If the Marcos economy was so bad, why is his economic tsar Virata so respected?

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

IN its vitriolic anti-Marcos manifesto, the Ateneo de Manila pontificated: “The Marcos regime’s economics of debt-driven growth was disastrous for the Philippines.” An earlier column–but reposted in some Facebook pages recently–by UP economist Noel de Dios, an Oscar M. Lopez professor at the School of Economics, makes the same point, that the economy had a “dismal performance under martial law.”

What is astonishing in the condemnation of the Marcos years by the Ateneo and the UP professor is that both pretend—considering they are supposed to be academics—that they are unaware that it was one Cesar Virata who was almost totally in charge of the martial law regime’s economic management.

Of course, the buck stopped with Marcos, and he had command responsibility. But to blame Marcos solely for martial law is to misunderstand our history, that we will be condemned to repeat it, as we indeed have been.

Just as Marcos gave full authority to Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos to deal with the insurgency and with those pesky leftist student activists, he gave Cesar E. A Virata, whom he plucked in 1967 from the UP School of Business and groomed to be his top technocrat, as much authority over economic management.

Virata was indisputably Marcos’ economic tsar, occupying the crucial post of finance secretary from 1972 to the day the strongman fell on Feb. 25, 1986.  Never before and after has there been such a powerful finance secretary as Virata, since Marcos, after Alejandro Melchor left in 1974, had weak executive secretaries. Virata reported to no one else but Marcos.

Cesar E. A. Virata during Marcos years and today

Cesar E. A. Virata during Marcos years and today

Virata didn’t work alone, he was the big boss of the powerful bloc of Marcos technocrats who ran the economy. This included NEDA Director-General Gerardo Sicat, Trade Secretary Roberto Ongpin, central bank governor Jaime Laya, Budget Secretary Manuel Alba, PNB chairman Placido Mapa, finance undersecretaries Ernest Leung and (treasurer) Victor Macalincag, Agriculture Secretary Arturo Tanco, and Energy Secretary Geronimo Velasco.

Virata was to economic management during martial law what Ramos was to the regime’s police apparatus, and Enrile to the armed forces and his legal infrastructure. Marcos ruled as strongman through a troika: Enrile, Ramos and Virata. Without this troika, Marcos’ strongman regime would not have lasted a year.

Marcos even made Virata his Prime Minister in 1981, with “Prime” the title we reporters covering him at the time were told to address him by, and which his former subordinates call him to this day. Marcos chose him to be Prime Minister as his message to the country and the world that his economic manager was his political heir.

Another reason was that without Virata, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank would have stopped its loans to the government. It was the “Seal of Good Housekeeping” for the regime’s economic management, without which foreign banks would have also stopped their lendings to the country.

Ninoy Aquino
And if the banks had done so, the economy would have collapsed in 1980 and not 1983, and Marcos most likely would have been ousted by Enrile and his RAM earlier. It was in March 1980 that Ninoy Aquino had a heart attack, with Marcos agreeing to send him to the US for his bypass surgery. In this alternative universe therefore, Ninoy would not have been assassinated, as he was in 1983.

Just as the Ateneo condemned “Marcos economics” as “debt-driven growth,” UP economist De Dios claimed that the “economy suffered its worst post-war recession under the Marcos regime because of the huge debt hole it had dug… collapsing completely in 1984-1985 when the country could no longer pay its obligations..”

But was it Marcos who was poring over the central bank’s balance of payments reports, and its external-debt reports? No.

It was Virata who had that responsibility, as finance secretary, chairman of the Monetary Board of the central bank and the head as well of the National Economic Development Authority, during martial law.

As finance secretary it was Virata who asked, negotiated, and even signed for most of our government’s foreign debt. The Monetary Board he chaired was the policy-making body of the central bank that had the sole authority to approve even a dollar of foreign debt.

In 1983 when we defaulted on our loans, the country’s total debt stood at $24.8 billion. Some $16.7 billion, or two-thirds of this, were incurred by, or guaranteed by the national government, mostly from the World Bank, the IMF, and the governments of the US and Japan, or more than half of our total debt.

Was there a single foreign loan Virata didn’t want government to incur, yet was forced to get, on orders from Marcos? None. Or if there were, he owes it to the country to disclose what loan this was.

Virata was chairman or board member of 22 government firms (Imelda had 23), many of which incurred foreign debts, or which on-lent the foreign loans they got to private firms. One case was a $200 million loan from the World Bank purportedly to modernize the country’s textile industry. It was the Development Bank of the Philippines that incurred the loan and the Board of Investments that determined to what firm it would be on-lent to. Virata was chairman of the DBP and a member of the Board of Investments. The program was a disaster, with evidence unearthed years later that the textile firms channeled their funds to other sectors, even real estate and hotels.

A favorite example of “Marcos’ mismanagement” was the $1.2 billion loan incurred by the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, never commissioned. But Virata was a member of the board of the National Power Corp. that had the plant as its project, and chairman of the Monetary Board of the central bank that approved the loan. Did he ever, then and now, object to the nuclear plant project? No.

Virata School of Business
Yet despite this crucial role in Marcos’ strongman rule, Virata has been very much respected, and has enjoyed a lucrative post-Marcos career as a consultant here and abroad, and as a member of the boards of several huge corporations.

I found it weird that on the same screen of my computer monitor which had Facebook posts demanding that Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who was in his teens during martial law, apologize for his father’s alleged sins, there was a post about Virata, the dictator’s economic tsar, being honored by the Emperor of Japan with the Order of the Rising Sun, with his former subordinates in government in proud attendance, beaming in a group photo.

HE MUST BE GOOD? Virata in group picture at honoring ceremony by the Japanese embassy Nov. 25, 2016. With officials from different administrations: clockwise from extreme left: Emmanuel Esguerra, NEDA head under Benigno Aquino III; Jaime Laya, Marcos’ central bank governor; Ernest Leung and Victor Macalincag, Marcos’ finance undersecretaries; Romeo Bernardo, President Ramos’ finance undersecretary and Globe Telecoms board member. To Virata’s left is Amina Rasul-Bernardo, Ramos’ Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs and an avid supporter of Aquino III’s peace pact with the MILF.

HE MUST BE GOOD? Virata in group picture at honoring ceremony by the Japanese embassy Nov. 25, 2016. With officials from different administrations: clockwise from extreme left: Emmanuel Esguerra, NEDA head under Benigno Aquino III; Jaime Laya, Marcos’ central bank governor; Ernest Leung and Victor Macalincag, Marcos’ finance undersecretaries; Romeo Bernardo, President Ramos’ finance undersecretary and Globe Telecoms board member. To Virata’s left is Amina Rasul-Bernardo, Ramos’ Presidential Adviser on Youth Affairs and an avid supporter of Aquino III’s peace pact with the MILF.

The UP, a bastion of anti-Marcos sentiment, even renamed its College of Business Administration as the “Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business,” the only building or institution in the country’s premier educational institution ever to be named after a living person. The UP Press even published (i.e., paid for) a 900-page hagiography by Virata’s protégé Gerardo P. Sicat entitled Cesar Virata, Life and Times: Through Four Decades of Philippine Economic History. (To Sicat’s credit though, the book is a well-researched account of the economy during martial law, that’s far from the Yellow narrative.)

Why has the Yellow and Red Cults blamed Marcos solely for martial law, that they even seem afraid to mention the role of Ramos, Enrile and Virata in this crucial period of our history?

The reason is that the Yellow and Red Cults’ demonization of Marcos is intended–wittingly for the Cory Aquino followers and unwittingly for the intellectually bankrupt Communist Party forces–to hide from the nation one very important thing: the hegemony of the ruling class before, during, and after martial law.

Authoritarian rule wasn’t just a project of a diabolical Marcos, wanting to be dictator. Martial law was supported by the ruling class after it concluded that Marcos was targeting solely one of its power-hungry factions, the Eugenio Lopez faction and its allies.

As the ruling classes in most countries in the region did at the time, the Filipino elite had concluded that democracy under conditions in which oligarchs controlled its tools—parliament and the press mainly—would result in chaos which risked not only their wealth and capital, but even their very existence, if in the turmoil the Communist Party would capture power.

When the economy succumbed to the world debt crisis in 1983, the elite was more than willing to junk Marcos, and replace him with a more authentic representative of the ruling class, Cory Aquino of the centuries-old Filipino landlord class.

For Filipinos to realize the crucial roles of Enrile and Ramos, and Virata during martial law would shatter drastically the Yellow fairy tale of an Evil Dictator defeated by the avenging Widow.

Virata is an excellent representative, as corporate executives are, of the capitalist ruling class. UP may just have been naively honest to name its business school as the Virata Business School, since this is the only institution in the entire university devoted to training the corporate servants of the ruling class.

To hide Virata’s role during martial law is to hide the crucial role of the ruling class and its oligarchs in the country’s 13-year authoritarian rule.

E-mail: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao and Bobi Tiglao

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36 Comments

  1. I was never a fan of Virata. In fact, I wrote a scathing critique of him and the UP College of Business Administration when it changed its name to honor him. I felt he did not deserve it. He was enabler of FM and his martial law. He was a detached, cold technician, okay technocrat, unmindful of the plight of his of his suffering people; in that sense he was also enabler of the corporate and economic elites. Much is made of his humble lifestyle and supposed honesty. I could grant both. But what could have prompted him to serve, with loyalty and devotion, a leader who inflicted incalculable damage to his country and people? I live that to your speculation.

  2. If Virata is so great, how come our country cannot pay its external debts in 1983 which causes our economic collapse. Every body knows that our country during Marcos time was debt driven. It that good economic management ?

  3. I think the brilliant Virata stayed with the devious Marcos to somehow moderate the greed of both Ferdinand and Imelda. Do you really think Virata could say no the the behest loans of Marcos cronies foremost of which was the Bataan Nuclear Powerplant? Do you really believe Virata could have said no to very lavish but money-losing ventures of Madame Imelda?

    Virata was a great economist. Be he was powerless against the whims and caprices of the conjugal dictatorship.

    • I think the answer to your question is the U.P. business schools was name after him, if he was an ineffective economists that name should have been different, and the behest loan your talking about not only happened on Marcos time but to all administrations after Marcos!!Bataan Nuclear Power Plant could have improved our lives if not because of too much yellow politics!!Now open up your mind and forget about too much politics!!

    • Virata himself said on TV that he turned down funding for Imelda’s projects so many times that Imelda started calling him after that famous James Bond villain, Dr. No. Get it?

  4. It’s really hogwash for UP and ADMU to hate Marcos so much when they exalted Virata to high heaven! They should start re-writing “their” history for the benefit of the Filipino people if they consider themselves as one! Thanks once again Mr. Tiglao!

  5. Great article. This exposes the stupidity, gullibility or brazen vileness of the Yellows and the Reds including the institutions that supports them like UP, Ateneo, Dela Salle, the Catholic Church, etc. They cannot probably accept their mistakes in the past and to cover it up, they needed to drum up their position and want to impose theirs to the Filipino people. Unfortunately, today’s situation is no longer the same as yesterday’s. The social media plays a big role in shaping our minds and the future of our country. The battle of opinion is no longer attributed solely in the streets. The power of the mainstream media has been greatly contained by the influence of social media. In fact, i can safely say that President Digong is a product of the social media. This is how powerful the social media has become today and that is why Rappler, Inquirer and the likes wanted to silence it.

  6. Francis Mensahero on

    I went over and over the video were Imelda Marcos was interviewed and where she showed documents purporting evidence to ownership of golds and dollar accounts to Marcos. She said, those assets are for the Filipino people even for the whole world. If indeed there is such wealth, how come Marcos borrowed money from IMF, WB, Japan for the Philippine economy in the end subjected the country to enormous debts? Doesn’t make sense. The Marcos family should have used those gold and dollar assets to develop the country, as Imelda said the wealth for the Filipino people. Baloney.

    • Today there is evidence everywhere that these foreign loans were spent on worthwhile national development projects throughout the Marcos regime, just until his overthrow became imminent. As a contingency since Marcos had to flee in 1986 he could not leave these assets to be plundered by the yellow oligarchs.

      Also the US allowed Marcos to keep the money for reason that since RP was unstable, these funds had to be prevented from falling into hands of communist or junta gov’t that attempted several coups during Cory’s time. The IMF WB actually preferred it that way to keep the country indentured, the so called victims of martial law led by prominent yellows were as if after a treasure hunt for themselves, instead of working for the returned of the money for nation building or foreign dept payment for the greater good of the country.

      We can see that the Marcoses are not saints, but certainly not as evil as the Aquino’s and their yellow army. At least the Marcoses are secretly spending for the people on worthwhile projects such as wind generating farms etc. so as not to arouse too much suspicion. Yet attention is unavoidable as in their financially supporting Du30’s campaign.

    • After WW2 the currency went from “gold base” to “credit base”. Meaning from that time on even the Philippines have massive amount of gold, we cannot pay our debts through it. You need to understand world economics and geopolitics.

  7. This banker in a London bank once said to me to the effect: Do you know who was sitting about two weeks ago on the very same chair you are on right now? It was your finance minister asking for his commission for the loan he was asking for your country. Since then, i have totally lost all respect for Mr. Joy.

  8. If memory serves, this guy Alba, who is well ensconced in the society goings on was the Central /bank Governor when clandestine flights carrying precious metals from the Philippine reserves to Hongkong was in the news.

    Economists are exempt from the sins of Martial Law ?

    I would not be surprised if the Atenistas, Iskolars ng Bayan and Assumptionistas , Kulasas who are noisily
    reacting to the LNMB burial got their families’ capital from the years of Martial Law.

  9. If Marcos had Virata do you remember who Cory appointed to take her place at NEDA, it was Mareng Winnie Monsod the one and only yellownomics propagandist who can’t remember she sent the RP into downward spiral.

    Ano’nyare noong hawak niya ang NEDA? Wala kuryente, mahal galungong at bigas, dumami squatter, taong grasa at addik, BNPP at EDSA MRT projects ni Marcos pinatigil at tinenga dahil sa ingit, national assets ng gobyerno binenta sa yellow cronies kaya ayun bagsak tuloy RP piso.

    Now I realize what Marcos was trying to save the country from by declaring Martial Law in 1972. Researchers should be aware that inn 1981 Marcos himself repealed Martial Law, so the yellows are the biggest historical revisionist of all by saying that 1986 EDSA revolt was against martial law when it was in fact a media manipulated, military faction power grab coup by oligarchs.

  10. Cesar Emilio Aguinaldo Virata was one of those who objected to and effectively sabotaged Marcos’ eleven Industrial Projects which would have catapulted the country to industrialized status.

    • RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO on

      Yes. He even convinced the publisher of our paper them BusinessDay to campaign agsinst it. The IMF and World Bank of course were vehemently aginst it.

  11. The truth is that the economy during the Marcos regime is the best because the Philippines was ranked number 2 in ASIA next to Japan. Now, after the Aquino s grab the power to Marcos what happened ??? the Philippines ranked the least in ASIA now. I was hoping that the Aquino s could surpassed the achievements of Pres. Marcos…naging mahirap ang buhay ng mga Filipino dahil sa mga aquino. Sa totyoo lang walang achievement ang mga Aquino as compared to President Marcos…can you mention any achievement of the Aquino s??? wala….zero they claimed to have regained DEMOCRACY pero DISGRASYA ang nangyari lalong naging mahirap ang mga Filipino at mas marami ang mga magnanakaw noong panahon ng mga Aquino….

  12. Maribel A. Calanda on

    The Yellowtards are the ones asking for opinion writers who are factual really to put into proper perspective what happened to the Marcos regime and the Martial Law Years. I was only twelve years old when Martial Law was declared and I remember the peace and quiet the country enjoys during those times. Well, you should say for law-abiding citizens and their law-abiding families as well. Marcos is a hero. To hell with those who consider it otherwise while I commiserate with the victims, I don’t want the nation to be hostaged by the lies and emotions that went with it. It is better to move forward than to seek for justice. After all, God is not asleep and He is in control. If those loud, narrow-minded and rude protesters and their elders do not want to move forward, then they can expect that in the end they will be alone in their grief and misery.

  13. Whoa! This quite interesting as pointed out the UP and Ateneo Academic communities bannered: “Never Again!” so why didn’t they protested when corruption continued with the Cory Aquino Administration!!!! Nevermind the Ramos, Estarada and GMA admin but during the previous administration there was so much corruption! “Never Again” but it happened during years after EDSA!!! AS it appears, the oligarch yellow as pointed should be made to answer! Remember “inclusive growth” of the previous admin, only the rich 7% of the economy benefited and it did not trickle down to the poor! These academic community if they are up to date should condemn the previous administration for the proliferation of the “Narco-Politics” prevailing over the country!

  14. I don’t belong to the yellow cult, nor to the red cult. But I have seen neither any better conclusion to speak about Marco’s regime that was filled with corruptions, killings, and unspeakable human right violations, so likely of the present administration. I could not imagine how Ferdi Marcos and his cronies could take by conscience all their government projects which ended up in their pockets. The well acclaimed by DU30 Marcos’ agricultural project of Masagana 99, for which the people were required to eat corn and roots crops was unbelievable and unthinkable progress. Why and why were questions that many people asked for themselves! Later, the people found out that rice was exported to make a dollar, but people were forced eat corn and root crops. I was then kid when that rice rationing happened in 1970’s. How many millions or billions of dollars went to Ferdi Marcos pocket for that Rice export that forced the people to eat corn and roots crops. Ferdi Marcos’ agricultural project to increase rice production was loaned from the world bank for the people to live in abundance somehow, however, it did happened completely reversed. The college educational program that was envisioned to help the sons and daughters of coconut farmers who placed the portion of their hard labor income in the college educational need of their children, but it turned out later as good as nothing. I would not wonder if Virata got also his lion share. But I would always wonder why Mr. Tiglao is so allergic with the yellow cult but amiable on his writings to the Marcoses. I don’t know why?

    • ang ganda pa naman ng alias mo, ignorante ka naman sa panahon noon at kung maka husga ka grabe. I don’t know why?

    • I was not that kid the way you think of yesterday. I was a high school kid whose time in my private school was spent either in library or in my classroom reading books and newspapers in 1970’s. I was in my college at the height of protest rallies against Marcos, and I was one with those students who placed their lives at risk in the protest rally against the regime of Ferdi Marcos. Now that Ferdi Marcos is buried in the Libingan nang mga Bayani is another issue that though controversial and undesirable for corrupt leader and violator of human rights he was for us, most probably I would just abstain if plebesite would be done for YES or NO for the exhumation of the body of Ferdi Marcos in Libingan nang mga Bayani. My reason is this: he is dead, and he can no longer change the votes. You know what I mean!

  15. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Prime Virata deserves the honor and the respect accorded him by Japan and other prestigious institutions of known caliber and credibility. I wish I could have a book written by former NEDA head Gerardo Sicat.Those who are trying to diminish Prime’s contribution to development are not only out of touch of history. God bless the Philippines.

  16. Keep it up Mr. Tiglao, soon the likes of the inquirer and rappler will only be patronized by their own officers and staff that likewise serves as trolls on the comment sections. I recall during the students protests prior to martial law (I was still in high school then) our neighbor then was so mad that their teenage daughter then was impregnated by her classmate so as many more similar stories as their alibis then was that they are joining rallies to fight for their rights. I hope the same will not happen after last Friday (anyway contraceptives are easier to obtain nowadays). Warning to parents.

  17. You would be the most prominent movers of Historical Revisionism, if we go by the definition of the anti-Marcos forces. It is thus incumbent upon some of your colleagues here at Manila Times, like Rene Saguisag and Rachel Reyes, who routinely decry efforts to rewrite history, to refute your writings like this one point by point in forceful fashion instead of the usual angry blanket denunciations imputing ignorance, malice, outright impropriety, even stupidity against those who stray out of their favored line of thinking. Indeed, why they don’t, or never did, puzzles. Ahh, maybe, they could not.

  18. The answer to the title of this article is simple. During the Martial Law Era , the press was suppressed, so all the writings and communications were controlled and censored, we only hear the goods things and they never issue the bad things. So people will think the Martial Law is a good thing. That’s is why, up to now many people are saying that, Martial law era, is better done present time. But at the same time, secretly the military is doing their subversive missions, to destroy their presumed enemies, just remember “Writ of Habeas Corpus” was suspended, that resulted to thousand of sufferings and killings of innocent victims. Up to now their families are still crying for justice.

  19. i agree 100% you know communist will oppose anything under the sun just like marcos burial in the LNMB. they simply wanted to use it as starting point to create sympathy for the people to gather and to cause the overthrow of pdu30 and gain control of the government simply because their top honchos were in position already.

    cemetery yes, i would say that cpp/npa/ndf who used to kill their members, such as alleged government spies, students activist that wanted to go back home and continue studies, and others can be find where else except in the mass grave sites in quezon, bicol, visayas and misamis oriental. they uses any thing under the sun to cover their sins to the people by simply lying and telling a lie was their penchant in life.

    yes, prime minister cesar virata was the head of the government and runs the government at that that time, now if there is just a single occasion our economy was at fault it was the communist and oligarchs now that has something to do with it. yes, by 1980 we are already exporting cars to italy, we have car body stamping plant, we have transmission plant and we have that delta corporation engine plant, iligan integrated steel mills that produces steel for ship building, steel billets ingredients for other high quality steel but where it is now, all have been mothballed by the EVIL DICTATOR CORY AQUINO.

  20. Ganyan kagago ang mga yellowtard.KJagaya lang ng ninunong nila na traydor sa bayan(lolo ni ABNOY ay makapili ng panahon ng mga hapon).Ang ang isa pa ninuno ni NOYTARD ay balasubas sa bayan(lolo nila sa hacienda Luisita ay napasakamay ang Luisita dahil dahil sa kanilang pagmamanipula noon).Eh ang mga namatay sa rally sa Luisita.Ang mga namatay sa Mendiola noong panahon ng inutil na Cory.Sabaaaaaaaagay kagaya lang niyang inutil si ABNOY(Luneta seige,Yolanda,mamasapano massacre,Zamboanga seige at marami pang iba na kagaguhan ni NOYTARD.

  21. This article really is an eye opener for those people who are really searching for the truth about communist and ruling elite alliance in the Philippines. Please continue exposing these hypocrites.

  22. My respect goes to Virata and Sicat. They were able to manage the Country economy during a difficult time.
    About the Bataan Nuclear Plant, why it was not put into operation when it was ready to operate. Who were the
    people that opposed its operation?

    • off course the yellowish oppose it….as a result we experience 12 hr rotational brownouts in late from late 80′ till early 90’s…

    • It’s quite obvious. Cory and her yellow followers (specially the Lopez clan who once owned MERALCO for a long time) would not allow it. It would be bad for her legacy (providing cheap energy to the Filipinos via a proj done by the person she ousted) and also bad for business (for the Lopezes who wouldn’t be able to rake in a greedy profit due to lower energy cost the BNP would have given the Filipino people).

    • It ws cory aquino who ordered to shutdown the powerplant and sell the energy to private sector, thats why we had an expensive power supply right now

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