THE history of the Philippine presidency has been a history of utter subservience to America – whether in the period of direct colonial rule which was the Philippine Commonwealth or in the period of supposed independence beginning 1946 onward. In between these periods, was the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II in which President Jose P. Laurel was obviously never submissive to the United States. President Manuel Roxas, the last Commonwealth President, and by virtue of the US grant of independence on July 4, 1946, the first of the present Republic, was undoubtedly an American boy; he made no bones about this fact. In fact, Roxas had to make a grand maneuver in the Philippine legislature to ensure that the Philippine Constitution could be rewritten, amended if you may, so as to accommodate US wishes for the insertion of the Parity Rights amendment in the basic law – which gave US nationals equal rights as native Filipinos in the exploitation of Philippine natural resources.
When Roxas died from a heart attack in 1948, Vice President Elpidio Quirino succeeded to the presidency. This was as a matter of constitutional course and did not touch on the question of whether or not he was pro-American. The issue surfaced in the ensuing presidential elections of 1949 which historians regard as the dirtiest presidential election in the history of the country.
A distinct feature of the 1949 presidential campaign was the Quirino camp’s presentation of a film depicting, on the one hand, Laurel, the heavy favorite, as a collaborator with the Japanese during the war, and on the other, US aid pouring in torrents into the country with a Quirino victory.
Dirtiest PH elections in history
The 1949 presidential contest was, therefore, being decided on the question of who was America’s candidate and who was not. The question was delineated in the film and the answer was foregone even before actual votes were cast: Quirino must win. The elections were so dirty that in certain municipalities the turnout of voters far exceeded the actual number in the electoral registry.
From the very first presidential elections of the current Philippine Republic up to the present, no Philippine President ever got elected who was not an American boy. President Joseph Ejercito Estrada won as president in 1998 solely on his own merits, but then in less than two years he was deposed. Why? Because he refused to obey directives from Washington for him not to attack Camp Abubakar.
The Erap case prompts us to make an added elaboration on the above proposition; that is, if one got elected President on his own merits, he does not stay in office if he is not an American boy.
The late President Ferdinand E. Marcos was an extremely popular President. Detested by rebels, yes, for how else could protagonists regard each other in war but through belligerence? At any rate, Marcos was enjoying popular political support until he started touching the American hornet’s nest.
At the start of the 1980s or thereabouts, Marcos began imposing rentals on US military installations in the Philippines – the biggest in the world outside America proper. And he was not fixing the rental rate at a constant level but was constantly upping it every five years; 1985 happened to be another year of negotiations for increasing that rental. The US arm-twisted Marcos into agreeing to call a snap election, and assured Cory through Philip Habib that she would win. And, indeed, Cory “won” through the much touted “bloodless revolt” that was the purported People Power rising in EDSA 1986.
US boy was a girl
This brings us back to the current discussion on Duterte.
The most active player in the EDSA revolt was a disgruntled Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, a frustrated aspirant to the post of Armed Forces Chief which was steadfastly held by Gen. Fabian Ver – Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. This is the same General Ramos who, after frustrating the 1989 coup of Gringo Honasan, bragged: “This is where you separate the generals from the boys.” The statement sums up his exquisite expertise, not necessarily as a military man but as a smooth political operator.
If Ramos, Marcos’ martial law implementer, succeeded – with much connivance from Jaime Cardinal Sin, of course, and from then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile– in installing Cory as President, how much easier would such a job be in the case of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who would seize the post through machination of legal electoral processes?
And if Ramos, a West Point man and ever professing deep camaraderie with, if not utter loyalty to, the US, facilitated Cory’s ascent to the presidency in order to serve US interests, was he not acting in that same scheme of things when he so assiduously worked out the candidacy of the otherwise earlier discouraged Duterte?
What then was Ramos rather desperately wanting Duterte to be president for?
I seem to hit a blank wall at this point. Motivations are inner in any man. In instances like this, I resort to my usual method – discern the laws of development inherent in a social phenomenon. By so doing, I am able to make conclusions as valid as factual evidence.
I reiterate the firm stand I took in the underground during the snap elections of 1986. The consensus in the rebel movement, both in the top echelon of leadership and in the rank and file, was that Marcos was still the US boy in the elections and that America was dead set on keeping him in Malacañang. I engaged comrades in debates, including those who mattered in the Communist Party leadership, insisting that Marcos was on the downswing and that Cory was the one America was grooming for president.
Surely, I had nary a fact to buttress this contention, but evident social phenomena were transpiring. The Seventh Fleet was anchored on Manila Bay. International media people were billeted at the Manila Hotel. Responsible elements from the US, legislators and executive officials, were in a scramble for something I didn’t, nor could, know about. But the social events occurring certainly indicated something real big was in the offing. And what could be bigger at that point politically than the downfall of Marcos?
And so – absolutely sans facts but with sheer social indicators – I dared conclude that the US boy in the 1986 presidential snap elections was a girl.
(To be continued)