Monday, September 17, 2007

It's about time! Looking at the Marcos years

Mr Manolo Quezon has done this country (at least its intellectuals and those who pretend to be one :) ) a great favour by writing about President Ferdinand E Marcos in today's Philippine Daily Inquirer. Mr Quezon's piece is the most objective to date about the late president. It is about time that we put an objective eye on the Marcos presidency for the sake of our nation so that we can avoid the same mistakes.

I don't know if someone has tried to do a study about the political and social ideology of Mr Marcos. My late dad had a complete collection of Marcosiana and guess who inherited it? Me! So I have begun to read some of Mr Marcos' books. I just realised that there is a heap of possible PhDs and MAs to be made from this. Someone can do a PhD on why Marcos' ideology is really scientific in his rebuttal of Marxism (Marcos admits that even his ideology can be falsified in the Popperian sense! Can anyone remind Jose Maria Sison and ex-colleagues at the Poli Sci dept of UP? ) Someone can do a PhD or an MA on why this ideology failed to take off. Someone could also write a contrafactual analysis to determine if Marcos' ideology remained as successful as that of Lee Kuan Yew would the Philippines be as successful as Singapore? It is no secret that Marcos was compared with Lee. Lee is still around as minister-mentor to his son, Marcos lies in a refrigerated crypt.

Mr Quezon writes about dividing the life of Mr Marcos into phases. This again could be fodder for another set of PhDs and MAs in psychology and history. An interesting topic is the influence of Presidents Jose P Laurel and Manuel L Quezon on Marcos' ideology. Laurel favoured a strong presidency and the Japanese sponsored Republic provided the stage. Quezon on the other hand favoured the same but the Commonwealth being under US sovereignty had its limits. One of the High Commissioners Francis Sayre chafed under Quezon's disregard for his office and protocol. (The High Commissioner represented the sovereignty of the USA) Complaints to FDR were unheeded and Quezon was able to convince Congress to grant him emergency powers on the eve of the war.

To sum it up Quezon and Laurel believed that the centres of national unity are "the Flag, the Constitution, the National Anthem, and the Presidency". Take note that the Church is not in the formulary nor is the military. Laurel and Quezon were not fascists but constitutional republicans. Both believed in the importance of a strong defensive military with a strong citizen army component. It was no surprise why the ROTC cadet corps of the University of the Philippines was a political power base for Marcos. Marcos was just continuing a traditional trend of the Philippine Presidency. If there is any reform this should come from the Presidency itself. Marcos, Quezon and Laurel took care to do things according to the Constitution.

This leads to the reformist stage of Marcos' life as Manolo Quezon puts it. This is where scholars can study what led to failure. We haven't recovered from this failure. President Corazon Aquino failed by junking the 1973 Constitution and by doing so failed to implement the necessary reforms. She could have dissolved Parliament and packed it with her supporters through an election with Salvador Laurel as Prime Minister, reforms could have been immediately implemented and a new constitution drafted by ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES and proclaimed. This would have guaranteed continuity. We are living this failure in the deeply flawed 1987 Constitution. We are in a nation with a permanent constitutional crisis.

The Corazon Aquino presidency provided the break in this tradition that reform starts with the Presidency. We have seen the erosion of the checks and balances safeguards of the Constitution. Despite what the Cardinal Sin once said about parallel tracks, the constitutional boundary between Church and State has been breached many times by who else, Mother Church! No wonder this country has been derailed so many times! It is not surprising that our President today, Gloriana has been trying to emulate some of Marcos' priorities such as constitutional reform.

To paraphrase the Russian biographer of Nicholas II and Grigory Rasputin Edward Radzinsky "Mr Marcos is the key to understanding the Philippines that came after."

If we want to know why we came to be this way, Manolo Quezon points the way. I have learned that Ms Imee Marcos has commissioned a bibliography of her father's works and what has been written about him. This is an important key step to a free-of-passion objectivity though it is hard not to be impassioned about Apo Ferdinand! After all he is an alumnus of my high school which has produced two Philippine Presidents, Generals, Senators, Representatives, a Prime Minister, and heaps of fools like me. (The other high school on the same side of Katipunan Road is a pale blue comparison! One Prez and we know what happened to that one! :) )

1 comment:

ricelander said...

Hi, blackshama

Marcos sought to break up the stranglehold of the oligarchy over the economy. He wanted it bloodless by initiating a revolution from the center ie government as implementer of radical changes. Well, his New Society is as testament to the failure of the model. It was like driving the old abusive occupants from their squatter palaces only to be replaced by his own loyal hordes of abusive people.

It's like this: 85% of the Philippines is supposed to be owned by 5% of Filipino families; the rest of 15% is dispersed among 95%.
When Marcos implemented his New Society, control of the 85% only changed hands (from the old oligarchs to his allies); it was never broken up. When he was driven out of power in 1986, the old oligarchs simply seized dominion over that old block of wealth.

How do we propose to break up that huge block from the grip of this tiny number of families without them putting up a fight, legal and otherwise, without shedding blood..., I do not know. A threat of an impending revolution?

But I propose we liberalize entry of foreign capital and even residency of foreigners. But the nationalists would cry "Philippines for Filipinos" unwary that without competition the old oligarchs would just continue to have it so good.

The last part is underdeveloped; when I have time I'll do it on my blog.