End of Year Report, 2007: Crisis in the Philippines

One of the civil society activists arrested commented that he and others supported the revolt “because all of us are fed up with this illegitimate, corrupt and abusive government” (See www.greenleft.org.au, 12 Dec. 2007, “We are fed up with this abusive government”). The position of the radical military was well put previously by Gen. Danilo Lim, Commander of the First Scout Rangers in the 2006 revolt. According to their “Declaration of Withdrawal of Support”: “A crisis of extreme proportions now confronts our people. The economy, the rule of law and the moral order lie in ruins. Political, judicial and economic power, as well as that of the mass media, has been perverted to inflict and justify high crimes against the Filipino people. More and more among our people no longer eat, while the idle rich and the corrupt live like kings. Minority rule has replaced majority rule. The three branches of the government are now in total disarray: the entire system has broken down, thanks to a President whose legitimacy is denied by the vast majority of the people.” Since then the state of affairs in the Philippines has worsened.

Progressives – and others – in the Philippines see the revolt as consistent with a long-standing tradition in the country whereby young radical military personnel and their civil society allies rise up and give voice to the demands of the masses for an end to poverty, corruption and the often brutal rule of the “family dynasties” who have ripped great wealth out of the country while immiserating the masses. To quote Lim again,

“We the Officers and Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, loyal to God and country and to our duty under the Constitution…do hereby make the following declaration:

“We cannot stand idly by while the rule of law, the moral order, the integrity of our institutions, the very future of our country and the people, and our own professional careers are destroyed by this bogus President. We cannot afford to do nothing while she and her cohorts turn our government into a criminal syndicate. We cannot allow ourselves to be used as a tool of injustice and oppression. We must act, and we must act now”.

Along with General Lim, the main actor in the November revolt was Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Naval officer. One of the leaders of the 2003 revolt (also staged in a Manila hotel – the Oakwood) he had been detained for four years. In a strong indication of the mood of the Filipino masses, Trillanes ran for a Senate position in the May elections and was successful, garnering 11 ½ million votes! He ran with little money, against others with hundreds of millions of pesos to spend, and while in his detention cell. His platform was simple-Arroyo and her cronies out; end the extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances; clean up corruption and restore the rule of law throughout society. But victory, however sweet, was not complete. Arroyo’s position was clear. He was not to be allowed to fulfill his duties. He remained in detention.

Thus with no legitimate course to pursue, Trillanes and his comrades took the path of public revolt – a rejection of a regime which Filipinos, according to a recent poll (Strategic Health Survey), “the most corrupt ever.” This is what the outside world has not appreciated – the comprehensive shamefulness of the regime led by one of Bill Clinton’s old schoolmates. Birds of a feather… It seems that once the venal regime of Ferdinand Marcos (and in the case of wife Imelda of the 3000 pairs of shoes – ludicrous) was deposed (also with the important intervention of military units) the world turned its back on the plight of the Filipino masses, while of course the multi-national giants happily feasted on their resources.

Today, 70 percent of Filipinos consider themselves poor; and they have been getting poorer as “trickle-up economics” and correlative neo-liberal policies continue to enrich an already obscenely rich ruling elite, of which Arroyo’s family is an integral part (as is that of former President Cory Aquino, the beneficiary of the “yellow revolution” which forced Marcos to flee to the USA). No wonder poverty and resentment continue to grow as her family and cronies, up to their ears in bribery, fraud and good old fashioned corruption-blithely arrange hundred million dollar kick-backs on the major infra-structure deals which the regime is busy arranging with the rapacious multi-national corporations who dominate the economy. Transparency International has recently listed the Philippines as 131st (tied with six others)  in its list of least corrupt nations ie it is internationally recognized as a place where you need to “grease the wheels” if you want to do business..

Again, about 70 percent of Filipinos expected the Arroyo gang to cheat in the May elections according to a published poll. Probably they are a substantial part of the same percentage, roughly, who are “dissatisfied” with the President’s performance. Nor would it be surprising if those percentages also included the nearly 50 percent of Filipinos who report experiencing hunger in their day-to-day existence.

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