Missed Opportunities Essay

Located between East Asia, Southeast Asia and the vast Pacific Ocean lies an archipelago of 7,107 islands collectively called as the Philippines. Due to its strategic location as the Pacific’s Gateway to Asia, as well as its abundant natural resources, the Philippines had become one of the most prized possessions of the superpowers. This archipelagic nation had been subjected to colonization under Spain, Japan, and the United States.

In July 4, 1946, independence was finally granted to the Philippines by the United States.

Just like many newly-independent states, it was hard for the country to undergo the process of decolonization. But despite the rough road for development and self-government, the Philippines had the best promises of economic prosperity back then. Its economic indicators were among the best in the region, just following behind Japan. It was predicted to be one of Asia’s emerging superpowers. Apparently, it seems that the Philippines fell short of these expectations. The economy plummeted, especially under the authoritarian regime of the infamous dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

This paper will take a look at the political and economic conditions of the Philippines under the leadership of Ferdinand Marcos from 1965-1986. It will strive to find explanations as to why unlike the similarly strong, authoritarian, and strict governments of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and Deng Xiaoping of China – which brought prosperity to their respective countries – Ferdinand Marcos’s government failed, and even brought the Philippine economy into its darkest times. Background Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was a revolutionary man, a respectable figure in Philippine politics.

He was the son of a teacher and a politician, and since his early years, his potential as a great leader was seen. The most remarkable story preceding his political career was when he was accused of killing his father’s political rival. He successfully petitioned the Philippine Supreme Court to release him on bail, thus allowing him to finish a Bachelor’s Degree in Law in the University of the Philippines. He eventually passed the board exam in flying colors. But shortly after this victory, the verdict has arrived, and he was guilty of murder, which sentenced him to ten years in prison.

With his brilliance and wit, he prepared his own appeal and had his case defended only by him. On his own, he was able to cleanse himself of the charges accused of him. He was freed, and news of the brilliance and intelligence of this young man was known and celebrated throughout the country (Steinberg, 2007). For 6 years, Marcos served in the Philippine Army during World War 2. After the war, Marcos had his political career started, while working as an assistant to the former Philippine President Manuel Roxas. Shortly after, he was elected as a congressman in his hometown province of Ilocos.

Before running in the national elections, he made a wise move by marrying a very beautiful and charming wife, a former beauty pageant queen by the name of Imelda Romualdez. During campaign period, they were like stars in a romance movie – a couple of wit and beauty, and it proved to be effective in catching the hearts of the Filipino people. This unique appeal, of providing a mother-father appeal to the country was successful – it eventually gave Marcos a seat in the Senate, and later on, the coveted Presidential Seat in 1965 (Steinberg, 2007).

In the early years of the Marcos love team, the couple (Imelda, even though she was not an elected politician, was very dominant in all areas of Philippine politics) pushed for projects such as infrastructure and food production. Marcos did not fall short of the expectations of the people. He was successful in improving the country’s situation, especially its economy. In fact, GDP growth increased from 5. 1% in the 1960s to more than 60% in the 1970s. Levels of investment increased, and export growth reached 8% in the 1970s from 2. 2% in the 1960’s.

The Philippines also became a leader in rice production during the Green Revolution, with food production per capita growing to more than 20%, allowing the country to be self-sufficient in rice (Jayasuriya, 1986). These statistics partly came from the first presidential term of Marcos. In 1969, he won a second term, thanks to the aforementioned achievements. Growth continued until the first few years of his second term. However, many fundamental problems gradually appeared in the beautiful scenario of the growing Philippine economy.

In the South, insurgency among the Separatist Muslim groups was emerging; there were many demonstrations against the government’s support for the US policies in the Vietnam War, as well as the presence of their military bases in the country; and the economy was weakening, painting a picture of dissatisfaction among the Filipino People (Steinberg, 2007). Marcos took advantage of this unfavorable political and social climate of the country. Under the Constitution, a person can only hold on to the Presidential Seat for a maximum of two terms (Jayasuriya, 1986).

Clearly, time was running out for Marcos, and so in 1972, with the excuse of stabilizing the country, he declared Martial Law and tightened his grip on to power and wealth through authoritarian rule. Another part of the statistics mentioned before is attributed to the early years of the Martial Law. Martial Law in fact, was lauded by international entities, including the World Bank, stating that “recent developments offer an opportunity for a more serious attack on the very difficult social and economic problems presently confronting the Philippines” (Boyce, 1993).

Under Martial Law, however, there was no free press, key opposition figures were jailed, numerous human rights violations were committed, a curfew and many other restrictions were imposed among the population, and everything the dictator said was a decree. Indeed, power was solely under the hands of the Marcoses and their allies (Steinberg, 2007). However, despite this strict rule, the Philippine Economy was continuing to deteriorate. And by the early 80s, there was crisis and uncertainty in the country’s politics and economy.

It was a combination of internal and external factors – there was world recession caused by the second oil shock in 1979, oil imports were becoming more expensive while export prices were falling, and there was a steep increase in the interest rates of foreign borrowings, where the Philippines was heavily dependent on (Bresnan, 1986). He eventually lifted Martial Law in 1981, but called for an election which he eventually won again. Even so, the problems faced by the country were still the same, and Marcos himself started suffering from complications.

He acquired an illness by the name of lupus erythematosus, which made required him to undergo dialysis and have his kidneys replaced. His credibility as a leader was further questioned as he appeared to be dying. It was indeed a hard time for the Philippines. All these events climaxed when Benigno Aquino, opposition leader and greatest rival and critic of the Marcos government, was assassinated on August 21, 1983. It was the ultimate event that would trigger and stimulate the urge of the people to let Marcos step down. For the years to come, a sentiment of disgust against the Marcos regime grew.

To appease the people, a snap election took place, and the candidates for presidency were Beningno Aquino’s wife, Corazon Aquino, and Mr. Marcos himself. The election appeared to have no credibility, as both parties claimed that they won, and both of them had sworn as President at the same time in different locations. Most people however, doubted the victory of the dying dictator, they believe that Mr. Marcos has cheated his way on to power this time. The people were simply tired of the injustices under the Marcos regime, as well as his greed and tight grip to power.

In February 22 1986, hundreds of thousands of people wearing yellow peacefully gathered on Metropolitan Manila’s most important highway, EDSA (Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue). It was a prayerful demonstration urging Marcos to step down and leave the Palace. Eventually, after four days of tireless demonstrations, Marcos flees and flies to Hawaii for exile (Weir, accessed 2008). The rest was history. Corazon Aquino became the first female Filipino President, and EDSA Revolution inspired other nations, such as Germany during the Collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to start their own peaceful revolutions.

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