It is supreme irony that while Filipinos were commemorating the declaration of martial law 39 years ago by the US backed-dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and calling for the release of hundreds of political prisoners, the son of the most prominent victim of martial law, Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino, was being given a pat on the back by US President Barack Obama, the current chief representative of the imperialist superpower that benefitted the most from the fascist dictatorship.
Another irony, the presidential spokesperson had the effrontery to declare that there are no political prisoners under the Aquino regime, a grim reminder of how Marcos had denied the existence of tens of thousands of dissidents, opposition leaders and ordinary people who suffered unjust detention under his thirteen years of iron-fisted rule.
“Never again to martial law!” In order for this defiant pledge to be fully grasped and wielded as a battle cry by today’s younger generations the most important lessons of martial rule must be tirelessly recalled and taught over and over again.
One major aspect sorely lacking in write-ups on martial law, by even those who lived under its shadow or were directly victimized by it, are references to how foreign big business and big power interests, chiefly those of the US, colluded and collaborated with Marcos and his coterie of generals, cronies, technocrats and apologists, to impose martial rule and reap its benefits.
The billions of pesos Marcos and his ilk plundered by dipping into the public treasury as if it were his piggy bank; cornering overpriced development projects funded by foreign loans; grabbing lands from peasant and small land-owning communities and turning these into touted “development” projects; or by simply taking over the businesses of his political opponents have been amply written about.
What is sidelined is the fact that foreign multinational corporations which were business partners and financiers of the Marcos clique profited immensely from the behest loans, big-ticket government projects and other mind-boggling scams engineered by the dictatorship not to mention the economic policies favoring foreign monopoly capital that it implemented.
The over-the-top costs of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (including fat commissions to Marcos and Disini, super profits for Westinghouse, and juicy interest fees for the banks that syndicated the loan) easily comes to mind. The same goes true for billions worth of onerous foreign debts incurred by the dictatorship that generations of Filipinos have had to pay for.
Marcos curried favor with western, chiefly US, imperialist powers by protecting their economic and politico-military interests in the country.
For one, the Laurel-Langley and Parity Agreements granting parity rights to US citizens. (i.e. equal economic rights with Filipinos) were to expire in 1974. Two Supreme Court rulings, the Quasha and Lusteveco decisions that went sharply against US business interests were set aside by martial rule.
The treaty to normalize trade relations with Japan was stalled in the legislature by nationalists; an investigation into the operations of foreign oil companies was being spearheaded by the eminent nationalist Senator Jose Diokno; and the 1971 constitutional convention counted among its ranks outspoken nationalists as well. Martial law swept aside all these threats to foreign big business interests.
There was no word of caution much less criticism from the US or other so-called Western democracies when martial law was declared. Foreign chambers of commerce immediately lauded and gave their unqualified support for it accepting Marcos’ justifications, i.e. quelling security threats from the communists, Moro secessionists and “rightists” and “reforming society”.
US military bases in the country operated unhampered during martial rule. Philippine foreign policy hewed closely to that of the US such as support for the US wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and aggression in other countries such as in Chile with the US-engineered overthrow of the democratically-elected Allende government and its replacement with the Pinochet military dictatorship.
The US justified backing for Marcos authoritarian rule as a means to ensure stability in the face of a growing communist-led “insurgency” and heightened nationalism. Military bases and a US-friendly government were definitely more important than the preservation of “imperfect” democratic institutions such as a free press, Congress and a social order that upholds human rights and civil liberties.
It was only when the Marcos fascist dictatorship became extremely isolated after the assassination of Marcos’ arch-enemy Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino - to the point that a broad anti-dictatorship front that included people’s organizations, the bourgeois opposition, the Catholic hierarchy, the revolutionary forces under the umbrella of the CPP-NPA-NDFP and rebellious young officers and soldiers of the armed forces was ranged against it - did the US drop their long-nurtured puppet like a hot potato.
The US quickly repositioned itself to support the anti-Marcos, pro-US opposition rallying behind Ninoy’s widow Cory Aquino and began whitewashing its totally self-serving, unprincipled and bloodied backing for the fallen Marcos. Thus the US basked in the glow of the people power uprising of 1986 and was back in business supporting a new but no less subservient client regime.
All this is consistent with the US record of backing up dictators, tyrants, despots while they serve its geopolitical and economic interests, and deposing, overthrowing and even assassinating sovereign heads of state not to its liking.
More so now under the guise of the so-called war on terror, the US, mainly through the CIA and Special Operations Forces as spearhead of its mighty high-tech war machine, has been committing flagrant violations of international law and human rights all over the world with absolute impunity.
In this light, the Obama-Aquino meeting on the day of the anniversary of the imposition of a US-directed dictatorship in the Philippines is nothing more than a reaffirmation of the continuing collaboration of the local ruling classes and US imperialism in further exploiting and oppressing the Filipino people, disguised as a lasting partnership for peace, security and development in the country.
If anything, what has endured is the odious legacy of poverty and backwardness, oppression and state forces committing crimes and human rights violations with impunity. The incessant hikes in oil prices, deepening poverty and the continuing detention of hundreds of political prisoners are daily reminders of this enduring collaboration.
Whatever their differences, and there are quite a few, Macoy and Pnoy have one, and the most important thing, in common -- "Kano ang boss ko!” #
Published in Business World
23-24 September 2011