Why has life become much harder and politics even more corrupt after EDSA?

Friday March 06, 2020 ()

If there is anything to learn from the so-called EDSA Revolution 34 years ago, it is that it has not only become a long avenue of questions, regrets and flawed political, social and economic policies but a source of continuing hatred, vengeance and disunity that continue to imperil the country.

After EDSA people power

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.

Historians Salvador Escalante and J. Augustus Y. de la Paz, of the Truth and Justice Foundation, asked:

If it was a genuine revolution, where are the radical changes that it should have set in place?

If it was popular, why were the beneficiaries so few?

If it was all-Filipino, why was there American intervention?

If it was for Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. (the slain senator), how valid a cause was he?

If it was meant to install his wife, [Corazon] "Cory" Aquino, to the presidency, was it worth it?

And why has life become much harder and politics even more corrupt after the so-called EDSA People Power put to flight the Marcos dictatorship and supposedly restored democracy?

The late Harvard-trained lawyer-economist Alejandro Lichauco, in his riveting book Hunger, Corruption and Betrayal, provided a plausible answer to the questions. (Lichauco passed away on May 24, 2015 at 87).

The so-called EDSA Revolution, he said, didn't really restore democracy.

What it did was to replace Marcos with the economic dictatorship of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB). These agencies dictated policies to a succession of what passed for as democratically elected governments but which in fact were essentially agents that functioned as their virtual proxies or agents.

He said governments that came after Marcos made it a policy to cave in or surrender to everything that the IMF and the WB demanded. And what those two agencies demanded was the total liberalization and privatization of the economy. That's what has caused the troubles and the misery, among other things.

Elaborating, Lichauco said:

The IMF-WB wanted

  1. "Total lifting of all government control over transactions involving the use of foreign currency - such as for imports, travel, transfer of capital abroad, investment overseas and the like;
  2. Elimination of the government presence in the economy, except as tax collector - and even that role might be dismantled and the function of tax collection given over to private enterprise;
  3. Elimination of all restrictions on foreign investments so as to empower foreign investors, for example, to own land, operate public utilities and exploit natural resources, and otherwise do everything that Filipinos are allowed to do; and
  4. The devaluation of the peso."

Lichauco posited that one of the reasons for the US government support of the declaration of martial law was that Marcos pledged to save US interests from a rising tide of nationalism. The constitutional convention was moving towards a Constitution that would be radically nationalistic and even anti-American. Marcos pandered to US interest in order to get the latter's support and save American business from an emerging nationalist, socialist-oriented new Constitution.

In the latter part of his term, Marcos, however, realized that the country had to industrialize along the path taken by new Asian industrial tigers South Korea and Taiwan.

The Philippine economy then was growing at an annual average rate of 6 percent, but that clearly wasn't enough to lift the nation from underdevelopment and poverty. Marcos knew then that the country had to industrialize if it was to catch up with the neighbors.

Throughout martial law, Marcos maintained a system of selective import controls that contradicted the free market ideology being propagated by the IMF in which all tariff restrictions on imports are reduced if not eliminated. To compound matters, Marcos started to increasingly involve the government in the economy.

He established a national oil company, which was Petron, and government entered into the business of oil exploration, which had never been done before.

He nationalized the largest producer of steel products in the country, which was National Steel Corp., and was moving to establish an integrated steel mill to produce steel products out of raw ore. By the end of the ‘70s, Marcos announced a program of heavy industrialization.

American author Raymond Bonner cited the type of economics that Marcos plans to lead the country that eventually made him detestable to the US government, making him a target of destabilization and, eventually, political decapitation.

"Marcos was not just corrupt; he was anti-capitalist, anti-free market. He had created more government monopolies than the most dedicated of socialists," Bonner said in his book "Waltzing with a Dictator." (Times Books, 326)

Reading Bonner between the line, it wasn't so much the corruption that riled some Americans but the fact that Marcos had turned "anti-capitalist" and "anti-free market."

At the height of the Cold War, Marcos, on the initiative of his beautiful wife and First Lady, Imelda, extended the Filipino hand of friendship with ease and sincerity as the Philippines parted the Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain where other Western leaders feared to tread and lifted the veil that shrouded the Islamic World.

The International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) particularly didn't like where Marcos was heading.

In setting his sights toward industrialization, Ferdinand Marcos challenged the strategic geopolitical objective outlined in the Dodds Report to preserve the Philippines as a raw material economy. That report was the basis for what the late nationalist Claro M. Recto described as "America's anti-industrialization policy for the Philippines."

In getting the government actively involved in the economy and in maintaining a system of selective import controls, Marcos openly defied the fundamentals of IMF's economic ideology of liberal capitalism, otherwise known as Laissez-faire capitalism and aptly described by others as unbridled capitalism.

The main elements of that ideology are:

  1. Absence of government regulation over the movement of goods and capital;
  2. Absolute supremacy of private capital - both foreign and local - in the economy;
  3. No restriction on economic competition even if this results in the wasteful use of resources and lead to adverse social consequences.

In terms of policies, these elements of the ideology translate into:

  1. Free trade;
  2. Floating-rate exchange,
  3. Privatization, meaning the government sells out state-owned enterprises to private capital, the way formerly state-owned Philippine National Bank (PNB), Philippine Airlines (PAL), Petron and National Steel were sold to private capital;
  4. Deregulation even if the business activity is one vested with public interest, like oil or the trading of basic commodities, such as rice, water and electricity.

According to Lichauco, "market forces," under liberal or Laissez-faire capitalism are the sole determinant of prices and economic behavior, including the behavior of the peso in the currency market which is anomalous since something as crucial and strategic as the national currency is treated like an ordinary commodity such as canned sardines for example, the market value for which in terms of other currencies are dictated by "market forces" that included monetary speculators like George Soros, the American who made it big on market speculation and who is believed to be behind the financial crash in the Asian region during the mid-90s.

Under Laissez-faire capitalism, private capital was supposed to rule supreme in the economy to do whatever it pleases in the name of free enterprise. The State isn't supposed to play the role of an economic activist and shouldn't commit any act or promulgate any policy that can in any way be interpreted as a form of intervention in the economy like instituting price controls or setting up an oil exploration company or being involved in the banking industry.

Under the updated version of the global competitiveness doctrine, the paramount good becomes what is now called "global competitiveness," which means that if Filipino farmers, who haven't gotten beyond sixth grade, tilling a hectare of land with primitive technology and can't produce on a mass scale to match the output of corporate farms in the United States or in any other industrial countries, then the government should allow Filipino farmers to starve. They don't deserve to exist because they aren't globally competitive.

Global competitiveness is the god to which everything should be subordinated and even sacrificed.

But wasn't Ferdinand Marcos corrupt?

Lichauco said:

"Here we go again. You must stop listening to the church, the Opus Dei, the UP (University of the Philippines) economists and the Makati Business Club, all of whom want us to believe that at the bottom of the hunger is corruption and not the treason of our policies which they have promoted either actively or by their silence."

"Can you name me one single human institution or organization that isn't corrupt," he asked, adding, "Isn't the Church corrupt? Isn't the Makati business community corrupt or more aptly said, isn't there high corruption in those high places too?"

Lichauco said both Marcos and Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. had to go because they had become obstacles to the absolute economic dictatorship of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) and, eventually, of the disciples of globalization. With both Marcos and Ninoy out of the way, he said, the IMF-WB was able to establish virtually absolute dominion over the economy and pushed the country eventually to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and globalization.

Lichauco said with Ninoy and, subsequently, Marcos gone:

"Free traders and globalists took charge of the economy through the UP economists, ranking elements of the Opus Dei and the Makati business community. They started with import liberalization under Corazon C. Aquino and climaxed into GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), the WTO and globalization under Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo."

Since the EDSA revolt, we had been living under the spell and dominion of the unbridled capitalism and free trade, and that sums up the matter, Lichauco said.

He believed that if Ninoy had been elected president, he would have nationalized the basic industries, particularly public utilities or what he called the "basic and strategic means of production."

He quoted Ninoy as having said:

"Ultimately, the basic and strategic means of production must come under social ownership to ensure equitable proration of the national wealth and to safeguard the national interest. (p. 53)."

He said it was evident that if Ninoy had lived and become President, the country wouldn't have fallen under the economic dictatorship of the IMF-WB:

"There wouldn't have been any import liberalization and we wouldn't have joined the WTO. Public utilities and strategic industries like National Steel and Petron would never have been privatized. We can be sure that Fort Bonifacio would never have been sold to foreign real estate developers.

"Ninoy would never have allowed our soldiers to be driven away from Fort Bonifacio, which has been their historic home, and driven just so to promote the interest of foreign real estate developers.

"The sale of Fort Bonifacio was an act of unmitigated betrayal of the military."

Salvador Araneta, another nationalistic economist, succinctly put it during a debate on the free trade provision of the Bell Trade Act of 1946 that free trade between an industrial country and an agricultural country is to the detriment of the latter.

Free trade means no industrialization for the Philippines. It means a backward Philippines that will be little more than an economic dependency of the United States, serving in that regard the function of a vegetable garden to an industrial state, Araneta said in the treatise Economic Reexamination of the Philippines.

The proponents of free trade forward an argument that if one pitted a lightweight against a heavyweight, the lightweight would eventually begin fighting like a heavyweight. Common sense, however, tells us that the lightweight is bound to wind up in a coma in the lopsided match.

Lichauco said former Socioeconomic secretary Solita Monsod, an avid supporter of free competition, loves to cite the outstanding achievement of Taiwan and South Korea as examples of countries that improved their local products through import liberalization.

Monsod said had these countries not adopted free trading as a major economic policy, it would still be in a similar condition as the Philippines. ("All import controls to be lifted–Monsod," The Manila Times, July 26, 1986)

On the contrary, the Asian newly industrialized countries (NICs) were notorious for strictly restricting imports. The Asian NICs came to be what they are because of a development strategy notable for steep and rigorous barriers they erected against foreign goods. That strategy is called mercantilism - the original name for protectionism–the opposite of the free trade that Monsod espoused during her stint at the National Economic Development Authority.

In fact, in 1979, a US congressional task force made a survey of trade practices in Asia and found that America's experience with the trade restrictions of Japan were being duplicated in the "New Japans" of Asia, notably South Korea and Taiwan.

Among the findings of the US congressional task force on the restrictive trade practices of South Korea and Taiwan was that the two nations imposed numerous import restrictions on US and other nations' goods on grounds that they were developing economies.

"Yet they have to a large extent–graduated into the ranks of developed economies and special protection is no longer justifiable." ("US warns of rising Asian imports," Bulletin, Feb. 18, 1979, a UPI dispatch)."

South Korea and Taiwan in fact modeled their respective industrialization strategy on Japan. That's why those two countries have been alluded to as the "New Japans."

Since World War 2, Japan has built a high standard of living by stimulating export, subsidizing domestic producers and refusing to import any manufactured goods it could possibly live without. As a result only 20 percent of Japan's foreign purchases are finished products, compared with 53 percent for the US and 66 percent for West Germany, Lichauco noted.

He added that in 2003, 46 years after the glowing WB report on the Philippines, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DoST) released an official finding that 8 out of 10 households in the Philippines are living under hunger conditions.

Lichauco concluded:

"In terms of the human condition, the figures released by the FNRI-DoST translate into local and international media stories of hungry mothers selling their babies in Nueva Vizcaya; hungry fathers selling their kidneys in Tondo; hungry farmers in rice-rich Nueva Ecija eating field rats; infants of indigent parents dying at the rate of one a day at the pediatric ward of the Philippine General Hospital as "doctors and nurses fight emotional battles each day while helplessly watching…because the parents cannot afford to buy medicines and save their children;" mothers smothering their children, and then committing suicide because life has become unbearable and the future can only be more so; millions of Filipinas put in the auction block of the slave trade in the capitals of Europe; millions of parents leave home and family to seek employment abroad to escape hunger at home even as child mendicants proliferate in the streets and become as common a sight as uncollected garbage."


  • The untold story of the 1986 EDSA Revolution, March 3-7, 2020, Cecilio T. Arillo, The Manila Times

This article is extracted from A Country Imperiled, a best selling book published by Amazon, one of the world's largest publishing houses in the United States, and written by Cecilio T. Arillo, a multi-awarded journalist


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