Marcos still rules
Forty-one years after he imposed a dictatorship on Sept. 21, 1972, 27 years after he fled on Feb. 25, 1986, and 24 years after he died in exile in Hawaii on Sept. 28, 1989, Ferdinand E. Marcos still rules.
He rules through the thousands of presidential decrees, executive orders and proclamations that he issued during his 14-year dictatorship. Many of these decrees and executive orders, designed to fortify his strongman rule, are still law.
“The evil that men do lives after them …” the immortal Shakespeare wrote in his play “Julius Caesar.” And so it seems with Marcos.
His dark legacies stain our present and dim our future. These include, among others, the Muslim rebellion, the resurrected communist insurgency, the Filipino diaspora, the pervasive corruption, the persistent economic decline, political instability, human rights violations, and deepening poverty among the masses.
Of course, it is unfair and wrong to blame all our present troubles on Marcos. After all, more than two decades have passed since he was forced into exile by “people power,” and five presidents have since assumed the helm of our government. But the failure of postdictatorship administrations to rescue our people from the authoritarian quagmire is unacceptable.
To take just one example, Marcos’ Presidential Decree No. 1177, also known as the Budget Reform Act of 1977, is the primary source of the biggest scam in our history involving public funds—the P10-billion pork barrel swindle allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.
PD 1177 gave the president the power to manipulate lump-sum appropriations and allocate these as bribes in the form of pork barrel to individual members of Congress, to render them subservient to his demands. As we wrote in a previous commentary (“Pork’s dictatorial root,” Inquirer, 9/14/13), PD 1177 wrecked the system of checks and balances that upholds the structure of democratic government.
The Marcos PD was incorporated by President Corazon Aquino in the 375-page Administrative Code of 1987, which she herself signed into law as Executive Order No. 292 pursuant to her dictatorial powers under a “revolutionary government.”
The barangay, as a potent political unit, is also a creation of Marcos. Before 1973, barangays were mere territorial subdivisions of cities and municipalities with limited powers under the Revised Barrio Charter. But the 1973 Constitution, passed under martial law, converted them into full-fledged municipal corporations with political, police and taxing powers.
Marcos issued PD No. 86, creating citizens assemblies or barangays, on Dec. 31, 1972, “to broaden the base of citizen participation in the democratic process.” His actual purpose then was to use the barangays to illegally ratify the 1973 Constitution that gave him dictatorial powers.
On Jan. 17, 1973, Marcos announced that the new Constitution had been ratified in a plebiscite by 14,976,561 members of citizens assemblies as against only 743,869, who voted against. He must have plucked the figures out of thin air as there was no balloting but only a show of hands in scattered and selected gatherings.
Despite its unsavory origin, the barangay as a basic unit of government is now recognized in the 1987 Constitution. It is incorporated in the Local Government Code, feeding on the national budget. Together with most municipalities, cities and provinces, they depend on the national government for their finances in the form of the Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA. This constitutes their own pork barrel. Millions of pesos in IRA funds are known to end up in the pockets of governors, mayors, municipal councilors and barangay officials, just like the congressional pork barrel. This is how the Ampatuan clan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao amassed its billions.
According to an estimate, barangays are entitled this year to a total IRA of P60.5 billion, of which P6.05 billion will go to the barangay youth councils. As there are 42,000 barangays, the youth councils are entitled to P143,000 each. Some barangays in urban areas like Makati City are so rich that they spend their money on fiestas for their drivers and maids, while others are so poor they can’t even afford waiting sheds.
While the barangay officers are supposedly nonpartisan, they actually are just political ward leaders and paid retainers of the national and higher politicians. They augment the demand on the politicians for financial handouts, especially during elections, exerting additional pressure for graft. While the regular barangays may perform some useful grassroots services, the Sangguniang Kabataan (formerly known as Kabataang Barangay) is a different matter.
The SK exposes the youth to corruption in their tender age. It strengthens the political dynasties that have the money and the power to introduce their sons and daughters early to dirty politics. It diverts them from formal education. Hence, the move in Congress to postpone the SK elections, preliminary to its eventual abolition, is correct. Send the youth back to the campuses.
Since the end of the Moro-US wars in 1913, there had been relative peace in Mindanao between the Muslim and Christian communities. The intensification of armed clashes between the Christian Ilaga and Muslim Barracudas after Marcos came to power in 1965, and the Jabidah massacre of Muslim recruits in 1968, provoked the outbreak of the Muslim rebellion led by the Moro National Liberation Front after martial law was declared. Marcos had recruited the Muslim trainees for a secret intrusion into Malaysia to reclaim Sabah.
The communist rebellion was revived by the New People’s Army founded by Jose Ma. Sison in 1969, after Marcos’ administration aggravated economic and human rights problems, and neglected the agrarian reform program. The NPA grew in numbers during the dictatorship, alarming the US government, which significantly helped people power get rid of Marcos. Despite a temporary decline after Marcos’ fall, the NPA has now spread its armed units throughout the country.
Marcos’ neoliberal economic and tax policies worsened economic conditions, leading to the deployment of Filipino workers abroad as government policy. We are now the only nation in the world that exports its people for hard cash. Marcos’ trickle-down policy, like that of Reagan and Thatcher, did not benefit the poor but only the rich. These policies are still being followed today because of the failure to vigorously brush away the sticky spider web of authoritarianism and corruption.
Manuel F. Almario ([email protected]) is a veteran journalist and spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History (Rizal’s Moth). He was among the journalists incarcerated by the Marcos dictatorship.
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