Today in Philippine history, November 24, 1972, Marcos invited business leaders to a dialogue in Malacañang to reform the private sector

Monday November 27, 2017 ()

On November 24, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos, invited the lords and ladies of Philippine business to the Maharlika Hall in Malacañang Palace to a dialogue to reform the private sector.

The business leaders were made to disembark from their chauffeured limousines at the gates, some distance from the hall, and had to walk with no exception the rest of the way when their drivers and bodyguards could have taken them up the driveway.

President Marcos in 1975

When seated, and everything was ready, President Marcos set the tone of the dialogue and delivered his extemporaneous speech, explaining why they were made to undergo the humbling experience of walking from the gates to the hall.

Everybody was treated in the same manner at the gates of Malacañang. Marcos said:

"All of you were asked to alight from your cars and take a little walk ... I am certain you immediately reacted with the old habits - the consciousness of rank, consciousness of wealth, consciousness of power and the consciousness of unusual attention to which you were accustomed or entitled in the past."

He explained that industry "must be salvaged from self-indulgent stagnancy."

With that, the President served notice that things would have to change. Inequities would have to undergo leveling to "eradicate the social causes of rebellion."

Marcos diagnosed the political unrest, terrorists bombings of power and water utilities and public and private buildings, as symptoms of the social disease of economic inequities and saw underdevelopment as a consequence of the opportunistic orientation of businessmen who cared for neither patriotism nor efficiency for as long as they continued raking in large profits.

He talked of raising taxes and wages, of levying additional taxes and duties and of imposing price controls on 15 basic commodities.

He talked of the need for the private sector and the government to coordinate to achieve convergence for development, of housecleaning at the Bureaus of Customs and Internal Revenue and of social-justice programs like land reform and socialized housing.

He told the business sector to dump practices like smuggling, tax evasion, corruption of public officials and price manipulation through cartels—practices that had enabled them to amass wealth at the greater expense of society."

The President's bottom line was that:

"Business must become more socially responsible. The government, for its part, would clearly define economic-policy directions, to enable the private sector to engage in the business of national and regional development."

President Marcos told the business leaders that the government had already taken over the operations of several strategic industries and utilities. The takeover of the strategic companies was neither whimsical nor vindictive; nor was it entrusted to plundering incompetents. One such utility company was the Manila Electric Company (Meralco). An interagency committee was created on November 22, 1972, by Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor, to undertake a management and financial audit of Meralco.

However, in imposing reforms on the private sector, Marcos unavoidably alienated some oligarchs and their foreign partners or principals, and in taking over some conglomerates, he became vulnerable to a host of unsavory charges, from being a "robber" to being a socialist.

Sources:

  • The oligarchs balk, November 22, 2017, Cecilio T. Arillo, The Business Mirror

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