Courtesy Reuters

The Philippines Without Democracy

On the night of September 22, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos imposed martial law on the Republic of the Philippines. Mr. Marcos since has been ruling the archipelago nation under a system that some of his aides call "constitutional authoritarianism" and others of them call "authoritarian constitutionalism." It is, in fact, a military-supported dictatorship, albeit of a rather unrepressive variety.

The President's move probably should not have come as any great surprise. There had been frequent predictions over the past several years that the Philippines' increasing political anarchy, its many social and economic problems and, some said, its President's thirst for power, made a turn toward authoritarianism likely.

When that turn came much of the outside world tended to view it simply as part of an Asian trend; the Philippines, somewhat belatedly, was following in the direction of South Korea, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Taiwan, Burma, Singapore (to a degree), and Thailand (as of then). The Philippines, it seemed to many abroad, was just another bit of Asian landscape with soil that had proved unsuited to the cultivation of Western democracy.

Any analysis of the situation in the Philippines ought to begin by at least questioning that all too facile assumption.

The Philippines, despite its somewhat deserved reputation as a land of "goons, guns and gals," is not a banana republic in which pear-shaped colonels in sunglasses have taken turns toppling each other in petty coups d'état. The Republic of the Philippines has no history of military rule, nor any tradition of political strongmen-no Diems, Rhees or Sukarnos.

The Philippines, unlike any of its neighbors except Japan, had a functioning democracy for a quarter-century, ever since it achieved independence in 1946. Until 1969, when Marcos won a second four-year term, no Philippine president ever had been reëlected. Rascals frequently were turned out of office in the Philippines, even if new ones then were voted in. There was a genuine balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of the government, even if this

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.