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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ferdinand E. Marcos

Philippine president Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (1917-1989) began his career in politics with the murder of Julio Nalundasan in 1935, and ended it with the murder of Benigno Aquino, Jr., in 1983. Some believe his entire life was based on fraud, deceit, and plunder, and his two decades as president have come to epitomize the worst excesses of autocratic rule.

Ferdinand Marcos was born in Sarrat, Ilocos North, on September 11, 1917, to Josefa Edralin and Mariano Marcos, both teachers. Mariano was later a two-term congressman and during World War II, a collaborator with the Japanese. Subsequently he was tied to four water buffalo by Filipino guerrillas and pulled apart. Marcos'real father, a man Marcos claimed was his "godfather," was a wealthy Chinese named Ferdinand Chua. He was a well-connected municipal judge who was responsible for much of Marcos' unusually good luck. Among other things, Chua paid for young Marcos' schooling and managed to influence the Philippine Supreme Court to throw out the solid testimony which in 1939 had convicted Marcos of murder.

Marcos did well in school, as he had an extraordinary memory which allowed him to quickly memorize complicated texts and recite them forwards or backwards. In college, Marcos' principal interest was the .22-caliber college pistol team. On September 20, 1935, Julio Nalundasan was at home celebrating that day's Congressional election victory over Mariano Marcos when he was shot and killed with a .22-caliber bullet fired by the 18-year-old Marcos. Three years later, the honors student who was in his senior year of law school, was arrested for Nalundasan's murder. A year later, now a law school graduate, he was found guilty "beyond any reasonable doubt." Jailed, Marcos spent six months writing his own 830-page appeal. He also took the Philippine bar exam and passed with scores so high he was accused of cheating. Upon an oral re-examination by the Supreme Court, Marcos scored even higher with his remarkable memory. When the Supreme Court finally took up Marcos's appeal in 1940, the judge in charge (allegedly influenced by Judge Chua) was disposed to simply throw the case out. Marcos was a free man. The next day, he returned to the Supreme Court where he was administered his oath as a lawyer.

Marcos emerged from World War II with the reputation of being the greatest Filipino resistance leader of the war and the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Armed forces. (Marcos served in the U.S. Army at the beginning and the end of the war as a "third lieutenant" on clerical duty, for a time in 1944 he was a U.S. prisoner of war under a death sentence) The Army investigated these claims after the war and found them to be false and "criminal." In fact, Marcos seems to have spent the war on both sides, and at various times, was in hospitals with fevers and stomach pains, possibly from the onset of lupus, the degenerative disease tha ultimately ruined his health. In early 1943 in Manila, Marcos concocted a "secret" resistance organization called Ang Mga Maharlika ("Noble Studs") which he claimed consisted of spies, saboteurs and assassins, but in fact consisted of many forgers, pickpockets, gunmen and racketeers, united by an interest in black market operations.

At the war's end, as a deputy to the U.S. Army judge advocate general in northern Luzon, Marcos was involved in choosing friends and relatives to fill minor civil service jobs, passing out favors to be redeemed later. After, he resumed his law practice, often filing false claims in Washington on behalf of Filipino veterans seeking back pay and benefits. Emboldened by his success, he filed a $595,000 claim on his own behalf, stating that the U.S. Army had commandeered over 2,000 head of brahmin cattle from Mariano Marcos's wholly imaginary ranch in Mindinao. Washington concluded that the cattle had never existed. Marcos also tried to get recognition and benefits for his resistance force, the Ang Mga Maharlika; army investigators concluded that Marcos's unit was fraudulent.

In December, 1948, after a luncheon meeting with Marcos, a magazine editor published four articles on Marcos's extraordinary war exploits, including the history of the Maharlika just after the army's findings of fraud. Marcos' reputation grew. In 1949, campaigning on promises to get veterans' benefits for 2 million more "unrecognized" Filipinos, Marcos ran on the Liberal Party ticket for a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives and won astonishingly, with 70 percent of the vote. In less than a year he was worth a million dollars and owned a Cadillac convertible, mostly because of his American tobacco subsidies, a colossal cigarette smuggling operation, and his practice of extorting commissions from Chinese businesses. In 1954 he formally met Imelda Romualdez and married her.

Marcos was reelected twice, and in 1959 was elected to the Philippine Senate. He was also the Liberal Party's vice-president from 1954-1961, when he successfully managed Diosdado Macapagal's campaign for the Philippine presidency. As part of the deal, Macapagal was supposed to step aside after one term to allow Marcos to run for the presidency, but when Macapagal reneged, Marcos joined the opposition Nationalist Party and became their candidate in the 1965 election against Macapagal, which Marcos won handily strongly helped by Hartzell Spence's biography, called For Every Tear A Victory.

In 1969, Marcos became the first Philippine president to win a second term; the month following produced the most violent and bloody public demonstrations so far in the history of the country. Three years later, facing growing student unrest and a crumbling economy, Marcos declared martial law, using as his excuse the growing rebel presence of the Communist New People's Army. During the nine years of martial law, he tripled the armed forces to some 200,000 troops, guaranteeing his grip on government, and when martial law was lifted in 1981, he kept all the power he had been granted by himself. Bled to death, the economy continued to crumble as Ferdinand and Imelda became "arguably the richest couple on the planet." Marcos's health began to fail, the United States cooled off, and political opposition took hold in the Philippine middle class.

The Marcos regime began its accelerated collapse after the August 1983 assassination of Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., gunned down at the Manila airport upon his return after a self-imposed three-year exile. The killing enraged Filipinos, as did the official story that the murder was the work of a single assassin. A year later, a civilian investigation brought indictments against a number of soldiers and government officials, but by 1985 they all had been acquitted. In a surprising blunder, Marcos, thinking to regain control of the situation, called for a "snap election" to be held early in 1986. The election was marred by violence and charges of fraud; his opponent was the martyred Aquino's widow, Corazon. 

When the Philippine National Assembly announced that Marcos was the winner, a military rebellion, supported by hundreds of thousands of Filipinos marching in the streets, forced the Marcos to flee the country. Marcos' plea to the Americans for help produced nothing more than a U.S. Air Force jet, which flew him and Imelda to Hawaii. He remained there until his death in 1989. They took with them some 300 crates of prized possessions and more than 28 million cash, in Philippine currency. President Aquino's administration said this was only a small part of the Marcos's five to ten billion of illegally acquired wealth; Ferdinand's frozen bank accounts in Switzerland were said to have $475 million. In 1995, the government was able to auction off three jewelry collections worth $13 million. In 1999, after a thirteen year legal battle, the Marcos family agreed to pay $150 million to about 10,000 victims of human rights abuses.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Diosdado Macapagal

Diosdado P. Macapagal (1910-1997) was the fifth president of the Republic of the Philippines. He was instrumental in initiating and executing the Land Reform Code, which was designed to solve the centuries-old land tenancy problem, the principal cause of the Communist guerrilla movement in central Luzon.

Diosdado Macapagal was born on Sept. 28, 1910, the son of poor tenant farmers. In 1929 he entered the University of the Philippines, where he received an associate in arts degree in 1932. Meanwhile he worked part time with the Bureau of Lands.

Macapagal was constantly forced to interrupt his schooling for lack of funds. His brother-in-law Rogelio de la Rosa, with whom he acted in and produced Tagalog operettas, helped him continue his education. Macapagal entered the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, receiving his bachelor of laws degree in 1936, his master of laws degree in 1941, and doctor of laws degree in 1947. He also received a doctorate in economics in 1957.

Early Career and Government Service

In 1941 Macapagal worked as legal assistant to President Quezon and as professor of law in the University of Santo Tomas. A claim is made that he served as an intelligence agent for the guerrillas during the Japanese occupation, but this period of his life has not been well documented.

In 1946 Macapagal served as assistant and then as chief of the legal division in the Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1948 he was second secretary to the Philippine embassy in Washington and in 1949 became counselor on legal affairs and treatises in the Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1949 he was elected representative of the first district of Pampanga Province on the ticket of the Liberal party. In 1953 he was the only Liberal party member to win reelection.

Macapagal attained worldwide distinction in 1951, when, as chairman of the Philippine UN delegation, he conducted a debate with Soviet foreign minister Andrei Vishinsky. In November 1957 Macapagal was elected vice president, receiving 116,940 more votes than the total received by the elected president, Carlos P. Garcia. In December Macapagal became the titular head of the Liberal party. In spite of his rank as vice president and because he belonged to the opposition party, Macapagal was treated as a complete outsider; he was barred from Cabinet meetings and was assigned routine ceremonial duties. Consequently, Macapagal denounced the graft and corruption in the Garcia administration and toured the country campaigning for the next election.

On Jan. 21, 1961, Macapagal was chosen as Liberal party candidate for president. Rallying the masses in the villages and towns, he elaborated a familiar motif in his speeches: "I come from the poor…Let me reap for you the harvest of the poor. Let us break the chain of poverty…"

Performance as President

Macapagal became president on Nov. 14, 1961, defeating Garcia. In his inaugural statement he declared: "I shall be president not only of the rich but more so of the poor. We must help bridge the wide gap between the poor man and the man of wealth, not by pulling down the rich to his level as Communism desires, but by raising the poor towards the more abundant life." With his naivetéand paternalistic attitude, Macapagal vowed to open Malakanyang Palace, the presidential residence, to all the citizens. He canceled the inaugural ball and issued a decree forbidding any member of his family or of his wife's to participate in any business deals with the government. He dismissed corrupt officials and started court action against those who could not explain their sudden acquisition of wealth. He changed the date that Filipinos celebrate their independence to June 12 from July 4. In 1898, Filipino revolutionaries had declared independence from Spain on June 12; July 4 was the date the Philippines were declared independent by the United States after World War II.

Macapagal aimed to restore morality to public life by concentrating on the elevation of the living standard of the masses. Addressing Congress in 1962, he formulated the objectives of his socioeconomic programs as, first, the immediate restoration of economic stability; second, the alleviation of the common man's plight; and third, the establishment of a "dynamic basis for future growth." Unfortunately, Macapagal's friends in the oligarchy and the privileged minority in Congress and business soon began parading their lavish wealth in conspicuous parties, junkets, and anomalous deals.

On Jan. 21, 1962, Macapagal abolished the economic controls that had been in operation since 1948. He devalued the Philippine peso by setting its value according to the prevailing free market rate instead of by government direction. He lifted foreign exchange controls and reduced tariff rates on essential consumer goods. Seeking to remedy the problem of unemployment, he took steps to decentralize the economy and at the same time encourage commerce and industry in the provinces. He also proposed decentralization in government by investing greater power in provincial and local governments as a step essential to the growth of democratic institutions. He also suggested the establishment of eight regional legislatures with power to levy taxes.

Land Reform Program

To ameliorate the plight of the Filipino peasant in the face of vast population growth, Macapagal instituted a public land clearance program to make new farmlands available for immediate use. The product of his concern for the impoverished majority was the Land Reform Code of Aug. 8, 1963, which sought to replace the abusive and unjust tenancy system inherited from colonial times by the leasehold system, affording full government protection to the leaseholder. The positive result obtained in 1966 demonstrated the value of the land reform program in materially improving the local living conditions of the rural poor.

Foreign Policy

Macapagal's foreign policy displayed an eccentric course. On the one hand, he affirmed that he would never recognize Communist China despite what the United States or other nations might decide. On the other, he criticized in May 1962 the United States support of Laos neutralists as "a species of sophistry that can only weaken the defense of the free world."

In June 1962 Macapagal registered a claim of Philippine sovereignty over British North Borneo (Sabah). In July he proposed the establishment of a greater Malayan confederation which would supersede the British-sponsored plan for the Federation of Malaysia. This would be a step toward ultimate establishment of a Pan-Asian Union. Macapagal initiated the Manila Accord of July 31, 1963, signed by himself, President Sukarno of Indonesia, and Abdul Rahman of Malaya; on August 6 the three chiefs of state issued the Manila Declaration toward the establishment of Maphilindo, designed to set up closer ties between the three countries in their collective fight against neocolonialism. This plan broke up with the formation on Aug. 1, 1964, of the Federation of Malaysia by the Malayan and British governments.

Although Macapagal prided himself in being the "conscience of the common man," he failed in preventing his administration from being wrecked by the Stonehill scandal of 1962, which revealed massive government corruption and racketeering that involved almost the whole bureaucracy and Congress. Despite Macapagal's so-called incorruptibility, he failed to solve decisively the major social and economic problems of the nation. He lost his bid for re-election in 1965 to Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled for the next 20 years. However, Macapagal's political legacy lives on in his daughters, both of whom followed him into politics: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a Filipino senator, and Cielo Macapagal-Salgado is vice-governor of Pampanga, her father's home province. Macapagal also had two sons, Arturo and Diosdado, Jr.

He died in Manila on April 21, 1997 of heart failure. He was 86.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Carlos P. Garcia

Carlos P. Garcia (1896-1971) was the fourth president of the Republic of the Philippines. He was noted for the enunciation of the Filipino First Policy, intended to complete and guarantee Philippine economic independence and sovereignty.

Carlos P. Garcia was born in Talibon, Bohol, on November 4, 1896. He took law courses at Silliman University in 1918-1919 and graduated with a law degree from the Philippine Law School. He topped the bar examination in 1923. He was elected for three terms (1925-1931) as representative of the third district of Bohol. He served for three terms (1933-1941) as governor of Bohol Province. For 13 years (1941-1954) Garcia served in the Senate of the Philippines.

During World War II, in May 1942, Garcia was hunted by the Japanese military authority because of his loyalty to the Allied cause and his refusal to surrender and cooperate with the government. After the war he participated in several missions to Washington to work for the approval of the Philippine Rehabilitation and War Damage Claims. He was a delegate to the World Conference at San Francisco to draft the charter of the United Nations Organization in May 1945. He acted as presiding officer of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Conference in Manila in 1954, which produced the Manila Treaty and the Pacific Charter.

From 1947 to 1953 Garcia was vice president of the Nacionalista party directorate, and he also served in the Cabinet beginning in 1953 as vice president and secretary of foreign affairs. When he was in the Senate, he was chairman and member of numerous key committees, among them government reorganization, foreign affairs, public works, army and navy, and justice. He was also a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. From 1946 to 1951 Garcia served as minority floor leader of the Senate.

Succeeded President

When President Magsaysay was killed in an airplane accident on March 17, 1957, Garcia became his successor, having been elected vice president in November 1953. In the elections of 1957 Garcia won over three other candidates and became fourth president of the republic since its independence in 1946.

Garcia's main achievement before he became president involved his activities as foreign policy expert for the government. As secretary of foreign affairs, he opened formal reparation negotiations in an effort to end the nine-year technical state of war between Japan and the Philippines, leading to an agreement in April 1954. During the Geneva Conference on Korean unification and other Asian problems, Garcia as chairman of the Philippine delegation attacked communist promises in Asia and defended the U.S. policy in the Far East. In a speech on May 7, 1954, the day of the fall of Dien Bien Phu, Garcia repeated the Philippine stand for nationalism and opposition of communism.

Garcia acted as chairman of the eight-nation Southeast Asian Security Conference held in Manila in September 1954, which led to the development of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, known as SEATO. Garcia's cardinal principles in foreign affairs, as announced in a speech on November 30, 1957, were "to maintain and improve Philippine-American relations" and "to foster closer ties with our Asian neighbors."

Stressed Austerity, Nationalism

Garcia's administration was characterized by its austerity program and its insistence on a comprehensive nationalist policy. On March 3, 1960, he affirmed the need for complete economic freedom and added that the government no longer would tolerate the dominance of foreign interests (especially American) in the national economy. He promised to shake off "the yoke of alien domination in business, trade, commerce and industry." Garcia was also credited with his role in reviving Filipino cultural arts.

The prevalence of graft and corruption in the government, institutional carryover from previous administrations, and U.S. disfavor of his Filipino First Policy put Garcia on the defensive and led partly to his defeat in the 1961 elections. Garcia died in 1971 at the age of 74.