Country Listing

Philippines Table of Contents



When Aquino assumed office in February 1986, she immediately began dismantling repressive restrictions on civil and public liberties. Political prisoners, including top communist leaders, were released. Restrictions on the media's ability to report freely and to criticize the nation's leaders were removed. Aquino also allowed far greater freedom of political expression.

Although she enjoyed broad public support, Aquino inherited a variety of internal security threats from her predecessor. Chief among them was the insurgency inspired by the CPP and its military arm, the NPA. After modest growth during the first two years of Aquino's tenure, insurgent strength waned in the late 1980s. Although communist guerrillas remained active throughout most of the country, internal dissension and improved AFP tactics had reduced their threat. Meanwhile, Muslim insurgents in the south threatened to resume their armed struggle for independence or autonomy. A combination of political maneuvering within the government, continued Moro factionalism, and decreased foreign support, however, reduced prospects for open rebellion. By 1990 the Muslims, although locally active and still a potent military force, showed little inclination to resume full-scale conflict.

Repeated military rebellions and coup attempts constituted the most pressing challenge to Aquino's authority. The highly politicized military generally was seen as another legacy of the Marcos regime. Military dissidents exploited widely shared grievances in order to recruit supporters for their rebellions. These grievances were at the root of military restiveness. Many officers complained that the Aquino government was insensitive to the military's concerns and that her administration was corrupt and unable to lead.

Aquino also faced a serious crime problem within the Philippines. A variety of social and cultural factors contributed to the problem. Widespread poverty and the growing urbanization of the nation's traditionally rural society often were cited as contributors. The crime rate generally paralleled the state of the economy, dramatically worsening during the mid-1980s before improving at decade's end. Violence, long common in Philippine society, was aggravated by insurgency and the prevalence of highpowered firearms. Drugs were a modest but growing problem, and CPP-inspired terrorism against Philippine officials, and sometimes Americans, escalated in the late-1980s.

To deal with criminal activity, the government focused on improving the performance of the police and the courts. Aquino took several steps to remedy widespread skepticism about the fairness and effectiveness of the judicial system. She ended presidential political interference in judicial affairs and took steps to speed the sluggish legal process and reduce the logjam of court cases. Efforts to improve Integrated National Police discipline and professionalism continued, with special attention given to the perception that police were excessively corrupt and abusive.

Data as of June 1991