. While resolving the ownership of the so-called ‘friar estates’, the American colonial state also introduced the distinction between public and inalienable land and privately-owned and alienable real estate. This had the further effect of legally disenfranchising indigenous peoples from their land. The 1946-1972 post-colonial state continued these Western-originated property regimes even as the asset structure diversified over time. In general, access to political power guaranteed security of property rights and elites at various levels consolidated their political and economic positions.

Up to the eve of the declaration of martial law in September 1972, the property rights of rival elite factions were generally secure regardless of the political cycle’s outcome. Ownership rights were not extinguished by an electoral loss. The elites were organized into two political parties that alternated in power at the national level. These parties were roughly at par with each other in terms of power and resources. The ability of an elite faction to regain power in the next election deterred the faction in power from erasing the property rights of the ‘outs.’ Elite factions, therefore, were prevented by the possibility of electoral defeat from disrespecting the property rights of their rivals. The default behaviour was for the ‘ins’ to plunder the state treasury and cash in on the ‘economic rents’ created during incumbency instead of confiscating the property of the ‘outs.’ Notwithstanding a constitutional provision for two presidential terms, no president has been able to win re-election until 1969 when Ferdinand Marcos won an unprecedented second term.

The balance of power between the rival elite factions shifted decisively in favour of his faction after Marcos’ unprecedented re-election in 1969. He monopolized political power through the declaration of martial law in September 1972 and proceeded to violate the property rights of his political opponents. The demise of the dictatorship in February 1986 saw the post-Marcos elites attempting a restoration of pre-martial law arrangements with respect to property rights and access to political power. The properties of the anti-Marcos elites (such as the Lopez, Lopa, and Jacinto families) were returned to their former owners while a new constitution adopted in 1987 provided the ground rules for political contestation and all but forestalled the possibility of new dictatorships. After an initial lock-out period, even the Marcoses were allowed back into the country and managed to win electoral posts or stand for elections. Despite the formation of a presidential commission mandated to recover the so-called ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies, these properties got entangled in a quagmire of unresolved law suits filed within and without the country.

The violation of elite property rights by Marcos during the dictatorship’s heyday is like a genie let out of the bottle. Despite all efforts to date, the mess created by the initial massive cancellation of property rights has not been sorted out to satisfaction. The ownership of substantial portions of major Philippine corporations (including the top-ranked San Miguel Corporation and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company) remains contested. The fall of the dictatorship also led to the recognition of new asset claimants—the thousands of human rights victims who were tortured or murdered by Marcos’ security forces and the coconut farmers disenfranchised by the so-called coconut levy. The claims of the human rights victims against the Marcos estate had been repeatedly recognized by US courts while the Philippine Supreme Court had frequently ruled that the coconut levy was a public fund and must be taken from the control of businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, who used the money to wrest control of the country’s premier business firm—the San Miguel Corporation (SMC). To date, however, none of these judicial decisions have been enforced since rival claimants have managed to secure restraining orders against them.

The discussion so far indicates that from 1946 to 1972, there was an institutional mechanism that ‘tamed’ the relations between rival elite fractions in the Philippines. We have shown how such a mechanism was shattered by Marcos. We pointed to the difficulty of repairing the ‘property rights mess’ of the martial law period even after the dictatorship’s demise. In my next blog, I will discuss why the cycle of vindictiveness amongst Filipino elites seems to be more intractable during the post-Marcos period. However, I also promise to answer the questions raised by Raul Pangalangan and Rex Ubac re my blog on GMA’s supposedly last SONA. Patience!