Corruption, violence, kidnappings: The four post-Marcos presidencies, 1986-2010

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With only three weeks to go before the national elections, it’s worth reflecting on the catastrophic record of four recent Presidents and the consequences of allowing their depredations to go unchecked. Just a cursory cycle through the performance of four Presidents in the post-authoritarian era – Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), Fidel V. Ramos (1992-98), Joseph Ejercito Estrada (1998-2001), and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) – recalls nightmarish scenarios of corruption, murder, and kidnappings. Even after the toppling of Marcos, the vast majority of the Filipino poor ended up being very badly short-changed.

The Aquino administration inherited a bankrupt state, a discontented military, and was beleaguered by multiple coup attempts. Cory did, however, enjoy broad support and promised to address inequality and poverty, principally through a long overdue comprehensive agrarian reform program. But implementation was slow and partial, and she ensured that her own extended family’s vast holdings remained untouched. Mass protest demonstrations ended in the bloody massacre of 13 peasant farmers on Manila’s Mendiola Bridge in 1987. Resources were poured into her armed forces whose counter-insurgency campaign amounted to “total war” on communist rebels and Moro secessionists. General Fidel V. Ramos, a cousin of Marcos who headed the much-feared Philippine Constabulary during martial rule, was her chief security adviser. Anti-communist vigilante and militia groups flourished. Two of the most notorious were the Alsa Masa, composed of rebel defectors who terrified Davao’s citizenry, and the Tadtad, a pseudo-Christian cult that relished beheadings and hackings, and operated in Mindanao and Cebu.

By the end of Aquino’s term, 2,696 salvaging and disappearance cases had been recorded, many more per annum than during the Martial Law period. A staggering 46 percent of Filipinos lived in grinding poverty. Aquino’s greatest achievement was the restoration of elite democracy, which really boiled down to the retrenchment of the pre-martial law oligarchic elite.

Aquino’s successor was Ramos who, unlike many of his predecessors, had a clear national economic development plan which included export-oriented industrialization, trade liberalization, privatization, and breaking up cartels and monopolies. By 1998, the Ramos administration posted GDP growth of 5.8 percent. However, social welfare was given minimal attention with only 16 percent of expenditure allocated to poverty alleviation and little investment made in vital infrastructure, as opposed to shopping malls and golf courses. Moreover, Ramos was slow to prosecute income tax evaders, most prominently Marcos’ old crony capitalists, such as Lucio Tan, the tobacco and beer magnate who took advantage of Ramos’ privatization policy and bought Philippine Airlines.


Under Ramos’ watch, drugs, bank robberies and kidnappings were rife. Between 1993 and 1997, kidnappings of mainly wealthy Chinese Filipinos stood at an alarming 286 per year with annual ransom demands of between $2 million and $10 million. His appointment of Vice-President Joseph Estrada as head of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission resulted in the revival of martial rule-style torture squads with links to the criminal underworld.

Estrada’s turn at the presidential helm after Ramos quickly degenerated into a grotesque carnival of violence, racketeering, corruption, and sexual shenanigans. He took a hard line stance against communists and declared an “all-out war” on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao that left scores of people killed and thousands displaced. He and his cronies crafted government policy during late-night drinking sessions, which the press named Estrada’s “midnight cabinet.” He freely boasted about the number of mistresses and children he was actively supporting, in some instances gifting with houses. His downfall came when his involvement in the multimillion-peso illegal numbers game, jueteng, was exposed. Estrada had campaigned on a pro-poor platform. But less than three years in office, he had amassed almost $80 million through corruption. Impeached and finally ousted in 2001 in a popular uprising, EDSA 2, he was jailed but only served 43 days, pardoned by his politically accommodating successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Macapagal-Arroyo had promised to rid the country of patronage-style politics and raise moral standards in government. Her tenure is now considered to have been one of the most rapacious. True, economic growth peaked at 7.3 percent in 2007, but, it was revealed, this was largely attributable to migrant workers’ remittances buoying the economy. Under her administration, buying political support and favors became standard practice. She was known to hand out envelopes containing money to anyone who would help further her ends. For instance, it was reported that at a dinner with Catholic bishops, cash-filled envelopes were given out as gifts ostensibly for pro-poor projects.

She and members of her family were said to have directly benefited from hundreds of millions of pesos and dollars’ worth of kickbacks. One deal alone, the Philippine national broadband network, or the NBN-ZTE project, reportedly netted Arroyo $130 million in kickbacks; her husband, son, and brother-in-law were allegedly involved in jueteng racketeering, and she has been implicated in a host of money laundering scams, one of which was connected to funding her electoral campaign against the action movie star Fernando Poe, Jr., who ran for the presidency in 2004. That election was distinguished by vote rigging, fraud, and political violence — 189 people were killed and 249 wounded. Additionally, under her watch, 900 cases of extra-judicial killings of mainly leftist activists were filed, 180 disappearances recorded, and 56 journalists were murdered.

Historians are trained to look for patterns. The recurring currents here are patronage, plunder, and violence. There was economic growth and some expansion of the middle-class but the poor barely benefited. None of these Presidents did enough to help the poor. None curtailed elite cronyism. The present Aquino administration has, to a degree, perpetuated this appalling national saga.

The current crop of populist personalities who peddle the false hope of messianic deliverance are appealing to voters on everything but reason.

We deserve better and must vote better. Otherwise our history of bad governance will be stuck on repeat and replay.

rachelagreyes@gmail.com

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7 Comments

  1. Yung nagkakalat na magnanakaw, corrupt at dictayor c PMacoy ay siyang tunay na magnanakaw, corrupt, etc You better ask your co-columnist Atty Dulay. Clue: Early Privatization ni PDamos

  2. ayan hugas kamay ka ngaun kunwari sa article mo na to para di ka mapagbintangang walang alam sa tunay na kasaysayan–pseudo-jourmalist!!!

  3. This piece of untrue history shows the reading public how this columnist is generalizing what had happened in the past 30 years only on how she knew it,how it was told to her and how maybe she had read it.Almost all the she said and described in her column are remarkably incorrect or inaccurate as to really what had happened and what has transpired.It is maybe that this columnist is much younger then to really look and grasped of what really is happening in the 30 years that had passed.Sorry,no offense meant to the writer,but this is what we,the older generations,are saying to the younger ones,to let the historians (those who are not bias) write the true history of this country.I for one knows the exactly the facts and the veracity of the things that had happened in the past,but i still very carefully is trying to tell it to the younger generations of this country so that whenever they would want to verify the facts of the story i had told them,i would be sure that it was the truth and the impartiality is intact.This is how our history should be told.Verifiable,truthful and impartial…Not like how this columnist had written it…

  4. This is a nice follow-up to your last week’s post about the Marcos regime, for balance. See, the issue is not so much that there is any effort to whitewash as there is utter lack of consistency. If you are angry of corruption or human rights violations, or any other sins, it has to be across the board not on any specific President, else your real motivation is in question. Many find righteous joy denouncing Marcos for his many alleged crimes for example, but when called attention to the alleged crimes under other Presidents and why the utter absence of similar indignation, there is no answer.

  5. Sa Ikakaunlad ng Bayan Disisplina ang Kailangan. Simple . Paradign change. It takes the whole nation to do this chnage. Bagong Lipunan. Sounds familiar right but these are much demonized Marcos realizations he was telling the Philippines to toe the line. Was he too much ahead of his time, very few really unreally understood the movement. So we are a warlord feudal state not in any near sophistication with the United Staes as we deemed to compare with their democracy. We are not wired in that culture yet. Maybe we know we saw and like or maybe know but at our roots we are not wired together, maybe parallel but still we are a very different culture or from any other cultures around the world. Marcos with all his perceived faults depending on whose narrative it is coming from was really brilliant but can not do it on his own. He has a lot of enemies from the oligarchs, the oligarch’s media, the people brainwashed by this media, the CPP/NPA, the MNLF and the US formidable interest in geo political eco supremacy. As a nation we did not see the wisdom of FM but looked at his faults and wife’s excesses. We should have done the correction yet geared towards the paradigm change and economic plan that we have and standing up with him against the machinations of the US govt through its dreaded agencies. Compared to the post FM regime, we got what we deserved for not seeing the intentions of an oligach housewife’s greed for power and vindictiveness. The weak FVR as US Amboy, Gloria’s rapaciousness and Pnoy’s like mom like son.As these went down in history again, we sift from the incredible rubbles and humonguopus national experiences and learn from the wisdom of our elders. Let’s go back to the Marcos agenda of DIsiplina and Bagong Lipunan. Change has to come from every Filipino’s heart. We should have at least a common denominator to help our leaders and ourselves achieve the goals. We should have a uniting point (True to Bonbong’s call) as one nation to propell us to these state of awareness. Embrace all our differences and continue to work our progress as a goal no matter what differences we may have. As such we need a leader we can respect and who has the political will we can support and respect to bring us to this state of union and prosperity. Being objective or personal, I believe it will be a Mirriam Bongbong tandem that an fulfill this.

  6. “Resources were poured into her armed forces whose counter-insurgency campaign amounted to ‘total war’ on communist rebels and Moro secessionists.”

    It was the fault of former Pres. Cory Aquino if resources were used to fight the NPA rebels and MNLF-MILF rebels. Why? Because she freed from prison Communist rebels such as Joma Sison, Ka Dante Buscayno, Luis Jalandoni, et al. She brought back Nur Misuari from the Middle East and gave him almost a hero’s welcome and big propaganda when Misuari arrived in the Philippines.

    Misuari gave a press conference, completely surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards, giving the impression that Misuari is a power to reckon with, and giving Misuari a big propaganda and media mileage; thus enabling Misuari to recruit rebels to fight the Philippine government.

    Pres. Cory’s military advisers (Ramos and Enrile) advised her against bringing Nur Misuari back as it would tie down hundreds of millions of Philippine money and military resources into fighting the Moro rebels. But Nene Pimentel and Butz Aquino, for media mileage and publicity (according to Enrile), wanted Nur Misuari back and convinced Cory to have peace talks with Misuari.

    Cory said to Nur Misuari when they had a peace talk, “Now there will be peace in Mindanao.” What was the reply of Misuari? He said, “Thanks to Marcos and we had peace long time ago.” Cory just sheepishly said, “then, we’ll continue the peace.” This was revealed by columnist Kit Tatad.

    Now many are still wondering why we have problems on Moro secessionist rebels and CPP-NPA rebels.

  7. Sandigan Bayan on

    Kinopya ma lang yata sa column ni Tiglao yan datos mo tungkol sa salvaging….