How the US maneuvered to put Cory Aquino in power

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

As narrated by a participant, Reagan personal envoy Laxalt
PRESIDENT Duterte’s disdain for the United States, and his pronouncements that he will lead the country towards a “separation” from its colonial and post-colonial master, is undoubtedly fraught with real danger. Except for Fidel Castro who died aged 90 and Mao Zedong at 82, it’s difficult to think of any leader of any Third World country who defied the US and remained in power, or in life for so long.

I don’t think I’m caught up in some conspiracy theory to say that the US Central Intelligence Agency, with its very reliable partners, the Israeli Mossad and the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, is still the most powerful organization in the world with cross-border power.

Maybe I’ve watched too many Jason Bourne movies, but since August 21, 1983, I have been amazed at the precision of the gunman who fired the single bullet that killed Ninoy Aquino. And that was done in the five seconds after Aquino left the plane. Can any Filipino assassin be so good?

Aquino’s assassination in 1983 did fire up outrage against the Marcos dictatorship, with his funeral procession estimated to have been attended by at least a million people. However, it didn’t actually trigger the events that led to EDSA I in 1986. That it did is a myth.

It was the brilliant maneuverings by the US that toppled Marcos, which the Yellow Narrative, propagated by the two Aquino presidents and President Fidel V. Ramos, has cloaked.

Perhaps, if anything else, Duterte’s anti-US stance would bring America’s role in our sad plight as a nation without control of our destiny, how it brought the Yellow Cult to power, to light.

MAMA MARY OR MR. REAGAN? Statue of the Virgin Mary onstage with Enrile and Ramos during EDSA I.

MAMA MARY OR MR. REAGAN? Statue of the Virgin Mary onstage with Enrile and Ramos during EDSA I.

Marcos weathered the political storm of the Aquino assassination. The findings of the “Agrava Commission,” the independent body that was created to investigate it, cleared General Fabian Ver of complicity in the assassination. It had the effect of giving the elite an excuse to continue its support for Marcos, and “move on.”

More importantly, Marcos bought the Philippine elite’s support at that time by giving them the means not only to survive the severe 1984-1985 economic crisis, but to grow richer.

That economic conflagration was the worst ever in our history, part of the global debt crisis triggered by the Mexican default on its foreign loans in March 1982. With the ensuing rise of global interest rates, the Philippines also defaulted on its loans in October 1983, which in effect barred the country from receiving any foreign exchange for its exports of goods and services. The Philippines was effectively isolated from the world business community. As a result, the economy shrank by 20 percent from 1983 to 1985 percent, the deepest such contraction in the post-war period.

Elite richer
The Philippine elite though was protected from the economic meltdown, to a great extent through the Marcos’ regime’s so-called “Jobo bills,” named after the banker Jose B. Fernandez, Jr. who replaced Marcos and Imelda’s favorite official Jaime Laya as central bank governor in 1983. Jobo broke all monetary-policy precedents and had the central bank and the National Treasury issue these bills, which had unheard-of interest rates that steadily went up to as high as 60 percent in mid-1985.

The economic crisis from 1983 to 1985 reduced average Filipinos’ income (measured as per capita GNP) by a staggering 20 percent–which meant that it was only 21 years later, in 2003, that GDP per capita exceeded that of 1983.

In contrast, the Filipino elite in effect saw their funds grow 40 percent richer by investing in the Jobo bills.

The central bank economists, especially the two-term central bank governor Amando Tetangco who was at that time deputy director for economic research, justified the bills as necessary to contain inflation.

Which in fact it did. Reaching a high of, believe it or not, 80 percent in mid-1984, inflation fast receded, to end up only 10 percent by the end of 1985. The rich were happy as they were much richer, ordinary Filipinos even became relieved that prices of commodities which had rocketed in 1984 returned nearly back to normal.

Marcos seemed to have recovered from his kidney transplant by 1984, and succeeded in stabilizing the economy and the political situation. The International Monetary Fund in 1985 gave the country a financial parachute in the form of of a $300 million loan, called an extended facility, and got foreign bankers and governments not only to agree to a restructuring of the Philippines’ debt to them, but to extend a new $200 million loan so it could service its maturing debts.

Marcos’ plan for a transition from a formal dictatorship to a de facto one mimicking Lew Kuan Yew’s 31-year one-man rule in Singapore was making headway: the Parliament (Batasan Pambansa) which had 180 members, 55 of whom made up the opposition, convened in June 1984 and elected Marcos’ chief technocrat Cesar Virata Prime Minister.

By that move, Marcos sent a message to the world that there was a clear line of succession, Virata, and Imelda wouldn’t be his political heir.

By this time though, the US State and Defense Departments had decided that Marcos had to be toppled, despite President Reagan and his wife Nancy’s fondness and strong support for the Marcos couple.

Reagan, a fierce anti-communist, was said to have been convinced by mid-1985 to abandon Marcos when told by the CIA that the growth of the communist insurgency, which was based on its propaganda that it was fighting for democracy and against dictatorship, could only be stopped if the dictator was overthrown and “democracy restored”. If the communists with their allies captured power, the CIA had argued, the US military bases in Clark and Subic would be booted out, endangering Reagan’s crusade against “The Evil Empire,” the USSR. That of course made Reagan, obsessed with destroying the Soviet Union, change his mind instantly.

Marcos survived the 1983 Aquino assassination. He would fall though three years later because of events triggered by a brilliant US move, which Reagan saw through to the end.: It forced Marcos to call for a “snap” elections, which the Constitution didn’t require, the conduct of which triggered the events that led to his fall.

Here is how the US executed that move, as narrated by Reagan’s personal envoy Senator Paul Laxalt, in the Summer 1986 issue of the conservative magazine Policy Review. It wasn’t Mama Mary that created events that led to the dictator’s downfall, but Mr. Reagan.

In his article, Laxalt described in detail how he relayed to Marcos Reagan’s wish for Marcos to undertake “credible” elections to prove that he still had Filipinos’ support, an idea which was, to quote the senator, “previously broached to him by CIA director William Casey.” Laxalt even told Marcos in mid-1985 that the announcement for such an elections could be dramatically made in his scheduled interview in the popular TV talk show then, This Week with David Brinkley. Marcos did make the announcement, which surprised the country, on November 4, when interviewed by Sam Donaldson and George Will in that show.

I don’t think US officials weren’t aware of the consequences of that election.

Laxalt’s account
The rest is history, to use that cliché: it was the widespread perception of fraud in the elections, real or not, the RAM’s failed coup attempt, Marcos’ hesitation in wiping out militarily the Enrile-Ramos’ gang of 700 rebels in Camp Crame that led to the dictator’s fall.

It is spine-tingling though to read Laxalt’s account, how matter-of-factly he narrated how Marcos was made to step down from power:

“On Feb. 24, President Marcos phoned me at the Capital, where I was being briefed by Secretary of State George Schultz and Philip Habib, the President’s special emissary, about the latest events in the Philippines. Marcos asked me whether a message he had received from the White House calling for a “peaceful transition to a new government was genuinely from President Reagan. I told him it was…. President Marcos was terrified by reports that the US Marines were on the way to join the rebels…

After this phone call [from Marcos at 3 a.m. February 25], Secretary Shultz and I were driven to the White House, where we met with the President, Admiral Pointdexter, the national security adviser, and White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan. The President said it would be impractical and undignified for Mr. Marcos to share power with Mrs. Aquino…

I then called President Marcos from Admiral Pointdexter’s office in the White House. It was 5 a.m., Manila time…President Marcos asked me the gut question—what I thought he should do…I concluded that it was in the best interest of all that he leave. If he did not, I feared a civil war with a lot of bloodshed. I said, ‘Cut and cut cleanly. The time has come.’ x x x

We have talked a few times since he came to Hawaii…It’s important to understand too that (Marcos) didn’t believe he was going to have to leave the country when he agreed to leave the presidential palace. He thought he was going home to northern Luzon. Otherwise, he told me, ‘I would have never taken all that currency out of there. That was a violation of our law. I thought I was going home.’

Apparently, negotiations to permit the Marcoses to go home were still under way when their entourage was flown into Clark Air Field from the presidential palace…Mrs. Aquino and more particularly General Ramos feared he would be a very bad force if he stayed in the Philippines, and so the Marcoses were taken to Guam. “

The US made the crucial move that would lead to Aquino’s capture of power in 1986. EDSA I provided the dramatics with RAM, Enrile, Ramos, and Cardinal Sin the supporting characters of the drama. The US even helped Cory’s propaganda by deploying several PR firms to help her, among them, the Sawyer-Miller Group.* (That firm brainstormed the Yellow color as the Aquinos’ protest symbol, extracted from that very American “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” 1973 hit song, derived from a tale during the US Civil War.)

The US also saved Cory from being overthrown by military mutineers in November 1989. I’ll quote the account of then US Armed Forces Chief of Staff Collin Powell, who supervised that rescue, in my column Wednesday. To paraphrase Quezon, I would prefer a hell of a destiny made by Filipinos, rather than a heaven of a destiny made by the US government.

I wonder what role the US had in reinstalling another yellow regime in 2010.

* For a detailed, documented account, see my column November 29, 2015. “Smartmatic chairman: Cory’s close-in media adviser.”

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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28 Comments

  1. This leads credence to the account of John Perkins in his book ” Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, where he stated the machinations of the “economic hit men” that weakened the Philippine economy, destroying and taking full control of it, and played the coup-master, deposing the Philippine President in favor of an IMF puppet—while calling the operation “people power.”

  2. It is not so easy for the Americans to depose even a Third World leader just like that. President Rodrigo Duterte already called US President Barach Obama a “son of a bitch,” yet Obama just kept quiet. The Americans will forcibly remove a third world leader if there is a severe unrest in the country. While the Americans forcibly removed Manuel Noriega on their invasion of Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, a severe unrest in the country precipitated their intervention. Noriega just cancelled an election and the Panamanian opposition demanded his removal from office. In addition to this, Noriega threatened to nationalize the Panamanian canal which will certainly cause deep economic distress to the Americans and Europeans. Although the Panamanian opposition hailed the US for removing an unpopular President, every nation in South America condemned the US intervention. The majority of members of the UN later on condemned the invasion of Panama. what prompted President Bush to attack Iraq and remove her President was Iraq’s violation of treaty obligations and his open praise of terrorist of September 11 attack. What caused Marcos and even Estrada’s downfall from power was their refusal to defend their rights against the claims of the opposition. Marcos just won an election and so there was no reason to depose him. He refused to have Enrile and Ramos arrested for mutiny and allowed demonstrators to converge at EDSA without any rally permit. Estrada allowed the EDSA II demonstrators to converge in EDSA II even though the Senate did not impeach him. President Duterte will not allow a coup d’tat to remove him from power without any resistance on his part. Marcos and Estrada did not resist their removal from power. An attack by the US on the Philippines to remove Duterte will certainly alarm all her neighbors. All Asian nations will definitely condemn it – just as all nations in South America condemned the American invasion of Panama. Americans have no choice except to let the constitutional process take care of any unpopular Philippine President — including Duterte. If there is a serious unrest in the country or if there is a civil war, then the Americans may just intervene to restore order in the Philippines.

    • Wrong, US did not remove Noriega, they killed him by bombing his plane, and his successor’s plane, too, Torrijos.

  3. May GOD according to His words punish these evils .
    What have they done to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?
    They destroy innocent Nation who are struggling desiring for progress.

  4. Habib’s departure from Manila was the green light for Enrile and others to make their move. Few days prior to that Habib met the key people in the Philippines, the rest is history.

  5. “I wonder what role the US had in reinstalling another yellow regime in 2010.”

    Mr. Tiglao, is that a random musing or are you on to something? Do tell. I’m hopeful that with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, regime change would no longer be the policy when a leader or regime’s existence becomes inimical to their interest.

  6. Forget RP..now is in USA the TRUMP..now CIA let me see how your dirty tricks work in your country. Let you sinister CIA take the dose of the same medicine stateside…CIA to TRAMPleTRUMP in USA..let me see and the whole world too. Bad things come in boomerang now its your turn USA. The whole world will be laughing at you… oooh I forgot the same was in JFK case…so TRUMP is JFK Version 2 upgraded..

  7. Gerardo Payumo on

    Thank you for this great article on the subject which I believed needed your scholarly treatment.

  8. Wow! That was such a good read about the truth behind the myth of EDSA and Cory Aquino. It is very enlightening for someone like me who was young and impressionable during those years of EDSA 1. We were all taken for a ride by the yellow narrative. Thank you, Mr Tiglao. Because of you, now we know better.

  9. I believe that both Marcos and Erap were ousted by US-CIA because these men were running the country mostly on their self-willed program without the blessing of America. If Duterte will survive the maneuverings of America then he is stronger than both Marcos and Erap combined. I hope he can swing his term as he deem it to be. God bless him.

  10. right on target Mr. Tiglao …. of course the yellow tards will see this as revisionism along with the millennials from Atenio and UP … and other surviving cory aquino’s crowds. Now having said that, i think that history might repeats itself? God forbid. …. Anyway more power to you.

  11. I cannot rebut th e”facts” you mentioned as per alleged narration by Paul Laxalt. However, I notice you were quite liberal in your interpretation of events and marginalized or made them trivial. ex. Aquino’s assassination did not trigger the Edsa Revolt. What is your basis? As for me, I will allow history to make the final judgment. However, I have Jose Rizal’s example in that he was executed by firing squad 3 years before the revolution. And historians are near unanimous in saying that his death precipitated the fall of the Spanish colonial government. Also, you made mention that Marcos made Cesar Virata Prime Minister (or to be more accurate, the rubber stamp Batasan Pambansa) as a signal that he is the successor and not Imelda. You conveniently omitted that under the laws of that time, it was an Executive Committee that is supposed to take over if Marcos dies or is incapacitated. Imelda, Ver, and others definitely more powerful than Virata is in that Executive Committee. All political actors then considered Imelda as the successor and not Virata who was only there to serve the regime’s need to have a clean technocrat for the IMF World Bank.

    • “I have Jose Rizal’s example in that he was executed by firing squad 3 years before the revolution. And historians are near unanimous in saying that his death precipitated the fall of the Spanish colonial government.” Let me digress:

      que si una bala destrozó tu craneo,
      en cambio tu idea destruyó un imperio! (Cecilo Apostol)

      that if a bullet shattered your skull,
      in return your genius brought down an empire!

      Same might be true for Ninoy Aquino.

    • “Jose Rizal’s example in that he was executed by firing squad 3 years before the revolution”.
      There was no revolution in 1896, the US bought Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain for 15 million dollars, it was called “The treaty of Paris”.

  12. the downfull of the macos era was similar to the lost of late former philippine presidents like osmenia’46.pred. quirino /52, pred. estrada. the main key was a fully supported and funded from an outside power nation.

  13. There were millions of Filipinos who still supported Marcos but they did not converge in the streets to express and show their support for him; hence, we were led to believe by biased media that many Filipinos hated him.

  14. What is also largely unreported is that the Americans were openly supporting and arming RAM to stage a coup. Did they really want JPE to take over? The most mysterious question of all is why did Marcos not fire Enrile much earlier when he already knew what JPE was planning, contrary to Ver’s strongest advice? Another is that why were there no Air Force pilots for the choppers in Malacanang that night which is the reason they were forced to leave on American provided choppers which in turn led to Marcos being kidnapped to Hawaii? I guess we will never know because Marcos and Ver took the answers to their graves.

  15. How sad that the Filipinos were made to believe that Marcos stole from the country’s coffer and how extremely unfair to treat the late president the way he is being treated now. I hope that God in his infinite mercy would do something to stop this hate campaign against the Marcoses, I hope God in his goodness make Bongbong Marcos the true winner in the Vice Presidential election and be proclaimed as one so he can continue the good deeds of his father. May God have mercy on those who vilified and continue to vilify the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

  16. This the kind of Revisionism that the Yellows just hate, especially as it takes the drama out of EDSA 1.

  17. This article is so far the best narration of actual events that would prove that the Aquino’s lied to the Pilipino people with their own self serving and faked history written by their cohorts and fed to the mellenials purposely to glorify their family. This is a world class treachery by the Aquinos that they are known for.

  18. Filipinos and Americans alike should be aware of all these valuable information, posts on Linkedin would give you a hint that American business community is fed up with all the dirty works of the CIA and the likes and its alliance with the international media particularly NYT in demonizing Trump while blaming an ultra-rightist based in UK as well as Russian social media for enabling him to cheat in the last election.

    • Why not, if that should right be so. Let’s open our mind and stop deceiving ourselves. Let’s all see and uphold the truth.

  19. Exactly what they are doing to the Middle East albeit a ‘little’ more forcefully. If Russia didnt help Syria, same fate would have befallen them. Docile and meek prez like BS Aquino is how the US likes them. Manueverable lapdogs. I remember a story how a US ambassador shouted and berated a Philippine president – Magsaysay, true or not?….same way as Obama wanted to censure Duterte. It was Obama who relaxed the laws on drugs in the US hence, he is very sympathetic to drug pushers, druglords and their coddlers. The yellows follow the same dictum as this Obama, they are all in it…hah!

  20. The US did the same to Erap. Take note of the groups that conspired to oust Marcos. Were they not the same groups in Erap’s ouster including of course the role of US-CIA?