Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents



In 1991 Philippine politics resembled nothing so much as the "good old days" of the pre-martial law period--wide-open, sometimes irresponsible, but undeniably free. Pre-martial law politics, however, essentially were a distraction from the nation's serious problems. The parties were completely nonideological. Therefore, politicians and office-holders switched parties whenever it seemed advantageous to do so. Almost all politicians were wealthy, and many were landlords with large holdings. They blocked moves for social reform; indeed, they seemed not to have even imagined that society required serious reform. Congress acquired a reputation for corruption that made the few honest members stand out. When Marcos closed down Congress in 1972, hardly anyone was disappointed except the members themselves.

The February 1986 People's Power Revolution, also called the EDSA Revolution (see Glossary) had restored all the prerequisites of democratic politics: freedom of speech and press, civil liberties, regularly scheduled elections for genuine legislatures, plebiscites, and ways to ensure honest ballot counting. But by 1991 the return to irrelevant politics had caused a sense of hopelessness to creep back into the nation that five years before had been riding the euphoric crest of a nonviolent democratic revolution. In 1986 it seemed that democracy would have one last chance to solve the Philippines' deep-rooted social and economic problems. Within five years, it began to seem to many observers that the net result of democracy was to put the country back where it had been before Marcos: a democratic political system disguising an oligarchic society.

Data as of June 1991