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Philippine Prospects After Martial Law
Carl H. Landé is Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas. He has specialized in Philippine affairs since 1953 and is the author of Leaders, Factions and Parties: The Structure of Philippine Politics, and other works.See more by this author
On September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, twice elected President of the Philippines, imposed martial law and assumed dictatorial power. Somewhat more than eight years later, on January 17 of this year, he announced the lifting of martial law. Because this event took place just three days before the inauguration of President Reagan and one month before the Philippine visit of Pope John Paul II, it seems reasonable to infer that Marcos-whom the Carter Administration, as well as leading figures of the Catholic Church in his own country, had periodically criticized for his government's violations of human rights-thought the lifting of martial law would be an important step toward improving relations with these two foreign leaders.
For the Reagan Administration, too, unimpaired good relations with the Philippines are important. The Philippines is the United States' largest former colonial possession, a close ally, the site of major air and naval bases, a significant trading partner and recipient of American investments, and an erstwhile proud "show-window of American democracy."
It is useful, therefore, to assess how eight years of martial law have affected the course of Philippine economic and political development, in what direction Marcos and his country now appear to be heading, and how martial law and its termination have affected and should affect our relations with the Marcos Administration.
A visitor to the Philippines from an advanced industrial society is likely to be struck by a sense of double vision. On the one hand he sees a rational modernizing government committed to economic growth, social justice and efficient administration, moving energetically forward with the help of a dedicated corps of Western-trained technocrats. This picture of the regime is presented with great skill to international aid and lending agencies, which continue to pour funds into the Philippines. On the other hand, the foreign visitor sees a thoroughly traditional regime: arbitrary, wasteful, venal, and preoccupied with the personal gratifications and familial interests of the ruler.