US imperialism revives the Marcos family to serve its interests in the Philippines
The announcement by the Philippines two days ago that it would scrap the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is the legal framework for the presence of US troops in the Philippines, has revived tensions between the US and the Philippines that arose not long after President Duterte came to office.
The threat, which requires 6 months’ notice, follows as US decision deny a visa to Ronald Dela Rosa, the former national police chief, now a Senator, who oversaw the murderous government campaign that saw thousands of alleged street-level drug pushers and users killed.
However, another factor is Duterte’s need to block the rise of US-favoured Ferdinand Marcos Jnr., son of the late Filipino dictator. A second-generation Marcos regime would be less likely to jeopardise US imperialist military relations with the Philippines.
The Marcos family re-emerges…
Following their return from exile nearly two decades ago, the former ruling family and their far-right supporters have used stealth to edge their way back into the corridors of power.
They have amassed considerable power and influence and now have huge wealth at their disposal following a legal decision, in December 2019, in favour of the Marcos family’s right to wealth amassed under the former Marcos presidency.
In more recent times questions arising about the health of President Duterte have created an emerging power vacuum. The Marcos family and their supporters seek to use it to pursue their own political agendas.
Toward the end of last year, the fourth and final legal challenge to the wealth of the Marcos family was thrown out. The 58-page legal verdict concluded court hearings in August, September, October and finally December.
While the estimated sums of money vary widely, the Marcos wealth remains, nevertheless, extensive. The Presidential Commission on Good Governance estimated the wealth amounted to between $5-10 billion. (1) The recent final legal decision used the total of $3.9 billion as an initial estimate, which also included overseas properties, 177 paintings and 42 crates of jewellery worth an estimated $9 billion. (2)
Those pursuing the legal challenges to the Marcos family allege the wealth was amassed through corruption and criminal practices which included the siphoning of foreign aid money intended for economic development programs. The allegations have, however, proved difficult, if not impossible, to prove beyond reasonable doubt in a law court.
The recent legal controversy has also rested upon developments which took place in the Philippines decades ago and historical processes have tended to cloud collective memory of the Marcos period, from 1965-86, which also included martial law from 1972-81.
The former President Ferdinand Marcos was forced from power in a widespread uprising in 1986, and then into exile in Hawaii. His administration was renowned for being 'a rubber-stamp National Assembly', marked by rampant cronyism, nepotism and repression, which loyally served strategic 'US interests' in a central position in the Asia-Pacific region. (3) The US also used the Philippines as an economic hub, with US capital penetrating very deeply into the economy; the country provided an almost endless source of very cheap labour for the US to exploit.
There was little ambiguity on the part of the US toward developments, Ferdinand Marcos had served 'US interests' well; they assisted with the travel arrangements for the Marcos family and their closest cronies and provided accommodation in Hawaii, centre-base of the then US Pacific Command. It would also be a mistake to read too much into the tumultuous developments of 1986; political power merely changed hands from one oligarchy to another.
On 4 November 1991, a decision was taken to allow members of the Marcos family back into the Philippines from Hawaii. Former leading lady, Imelda Marcos soon entered politics, drawing heavily upon influences from the former ruling oligarchy. She was eventually followed by son, Ferdinand Marcos Jnr. who is an M.P., and daughter Imee, who is a Senator. Both children have expressed higher-level political ambitions: Ferdinand Marcos Jnr. has already attempted election as vice-president in 2016, which was unsuccessful, Imee has stated she might eventually be interested in standing for the presidency. The stated intentions are symptomatic of the favoured political positioning of the Marcos family; under the Philippine constitution the president and vice president are elected separately, meaning family members will not have to stand against each other.
Another family member is the present Philippine Ambassador to the US, which has provided contact with political counterparts during the present Trump administration and the corridors of power in Washington and the Pentagon. The far-right links, however, have a much longer history.
Marcos family committed to anti-Communism
As a political group, the Marcos family draw heavily upon the far-right; former President Ferdinand Marcos was the named national representative of the notorious World Anti-Communist League (WACL), a shadowy group which specialised in US-led covert operations, mercenary recruitment and para-militaries for terrorism. (4) A whistle-blower and former WACL member referred to the organisation in a written statement as a collection of 'oriental fascists, militarists, right-wing terrorists who put bombs on civilian planes, death squads, assassins, criminals and many people who are as much opposed to democracy as they are communism'. (5) The Marcos family and their supporters were a comfortable fit into the WACL and served their interests well.
While the WACL underwent name changes in more recent times, those associated with its various fragment parts still wield considerable power and influence within former affiliate countries. The main part of the organisation now resides behind the innocuously named World League for Peace and Freedom. It also continues to exert extensive lobbying powers in both Washington and the Pentagon. No doubt, the Philippine diplomatic service continues to provide the necessary contacts with such allies of political expedience.
Many of those responsible for the waves of assassinations of trade-union activists in the Philippines are attributed to para-military personnel linked into Marcos networks and their latter-day and present-day associates. Organised workers are regarded as an obstacle to the business practices of the rich and powerful, and are removed by their henchmen and company goons. The terrorist practices are subsequently accompanied by workplace repression, effectively rendering workers easier to exploit. Journalists have also been targeted by those concerned; the Philippines is a dangerous place for media workers.
Class and state terrorism in the Philippines
It is not particularly difficult to find examples of class and state terrorism in the Philippines.
The recent legal verdict about the 2009 Ampatuan massacre of 57 people by a dominant clan in the south of the Philippines, acknowledged the political ties reached the then President Gloria Arroyo, showing how such practices formed part of political expedience. Amongst those killed, were 32 journalists. It was furthermore noted during the time the Philippine legal system had taken to deal with the massacre, 'several witnesses in the case had been killed'. (6) Legal and parliamentary observers to the case also noted it had been 'closely watched as a test of whether democratic institutions in the Philippines could withstand pressure from money and powerful interests'. (7)
Another US-led far-right political grouping which has been used by the Marcos family is the Liberty Lobby. Imelda Marcos has been openly acknowledged in their various publications alongside French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen and the neo-Nazi Deutsche Volksunion in Germany. (8) While the main Liberty Lobby organisation folded in 2001, various splinters of the group continue to peddle far-right conspiracy myths amid their neo-Nazi white supremacist standpoints. (9)
The Philippines has provided, for those concerned, a useful outlet in the Asia-Pacific region.
Recent developments in the Philippines have shown the Marcos family to hide behind a cloak of respectability and seemingly distance themselves from open association with the far-right. Part of the ploy has been to create an aura of a former 'golden age' of political stability, when Ferdinand Marcos Snr. ruled the country in a benign manner. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
The Marcos family, with their peddling of respectability, have also played upon the political innocence of a younger generation of people in the Philippines. It has taken place at a dangerous time.
Recent announcements that President Duterte is suffering from a serious medical condition have created a possible power vacuum at the highest level of the Philippine political system. (10) It is one which the Marcos family and their supporters now appear to have every intention of filling, if they have the opportunity. With the recent legal decision freeing their wealth from further scrutiny, the way is now being paved for a possible return of the far-right to rule the Philippines in forthcoming presidential, vice-presidential and other elections. It is also important to note vote-buying is both common and a standard practice in Philippine political life; the Marcos family now have the means at their disposal!
With strong Australian links to the Philippines, which serve 'US interests'. we need an independent foreign policy!
1. Quoted: Wikipedia – Ferdinand Marcos.
2. Philippine court dismisses, Reuters, 16 December 2019.
3. Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, New York, 1986), page 59.
4. Ibid., and page 281.
5. Ibid., page iii.
6. Filipino elite get life for massacre, Australian, 20 December 2019.
8. The Beast Re-awakens, Martin Lee, (London, 1997), page 356.
9. Ibid., pp. 355-57, page 359, page 361, page 362.
10. Duterte's medical plot Marcos shoo-in as heir, Australian, 14 October 2019.