Courtesy Reuters

The Philippines in Crisis

The Philippines is enmeshed in the most severe political and economic crisis it has faced since gaining independence from the United States in 1946. In retrospect, the bullet that killed opposition leader Benigno Aquino on August 21, 1983, marked the beginning of the end of the Marcos era and the onset of a difficult and uncertain transition period. The aftermath of the Aquino affair has been a protracted crisis of confidence that has dovetailed with a financial crisis of Latin American proportions, a deteriorating economy, and the growth of a nationwide communist insurgency.

Current realities in the Philippines defy easy stereotypes. President Ferdinand Marcos has never been so isolated, nor his credibility so widely questioned, in 19 years of rule. Yet, barring further health problems, the 67-year-old leader will likely remain in office until the 1987 presidential election, and he is expected to run again. The brutal murder of Aquino and the subsequent attempt at cover-up transgressed the unwritten rules of Philippine politics, implying an absence of limits on official power, and a complete lack of accountability. Yet, by generating a massive backlash, in which much of the professional and business elite has turned against Marcos, the murder has forced the shrewd president to accept the beginnings of liberal reform.

The question is whether, at this stage, any reforms can save Marcos, or indeed prevent an eventual revolutionary upheaval in Philippine politics. Aside from eroding the traditional checks and balances of Philippine institutions, nearly two decades of Marcos' rule have witnessed a plunder of the economy, the monumental misallocation of resources, and a gross distortion of the free enterprise system. High-level corruption, documented by the findings of the Agrava Commission (appointed to investigate the Aquino assassination), has undermined the authority of the military, and a broad-based revolutionary insurgency, led by the communist New People's Army (NPA), has grown tenfold since martial law was declared in 1972.

The turmoil in the Philippines has led some to see yet another disaster in the making for U.S. foreign policy,

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