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Crony Capitalism

During the first years of martial law, the economy benefited from increased stability, and business confidence was bolstered by Marcos's appointment of talented technocrats to economic planning posts. Despite the 1973 oil price rise shock, the growth of the gross national product (GNP--see Glossary) was respectable, and the oil-pushed inflation rate, reaching 40 percent in 1974, was trimmed back to 10 percent the following year. Between 1973 and the early 1980s, dependence on imported oil was reduced by domestic finds and successful energy substitution measures, including one of the world's most ambitious geothermal energy programs. Claiming that "if land reform fails, there is no New Society," Marcos launched highly publicized new initiatives that resulted in the formal transfer of land to some 184,000 farming families by late 1975. The law was filled with loopholes, however, and had little impact on local landowning elites or landless peasants, who remained desperately poor.

The largest, most productive, and technically most advanced manufacturing enterprises were gradually brought under the control of Marcos's cronies. For example, the huge business conglomerate owned by the Lopez family, which included major newspapers, a broadcast network, and the country's largest electric power company, was broken up and distributed to Marcos loyalists including Imelda Marcos's brother, Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez, and another loyal crony, Roberto Benedicto. Huge monopolies and semimonopolies were established in manufacturing, construction, and financial services. When these giants proved unprofitable, the government subsidized them with allocations amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos. Philippine Airlines, the nation's international and domestic air carrier, was nationalized and turned into what one author has called a "virtual private commuter line" for Imelda Marcos and her friends on shopping excursions to New York and Europe (see Transportation , ch. 3).

Probably the most negative impact of crony capitalism, however, was felt in the traditional cash-crop sector, which employed millions of ordinary Filipinos in the rural areas. (The coconut industry alone brought income to an estimated 15 million to 18 million people.) Under Benedicto and Eduardo Cojuangco, distribution and marketing monopolies for sugar and coconuts were established. Farmers on the local level were obliged to sell only to the monopolies and received less than world prices for their crops; they also were the first to suffer when world commodity prices dropped. Millions of dollars in profits from these monopolies were diverted overseas into Swiss bank accounts, real estate deals, and purchases of art, jewelry, and antiques. On the island of Negros in the Visayas, the region developed by Nicholas Loney for the sugar industry in the nineteenth century, sugar barons continued to live lives of luxury, but the farming community suffered from degrees of malnutrition rare in other parts of Southeast Asia.

Ferdinand Marcos was responsible for making the previously nonpolitical, professional Armed Forces of the Philippines, which since American colonial times had been modeled on the United States military, a major actor in the political process. This subversion occurred done in two ways. First, Marcos appointed officers from the Ilocos region, his home province, to its highest ranks. Regional background and loyalty to Marcos rather than talent or a distinguished service record were the major factors in promotion. Fabian Ver, for example, had been a childhood friend of Marcos and later his chauffeur, rose to become chief of staff of the armed forces and head of the internal security network. Secondly, both officers and the rank and file became beneficiaries of generous budget allocations. Officers and enlisted personnel received generous salary increases. Armed forces personnel increased from about 58,000 in 1971 to 142,000 in 1983. Top-ranking military officers, including Ver, played an important policy-making role. On the local level, commanders had opportunities to exploit the economy and establish personal patronage networks, as Marcos and the military establishment evolved a symbiotic relationship under martial law.

A military whose commanders, with some exceptions, were rewarded for loyalty rather than competence proved both brutal and ineffective in dealing with the rapidly growing communist insurgency and Muslim separatist movement. Treatment of civilians in rural areas was often harsh, causing rural people, as a measure of self-protection rather than ideological commitment, to cooperate with the insurgents. The communist insurgency, after some reverses in the 1970s, grew quickly in the early 1980s, particularly in some of the poorest regions of the country. The Muslim separatist movement reached a violent peak in the mid1970s and then declined greatly, because of divisions in the leadership of the movement and reduced external support brought about by the diplomatic activity of the Marcos government.

Relations with the United States remained most important for the Philippines in the 1970s, although the special relationship between the former and its ex-colony was greatly modified as trade, investment, and defense ties were redefined (see Relations with the United States , ch. 4). The Laurel-Langley Agreement defining preferential United States tariffs for Philippine exports and parity privileges for United States investors expired on July 4, 1974, and trade relations were governed thereafter by the international General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). During the martial law period, foreign investment terms were substantially liberalized, despite official rhetoric about foreign "exploitation" of the economy. A policy promoting "nontraditional" exports such as textiles, footwear, electronic components, and fresh and processed foods was initiated with some success. Japan increasingly challenged the United States as a major foreign participant in the Philippine economy.

The status of United States military bases was redefined when a major amendment to the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 was signed on January 6, 1979, reaffirming Philippine sovereignty over the bases and reducing their total area. At the same time, the United States administration promised to make its "best effort" to obtain congressional appropriations for military and economic aid amounting to US$400 million between 1979 to 1983. The amendment called for future reviews of the bases agreement every fifth year. Although the administration of President Jimmy Carter emphasized promoting human rights worldwide, only limited pressure was exerted on Marcos to improve the behavior of the military in rural areas and to end the death-squad murder of opponents. (Pressure from the United States, however, did play a role in gaining the release of Benigno Aquino in May 1980, and he was allowed to go to the United States for medical treatment after spending almost eight years in prison, including long stretches of time in solitary confinement.)

On January 17, 1981, Marcos issued Proclamation 2045, formally ending martial law. Some controls were loosened, but the ensuing New Republic proved to be a superficially liberalized version of the crony-dominated New Society. Predictably, Marcos won an overwhelming victory in the June 1981 presidential election, boycotted by the main opposition groups, in which his opponents were nonentities.

Data as of June 1991

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Philippines Table of Contents