David Wurfel, University of Missouri
in Asian Survey, February 1964.

The Manila Times has said, “While the Macapagal Admini­stration has dropped Nationalism as a slogan, its foreign policy is no less nationalistic than that of its predecessor.”1 Some would add, “if not more so.” This has been true both in the context of Philippine-American rela­tions and in regard to the Philippines’ position in Asia.

The year closed with the U.S. and the Philippines brought together in common grief at the death of John F. Kennedy. President Macapagal flew to Washington for the funeral; as both head of state and head of govern­ment, he walked in the front rank of mourners. After the funeral he conferred with President Johnson. In February he had announced his intention to invite Kennedy to the Philippines, denying that he had any plans to go to Washington. His projected trip in 1962 had been cancelled because of the initial defeat in Congress of the Philippine war damage bill.

War damage claims continued to be a sore point in 1963. Though Congress authorized payment of $73 million in claims in August 1962, fulfilling an obligation assumed for the U.S. by President Roosevelt, sub­sequent disclosures of intensive lobbying on behalf of large claimants by former members of the Philippine-American War Damage Commission, O’Donnel and Delgado, raised congressional ire. Senator Long of Louisi­ana advocated killing the authorization entirely. Senator Fulbright pre­sented an amendment which would have paid the full amount to the Philippine government for educational purposes, not to the individual claimants. Thousands of claimants in the Philippines, who felt the U.S. government had an obligation to reimburse them, became bitter when they heard these proposals. Furthermore, nationalist pride was pricked. Capitol Hill debate of the matter was lengthy; the conference committee did not agree on a compromise until July. Finally on August 14 President Ken­nedy signed the bill amending the previous authorization.2

The amendment permitted full payment of small claims, but not more than $25,000 to each claimant. Though less than 5% of the 86,000 claims were larger than this maximum, the total amount of the excess was nearly $30 million. This amount is to be paid to the Philippine government in lump sum for “educational programs and exchange.” Sensitive to Philip­pine charges that the U.S. was attaching strings to Philippine money, a “debt being returned,” Assistant Secretary of State Roger Hilsman explained that “educational programs” could be interpreted by Manila very broadly. Though Macapagal at one point expressed a desire to use the $30 million redounding to the Philippine government for land reform, its utilization has not yet been legally specified.

Just as the war damage issue was being decided, another economic dispute between the U.S. and the Philippines flared up. On August 9 the U.S. announced imposition of restrictive quotas on importation of Philip­pine dresses and embroidery. Dressmaking is an industry that employs more than 300,000 persons on a part time basis in the Philippines, and an immediate uproar followed, with threats of demonstrations at the U.S. Embassy. A 30-day postponement of the quota to allow further negoti­ations took the matter out of the headlines, but agreement has not yet been reached. Other economic questions in the two countries’ relations also remain. Secretary of Commerce Balmaceda has moved to open talks on the renegotiation of the Laurel-Langley Agreement which allows special tariff concessions for Philippine exports to the U.S. only until 1974. He has predictably received “sugar bloc” support.3

The military bases issue, which was the major irritant to relations in the late 1950’s, was also revived in 1963. Negotiations on the problem of criminal jurisdiction within bases, which have been suspended since Macapagal’s election, were called for by the influential Manila Times.4 The House of Representatives passed a resolution urging negotiations to return unutilized base land to Philippine jurisdiction.5 The Speaker Pro. Tempore advocated abolition of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG). The joint statement produced by the Manila Summit Confer­ence in August, which had been called to discuss Malaysia, referred to foreign bases as “temporary” in nature.

The birth of Malaysia, the major event of the year in Southeast Asia and in Philippine foreign policy, also served to divide the Philippines from the U.S. President Kennedy’s reference to Malaysia in February as “the best hope of security” for Southeast Asia irked many Filipinos. Since 1962, the Philippine government had been actively pressing a claim to North Borneo which it derived from its succession to the rights of the Sultan of Sulu. The British had deigned not to discuss the matter until after the Brunei revolt in December 1962. Then early in 1963 talks were held in London, but they were quite unproductive of any agreement. Britain greatly resented Philippine pressure, which seemed to complement Sukarno’s konfrontasi against Malaya. No further Anglo-Philippine dis­cussions of a formal nature were held. As the creation of Malaysia to include North Borneo became more probable, Philippine negotiations with Abdul Rahman became essential. However, despite the fact that both Rahman and Macapagal are pro-Western leaders of democratic countries and are already joined in the Association of Southeast Asia, an understanding proved difficult. Rahman, who saw his main threat in Indonesia, was determined to push through the establishment of Malaysia; and he was disturbed by any apparent attempt to obstruct it, especially in consul­tation with Indonesia.

Though Macapagal denied in Marchp that the Borneo claim was designed to prevent the formation of Malaysia, he did continue to coordi­nate efforts with Sukarno. Philippine-Indonesian cooperation had the effect of delaying Malaysia, despite the implicit clash of ambitions be­tween these two governments in Sabah, or North Borneo. Sukarno’s dis­claimers of territorial designs were accompanied by successful efforts to control and direct anti-Malaysia guerrillas in northern Borneo. In fact, cordial Indonesian-Philippine relations, across barriers of ideology and alignment, have been one of the great puzzles of the year.

The puzzle can best be explained as a combination of nationalism, Pan-Malayanism, and an inadequate grasp of political realities. Nationalism transformed the Philippine claim to North Borneo from a matter of pri­vate interest to one of the most intense public interest. Macapagal in es­pousing the cause saw a chance to cast off the tag of “colonial mentality” placed on him by the Nacionalistas in the 1961 election. The British by their haughty attitude inflamed nationalist pride. Thus as public com­mitment to the Borneo claim grew and as prospects of its easy acceptance dimmed, the Philippine President looked for allies and for face-saving solutions. Indonesia, eager to frustrate Malaysia anyway, was available. Filipinos tended to accept at face value the Jakarta line that Indonesia only wanted to assist the process of self-determination in Borneo. This was combined with a view (shared by very few of the Filipinos’ friends) that “political stability of the north Borneo territories could only come from their recognition as independent and sovereign states.”7

Such an assessment was plausible only within the framework of Pan-Malaysian unity. Pan-Malaysian has been a minor strain in the nation­alist movements of Malaya, Indonesia, and the Philippines for years. It gains prominence in the Philippines now partly because of a strongly felt need to identify more closely with Asia. In 1962 President Macapagal began to talk of a Confederation of Greater Malaysia. By early 1963 the concept had been clarified to include Malaya, the Philippines, and Indo­nesia, without stress on independent Borneo. While Sukarno proclaimed konfrontasi, this seemed a most unlikely combination. But after the sur­prising reconciliation between Rahman and Sukarno in Tokyo, serious discussions became possible. A ministerial level conference was held in Manila in early June which produced the “Manila Accord” and supported “President Macapagal’s plan envisaging the grouping of the three nations of Malay origin working together in closest harmony but without surren­dering any portion of their sovereignty.” At the summit conference in Manila in early August this “grouping” was christened “Maphilindo,” but little was said about its precise structure or functions.

The optimism in Manila on August 5 about “cooperation in dealing with common problems” among the Malayan “triplets” had completely disappeared by mid-September. Riots and mutual recriminations in Jakar­ta and Kuala Lumpur indicated that Filipinos had overestimated the degree of understanding reached in Manila and had badly underestimated Sukarno’s determination to try to block Malaysia. Despite this set­back it is still the official Filipino view that Manila’s role should con­tinue to be that of mutual friend and intermediary between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in order to help rebuild Maphilindo.8 President Macapagal’s commitment of prestige to Maphilindo is great, and he will not let it die easily; his desire to be close friend and advisor to Indonesia, balan­cing Communist influence, is understandable and commendable. But there are many factors tending to sabotage the effectiveness of this role. One is the Filipinos’ own lack of an intimate knowledge of their neighbor’s poli­tics.

As 1963 ended, the Philippines had no relations at all with the neighbor who seemed the more natural ally. The Federation of Malaysia contended that, not being a “new state,” she would not need to seek recognition but would automatically succeed to the status of Malaya. This was also the view of the U.S. State Department. The Philippines, on the other hand, held that Malaysia was a new state and continues to hold its recognition “under advisement.” Since September 17, when Abdul Rahman deemed the Philippine request to reduce its Kuala Lumpur embassy to a consulate as “tantamount to severing relations,”9 no diplomatic ties have existed. The Philippines now has established prerequisites for its recognition; it requires that Malaysia explicitly commit itself to the peaceful settlement of the Philippine claim to North Borneo and agree on the procedure to be followed. Whether Tungku Abdul Rahman, who has protested that the Philippines “insulted” Malaysia by withholding recognition, will meet these conditions remains to be seen.

The new Secretary of Foreign Affairs Salvador Lopez has admitted that the immediate cause for Philippine withholding of recognition was different—namely, its dissatisfaction with the manner in which the UN survey of public opinion in Borneo was accomplished. The Manila Accord of August provided that UN Secretary-General “or his representative should ascertain prior to the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak.” Each interested state was authorized to send observers. Great Britain, suspicious that Indonesian and Philippine observers would do more than observe, at first allowed only one for each. As tempers shortened, negotiations dragged on. Not until September 1 was a compromise agreement reached; Philippine and Indonesian observers were present in Borneo only the last four days of the survey. Shortly after they arrived, Kuala Lumpur announced the new date for the inauguration of Malaysia (September 16) implying therefore that the substance of the UN survey report was either already known or would have no effect on the decision. The Philippines protested vigorously at the time and alleges an “old imperialist” plot to alienate the Malayan “trip­lets.”

In sum, for the first time since independence the Philippines’ relations with Asia have become more important than her relations with the West. This was partly the result of external events, e.g., the decision to create Malaysia, and partly the outgrowth of a stronger nationalism. This senti­ment has been expressed not only in foreign policy but also in cultural activities. It is an encouraging development. A pride in the unique Filipino participation for the first time of Igorots in an Independence Day parade, or in the acclaim for the Bayanihan dancers, can give Filipinos the clear cultural identity which they seek.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Lopez, who must now attempt to resusci­tate Maphilindo, was undersecretary until late July. To understand how he replaced Vice-President Emmanuel Pelaez, former secretary, at this crucial moment in the nation’s foreign relations requires an explanation of the realignments taking place in domestic politics.

Emmanuel Pelaez was a warm, highly competent Foreign Secretary and a popular political figure. He gained his nomination in 1961 as the former leader of the Grand Alliance made up mostly of the progressive young followers of the late President Magsaysay when it merged with the Liberal party in 1960. Magsaysay himself had expressed a desire to have him as running mate in 1957. It is thus natural that Pelaez, his support­ers, and his competitors think of him as presidential timber. So does President Macapagal. The President, despite assurances in 1961 that he would not seek re-election, now appears to be his party’s most likely candidate in 1965. He has been impressively successful in undermining the positions of his rivals.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Liberal party president, is one hopeful who was promised the 1965 Liberal nomination by Macapagal in 1961. In 1962, however, although Administration pressures brought the election of a Liberal Speaker in the overwhelmingly Nacionalista House of Represen­tatives, similar efforts were not made to win the Senate presidency in the evenly divided upper house for Marcos. Only in April 1963 did Marcos become Senate President and then as a result of internal dissension in Nacionalista ranks. Pelaez, who preferred a cabinet post allowing fre­quent contact with the people (e.g., Secretary of Agriculture), was named to the prestigious but politically sterile Foreign Affairs Department. Macapagal paid little heed to his recommendations for appointments in other departments, although Grand Alliance support undoubtedly provided Macapagal’s margin of victory.

These efforts to neutralize opposition were gentle in comparison to the step taken in July, however. The President, acting through his Secretary of Justice, publicly charged Pelaez, Marcos, and dozens of other political leaders with being involved with Harry Stonehill. Stonehill, an ex-GI, settled in Manila after the war and within 15 years became one of the wealthiest, most influential and certainly one of the most unscrupulous men in the Republic. He spread a web of corruption which touched almost everyone in the Philippine political elite. Unlike others engaged in bribery, he kept a careful record of all his transactions. Within a few months after taking office, President Macapagal arrested Stonehill and, before he could be prosecuted, had him deported. Ever since then exposes of names appearing in the Stonehill files have caused political heads to roll in what has been called “the greatest scandal in the nation’s history.” One of the first to be forced to resign was the Secretary of Justice himself, Jose Diokno.

In July 1963, Diokno, a Nacionalista nominee for senator, charged the President himself with active complicity in the Stonehill network.10 A week later the incumbent Secretary of Justice released a new list of names from the Stonehill files which included Pelaez and Marcos. Secretary Marino maintained in a TV speech that “it appears” that Pelaez “received from Stonehill P10,000.” The President gave Marino his “full backing;” Pelaez resigned in a rage. Senator Marcos took similar charges quietly and remained as Liberal party president. Although President Macapagal at first refused to accept Pelaez’s resignation, and then offered him full authority to implement the new land reform act, the Vice-President was adamant. He said farewell at Padre Faura—Manila’s Quai d’Orsay—and began to attack Macapagal for his “dictatorial” tendencies and violation of due process. He said he would not resign from the Liberal party, but he was soon campaigning for the Nacionalista senatorial slate.

Both parties held their biennial conventions before mid-April and launched their campaigns in early July. The Liberals ran on the Adminis­tration’s accomplishments: the deportation of Stonehill, decontrol of for­eign exchange, stabilization of prices (the government’s Rice and Corn Administration sold subsidized 80 centavo rice along the President’s cam­paign trail), and passage of the land reform bill. The opposition charged “rising prices,” condemned “dictatorial techniques,” and attacked the handling of the Stonehill case. The results showed the Liberals to be weaker than the Nacionalistas had been in 1959, which was a comparable point in the political cycle (two years after the election of a president). Four Nacionalistas and four Liberals were elected. Only three out of seven incumbents were successful. Diokno ran third, Gerardo Roxas, son of the late president, was second, and Nacionalista Senator Arturo Tolentino placed first, thus qualifying as a presidential candidate. Vice-President Pelaez, supposedly no longer a Liberal by that time, is also being men­tioned as a possible Nacionalista nominee in 1965.

Concurrently with the realignment among leading personalities, other less dramatic but more fundamental changes in Philippine politics occur­red during 1963. There were indications of basic shifts in the composition of the political elite as a result of the continued decline of the sugar bloc. In 1962, Macapagal became the first Philippine president ever to launch a frontal attack on sugar barons in politics. And his assault was more than just verbal. Such prominent names as Yulo, Lopez, and Araneta were prosecuted for tax evasion and other violations that had long been toler­ated. Senator Ledesma, despite strong sugar bloc and Knights of Colum­bus backing, was not nominated for re-election by the Nacionalistas in 1963. Of course, this does not mean that men of great wealth will no longer be prominent in Philippine politics or the recipients of government favors, but they will be different menmore likely industrialists than agriculturists. Jesus Cabarrus, a close friend of President Macapagal, re­ceived a direct loan of P19.3 million and a loan guarantee of P108 million from the Development Bank of the Philippines, the largest loan ever granted a private establishment by a government financial institution.11 Cabarrus is a mining magnate. The sale of government corporations, e.g., the Cebu Portland Cement Company, and the raising of tariffs also helps to strengthen the industrial elite. In addition, labor continues to assert its political role. In Manila the Lapiang Manggagawa (Labor party) nomi­nated candidates for mayor and councilmen, and midway in the campaign the Nacionalista mayoralty nominee withdrew to make possible a coalition ticket. The coalition supported Robert Oca, powerful waterfront labor leader.

Changes are also taking place in party decision-making. For the first time the Nacionalistas selected a senatorial ticket from among names presented on the convention floor who were nominated by secret ballot of the 227-man national directorate rather than by the “party’s ruling junta.”

The passage of a major piece of social reform legislation, the Land Reform Code, is perhaps the most significant occurrence for understand­ing the contemporary power structure. Very little was said in the 1961 election campaign about land reform, and Macapagal had not previously shown any particular interest in the subject. Pelaez, as Senator, had pushed for strengthening the leasehold provisions of the Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954 in order to increase the security of tenure. Although some looked to Pelaez for leadership in land reform within the Macapagal Administration, it soon became apparent that he was not in a very influen­tial position. Officials appointed by Macapagal to head existing agrarian reform agencies were not capable of national leadership.

Then early in 1963 President Macapagal took a strong interest in the matter, appointed a committee to draft legislation, and submitted his pro­posals to Congress in mid-March. The reforms were bold proposals in the Philippine context; they were more sweeping than those in President Magsaysay’s land reform bill. Share tenancy was to be immediately and totally abolished and replaced by leasehold arrangements. The government would be empowered to expropriate on petition of lessees all private lands over 24 hectares and to pay for the property chiefly in bonds at a price pegged to the land’s productivity. A progressive land tax was included in order to penalize underutilization of large holdings; and agricultural labor was given a “bill of rights,” including an increase in minimum wage from P2.50 to P3.50 per day. All agencies concerned with agrarian policy, extension, land settlement, public land distribution and agricultural credit, were reorganized and coordinated in accordance with provisions of the bill. Magsaysay had waited more than a year for passage of a weaker bill; Macapagal pushed through the adoption of his measure in less than four months.

However, the measure adopted was not the same as the one presented. The progressive land tax was eliminated. Courts handling expropriation cases were authorized to consider “other factors,” thereby opening the door to the possibility of prices so high that tenants could not pay for their own lots. The 24 hectare retention limit was raised to 75—still far below the generous maximum of the 1955 act. Coconut share tenancy was exempted from the mandatory shift to leasehold; and land worked by wage laborers, i.e., most sugar land, was exempted from government appropriation.

Despite Congressional dilution the new legislation is a clear improve­ment over the old. Provisions for financing the expropriation of landed estates are designed to move landowners into industry. Priorities for pur­chase of estates set forth in the law reduce opportunities for corrupt practices. Loopholes for landlords who want to avoid expropriation are fewer. Effective coordination of different aspects of land reform is more likely. And, if enforced, the high minimum wage for agricultural labor and the maximum on leasehold rentals of an amount equivalent to 25% of net yield will substantially benefit low income level families in rural areas. The passage of such a bill is a tribute to the determination of President Macapagal and to the skill of its key legislative sponsor, the brilliant and persuasive Senator Raul Manglapus. Special interests did not emasculate the bill as much as they liked.

A well administered land reform program could be a major factor in preserving the degree of social stability in the Philippines and keeping elite politics within constitutional bounds. A poorly administered program could, on the other hand, induce agrarian unrest. The Macapagal Admin­istration will set the pattern in the next two years. Although Macapagal is now less fettered by obligations to the landed elite than any Philippine president before him, his penchant for multiplying political foes could so threaten his future that his fight for survival within elite politics will divert his attention from good administration. If he is willing to risk the continued falling away of elite allies, he may find that vigorously imple­mented agrarian reform would be his best election-time asset. However, no successful Philippine politician has yet relied primarily on this tactic.

DAVID WURFEL is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri.

Selected Reading

Ortiz, Pacifico A. “Legal Aspects of the North Borneo Question,” Philippine Studies, II (January 1963), 18-64.

Agpalo, Remigio. The Political Process and the Nationalization of the Retail Trade. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1962.

Anderson, James. “Some Aspects of Land and Society in a Pangasinan Community,” Philippine Sociological Review (January-April 1962), 41-58.

Rivera, Juan. The Congress of the Philippines. Manila: Ayuda and Co., 1962.


1 July 20, 1963, editorial.

2 See MT, Aug. 2, 15, 1963.

3 MT, June 18, 1963.

4 March 14, 1963.

5 MT, May 19, 1963.

6 MT, March 15, 1963.

7 MT, March 10, 1963, editorial.

8 Salvador P. Lopez, “The Crisis over Malaysia and the Future of Maphilindo,” address at the University of the Philippines, Oct. 4, 1963.

9 New York Times, Sept. 18, 1963.

10 MT, July 14, 1963.

11 “The Case of the P127,000,000 Loan,” Philippines Free Press, July 21, 1962, pp. 13, 84.

Categories Philippines, General politics

David Wurfel, University of Missouri
in Asian Survey, January 1967.

The year 1966 was in a very real sense a “Philippine Year” in the United States. Americans, both official and private, paid more atten­tion to the affairs of our former ward in the Pacific than at any time since independence in 1946. It was a year in which the Philippines could hardly reiterate the familiar plaint that they are “being taken for granted.”1

Least publicized, but not the least important for long term understand­ing, was the Philippine-American Assembly held in Davao in February. Under the joint sponsorship of the American Assembly and the Philippine-America Society nearly 70 leaders in business, finance, government, jour­nalism and education from both countries gathered for the fullest and freest discussion of mutual problems that the two peoples had ever known. This dialogue was an important indicator of the maturing of the relation­ship.’ The Davao meeting was followed by two regional Assemblies in the U.S. on the same topic, and there will be a third.

These Assemblies concluded, against the background of rising Filipino nationalism and an increasingly self-conscious effort to establish a distinct national identity, that the main problem areas in Philippine-American rela­tions were Southeast Asian strategy, military bases, investment climate, trade relations, economic aid and veterans affairs. In the course of the year, which included President and Mrs. Marcos’ highly successful state visit to the U.S. and President Johnson’s trip to the Philippines scarred by violent demonstrations, progress was made in certain of these areas. And all Philippine problems received heightened attention in the U.S.

The Vietnam Aid Bill was the most debated foreign policy measure in the history of the Philippine Congress. Manila wags dubbed the 1966 session the “Vietnam Congress,” “Viet Cong,” for short. Before his elec­tion President Marcos had himself been opposed to sending Philippine forces to Vietnam, a move first proposed by Macapagal. It is not surpris­ing then that he initially met with widespread opposition in the Congress when he asked in January for a P 35 million appropriation to enable the dispatch of 2000 “non-Combatant” troops. Finally in August, Congress gave its assent, but not without an unusually high percentage of negative votes. In the meantime Marcos had apparently engaged in some Johnsonian arm-twisting.2 Politicians who had not benefited from any new “pork barrel” appropriations since 1961, reportedly, were particularly susceptible to such persuasion.

At the Manila Conference there was some indication that Marcos sought to retrieve an image of Asian independence which had been tarnished by widely published rumors of U.S. pressure regarding aid to South Vietnam. He made a bold effort to get the conferees to recommend a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam, but was quite unsuccessful.

U.S. military bases have now become a much less important source of Philippine-American friction than they were only two years ago, due in large part to the August 1965 agreement which, after a decade of wran­gling, granted to the Philippines essentially the same jurisdiction over the bases and American military personnel which NATO countries have. The tentative 1959 accord to reduce the length of the U.S. base lease from 99 to 25 years was formalized in the Rusk-Ramos Agreement in September.

Disputes over the status of American investors have become relatively more important. An unusually stringent interpretation of the Retail Trade Nationalization Act affecting American firms is still sub judice and though a matter of much debate, was not one of negotiations in 1966. In May, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Narciso Ramos formally proposed discussions on the abrogation of “parity” rights for American business before their expiration in 1974, but no progress report has yet been made. The Invest­ment Incentives Bill, which included guidelines for foreign investment poli­cy, languished in the Philippine Congress while Secretary of Finance Ed­uardo Romualdez said in New York that the Philippines was looking to private foreign capital “for massive outside help” in implementing the Four Year Development Plan.3 In September President Marcos issued an admin­istrative order to clarify foreign investors’ rights; all uncertainties do not seem to have been resolved, however. Some articulate Filipinos contend that foreign credits should be sought, not investments. But adequate channels for a substantial flow of American loan capital to the Philippines have not yet been established.

The major issues in trade relations revolve around the question of what kind of treaty should replace the Laurel-Langley Agreement in 1974 – or earlier. However, in late 1966 a new dispute threatened to halt Philippine­American trade altogether. In a move to combat “technical smuggling,” especially undervaluation of exports to the Philippines, the Philippine government decided to require American and other exporters to send a “shipper’s export declaration” with every shipment. The U.S. govern­ment declared that the documents were “confidential” and could not be sent; American exporters threatened to boycott the Philippines if the re­quirement was not dropped. That danger has been averted by minor com­promises on both sides, but the incident reminds us that solution of old problems does not guarantee smooth sailing in the future of Philippine­American relations.

Philippine veterans’ claims seem to be vying for the title of “major irritant” in the near future. President Marcos, himself a veteran, can be expected to press this matter. Legislation is now before the U.S. Congress to appropriate additional benefits of $17 million for Filipino veterans. But total Filipino claims are much larger. The language of the joint presi­dential communique in September gives some indication of the nature of the impasse: “President Marcos put the case of the Philippine veterans. President Johnson explained the problems and limitations from the standpoint of the U.S.”

In sum, though 1966 was also a year which marked the re-establishment of Philippine diplomatic relations with Malaysia, the revival of the Asso­ciation for Southeast Asia, the location of the new Asian Development Bank’s headquarters in Manila, and a state visit to Japan, it witnessed, on balance, an intensification of relations with the U.S. If intensity of communication produced understanding, this is to be welcomed. In view of the significance of the Filipino search for a national identity associated with Asia, however, the development of these two separate stands may pose continuing pressures.

Samuel Huntington has reminded us that political development can, under certain circumstances, turn to political decline and decay. It is a sobering thought as we look at Philippine domestic affairs in 1966. If one is to take presidential oratory at face value, the Philippines has already begun the process of decline. Ferdinand Marcos, in his December 31st inaugural address, declared dramatically: “Filipinos have ceased to value order. Justice and security are myths. Our government is gripped in the iron hand of venality, its treasury is barren.” Later President Marcos revealed that in 1965 the gross national product had been declining. He believed that conditions had combined to produce “an outlook of the people” characterized by despair and that the country had been “danger­ously” close to “a sudden uprising.” [4]

President Marcos proceeded to open his first state of the nation address: “We are in crisis.” He was, of course, issuing a call to action. Thus he could be excused a certain exaggeration of the urgency of the task. But it was, indeed, a very modest exaggeration.

In part the problems Marcos faced were typical of the point in the elec­toral cycle at which he found himself. The great cost of Philippine election campaigns, and their gradual prolongation, has meant that increasingly the year before a presidential election the incumbent has little time, or government funds, for anything but politics. A raft of superfluous appoint­ments are made, foreign exchange is dissipated and government coffers are drained-not to mention the pockets of private donors. In the last six months of 1965 the Philippine government borrowed P300 million just to meet budgeted outlays.

It was hoped by many that President Macapagal’s abolition of foreign exchange licensing would eliminate the major cause of corruption, and reduce campaign expenditures. However, party managers, accustomed to the earlier pattern, continued to assess businessmen, particularly Chinese, the same amount of contributions that they had when the importer with a dollar license could well afford a cut for the ruling party. In some sectors the assessment was regularized by being processed through industry asso­ciations.

Since tariffs replaced foreign exchange rationing as the main instrument for protecting local industry, smuggling replaced kickbacks. The substi­tution was not for the better. The steps taken by the smugglers to buy protection corrupted a wider range of officialdom than ever before. Revenue and foreign exchange losses from smuggling have been estimated at hun­dreds of millions of dollars per year. Even Red China got into the act, smuggling Swatow embroideries into the Philippines to be resold in the U.S. as a Philippine article.

In addition to the loss of revenue and foreign exchange and the corrup­tion of law enforcement officers, smuggling has been disastrous for infant industry in the Philippines, which was, in effect, denied tariff protection. The textile industry has been hardest hit. By the end of 1965 only four out of the country’s 70 textile mills were operating, mainly because of the competition of smuggled fabrics. The leather, rubber products, cigarette, paper and pharmaceutical manufacturers were also hurt.

President Marcos decided first to focus his administration’s energies on the related problems of smuggling and law enforcement. Success in these fields would not only have immediate economic benefit, but would make political capital as well. Thus one of the most crucial appointments which Marcos made was that of Col. Jacinto Gavino as Customs Commissioner, a retired army officer. Gavino had been the general manager of the Na­tional Rice and Corn Corporation under Magsaysay, and had an almost unparalleled reputation for honesty and efficiency. That reputation did not seem impaired in the early months of the difficult 1966 assignment. In July customs collections were already more than 50% above those in July 1965. By November, however, Gavino had been removed by President Marcos for keeping improper company. Marcos was learning the pitfalls of graft-busting.

A large portion of the smuggling had been so-called “technical” smug­gling, a broad category which is to be distinguished from dodging the Philippine Navy on the high seas. It is often carried on at the Manila piers by customs inspectors in connivance with importers. This has been sub­stantially reduced by a mechanism which brings economic interest groups directly to the support of government policy designed to protect them, an uniquely constructive involvement of industry in public administration. Gavino invited industry associations, e.g., the Textile Mills Association of the Philippines, the Pulp and Paper Manufacturers Association, and the Association of Drug Manufacturers, to provide him with technical advisors on appraisal to be present at the piers. It is, of course, in the interest of these associations to have competing imports pay full duty on an honest and accurate appraisal.

Outside of Manila the suppression of smuggling was usually the task of the armed forces and police. Some Constabulary and Navy officers were, however, in collusion with the smugglers. The President’s judicious use of dismissal, transfer and disciplinary action has significantly changed that situation. But the complicity of local police was much more difficult to deal with. In the Philippines municipal police come under the authority of the elected mayor, and thus indirectly under the influence of governors and Congressmen. Such policemen, in fact, have often been little more than the mayors’ bodyguards, and all-purpose henchmen. Thus to reform the local police Marcos needed new legislation, and he asked for it. Few thought that he would get it, however. But rising public indignation, sparked by fre­quent reports of personal vendetta and intimidation by policemen in and out of uniform-not to mention the revelation that one town had as a chief of police a convicted murderer who had escaped sentencing-as well as the skillful use of pressure by the President caused the bill to pass in early September. Now local police will be brought under a centralized and rela­tively depoliticized administration. This does not insure honesty and effi­ciency, but it does make it more possible. In any case, the passage of this bill may indicate that the President did not completely dissipate his influ­ence in Congress to get the Vietnam Aid Bill passed, as many had feared would be the case.

President Marcos claimed in August that he had been able to cut smug­gling by 40%. Another measure of the success of the collection drive at the customs is that all 70 textile mills were brought back into full produc­tion. This may not be spectacular progress, but it is certainly noteworthy.

In addition to raising more revenue, through a revamp of the Bureau of Internal Revenue as well as the Customs, Marcos has attempted to solve the government’s financial problems by laying off casual employees and not filling existing vacancies in the civil service. He has thus reduced what was a daily deficit of about PPA million in 1965.

For the economy as a whole, while drafting more long-range plans, the Marcos administration has also tried a variety of ingenious short-term devices to mobilize scarce capital and channel it into the more viable of the large number of firms in financial difficulties. A World Bank loan of $25 million to the Private Development Corporation of the Philippines will further this effort to strengthen industry. The “long term economic plan” which has been adopted by the Marcos administration is both less detailed and more realistic than previous blueprints. Its most notable feature is that it covers only the fiscal years for which President Marcos has responsi­bility in his present term and thus is not, as earlier counterparts sometimes were, simply a re-election platform. It recognizes the seriousness of the high population growth rate of 3.2% and admits its relationship to growing unemployment, estimated at more than 8% of the labor force-not including the underemployed.5 Recognition of the low annual per capita growth rate-less than 1%-in the previous five years was also realistic, but whether a projected annual per capita growth of 2.4% for the coming four is achievable remains to be seen.

Like President Macapagal, Marcos did not stress agrarian problems in his campaign. Nor did he-emulating his predecessor again-give them primary attention in his first few months in office. Some even accused the President of being uninterested in existing agrarian programs and agencies since they were so closely identified with ex-President Macapagal. In any case, dramatic evidence of Huk revival in Central Luzon had begun by mid-year to cause some revision of priorities.

Almost every year in the last decade the Philippine Congress, at appro­priations season, has been presented with the phenomenon of the “budget­ary Huk.” Thus both Congress and the press have become cynical about the cry of “Huk” emanating from military sources. This year, however, the wolf appeared in more convincing guerrilla clothing. The most spectacu­lar strike by the revitalized Communist movement was the July ambush killing of the mayor of Candaba who, as president of the Anti-Huk Mayor’s League of Pampanga, was on his way to a conference with the President. This was one of 71 killings attributed to the Huks in the first eight months of 1966.

The skeptical observers who have held for some time that the “Huk revival” was being confused with endemic banditry and gangsterism had an assist last August from ex-Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, brought from prison to testify to a Congressional investigating committee. The Huks do appear to be engaged in a very successful protection racket in Angeles, Pampanga-which lives off American sin. (This seems to be the Huks’ most substantial “foreign aid.”) A take estimated at nearly a half million dollars a year reportedly enables them to pay comfortable salaries to full-time cadres and thus help keep them honest.

The top Communist leader in Central Luzon today is said to be Pedro Taruc, the ex-Supremo’s nephew. Without announcing an intention of overthrowing the government, Taruc’s “New People’s Democratic Front” nevertheless skillfully exploits the peasants’ socio-economic grievances and complaints of injustice. (The creaky wheels of justice have been even further slowed by Marcos’ failure to fill a number of vacancies in the Court of Agrarian Relations.) Organized civilian supporters may now number over 25,000. An important part of the explanation for these developments comes from the mayor of Bacolor, Pampanga: “Land reform was talked about, promised, and never implemented.”6

President Marcos has attempted to combat this problem with positive measures, pushing for increased production and reform. In June he de­clared the full implementation of the Land Reform Act of 1963 in Pam­panga-for which Huk leaders claimed credit when talking to peasants. He also moved toward financing of the Land Bank, created by the 1963 Act. The Four Year Plan announced that P367.9 million would be spent on land redistribution with the goal of assisting tenants to acquire 91,000 hectares.7 However, these promises must be put in the context of previous failures of well-intentioned leaders and of parallel commitments to the military. The projected four year land redistribution budget, for example, was matched by a proposed fiscal year 1967 military budget of P324.2, or twice the defense budget for 1962. Though this may seem high, more land reform by press release could require an even larger future military outlay.

The more one delves into the complexities of the problems facing the Philippines, the more respect one has for those who are attempting to solve them. Marcos seems to be devoting more intelligent attention to major policy decisions than several of his predecessors-even at the risk of abandoning the “barefeet in the palace” tradition begun by Magsaysay. Even so, he is most unlikely to achieve his announced goals. And time is running out for the Philippines. One would be constrained to adjudge the Philippines already on the threshold of decay, rather than of development, were there not some basis for believing that there is greater determination and impatience in Malacanang than there has been for years.

DAVID WURFEL is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri.

Selected Readings

Bundy, William P. “Elements of the Philippine-American Partnership,” Department of State Bulletin, 54 (March 21, 1966), 444-451.

Corpuz, Onofre D. The Philippines. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1965. Golay, Frank, ed. The United States and the Philippines. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1966.

Lande, Carl. Leaders, Factions and Parties: The Structure of Philippine Politics. Yale University, Southeast Asian Studies, Monograph No. 6, 1965.

Meyer, Milton W. A Diplomatic History of the Philippine Republic. Hono­lulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1965.

Reynolds, Quentin and Geoffrey Bocca. Macapagal: The Incorruptible. New York: McKay, 1965.

Romulo, Carlos P. Identity and Change: Towards a National Definition. Manila: Solidaridad, 1965.

Sternberg, David T. “The Philippines: Contour and Perspectives,” Foreign Affairs, 44 (April 1966), 500-511.


1 See, Philippine-American Relations, Report of the Philippine-American Assembly (The American Assembly, Columbia University, 1966).

2 New York Times, March 27, 1966.

3 Ibid, August 8, 1966.

4 Quijano de Manila, “Half Year Mark” Philippines Free Press, August 13, 1966, p. 2.

5 Office of the President of the Philippines, Four-Year Economic Program for the Philippines (Manila: September 1966), pp. 8-9.

6 Denis Warner, “Philippine President Marcos and the Huk Resurgence,” The Re­porter (November 3,1966), pp. 28-31.

7 Four-Year Economic Program, op. cit, p. 50.

Categories Philippines, General politics

By David Wurfel, Cornell University.
in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Jul., 1959), pp. 582-608

In its thirteen years of independence, despite periods of retrogression, the Philippines has progressed significantly toward economic development and political democracy. It is already the most industrialized country in Southeast Asia, with manufacturing now accounting for nearly 15 percent of the net domestic product. Manufacturing also provides jobs for about 13 percent of the employed labor force.’ Politically the Philippines has withstood armed rebellion and widespread corruption without abandoning constitutional government. In fact, it is the only country in Southeast Asia where an existing administration has been peacefully turned out of office by a national election.

Philippine labor organizations have both shared in and contributed to this progress in the economic and political life of the nation. About 40 percent of the labor force are engaged in nonagricultural occupations; by 1958 nearly one-fourth of nonagricultural wage and salary workers were organized. Trade unions have contributed both to high wage levels and to political stability, by channeling mass aspirations into efforts producing measurable achievements.

However, economic conditions since the end of World War II have not been uniformly conducive to union expansion. Wages have risen. Immediately after the war the Filipino laborer was in a much worse position than he had been in 1940, but since 1946 price trends have been generally down and wage trends up so that the index of real wages for unskilled workers in Manila moved from 82 to 102 between 1948 and 1956.2 (Over 40 percent of the nonagricultural workers are found in the Manila metropolitan area.) However, the number of available laborers is growing faster than the number of new jobs, so that by 1956 there were reported to be over one million unemployed, the equivalent of about 12.5 percent of the entire labor force. Keen competition for existing jobs creates pressures to reverse the wage trend and makes the strike a weapon of uncertain effectiveness. Scabs are plentiful.

Resulting from changes in political leadership and labor legislation, since 1953 the Philippine political climate for trade unionism has been more favorable than the economic. The Industrial Peace Act of 1953, which constitutes the most important statutory statement of present government policy, borrowed many of its its provisions-some almost verbatim-from the Wagner and Taft-Hartley Acts. As administered, it allows unions a greater combined security from employer retaliation and government interference and provides greater encouragement for collective bargaining than is found elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, the government-financed and university-directed labor education program designed to assist the implementation of the Act is also unique in the region.

Because the Philippines is well-known for having a political elite which is comparatively conservative for Southeast Asia, it is somewhat surprising to find that Philippine labor relations and trade union policy is quite liberal by Asian standards. In trying to assess why it has been possible to adopt such a policy in the Philippines, we must pay special attention to four factors: foreign, especially American, influence; the socioeconomic composition of the political elite and the style of competition within it; the economic role of government; and, finally, the strength of the labor movement itself. Other considerations have also affected policy, but these factors, consciously or unconsciously, have probably had the greatest influence on the decision-makers.


Before it reached its present advanced state, Philippine trade union and labor relations policy went through three stages: repression, 1901-1907; recognition, 1908-1935; and regulation and protection, 1936-1953. The stage since 1953 might be termed protection and encouragement. At each stage the relative importance of the four factors in the formulation of policy has differed. At first all decisions were American ones, whereas by the beginning of the third stage even American influence was of minor importance. Labor unions did not have any impact on policy until the third stage, and then mainly by causing policy makers to react to union strength. The Filipino political elite, dominated by landlords, moved from no to almost complete control over policy by the 1930’s. At that time, the elite was united in one party, the Nacionalistas, under one man, Manuel Quezon; and government corporations were predominant in Filipino industrialization. By 1953, however, American influence and direct pressure had again intensified; the Filipino political elite was economically more variegated and politically divided, with various elements competing for mass support; government-owned industries had declined in relative importance; and labor organizations were more capable of voicing and pressing for their demands.

The formal policy which resulted from this combination of pressures, both domestic and foreign, relied heavily in some part on an American model. It drew also from past Philippine experience and retained existing institutions. In practice post-1953 policy has often reverted to pre-1953 patterns. The attitudes of both administrators and union officials have often favored such a reversion. The whole complexion of Philippine labor policy could be more greatly altered, however, if some of the conditions which made that policy possible should change. Some such changes appear likely.


Between 1901 and 1907, government policy called for legal and administrative repression of trade unions. The Spanish Penal Code, which remained in force after the American succession, defined sedition so as to include “any act of hatred. . .upon a private person or any class of persons.” An act of the U.S. Philippine Commission in 1901, designed to prohibit nationalist activity, made membership in a society having sedition as its object, “in whole or in part,” punishable by fine or imprisonment. When the first trade union was organized among the printers in 1902 by Spanish-educated Don Isabelo de los Reyes, it was quickly dissolved. Don Isabel() was imprisoned after he led the Philippines’ first strike in that same year. Dr. Dominador Gomez, who had also been educated in Spain, founded another union in the following year; his union was also dissolved for being a “subversive and illegal society.” Both men had combined nationalistic and labor agitation; this the law clearly penalized.

The legalization of nationalist political activity and the subsequent election of the First Philippine Assembly in 1907 dealt a serious blow to radical political unionism, from which it did not soon recover. Both Gomez and de los Reyes became legislative candidates, and were eventually elected. The best leadership was thus diverted from union to political activity.


In the first stage policy decisions had been entirely American. In the second stage of the development of labor policy, the Philippine Assembly played a coordinate role.

Trade unionism was legally recognized, by indirection, in 1908. Act No. 1868, which created a Bureau of Labor in the Department of Commerce and Police, set forth as one of the Bureau’s duties, “to acquire .. . data and submit .. . reports . . .relative to. . .strikes and other labor difficulties; mutual benefit associations, workers’ insurance societies, . . and other labor organizations.” This degree of union recognition continued until 1935. The Bureau of Labor was also given powers of conciliating labor disputes.

As the terminology in Act 1868 implied, the most important kind of labor organizations at the time were the mutual aid “lodges,” many of which were also secret societies. Several of these organizations were quasi-military in form, and specialized in elaborate initiation rituals. Officers of some of these associations were frequently reported to have pocketed organizational funds.

The 1920’s witnessed a rapid expansion of industry and trade in the Philippines, multiplying the raw material of unionism, the urban worker.3 Without a change in the legal environment, unions grew rapidly too. In 1919 there were only 31 unions registered with the Bureau of Labor, having a reported membership of about 42,000. By 1924 the number of unions had grown to 145 and the membership to 90,000. From that year the size of the labor movement remained nearly stable, with only a slight decline, until 1935.

More important than the growth in number of unionists during the 1920’s however, was the intrusion of the new ideology of communism into the movement. It served as a catalyst for increased union activity, even by those who did not adhere to it. This intrusion marked the beginning of modern Philippine trade unionism. In 1925 both Tan Malakka, the Indonesian Communist, and William Janequette, an American Communist organizer, visited the Philippines to urge Filipino attendance at the First Congress of Oriental Transportation Workers in Canton.4 Several Filipino labor leaders, the first among their colleagues to go abroad, did attend. One of those, Crisanto Evangelista, who had visited Russia in the meantime, formed a new labor union on his return to the Philippines in 1929. Evangelista and others proclaimed the founding of the Communist party of the Philippines a few days later.5 In 1931 both the party and the union, which was apparently linked organizationally with the party, were declared illegal by the courts. Open Communist political and union activity did not reappear until after the pardon of the imprisoned leaders by President Quezon in 1938.

The non-Communist labor unions, though stimulated to somewhat greater activity by Communist competition, unfortunately presented a general picture of organizational confusion, opportunism, highly personalized leadership often not responsible to the membership, and strong rivalries based entirely on personality conflict. Though since 1913 all labor leaders had held an annual convention on May Day, called the Philippine Labor Congress, there was no overall national federation or confederation which functioned throughout the year. However, some continuity was given by three strong unions: the Union Obreros Estivadores de Filipinas, centered on the Manila waterfront; the National Labor Union, drawing its strength from industrial workers around Manila; and the Federacion Obrera de Filipinas, composed of both agricultural and nonagricultural workers in the Visayas, the southern islands of the Philippines. All three of these were formed before 1930, but maintained their importance even after World War II.6

In 1935, with the establishment of the Commonwealth, the Philippines gained complete internal self-government. Manuel Quezon was elected president in the midst of intense agrarian unrest and increasing left-wing union and political activity. In an imaginative conservative’s reaction to this situation, Quezon and his advisors launched a “social justice” program which was designed to grant the minimum demands of tenants and laborers, but also to preserve the basic characteristics of the economy and to allow greater governmental control over agrarian and industrial relations. Though the “social justice” program employed much of the language of the New Deal, some of the institutions established in its name were borrowed from the experience of nondemocratic countries.


Included in this program of the Quezon government were two major pieces of labor legislation, one providing for compulsory arbitration and the other for union registration. Their enactment marked the advent of the third stage of labor relations and trade union policy. Previously characterized as regulation and protection, the emphasis in this stage was on regulation. That this should have been so is explainable by assessing the factors affecting policy.

Americans had actually, as well as officially, withdrawn from internal Philippine policy formulation. In fact, it is fairly clear that High Commissioner Frank Murphy, a representative of the U.S. President with no executive authority, not even the power of veto, was not in sympathy with all the measures which President Quezon adopted. Labor organizations, though obstreperous enough to elicit a reaction from the political elite, had no positive influence over policy. The political elite itself was united behind Quezon who, with his associates, was determined to control communism and all related manifestations.

Quezon also had economic as well as political reasons for controlling labor. Ever since their creation during Governor-General Harrison’s administration, several government corp orations had dominated Filipino-operated industrial activity. President Quezon therefore had a special interest in preserving labor-management relations unruffled by difficult union demands. In a society such as the Philippines, with an overabundance of lawyers, it was almost inevitable that one of the techniques of control selected should have been judicial arbitration.

The provision made in 1908 for voluntary arbitration by the Bureau of Labor had not entailed a sufficient grant of governmental power to prevent numerous work stoppages. There had consequently been four attempts in the Philippine Legislature, in 1907, 1918, 1921, and 1934, to push through bills establishing compulsory arbitration legislation. Only in the last attempt had the bill actually passed, and then it was vetoed by Governor-General Murphy.7 Strikes and lockouts reached their prewar peak in 1934 when 662,399 man days were lost. Beginning in August of that year a strike of 8000 cigar workers, probably the largest strike in Philippine labor history, lasted for six weeks. There was evidence of Communist party leadership. Secretary of Labor Ramon Torres said, “That strike taught me. It showed the futility of the conciliatory functions of the Department of Labor in certain cases, and the imperative need of a government agency with full powers to summon both parties to an industrial dispute, . . decide the issues involved, and compel them to abide by its decision.. . .Fortunately the constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines authorizes compulsory arbitration, and so I did not lose time in proposing the creation of the Court of Industrial Relations.”8

The Court which Secretary Torres proposed was created by Commonwealth Act No. 103, adopted in October 1936, and was given jurisdiction over all labor disputes causing or likely to cause a strike or lockout which involved more than 30 workers, if submitted to it by the Secretary of Labor or by either party to the dispute. Pending consideration by the Court all strikes or lockouts were to be enjoined. The scope of the Court’s awards was not to be limited by the demands of the parties, and the awards were to be binding on both labor and management. In the first full calendar year after the passage of C.A. 103, idleness from strikes and lockouts dropped to 18,097 man-days.°

A second law, Commonwealth Act No. 213, also adopted in 1936, provided greater legal protection to trade unions than they had had before. Intimidation or coercion with the intent of preventing a worker from joining a “legitimate labor organization” was made a punishable felony. However, as the Act’s title implies, “An Act to define and regulate legitimate labor organizations,” regulation was its chief aim. It was a tool for governmental supervision and control of the labor movement. The requirements for a union to attain legitimacy were stringent. Only a registered organization was legitimate, and registration was permitted only after an investigation by the constabulary of the activities of the “applying labor organization.” Any organization with the objective of undermining and destroying the “constituted government” or violating any of its laws could be denied registration, with determination of “the objective” resting in the Department of Labor. Once registered, a union, to remain legitimate, had to file a yearly report of its meetings and financial affairs, and a list of its officers and members.

These laws remained substantially unchanged until 1953. However, within this stage of legal protection and regulation were four periods of labor policy and union development, clearly demarcated by war, armistice, Communist tactical shift, and government reaction to it. From 1936 to 1941 there were ineffective government attempts to impose “labor unity”; from 1942 to 1945 all union activity was temporarily suspended by the Japanese; from 1945 to 1950 governmental regulatory powers fell into comparative disuse; and from 1951 to 1953 they were used with the utmost stringency to bolster a semi-official trade union confederation.

Armed with Commonwealth Act No. 213, the Department of Labor in 1938 sought, by consultation with union leaders, to establish “labor unity” in the Philippines. But instead, the reappearance on the labor scene of Communists released from prison in that year caused an ideological split in the already much-splintered labor movement. Though C.A. 213 attempted to discourage Communist-led unions by its requirements for registration and by leaving unregistered unions without legal protection, it did not succeed. By the end of 1939 it was estimated that there were more members in unregistered unions, mostly affiliates of the Communist-led Collective Labor Movement, than in registered ones.10 The CLM, formed in June 1938, had 76 affiliates, including the National Labor Union and Federacion Obrera de Filipinas. On the right wing of the labor movement at that time there were two federations; the stronger of the two received substantial support from Secretary Torres, after the organization of the CLM.

The total number of registered unions grew rapidly after 1936, as can be seen from Table 1.

The Japanese occupation called a temporary halt in 1941 to trade union activity in the Philippines. Many labor leaders joined guerilla groups during the war-the left-wing gravitated toward the Huk-balahap (Tagalog for “People’s Army against the Japanese”)-then re-emerged in 1945 to spearhead new organizational drives. Some American soldiers in the Philippines, who had been union members in the U.S., assisted the rapid reestablishment of labor unions in 1945-46. A few of these were Communists.

Table 1. Registered Unions, Union Membership, and Industrial Disputes, 1922-1940.

Number of registered unions Union membership Number of registered industrial disputes* Man-days of work lost
1922 97 68,976 24 11,433
1923 118 70,548 26 24,535
1924 145 89,826 20 56,725
1925 122 83,544 23 156,917
1926 119 62,858 27 275,126
1927 103 73,716 53 99,848
1928 110 68,828 38 43,534
1929 114 62,366 20 93,716
1930 122 78,781 35 75,317
1931 110 96,041 45 113,478
1932 116 31 58,501
1933 135 13,109 [sic] 59 50,736
1934 122 72,613 63 662,399
1935 27 146,220
1936 51 117,330
1937 57 18,097
1938 188 46,456 125 32,131
1939t 351 84,013 194 30,533
1940 391 96,877 158

Source: Statistical Handbook of the Philippines, 7903-1953 (Manila, 1954), pp. 29-31; also Dept. of Labor figures cited in Kurihara, op. cit., p. 70.

*Includes disputes which did not result in work stoppage.

Estimate based on only six months of statistics.

Note: These figures on union membership are quite unreliable, some say “worthless.” Even after the war similar figures gave, at best, a rough idea of growth in the nationwide labor movement.


A Communist “united front” with non-Communist labor leaders prospered from 1945 to 1950. Early in 1945 a Committee on Labor Organization was formed, including the veteran Communist leaders Guillermo Capadocia and, according to some accounts, Mariano Balgos. In August it was transformed into the Congress of Labor Organizations with a 31-man central committee. A non-Communist newspaperman and organizer of the Philippine Newspaper Guild was named president. Amado Hernandez, another Manila journalist, was among the 18 vice-presidents. In August 1947, Hernandez was elected president; Capadocia remained executive vice-president. Hernandez visited Europe in December 1948. In January 1949, the day after the final walkout of the anti-Communists in the World Federation of Trade Unions, that body’s Executive Bureau voted to accept the CLO request for affiliation which had been pending since 1946.n

The CLO was the dominant labor federation of the early postwar period. By 1950 it claimed 78 affiliate unions-most of which were registered-and 100,000 members.12 Though its affiliates were mostly in Luzon, it had a cooperative arrangement with the Federacion Obrera de Filipinas in the southern islands. The CLO was not only numerically strong, but was also most active in pressing labor’s demands. Together with the FOF it was a party to 42 percent of the industrial disputes brought to the Court of Industrial Relations from 1945 to July 1948.13 The CLO was reputed to be responsible for an even larger percentage of strikes in that period.

After the Communist-led Hukbalahap openly declared itself in rebellion against the government in February 1950, the position of a Communist-infiltrated labor federation became increasingly untenable. Vice-president Capadocia went underground. The Labor Department frequently used its power to cancel union registrations against the CLO and its affiliates, alleging “subversive activities.” Finally on January 26, 1951, Amado Hernandez was arrested by the Military Intelligence Service. After lengthy interrogation he was charged with “rebellion, complexed with multiple murder, robbery, and arson” on the contention that he was a Communist party member and that he, as head of the CLO, had conspired with the Huks to prosecute the rebellion. At the same time scores of other Communist suspects were rounded up. A Manila Judge of First Instance upheld the prosecution’s contention and sentenced Hernandez to life imprisonment in March 1952.14

In the course of the trial it was revealed that several members of the Communist party’s Trade Union Department were also members of the CLO Central Committee. The key prosecution witness estimated, however, that only 10 percent of the CLO affiliates had been “successfully infiltrated” by Communists, and that in none were Communists a majority. During 1951 the CLO’s Communist-infiltrated affiliates were disbanded. The remainder quickly disassociated themselves from the discredited federation, which had been deprived of its registration permit by the Department of Labor. In fact, such disaffiliations had been occurring since 1948, when the Manila Railroad unions had taken that step.


Unfortunately, freedom from Communist infiltration did not usher in a free Philippine labor movement. A new attempt, reminiscent of the 1930’s, but more successful, was made by the Department of Labor to control labor unions. The method was also different from that used before the war: direct official sponsorship of a trade union federation.

Under-Secretary of Labor Jose Figueras had taken the oath as Secretary just one month before Hernandez’s arrest. While he was still Under-Secretary, Figueras had been elected president of the National Confederation of Trade Unions, an organization registered with the Department of Labor in May 1949. Shortly after he became Acting Secretary in September, 1950, Figueras organized a NACTU convention in Baguio which was addressed by President Quirino. Figueras at that time claimed 392 NACTU affiliates with “two million members,” of a total of 450 registered unions. In May 1951 he claimed for NACTU 624 unions with three million members, or the equivalent of the entire nonagricultural employed labor force. By May of 1953 NACTU was claiming 1376 affiliates, though shortly thereafter the Department of Labor reported a total of 836 registered unions. These claims were certainly exaggerated, but it was no exaggeration to say that NACTU dominated the Philippine labor movement from late 1950 until 1953, that is, during the incumbency of Secretary Figueras. NACTU not only gathered unto itself the two largest unions that had remained outside the CLO, the National Labor Union and the UOEF, but also counted among its vice-presidents José Nava, supremo of the FOF which had cooperated with the CL0.15 A large percentage of NACTU affiliates, however, were not true unions, but were labor contracting associations, the presidents of which profited handsomely from each contract. A number of NACTU affiliates were also charged with being “company unions.”

The purpose served by NACTU was not just the establishment of “labor unity” and suppression of radical unionism, though it did accomplish these things more effectively than had the prewar attempts. NACTU’s philosophy was explained by its executive secretary, Manila City Councillor Rupert() Cristobal:

The Secretary of Labor exercises supervision and guidance over labor unions. Government guidance in the labor movement is not as bad as some labor leaders picture and describe it. We may say further that it is a must and a necessity because such government guidance brings better cooperation and understanding between labor and management.

With the implantation of the American type of trade unionism in the Philippines, some labor leaders began to despise government guidance in the labor movement… . Such arrogant attitude only diminishes public sympathy towards the labor movement. It creates unnecessary animosity which in the long run will adversely affect the interest of free trade unionism.16

Cristobal added, “The labor movement is not for the workers alone. It also concerns educators, economists, social workers, politicians, and capitalists.” The politician it most concerned was Secretary Figueras. NACTU was, in part, designed as a vehicle for the Secretary’s political ambitions. The innumerable plaudits for the Quirino administration and the Liberal party at NACTU conventions were not just idle talk. In 1953 Figueras asked for, and received, a Liberal party nomination for the senate, whereupon he resigned form his cabinet post. Throughout the campaign NACTU provided crowds and adulation for Figueras, but it could not elect him in an “opposition year.” After the election, which brought in a Nacionalista party administration, NACTU very quickly-and completely-disappeared, indicating that the powers of the Secretary of Labor were more important than the charm of the Figueras personality in holding such an organization together.


The powers of the Secretary of Labor over labor organizations, derived from Commonwealth Act No. 213, were no greater in the early 1950’s than before, but simply were more frequently wielded, and more freely interpreted. In fiscal year 1952, a total of 391 union registrations were dropped, revoked, or suspended, or more than twice the number of such actions in the previous five years.17 Exercise of these powers thus served to thwart the growth of unions that Figueras considered a threat to NACTU. The resulting insecurity of free unions made more urgent their demands for new legislation in 1952.

After the CLO was laid to rest, NAC-TU’s chief threat came from the Federation of Free Workers. The FFW had been founded in 1950 with Juan C. Tan as president. He and most of the other leaders of the Federation were graduates of Ateneo de Manila, a college staffed by American Jesuits, which draws its student body from the Filipino upper class. The driving force behind the FFW was Fr. Walter Hogan, the dedicated and uncompromising founder of the Jesuit Institute of Social Order. Fr. Hogan and FFW officers constantly attacked racketeer, company, and Communist control of unions, and were the most outspoken critics of Secretary Figueras and his attempt to dominate the labor movement through NACTU.18 The FFW grew rapidly in 1951. This criticism and this growing strength earned retaliation from Figueras. The FFW became the prime target of his suspension of union permits and refusal to register new unions. Sometimes the ground for suspension was the union’s failure to submit a financial report, which was specifically required in C.A. 213. But since this was a condition easily remediable by the union, Figueras often found it necessary to resort to other tactics less clearly justified in the law. Incongruously enough, locals of the Catholic-led FFW were charged with “subversive activities” on several occasions.

The FFW was not the sole target of the Secretary’s abuse of power, however. For example, in late 1950 the Manila Electric Railway and Light Company Employees Union, one of the strongest and largest independent locals in Manila was asked to join NACTU. Soon after it refused to join, its permit was revoked on suspicion of “subversive activities.” (That union’s immediate predecessor at Manila Electric had withdrawn from the CLO before 1950)21

Leadership and member loyalty were strong enough, however, to enable the MERALCO Employees Union, as well as several deregistered FFW affiliates, to continue to be active, even though the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court made it clear that they had no legal existence, and therefore no right to collective bargaining, without a Department of Labor permit. In 1953 an opinion of Secretary of Justice Castelo on C.A. 213 stated that “the permit granted. . .is necessary for the existence of the personality of a labor union in representing its labor-members.”22 This opinion also confirmed the Labor Secretary’s right to revoke or suspend a union’s permit when, “after investigation,” it “has been found to be engaged in subversive or unlawful activities,” but set no criteria for making this finding. Also in 1953 the Supreme Court confirmed that a labor union was “legitimate” only with a permit.23

Earlier, in 1946, the CIR, while ruling that no unregistered union could demand “the right of collective bargaining” found in C.A. 213, had nevertheless held that “registration is not a condition…before a group of workers could come to Court for the redress of their grievances.”24 But by 1951 the CIR was holding that an unregistered union could not be a party to a case before the Court.25 It is understandable, therefore, that unregistered unions would take the lead in pushing for a revision of C.A. 213.

Even the protection which that law gave to registered unions was in many ways inadequate. For instance, with only normal bureaucratic delays the permit was often granted too late. The law provided a penalty for employers who intimidated or coerced an employee with the intent of preventing him from joining a “registered legitimate labor organization of his own choosing” or who dismissed an employee for having joined one. However, it was precisely the leaders of unions in process of formation, not yet registered, which most needed protection against coercion and dismissal. As a consequence, by the time the registration permit was issued, some unions had either succumbed to company dominance or had become merely paper organizations.

Moreover, in order to get actual protection from the law, registered unions had to go to the Court of Industrial Relations; they often found that on matters of union security the rulings of its judges -who sit both singly and en banc-were disappointing. For instance, when the demand for a closed or union shop “has become an issue in a labor dispute before the CIR, the Court has almost invariably denied” it.26 This policy was largely determined by the Supreme Court’s invalidation in 1939 of a modified closed shop imposed by a CIR award. However, other circumstances justified such a policy as well. With the Department’s “one company, one union” doctrine,27 and without any legal procedures whatsoever for accurately measuring a union’s strength, it would have been clearly undemocratic. Another cornerstone of union security, the dues checkoff, was regularly denied by the CIR until after the enactment of the Minimum Wage Law in 1951, which specifically allowed it.28

Thus the legal and administrative framework of Philippine trade unionism, as of 1953, offered little more defense against employers’ harassments than it did against government intervention, and, in fact, often facilitated them. Under C.A. 103 the effectiveness of the strike was destroyed by the employers’ ability to bring disputes to the CIR and get injunctions. With the system of compulsory arbitration the union’s “right to bargain collectively” was meaningless. Labor relations was primarily a legal battle, and lawyers were leaders in both camps. The Court’s docket was so crowded that cases were frequently decided more than three years after they were first filed; delay favored the economically stronger party, the employer. Nevertheless, in the process of arbitration the Court usually raised wages and often reinstated individual workers unjustly dismissed. It is possible to argue, and some have done so convincingly, that in an early stage of the growth of trade unions, arbitration can gain more concessions for the worker than could be won for him by the union through bargaining. At any rate, by 1952 most union leaders outside NACTU believed they had passed that stage. They were urging the adoption of a new law on union registration and settlement of industrial disputes.


At the end of the third stage of trade union policy, with its emphasis on regulation, though labor unions were still weak, they were able to voice their demands for less restrictive government regulation and more protection from management retaliation. This internal pressure coupled with a new kind of external pressure was responsible for a basic revision of the policy of regulation in June 1953. Direct U.S. influence on labor policy formulation had been practically nil throughout the early years of the Republic. Not until 1950 did the U.S. attempt to play the new role of nonsovereign tutor. Her tutelage produced results in the situation of 1953.

Encouragement had been given to the critics of Philippine trade union and industrial relations policy by the Bell Report of 1950. Soon after the beginning of the Korean war, when U.S. attention was, in general, being focused on Asia, President Truman, on the invitation of President Quirino, sent an Economic Survey Mission to the Philippines, headed by Daniel Bell, a banker. The Mission had been instructed to look into the causes of the whole political and economic crisis which that nation was then facing. Its report, released in October 1950, included many recommendations for social, economic and fiscal reform as quid pro quo for additional U.S. aid. One of the recommendations on labor provided that,

Trade unions should be encouraged that would be free from Communist influence, domination by the Government, interference by management, and racketeering by labor leaders. The Court of Industrial Relations should be guided by basic legislation on policy and its work speeded up. It should not be used as a substitute for legitimate collective bargaining.

In November 1950, in order to begin carrying out the Bell Report’s recommendations on labor, President Quirino had appointed a committee, headed by Secretary Figueras, to recommend legislation. One of the bills it recommended was entitled “An act to promote industrial peace . . .” (House Bill 825), which had been introduced by Congressman Espinosa, a high NACTU official, and passed by the House on second and third reading in May, even before the Bell Mission had been appointed.

This bill’s provisions on labor union registration not only did not coincide with the Bell Report recommendations on encouragement of free trade unionsm, but would, if enacted, have assured even stronger domination and tighter control of unions by the government than existed in 1950. It also maintained compulsory arbitration.

In contrast to this regressive step taken by the House, during the year following the Bell Report’s release, three bills were filed in the Senate which were truly encouraging to free trade unionism. Two of them were passed by the Senate, but were buried in the House Labor Committee. In May 1952 the Senate Labor Committee amalgamated the pending labor bills, and reported out its own bill, S.B. 423, still entitled “An act to promote industrial peace….” After very brief debate it was passed on third reading. Conferees were appointed to consult with representatives of the House, which insisted on its similar bill, H.B. 825. By May 22 the conference committee had agreed on the Senate bill and submitted its report to that effect. The Senate immediately accepted the conference committee report; the House did not.

Representative Espinosa had been the one member of the conference committee who did not sign the report. In fact, he refused to attend conference committee meetings. As chairman of the Committee on Labor, closely allied with the majority leadership in the House, he was in a strategic position to block any action on the report. His intransigence caused the bill to be tabled. The bill was thus dead for the 1952 Congressional session.

There were some provisions of S.B. 423 which an executive vice-president of NACTU had good reason to want to defeat. In sharp contrast to H.B. 825 the Senate bill completely abolished the labor registration function of the Department of Labor. Instead it simply required any union wishing to bring a case before the CIR to file a copy of the union constitution, a list of its officers, and their sworn antisubversive affidavits. This was clearly borrowed from American experience and was considered the most effective way to destroy the Secretary of Labor’s power over the labor movement. The fate of NACTU and the position of the incumbent Secretary were closely connected with this provision. Since S.B. 423 also stripped the CIR of its power of arbitration, most of the judges of that Court also opposed the bill.

Steady pressure was required to force legislative action. In the next several months there was a three-pronged attack on the Figueras-Espinosa-NACTU position, ranging in tactics from the most friendly, behind-the-scenes persuasion to the most vigorous, well-publicized verbal assaults. The assault force and persuaders consisted of the Mutual Security Agency labor division, some second-echelon officials in the Philippine Department of Labor, and, largest of all, a group of labor leaders who had begun lobbying in the 1952 session, together with their allies in the Senate, Lorenzo Tafiada, and Quintin Paredes.

The unions’ most effective argument was the political one, that support for the bill would win votes in the November elections. Secretary Figueras wanted to be elected to the Senate in 1953, so that he was quite susceptible to talk of political support. In fact, the Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions, composed of non-Communist remnants of the defunct CLO, did back Figueras in the 1953 elec-tions.29 There are some reports that this was one of the rewards promised for Figueras’ support of a modified S.B. 423.

p(=western)<>{=margin-bottom: 0.14cm}. By mid-February 1953 the once adamant Figueras was ready to discuss a compromise. On March 28 the Secretary, who had always been discreetly private in his opposition to S.B. 423, inserted an inconspicuous paragraph into a speech to Manila Railroad workers in which he said he had “no objection to the bill pending in Congress designed to do away [sic] with the power of the Secretary of Labor” over union registration.” It appeared that political arguments had won the day. But to gain this concession it had been necessary for the supporters of S.B. 423 to find an acceptable wording in which to couch the compromise. It was in drafting the compromise that the other two prongs of the attack on H.B. 825 were most important.

The Mutual Security Agency labor division in Manila had been active in promoting S.B. 423 from the first. When it seemed hopelessly enmeshed in the jammed wheels of legislation in January 1953, the mission took an even more active role in its support. As it became apparent that S.B. 423 would not pass without some modification, Emili an o Morabe, chief of the Wage Administration Service, and Robert Kinney, MSA labor division head, sat down to write a new draft, with the cooperation of some labor leaders and other officials. On the crucial question of labor registration the MSA position was that there was no real justification for “licensing” trade unions in a democracy; a number of union leaders agreed. However, the Secretary of Labor did not agree to a complete abolition of registration. Therefore, both U.S. advisors and Philippine labor leaders were willing to accept “as a minimum guarantee” a registration system in which there was provision for public hearing and appeal from decisions of the Secretary of Labor. The industrial relations provisions of S.B. 423, which had already abolished compulsory arbitration while preserving the CIR, were not significantly changed.

In early April this compromise draft was handed to Senator Paredes, chairman of the conference committee, and formed the basis of that committee’s second, and final, report. The MSA director, Dr. Roland Renne, personally called on President Quirino to get support for the bill. By mid-April Espinosa himself was willing to talk compromise.31 Senator Paredes reconvened the conference committee and a new report was agreed upon. On May 5 the new conference report was brought before both houses and adopted almost without debate. President Quirino signed the bill into law on June 17 with great fanfare. It is known formally as Republic Act No. 875, or the Industrial Peace Act, and popularly as the “Magna Carta of Labor.”


This law, composed of two parts, one dealing with union registration and internal administration, and the other with industrial relations, plus the labor education program established to further its implementation, constitutes current labor policy. It became possible because of four new factors in the policy-making process. American influence and pressure were greater than in the 1930’s, free labor organizations were stronger, the government’s direct role in the economy was comparatively smaller, and the political elite, instead of being united, was fragmented by the appearance of new competing interests. Each of the three components of present policy is the focus of a somewhat different combination of proponents and opponents, however.

The provisions of the Industrial Peace Act on union registration (Sec. 23) seem to fulfill adequately the Bell Report recommendations to encourage labor unions free from government domination. Nevertheless, they are not as originally proposed by American labor advisors and seem to show, at least in language, a greater affinity to the Philippine past than to American example.

American advisors, using the pre-Taft-Hartley situation as a reference point, favored the abolition of registration altogether. Most free union leaders, however, though sharing the American opinion, were willing to accept the compromise which could be achieved-mere abolition of compulsory registration in which the Secretary of Labor had discretionary powers. It is doubtful whether they were decisive, but the official U.S. views certainly strengthened the union demands for change.

Filipino bureaucrats with an interest in the existing situation resisted any change. Since many employers found satisfaction in a registration system which could be used as a weapon against unruly unions, they may have given covert backing to this bureaucratic position. At any rate, they were not sufficiently well-represented in Congress to make overt opposition worthwhile. The Secretary of Labor finally acceded to union demands because his political ambitions were stronger than his desire to retain bureaucratic power, not an uncommon attitude among Philippine cabinet members. To realize these ambitions, Secretary Fi-gueras found it necessary to build organized labor backing, since he did not possess the traditional power base common to the well-established members of the elite: either great personal wealth, especially in land, or control of a provincial political machine, or both. Fi-gueras was persuaded that granting the demands of the free, independent unions was more to his advantage than retaining coercive power over them.

The interaction of these forces produced a policy which encouraged trade unions free from “domination by the Government,” and which, in the words of the Industrial Peace Act, protected “the exercise by employees of their right to self-organization,” especially against the abuse of administrative power.

Though the registration function remains in the Department of Labor, almost all discretion has now been removed from the Secretary’s hand. Within thirty days of filing the required information with the Department of Labor, a “union of workers …shall acquire legal personality.” This information is limited to a copy of the union constitution and by-laws, a list of officers and their sworn non-Communist affidavits, and a copy of the last financial report if the organization has been in existence for more than a year. Registered unions are required to continue to file yearly financial reports. The Department of Labor’s right to withhold, cancel or suspend registration is restricted to cases in which unions fail to provide the legally required information, and then only after public hearing. Departmental decision to withhold or cancel can be appealed to the courts.

The Industrial Peace Act, or Magna Carta, says that registered unions “shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges granted by law to legitimate labor organizations.” Yet the incentives for filing the information prerequisite to registration are actually less than those for filing information under Taft-Hartley. The language of the rest of the Act does not clearly give registered labor organizations any important rights or privileges denied to unregistered ones.

This lack of a clear distinction in the law has not been reflected in practice, however. Both courts and trade unions have acted as if legitimacy were essential for a successful labor organization. The reason for this is probably the strength of tradition. Since the act of registration requires approximately the same information and is done in the same place, most unionists continue to attach to it the same importance it had under C.A. 213.

It is a common misconception among workers that labor unions do not even “exist” without registration.32 The fact that formerly registration was a discretionary act by the Secretary of Labor and that now it is ministerial, is a fine, though important, legal distinction which many union leaders do not perceive. What is believed to be the law is more important in practice than precisely what the language of the law says.

The most obvious indication of the importance placed on registration is the phenomenal growth of registered unions since the enactment of the Magna Carta, as can be seen from Table 2.

Table 2. Registered Labor Unions, Fiscal Years 1946-1956.

Year Unions registered annually Estimated total of registered unions
1946 69
1947 119
1948 97
1949 144
1950 109
1951 710 850
1952 92
1953 110 836
1954 838
1955 626 1888
1956 542 2180

Sources: Annual registrations, Labor Registration Division Newsletter, January 1956, pp. 7-8; Labor Registration Division, Annual Report, 1955-56. These figures take no account of cancellations, and therefore do not equal net additions to the number of registered unions. Total registrations from MSA list of unions registered from 1946 to April 1951 (may include some whose registration had already been cancelled by 1951); MSA, Labor and Social Welfare Division (Manila), Registered Trade Unions in the Philippines, July 28, 1953 (mimeographed, based on records of Department of Labor); Labor Registration Division, Department of Labor, Geographical Distribution of Labor Organizations in the Philippines for the Period Ending June 30, 1955 (mimeographed); and newspaper reports.

Notes: (1) It is not known exactly how many unions which were still validly registered under the old act, C.A. 213, took the trouble of filing a new registration. (The old registration, if kept active, remains valid.) Comparing the 1953 and 1955 registration lists on the basis of a substantial sample, it would appear that about 68 percent, or 568 unions, did not reregister.

(2) The tremendous growth in registered trade unions did not signify the same rate of growth in the labor movement as a whole. The difficulties involved in registration before June 1953 have already been noted. The number of nonregistered unions was much greater then than after the passage of the Magna Carta. Still there was undoubtedly a marked increase in the rate of growth of all unions beginning in late 1953.

The sharp decline in the number of cancellations or registrations by the Department of Labor may be even more indicative of a trade union movement free from government domination than the registration of new unions. There were 344 cancellations in the first three years of R.A. 875’s operation, compared to 394 in 1951. Furthermore, given the procedures set forth in R.A. 875 and generally adhered to by the Department of Labor, post-1953 cancellations, almost all of which were for failure to submit financial reports or lists of newly elected officers, merely confirmed a union’s lapse into inactivity; after 1953 they were never an instrument to destroy an active union. There has not yet been a single cancellation for “subversive activities,” so common under Figueras. In fact, the one legal method, invalidation of affidavits required for registration if fraudulently executed, which, based on American experience, might have seemed to be avail able, was ruled out by the Solicitor Gen-era1.33 Cancellations now cannot even be used to penalize mishandling of funds by union officers, as they sometimes were under the Figueras regime. Under R.A. 875 the Labor Registration Division has been obliged to accept financial reports at face value, even though they would rather not.

Filipino trade unionists were not entirely reconciled to the passive role in union registration assigned to the Department of Labor under R.A. 875. Though appreciative of the fact that the Secretary had been stripped of powers which could be used against unions, they still desired friendly assistance. There were numerous requests after 1953 for the Secretary of Labor again to intervene, usually for the protection of legitimate employees rights, in internal union affairs. But Secretary Adevoso did not respond to these requests. This new attitude on the part of the Secretary of Labor was at least as important as new legislation in giving labor new freedom, and responsibility, in its own house.


Magsaysay’s appointment of Eleuterio Adevoso had been criticized on the ground of the latter’s lack of experience. At thirty-two Adevoso was the youngest cabinet member in the Philippines’ history. Though he had won Magsaysay’s gratitude for the vigor and skill he brought to the job of national coordinator of the PresidentMagsaysay Movement, he had had no previous contact with the trade union movement or with labor law administration. This did not prevent him from fulfilling his position competently and imaginatively, however, and with close attention to the interests of labor and to the spirit of the Magna Carta. Said Adevoso soon after taking office, “The government will not interfere with labor unions, [but] will confine itself to indicating the direction and providing the incentives for sound labor organization.”34

There were areas, however, in which Filipino trade unionists expected more than incentives. They wanted protection, especially from company unions, which are a common phenomenon of nascent industrialization consistent with the traditional paternalistic relationship between employer and employee. R.A. 875 holds it to be an unfair labor practice for an employer to “initiate, dominate, assist or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization,” and provides for immediate Labor Department cancellation of the registration of any organization declared to be a company union by the C.I.R. But it is very difficult to prove company domination of a union before a court. Consequently, three years after the enactment of R.A. 875, only two company unions had been judicially identified, though informed persons knew them to be common. Without such judicial determination the Department of Labor has been obliged to continue to register all comers presenting the required information, even if there is already a free union in the same firm. To labor leaders who urged him to take immediate initiative in separating fish from fowl, Secretary Adevoso warned that discretionary power for the Department might boomerang against the free unions.

By 1956, however, the failure of R.A. 875 to protect union members from unscrupulous labor leaders caused Adevoso to modify his position. The law authorized 10 percent of the membership of any labor organization to bring an unfair labor practice charge against their officers, which, if proven, would result in a cease and desist order from the Court of Industrial Relations. That this procedure was used for the first time three years after the Act’s passage does not prove the purity of union administration in the Philippines, but does indicate how difficult it is for a minority to take the initiative against entrenched leadership.

Secretary Adevoso had no intention of becoming a watchdog over internecine union squabbles, as the Labor Department had been when operating under C.A. 213. Nevertheless, he did authorize an investigation, in 1955, into that desert of union democracy, the port areas. The resulting report revealed that many waterfront unions were merely facades for labor contractors. In July 1956 the Department of Labor, acting against cautious advice, launched an informational drive to acquaint laborers, shippers, and officials with the evils of labor-contracting “unions.” In some quarters the campaign was well-received, but in other areas well-connected “union” presidents were able to block progress. By interpreting the law’s provisions rather broadly, the Department also took steps to cancel the registration of such waterfront “unions.” It was held that any union which evidenced in its constitution that its president operated as a labor contractor was not covered by the definition of a “labor organization” in Sec. 2(e) of the Industrial Peace Act, and could thus legally have its permit revoked.35 But to use Sec. 2(e) as grounds for cancellation violated the intent of the Magna Carta to make the Department of Labor’s role in union registration purely ministerial. On the other hand, this was clearly consistent with the Act’s statement of policy, “to eliminate the causes of industrial unrest by encouraging and protecting the exercise by employees of their right of self-organization for the purpose of collective bargaining….” That the Department should have returned to discretionary registration, even in part, is another example of the pull of tradition being more powerful than innovating legislation. It also demonstrates the understandable tendency of tutors in democracy to step up and join their students in conducting the experiment.

With pressures from the union rank and file as well as from employers to reestablish discretionary registration, and with a Secretary of Labor who was basically opposed to it yet able to justify its limited reintroduction, it is easy to conceive of a new situation in which the spirit of the Industrial Peace Act might be seriously and chronically violated. It is more likely that the change would be an administrative than a legal one. The law’s imprecision would allow this.


The Magna Carta’s provisions on industrial relations heralded a shift of emphasis from compulsory arbitration to collective bargaining. They were much more clearly drawn from an American model than were the union registration provisions. In fact, the sections regarding collective bargaining, unfair labor practices and injunctions relied heavily on the very language of similar sections in the Wagner, Taft-Hartley, and Norris-LaGuardia Acts. Nevertheless, the end to compulsory arbitration can be explained more adequately in terms of economic interests, political forces, and ideological influences within the Philippines than as a case of borrowed social legislation.

Union support for collective bargaining, though important, was not quite as strong as that for the end of discretionary registration. Some union officers who welcomed less administrative interference in their affairs were not yet ready to free themselves of judicial arbitration. Many of these officers were lawyers, with a major source of income in their legal services to their respective unions. Others, leading small, weak unions, simply recognized the paucity of their bargaining power vis-à-vis employers. Still other union leaders, however, who looked upon the American labor movement as the approved pattern for success, considered collective bargaining to be the motif of that pattern and thus sought to introduce it into the Philippines.

Bureaucratic opposition to the repeal of compulsory arbitration came primarily from the Court of Industrial Relations, not the Department of Labor. It was sufficient to force a revision of Senate Bill 423, deleting the section abolishing the Court, but the judges’ liaison with Congress was generally not as effective as that of the more politically minded Secretary Figueras. However, neither were there political ambitions within the Court which could serve at any point to relax its opposition.

In addition, there was an economic interest group which supported collective bargaining but which had been relatively unimportant or disinterested in influencing legislative decisions on the other portions of the Industrial Peace Act. This group was the foreign employers, especially Americans. Even though most of the stronger unions are found in foreign-owned firms, as is the case in so many underdeveloped countries, foreign managers saw a certain advantage in collective bargaining. Aside from the fact that Americans were familiar with this particular technique of labor relations, as a spirit of nationalism increases, the disadvantages involved in a foreign employer appearing against a Filipino union before a Filipino judge increase also. Therefore, pressures may have been exerted on MSA by the American business community in Manila to pay particular attention to collective bargaining.” The comparative disadvantages for Filipino entrepreneurs were not sufficient, on the other hand, to make them the implacable foes of such legislation. They knew that few of the unions with which they had to deal were strong enough to pose a serious bargaining threat. At least a partial confirmation of their assessment may be found in subsequent wage statistics. Wages in Manila, where unions are strongest, rose much more slowly during the two and one-half years after the passage of the Industrial Peace Act than they did in the prior two and one-half years.37

The landed elite were either passive in this struggle between the forces of arbitration and collective bargaining or tacitly supported a measure which they thought might weaken the power base of the new entrepreneurial elite. The landed proprietors shared less common interest with the new entrepreneurs than they had before the war. Since 1936 the Filipino-controlled portion of the economy had come to be dominated by private enterprise. A few government corporations had either been abolished or been restricted in their activities. The remainder had not grown nearly so fast as the industrial sector of the economy generally, and the establishment of a few new government corporations in the early postwar period did not counterbalance the more rapid expansion and multiplication of private firms. Industrial corporations had also become a smaller part of the total of government enterprise than before the war. Thus the landed political elite, which controls government economic activity, had less reason to share attitudes on labor policy with private Filipino employers.

The shift to collective bargaining left the five-man Court of Industrial Relations with a docket composed largely of two types of cases, certification elections and unfair labor practices, neither of which it had handled before 1953. Such cases, of course, relate primarily to the first stage in the process of modern industrial relations, employer recognition of the union. Unfair labor practice cases accounted for over half of the nonagrarian cases brought to the CIR in the first two years of the Indus trial Peace Act.38 Though Sec. 4 of the Act lists six specific labor practices by management and four by unions which may be enjoined, two of these, discrimination “in regard to hire or tenure of employment. .. to .. . discourage membership in any labor organization” and interference with the employees’ right of self organization, have accounted for two thirds of the complaints.

The unfair labor practice case is not a prompt and effective procedure by which unions or workers may receive legal protection. Study of a representative sample of fifty cases in 1956, forty-nine of which were charges of labor against management, revealed that about half those filed were in the Court for eight months before they were either decided or dismissed; 32 percent remained for more than a year. In the dynamics of industrial relations, worker support for a union is a decidedly perishable commodity, unless encouraged by assurance that a hostile employer will be restrained from punitive action against union-minded employees. These long delays in the settlement of disputes are probably sufficient to weaken or even destroy small unions.39 Nor are the results of this lengthy legal process encouraging to the unions which survive. In only two of the fifty cases were cease and desist orders issued; 23 were dismissed after withdrawal of the complaint; and 25 were dismissed for lack of cause. The complaint was usually withdrawn when the laid-off worker was reinstated, a collective bargaining agreement signed, or some other accommodation made by the employer.

The certification election is in many instances a necessary prerequisite to collective bargaining because of the inevitable jurisdictional disputes arising from the ease of registration. In about 75 percent of certification elections more than one union was involved. Next to unfair labor practice cases, those involving elections constitute the largest segment of the CIR’s docket-27 percent in fiscal year 1954, and 20 percent in 1955. Nevertheless, it has been estimated that less than 30 percent of the unions which are registered each year actually seek certification, even though there would seem to be a need for unions to have the extra security of certification as sole collective bargaining agent. The main reason seems to be that the process is slow and costly.

After the CIR has issued a certification, there are no further legal impediments to actual collective bargaining. If it has not been called in earlier, the Conciliation Service of the Department of Labor enters the dispute at this point. No other government agency has a role to play in normal negotiations. The Service may be called in by either party or may intervene on its own initiative. The Conciliation Service is most frequently asked to intervene by the employees, though not by the strongest unions with the most experienced negotiators in their leadership. For the weak union, however, the government conciliator who strongly encourages compliance with the law is an indispensable ally, since the subject of negotiation is frequently the employer’s failure to recognize a legitimate union or to pay the legal minimum wage. This is the source of the charge of “prounion” sometimes hurled at Labor Department conciliators.

In contrast to 144 cases settled by the Conciliation Service in the two years before the passage of the Magna Carta, 376 cases were settled in the two years following. The number of cases filed grew faster than the number settled, however, so that at the end of fiscal year 1955 more than six times the number of cases were pending than had been pending two years earlier. Collective bargaining agreements filed with the Conciliation Service during 1954 and 1955 numbered 261, over half of which were negotiated with the help of the Service. Only 78 agreements had been filed during 1952 and 1953.4°

Table 3. Conciliation Cases, Collective Bargaining Agreements and Strikes, Fiscal Years 1947-1955.

Fiscal year No. of conciliation cases filed Workers involved Collective bargaining agreements filed Workers involved Strikes Workers involved
1947 65 33,308
1948 56 23,054 44 9,116 56 12,416
1949 187 43,685 38 3,618 28 5,763
1950 136 21,637 36 4,102 26 10,921
1951 126 28,183 65 9,338 12 5,400
1952 188 38,732 37 3,862 10 7,046
1953 193 31,052 41 4,446 13 9,683
1954 417 91,264 102 31,363 53 18,417
1955 573 97,324 159 36,472 43 16,542

Source: Department of Labor, Conciliation Service, miscellaneous statistics (mimeographed).


After collective bargaining has been completed and a contract signed, the government still has a role to play in contract enforcement. For instance, contract violations may be subject to legal action in the regular courts, though no information is available on the number of such cases. The CIR does not take jurisdiction, despite the fact that R.A. 875, like Taft-Hartley, makes refusal to bargain an unfair labor practice and defines the duty “to bargain collectively” so as to include responsibility to “continue in full force and effect all the terms” of a collective bargaining agreement until after thirty days notice of modification. In 1956 the CIR held that “once parties have made a collective bargaining contract, violation. . . should be left to the usual processes of law” and refused to consider such violation an unfair labor practice.41 The CIR’s unwillingness to assume this jurisdiction is understandable. Added to the previous expansion of its purview in other ways, the case load would be so overwhelming that the present personnel of the Court could not possibly handle it. Futhermore, a minority of the Court is opposed to making the CIR the arbiter of all collective bargaining agreements, since it would go a long way toward reestablishing the degree of intervention in labor-management relations which the Court exercised before R.A. 875. On the other hand, for those judges who would not hesitate to intervene, more positive methods have been found than the restraining order arising from a ULP case.

It was the intention of the Act’s authors to allow the continued exercise of compulsory arbitration only in disputes certified to the Court by the President as being in industries “indespensable to the national interest.” But the practice of some members of the Court seems to have gone beyond that intention. Those union officers who are still more at home in the courtroom than on the picket line may not be too unhappy about this development.

Section 1 of the Magna Carta clearly states that “it is the policy of this Act. . . to promote. . .industrial peace. . .and the best interests of employers and employees by the settlement of issues respecting terms and conditions of employment through the process of collective bargaining.” Section 7 restates this purpose in another way:

In order to prevent undue restriction of free enterprise for capital and labor and to encourage the truly democratic method of regulating the relations between the employer and employee by means of an agreement freely entered into in collective bargaining, no court of the Philippines shall have the power to set wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of employment except as in this Act is otherwise provided and except as is provided in R.A. No. 602 and C.A. No. 444 as to hours of work.

However, what appears to be a minor exception to the rule in the last phrase has been expanded by some judges into grounds for assuming jurisdiction in a wide variety of cases. Sec. 16© of R.A. 602, the Minimum Wage Law, giving the CIR power of arbitration in minimum wage disputes, has also been cited by the Court, since 1953, in assuming jurisdiction of wage questions generally, even though the language of the Minimum Wage Law, which assumes the continued existence of the old system of compulsory arbitration,42 would seem to have been superseded by the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act.

Especially because CIR judges were divided on this question, it was taken immediately to the Supreme Court by the unions. In PA FLU vs. Tan in 1956 and in four 1957 cases the high court interpreted Sec. 7 of R.A. 875 broadly, so that in any disputes in which minimum wages under the Minimum Wage Act, or hours of employment under the Eight Hour Labor Act, are involved, the CIR may assume jurisdiction. It may even issue an award including, if necessary, judgment on other matters in the same dispute.43 This would appear to open the way for an almost complete re-establishment of compulsory arbitration, restricted only by the judges’ time. An overcrowded docket has always been one of the CIR’s major problems; its case burdens are already heavy.

Even if the judges should refrain from using this opening wedge to the old system, others also exist. The Act by no means leaves the government powerless to deal with strikes. It allows both presidential certification of disputes to the CIR and the use of injunctions. The President may certify to the CIR for compulsory arbitration any dispute which in his opinion exists within “an industry indispensable to the national interest.” This is a much broader power than that given the President of the U.S. by Section 208 of the Taft-Hartley Act, to petition for an injunction in strikes imperiling “the national health or safety.” Under the terms of the Industrial Peace Act there need be no actual or threatened strike, and no disqualifications of size are put on the dispute. The phrase, “indispensable to the national interest,” is, of course, capable of the broadest interpretation. A leading Filipino authority, Cicero Calderon, has pointed out already that this could be a loophole for the re-establishment of compulsory arbitration. However, less than fifteen cases were certified to the CIR in the first three and one half years of the Magna Carta; the loophole has hardly been used.

No firm criteria for certification of emergency disputes seem to have been established. The most important single voice in advising the president on certification of disputes from 1954 to 1957 was Secretary Adevoso. On several occasions he stood against certification, but he was sometimes overruled when management’s direct pressure on the President was too great. The largest number of strikes have been certified from the sugar industry, by several criteria the Philippines’ largest and, politically, its most influential industry. The rationale has been that any reduction in sugar production would mean a reduction of exports and therefore of much-needed foreign exchange. Strikes in the telephone, electric power, shipping, and bus transportation industries can readily be seen to involve national interest, though in some instances the disputes certified touched only a small segment of the total industry or did not entail an important work stoppage even in the struck firms.

Another technique by which strikes can be halted is the injunction. It is usually sought by management. Its remedy for the dispute in question is, at best, a temporary one, since Section 9 of the Industrial Peace Act is, in large part, borrowed from the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Substantive and procedural requirements for and limitations on the issuance of an injunction set forth in Section 9 would seem to make it impossible for management or the courts to abuse that technique; nevertheless, there has been abuse.

It would appear to the layman that the language of the Act intends that only the CIR be allowed to issue injunctions in labor disputes. But Courts of First Instance have proceeded to issue them anyway, and sometimes with disregard for the procedural requirements of the Industrial Peace Act. The number of such injunctions grew rapidly in 1956, some of them merely restraining violent or coercive acts attendant on picketing, others phrased in such a way as to practically break the strike. Unions responded with both political and legal action. Political pressures resulted in the filing of a bill in Congress by Senator Tatiada to amend R.A. 875 by clearly and specifically giving the CIR exclusive jurisdiction in all cases arising from labor disputes. (The bill was not passed, however.)

Legal action by labor, in appeals to the Supreme Court, has had a somewhat different outcome. In PAFLU vs. Tan and Reyes vs. Tan44 the Supreme Court held that Courts of First Instance did have the power to issue injunctions in labor disputes not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the CIR, but invalidated the injunction in question because it had not been issued in compliance with the procedural qualifications of the Industrial Peace Act, in Sec. 9(d).

The weight of judicial policy on other occasions has not been entirely against the striker. For instance, both the CIR and the Supreme Court have upheld the striker’s right to return to his job after the strike is over,45 if the strike is legal.” But this can be an important qualification. The courts still have wide discretion in determining what is a legal strike. The grounds for declaring a strike illegal under C.A. 103 have been retained in judicial policy.47 Failure to file a strike notice or to abide by its thirty-day waiting period are new grounds under the Magna Carta.

It is thus apparent that the politico-legal environment of trade unionism and industrial relations has not changed as sharply as a reading of the Industrial Peace Act alone would indicate. In particular the CIR continues to exercise more of its old powers in labor relations than does the Department of Labor, probably because with the new law there was an almost simultaneous change of executive leadership, whereas judges experienced in compulsory arbitration remained on the bench. The inertia of bureaucratic habits, the Filipino tradition of looking to government first for the solution of private problems, and the continued important role of lawyers in union leadership, all conspire to preserve some of the old patterns, despite a new law. In essence, a statutory change does not significantly transform a social situation unless attitudes change also.


The change of a law itself can be an educational process, but implementation of a new policy must not neglect efforts more specifically designed to change attitudes. The training of union leaders to improve their effectiveness in free collective bargaining and to familiarize them with techniques of democratic decision-making requires a special educational program.

In attempting to fulfill the Bell Report recommendations on labor and the purpose of the Industrial Peace Act to encourage employee’s organizations “for the purpose of collective bargaining and for the promotion of their moral, social and economic well-being,” neither the U.S. aid mission nor the Philippine Government overlooked the importance of labor education. In fact, labor education in 1952 helped to create a demand for new labor legislation. But not until after the enactment of R.A. 875 was a continuing, large-scale program launched.

The political obstacles to the establishment of a labor education program were less than those to the other two aspects of current policy already discussed. Even though in the long run the results of such a program might pose the greatest threat to either bureaucratic or employer dominance of labor relations, its immediate impact was not evident. It was not necessary to weaken an existing bureaucratic institution or to pass a law, thus there was neither need nor opportunity for overt opposition to labor education. The American business community in Manila has long been critical of U.S. labor advisors who become too obvious in their support for organized labor’s side in the tugging and pulling of industrial relations. But they have found the respectability of an educational program unassailable.

Labor education was institutionalized in July 1954 by the creation of the Labor Education Center at the government-financed University of the Philippines. Despite the numerous problems that arose in its first few years, this project has been the most important contribution to the implementation of the Bell Report recommendations on labor undertaken with American assistance and advice. A description of the operation of the Center and a detailed evaluation of its impact would necessarily involve a discussion of the character of the Philippine labor movement and of industrial relations at the plant level, which is outside the scope of this article. But in summary it can be said that the work of the Center has been as important as that of either the Department of Labor or the Court of Industrial Relations in building whatever independent strength Philippine trade unions have developed in the last few years vis-à-vis government and employers.

As a matter of fact, however, neither this strength nor trade union attitudes are yet at a level which enables labor to take the fullest advantage of present legislation. When labor sometimes still feels the need of a paternal government hand to protect it against employers or its own corruption, previous patterns of judicial and administrative intervention will persist despite statutory changes. Constant labor pressure on administrators and on employers would be necessary for strict law enforcement. If the strength of organized labor alone had been responsible for the passage of the new legislation, it probably would also have had the requisite capabilities for successful implementation. But labor’s cause depended upon the support of some important allies.


Labor’s power to affect policy can be measured by comparison with the situation in the West at a similar stage of growth and with the other political forces in Philippine society, the strengths of which fluctuate with the course of economic development. The ideological and economic environments have also been important in determining labor’s policy-influencing role.

In Western society an industrial labor force developed as a result of the activity of an indigenous entrepreneurial class. When labor began to organize, industrial entrepreneurs were already a dominant group in formulating governmental policy. Their struggle for power with the landed elite was largely past, and they had won. Partly a fruit of this victory was a legal system, and a philosophy to go with it, which put the employer in a very advantageous position when dealing with his employees.

In Southeast Asia, on the other hand, and in most other former colonial areas, large-scale enterprise, agricultural and commercial as well as industrial, was until recently the work of foreign capital and management. Thus a sizable urban wage labor force, and a smaller industrial one, grew up in advance of indigenous entrepreneurship. Just before World War II, or even a decade later, no country in Southeast Asia, except the Philippines, could have been said to have a significant group of native businessmen, unless, of course, one were to include in this category Chinese born in the area, which is not generally done. Yet by 1953 almost all Southeast Asian countries had an important urban labor force, and in the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma and Malaya, large blocs of it were organized. Organized labor was still very weak by comparison with Japan, Australia, the U.S., or Western Europe. But it may not be an exaggeration to say that it was, and is, stronger in relation to the political elite than the trade unions in the West at a comparable stage of industrialization.

Such a proposition can not be supported by attestations to the great size or dynamism of Southeast Asian, or Philippine, trade unions, but only in terms of the weaknesses of a divided elite. There is unity within the Filipino elite in several respects, but there is also increasing competition of economic interests, which has political manifestations. The nascent entrepreneurial class is seeking to dislodge the firm grip on political power of the landed elite. In some other Southeast Asian countries the leadership with a rural base is not possessed of great landholdings, but the conflict of political interests is, nevertheless, approximately the same.

The urban enterpriser seeks to dislocate the rural power base of his political rivals by means of agrarian reform. The dominant landed elite, on the other hand, though less aggressive and more defensive in its tactics, sees some political advantage and no economic disadvantage in supporting reform to aid urban labor. The differential attitudes of the Philippine political elite toward policy affecting rural and urban interests can be clearly demonstrated in a comparison of the legislative history of the Minimum Wage Law with that of the Industrial Peace Act. The former set a statutory minimum for agricultural wage labor that was higher in relation to the prevailing average in 1950 than was the minimum for industrial workers. The Congress in 1951, dominated by rural interests, probably would not have passed it without the use of U. S. aid as a leverage to that end. Conversely, it was clear that the protection to the organization of labor unions found in R.A. 875 would benefit urban laborers much more than agricultural workers, thus its relatively easier passage.

Not only are the terms of the conflict between dominant and aspiring elites now very different from those in 19th-century England or America, caused by the different role of foreign entrepreneurs, but the present ideological climate is different also. The educational backgrounds of the elites in the two eras have been quite distinct. The ideology developed in the West during the early industrial era had, by the late 1920’s and 1930’s, when the present Southeast Asian elites were receiving their education, been widely rejected. Welfare concepts, buttressed by moral and legal philosophies appropriate for an industrialized society, were then standard fare in the secondary schools and colleges. Such concepts had not been prominent in the education of the prewar Filipino elite.

Variations of welfare concepts in Southeast Asia can be explained largely by the variety of colonial tutors. The rarity of socialist ideas in the Philippines, for example, is the peculiarity of a former American colony. The receptivity to the introduction of collective bargaining is indicative of the educational background of both union leaders and the political elite.

There are other factors affecting Philippine labor policy which have reinforced the ideological influences and the trends in the socioeconomic composition of the elite. American advice, backed by a foreign aid program, and the decreasing importance of government enterprise have already been mentioned. In addition, there is one significant characteristic of the Philippine economy which is unusual for Southeast Asia. The Philippines has, since the early postwar period, enjoyed uncommon price stability. Even though the government is publicly committed to economic development and is engaged in economic planning, conservative monetary policy has been mainly responsible for keeping prices down. Labor unions are thus under less governmental restraint not to make wage demands than would be the case in an inflationary cycle and, at the same time, workers feel less pressure to ask for sharp hikes in wages. There is less urgency also in government efforts to stop strikes that are not quickly settled.

In sum, we can say that a Philippine policy which allows considerable freedom for union organization and collective bargaining is the result of one factor common to underdeveloped Asia, the strength of labor unions in relation to the emergent national enterpreneurial class, one uncommon one, an economy almost without inflation and dominated by private enterprise, and one with both general and unique characteristics, foreign intervention and ideological influences.

The ideological clock cannot be turned back. The political and economic rights of labor are firmly entrenched in the democratic philosophies which have been adopted in ex-colonial countries. They can be covertly frustrated by the elite, but not overtly denied. They may also be de-emphasized by the discipline of a vehement nationalism.

The direction of change in the other two factors seems less problematical. Indigenous entrepreneurs would appear, almost inevitably, to be gaining economic and political power at a faster rate than labor unions. The attitude of the political elite toward labor policy will, therefore, be based before too long on most of the same interests which motivate the directors of state industry. There might even be a drive for the prototype of prewar Japanese labor policy, but in a different ideological era it is not feasible.

Second, inflation and the consequent spiraling of wage demands is likely to become an important problem. Under such conditions, lab or may be hard pressed even to maintain its present political and economic status, let alone advance. Many of the conditions for unrest would then have been created. Despite popular phraseology, “industrial peace” is by no means inherently present in the contemporary Philippine scene.

One wonders whether a crisis can be averted. Even the student who is sympathetic to trade union interests is forced to admit that high wages and frequent strikes do not contribute to capital formation, the central problem of economic development.48 Yet a labor force which has tasted the immediate fruits of organization is not ready to give them up in favor of long-term social objectives. Capital from outside the national economy would appear to be the only solution, short of authoritarianism, for the country with active labor unions which is also determined to maintain a steady rate of economic growth.


1 IECAFE, Economic Survey of Asia and the Far East, 1957, p. 215. Philippine Statistical Survey of Households Bulletin, 1:1 (May 1956).

2 Economic Survey of Asia and the Far East, 1956, p. 216.

3 Though plantation workers have constituted an important part of organized labor in other underdeveloped countries, this has not been so in the Philippines. Filipino agricultural wage labor is composed almost entirely of migrant workers, seasonally employed. Rubber and tea, which require either care or harvesting year round, have not been grown in important commercial quantities in the Philippines. Coconuts have, but coconut plantations worked by resident wage laborers are rare.

4 Ildefonso Runes, “Fifty Years of the Labor Movement,” Labor Golden Book (May 1, 1953), pp. 7-8, 85-92, 117-118.

5 Congress of the Philippines, House of Representatives, Special Committee on Un-Filipino Activities, Communism in the Philippines (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1952), P. 6.

6 See José J. Hernandez, “Men Behind the Philippine Labor Movement,” Asian Labour, II: 1 (April 1950), pp. 97-110.

7 Cicero Calderon, “From Compulsory Arbitration to Collective Bargaining: A Study in the Development of Labor Policy in the Philippines,” unpublished LL.D. thesis, Yale University, 1956, p. 84.

8 Ramon Torres, The Philippine Labor Situation, (Manila: IPR, 1938), p. 10.

9 Statistical Handbook of the Philippines, 19031953 (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1954), p. 31.

10 Kenneth Kurihara, Labor in the Philippine Economy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1945), pp. 70, 74-77.

11 See WETU, Report of Activity Presented to the Second World Trade Union Congress (Milan, June-July 1949), pp. 200-204. See also minutes of the Executive Bureau, January 20, 1949, p. 89 (typescript).

12 Juan Ponce-Enrile, “The CLO: The Tragedy of a Militant Labor Union when taken over by the Communists,” Philippine Law Journal, XXVII:5 (October 1952), pp. 735-750.

13 Court of Industrial Relations, Annual Report, FY 1948. The next largest union, the National Labor Union, was party to 12.5 percent of the cases.

14 He is now free on bail pending appeal of his conviction.

15 In September 1951, however, Figueras cancelled the permit of the FOF on recommendation of Secretary of National Defense Magsaysay, on grounds of “subversive activity.” Manila Times, Sept. 2, 1951.

16 “Government Guidance in the Labor Movement,” Labor Golden Book, 1951, p. 24.

17 Labor Golden Book, 1953, p. 10. The doctrine of “one company, one union” was the rationale for many such refusals. Enunciated by Secretary of Labor Prinaitivo Lovina, it was continued by Figueras even though the Supreme Court, in April 1950, would not recognize it as a valid grounds for refusal to register an applicant union. See Umali vs. Lovina, GR L-2771, 19 April 1950, in Antonio M. Castro, Labor and Social Legislation (Manila: Modern Book Co., 1957), pp. 965-968. The ostensible purpose of this policy was avoidance of jurisdictional disputes, in which it succeeded. But its actual effect in many cases was to protect a company union against competition.

18 For instance, an editorial in the Free Worker, Labor Day Issue, 1952, said: “Figueras rivals Peron in crushing free trade unionism.”

19 Manila Chronicle, Feb. 13, 14, 1951.

20 See Association of Beverage Employees, et al., vs. Figueras, GR No. L-4813, May 28, 1952, in Castro, op. cit., pp. 972-975.

21 Interview with MERALCO union officers, Manila, August 18, 1956.

22 No date, c. 1953. In Castro, op. cit., pp. 10381041.

23 See PLASLU vs. CIR and Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co., Nos. L-5664, L-5698, 17 September 1953, 49 Official Gazette 9 (September 1953), pp. 3859-3869.

24 Philippine Oil Workers Union (CIO) vs. Central Vegetable Oil, CIR Case No. 3-V, March 11, 1946.

25 See G.C.C. Employees Labor Union (KKM) vs. Genato Commercial Corporation, and Genato Commercial Corp., vs. Felixberto Olalia, et al., CIR cases No. 560-V and 561-V, 18 December 1951, in Castro, op. cit., pp. 968-969.

26 Calderon, op. cit., p. 136.

27 See note 17.

28 See, for example, Manggagawang Nagkaisa (CLO) vs. Laguna Coconut Products, 64-V, 43 Official Gazette 4809 (June 1947).

29 With the exception of Cipriano Cid, later PAFLU president.

30 Manila Times, March 29, 1953.

31 Manila Times, April 18, 1953.

32 According to Atty. Villavieja, Chief, Labor Registration Division, Department of Labor, in a lecture at the Labor Education Center on Oct. 11, 1955. Many LEC students shared this misconception.

33 Manila Bulletin, June 2, 1956.

34 Manila Times, June 3, 1954.

35 ‘Labor organization’ means any…associa-tion of employees which exists, in whole or in part, for the purpose of collective bargaining… with employers….”

36 See “The New Labor Law” (editorial), American Chamber of Commerce Journal, June 1953, pp. 222-223, supporting collective bargaining.

37 This does not mean that collective bargaining had no impact on Manila wage levels, however. It simply indicates that the partial enforcement of the Minimum Wage Law, passed in 1951, had a greater impact.

38 Until July 1955 the CIR handled tenancy cases as well as industrial.

39 See Harry Woods, “Labor Relations and the Administrative Process in the Philippines,” Philippine Studies, V:1 (March 1957), pp. 23-44.

40 Conciliation Service, miscellaneous statistics (mimeographed, c. 1956).

41 Pambujan Sur United Mine Workers vs. Semar Mining Co., Inc., G.R. No. L-5694, May 12, 1954, 50 Official Gazette 6 (June 1954), pp. 2449-2456.

42 Emiliano Morabe, “The CIR and Compulsory Arbitration,” The Law Review, VII:2 (Sep-tember-October 1956), p. 106ff.

43 See Vicente Casim, Virginia Diaz, and Alberto Guevara, Jr., “A Survey of Labor Cases Decided by the Supreme Court in the Year 1957,” The Law Review, VIII:4 (January-February 1958), p. 373 ff. Also Manila Chronicle, Sept. 13, 1956. l’G.R. No. L-9137, August 31, 1956, 52 Official Gazette 14 (October 1956), pp. 6187-6190.

44 Radio Operators Association of the Philippines vs. Philippine Marine Radio Officers Association, G.R. No. L-10112, Nov. 29, 1957, 54 Official Gazette 10, pp. 3218-3221.

45 National City Bank of New York vs. National City Bank Employees Union, G.R. No. L-6843, January 31, 1956, 52 Official Gazette 2 (February 1956), p. 799 ff.

46 Interwood Employees Association vs. International Hardwood and Veneer Co. of the Philippines, G.R. No. L-7409, May 18, 1956, 52 Official Gazette 8 (July 1956), pp. 3936 ff.

47 In Luzon Marine Department Union vs. Roldan (G.R. No. L-2660) in 1950 the Supreme Court had given the illegal strike its widest definition. Said the Court: “The law does not look with favor upon strikes and lockouts because of their disturbing and pernicious effects upon the social order and the public interests….The law does not expressly ban strikes except when enjoined against by the Court; but if a strike is declared for a trivial, unjust or unreasonable purpose, or if it is carried out through unlawful means, the law will not sanction it and the Court will declare it illegal, with the adverse consequences to the strikers.” Quoted in Juan L. Lanting, “The Legal Aspect of Trade Unionism in the Philippines,” The Law Review (Univ. of Santo Tomas) (September-October 1951), pp. 119-120.

48 See Felicia J. Deyrup, “Organized Labor and Government in Underdeveloped Countries: Sources of Conflict,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 12:1 (October 1958), pp. 104112.

In 1953, the Philippine legislature passed a comprehensive labor law designed to encourage free collective bargaining and to minimize government and employer interference with trade union development. Such legislation is almost unique among the non-Communist countries of Southeast Asia. This article traces the development of labor relations policy and the growth of unionism in the Philippines from its beginnings, and analyzes the complex of forces that led to the passage of a modern labor law. The author also describes and analyzes the extent to which the law’s purposes have been effected in the context of a constantly shifting balance of social and political power.

The author wishes to thank Anthony Luchek of the University of Wisconsin for his comments on an early draft of this article, and the Ford Foundation for a grant in support of the field research on which it is based. Neither the Foundation nor Professor Luchek is, of course, responsible for the views expressed.

David Wurfel is associated with the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University, and is completing the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Government.

Categories Philippines, Labour

A Keynote speech read at the annual conference of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) on 12 April 2012 at Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the organization. Published in Philippine Political Science Journal Vol. 33, No. 2, December 2012, 242 – 249, it was Prof. Wurfel’s last published paper.

It is a great honor to have been invited to address you today, a beautifully appropriate way to end my 64th year in the study of Philippine politics. Maraming salamat.

In fact, this honor would have been an impossible career goal to imagine for that skinny American who began as an undergraduate student of Philippine politics at UP Padre Faura in late 1947 (arriving in Manila with his family, since his father had been assigned by the US Army to the Philippine-Ryukyus Command). In the intervening years I have pursued research in all regions of the country, including Mindanao, produced some books and articles, and have failed to complete some worthy projects which grieves me deeply. In fact, I guess my main claim to fame is that I stuck with it. (Though even on that dimension some may have had their doubts, since I also maintained a secondary interest in Vietnam ever since my grad student days, which was renewed in the 1980s as research access to the country was eased.)

It is out of that longevity that I will tell stories today; I hope I do not disappoint you, I have no new theories or historical revelations to offer. (Academic chismis? Maybe.) Why study Philippine politics? I was often asked by American friends in the early days: for those unconcerned about the complexity of a full answer I would respond because it was so much fun. Rallies provided movie stars and pop music shows, lots of food; the electoral system included innovative political mechanisms, for example, guest candidates on Senate slates. And because most Filipinos found it fascinating, and liked to talk about it, I was infected with that fascination. (I should also admit that I was a political junkie from my childhood, having had the largest Landon for President button collection in the first grade in San Diego [1936].)

Over the decades interest in the Philippines abroad waxed and waned, reflecting events. In the 1950s came the Huk Rebellion with Americas Boy, Ramon Magsaysay at the time, in my naivety, he was my hero as well assisted by the CIA, to the rescue. There was no difficulty then in explaining the rationale for studying Filipino politics, especially to Americans. Or for opposite reasons in the Martial Law era, with Marcos as the destroyer of democracy, an understanding of this aberration was widely sought. A bit later People Power became widely known, and highly respected, around the world. Philippine specialists were in demand. But as Pres. Cory Aquino’s performance in office became more and more disappointing, as the military toyed with coups, and as civilian politicians reverted to the worst of pre-Martial Law habits, worldwide interest in the Philippine affairs again waned, the market for research and commentary shrunk.

In the meantime a limited number of scholars, journalists and officials both foreign and domestic became fascinated by a new puzzle: how did a country which was the first Southeast Asian colony to win independence, then the only democracy in the region, with the highest per capita income, slip so rapidly to nearly the bottom of the political/economic heap in such a dynamic region? In any case, the question remains a challenge for researchers with increasingly sophisticated tools, especially for those in this room. Foreign and Filipino scholars are united in the quest for this answer; especially needed are those unaffected by Wall Street deceptions about how power is acquired and used.

One thing to be learned from reviewing one’s own work at the end of a career as I have in preparing my website is how one’s view of political science and politics shifted over the years. I am appalled to discover how conservative I was as a young scholar. I accepted Communism as the enemy, endorsed unique American virtue (exceptionalism), and was uncritical of the dominant paradigms in policy analysis, etc. From the 1970s some of my Filipino friends on the Left were helpful in correcting my perspective, which was nevertheless still linked to my pacifism and my pragmatic tendencies, thus preventing a leap to orthodox Marxism. I was simply moved to the Left by events. I felt comfortable about reversing the old adage, in youth a revolutionary, in old age a reactionary. This ideological shift certainly did not move me closer to the power holders, but did bring me into association with those whose analyses had been most accurate some of them in this room, a very satisfying experience.

Of course, most political science students shift their views to some degree over time, as expressed in their publications, including the Philippine Political Science Journal (PPSJ). Before the PPSJ appeared, a bare bones institutionalism tended to dominate the Philippine scene. Philippine politics, it was thought, should be easy to understand for those with American, or American-style secondary education, since so much in the Philippine constitution was borrowed from the American. But, of course, constitutional structure is only one dimension of a political system. In any case, before the spread of approaches with a more sociological bent, the problem for Philippine political science was too much institutionalism.

PPSA was born as the non-constitutional dimensions began to be recognized, even gain ascendency. The older Philippine Society of Public Administration (PSPA), closely linked from founding to the UP Institute of Public Administration, helped to sustain the institutional approach, while incorporating other dimensions, as well. The reinvigoration of the PSPA in the 1980s was strengthened by the elevation of Dr Jose Abueva, one of its founders, to the UP presidency.

Nor could the American Political Science Association meet the needs of Philippine scholars: it paid little attention to Asia, and had in the meantime priced itself out of the market for most scholars from Asia. Meanwhile the PPSA had become an affordable organization with a wide perspective that met the intellectual needs of a growing body of Filipinos studying and teaching political science. Both international and comparative fields were included.

While the recent return to institutionalism is a welcome development (See for example Prof. Gene Pilapil in PPSJ 2006) for someone who has long held that lack of institutionalization is a key problem for the Philippines, it is not entirely accurate to speak of the institutional approach as a recent phenomenon. But the nature of the new institutionalism is, of course, quite different from the constitutionalism of an earlier era. We should also be reminded of the political and cultural context beyond academia at the time of PPSAs formation: an ideological rift among Philippine intellectuals, especially Communist Party (CP) versus non-CP; a nationalist consciousness that asserted the primary legitimacy of the Filipino voice, plus controversies within the discipline imported from abroad. The remarkable thing was that the PPSA survived and even grew in this conflictual atmosphere.

Nationalism among Philippine political scientists seems to have been more subtle, and less strident than in some other sectors of the intelligentsia, for example, historians. Yet the number of scholars stressing the importance of the right of self-determination seems to have grown in recent years judging from PPSJ content. They have recognized in particular the devastating effect of the Mindanao struggle on the Philippines, because this right was not effectively defended by the Philippine government. This reveals, it seems to me, the desire of many Filipino political scientists to provide the nation with moral leadership as well as factual analysis, in other words, to walk in the footsteps of Rizal. I am particularly sympathetic since the right of self-determination of peoples was an important theme of my own research and writing, from the Okinawan reversion movement of the 1960s to Taiwanese nationalism (the backing of which put me on the Kuomintang black list for years), to East Timor and until now the continuing struggle for a Palestinian state. Only East Timor achieved independence. My efforts were obviously insufficient.

Fact-based political science analysis is the essential starting point of any pro- democracy activism, in which I suspect most of you have been involved in one way or another. In fact, political scientists are better prepared than other social scientists to provide the analysis which precedes action because we have a realistic approach to assessing the power of various groups in the system and we have widely accepted theories about how the power of particular groups, external or internal, will affect outcomes. In the mid-1950s, when I began my PhD thesis research, agrarian reform, anchored in land redistribution, had a high priority among government bureaucrats, among Filipino scholars and international specialists in development, and among the then limited number of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) devoted to the agrarian cause, as well as among the peasants themselves. Over time the experience of extreme difficulty faced by those acting against the perceived self-interests of the landed elite has disheartened many of those previously pushing agrarian reform through legislation, though a valiant effort to revive the cause was made during the Aquino administration in the 1980s. Meanwhile, peasants remain under crushing interest rates, exorbitant land rentals, and land prices so high that the cultivator could not hope to buy land on the open market.

Since the 1980s many international specialists in agricultural policy have essentially abandoned land reform, some even attempting, with World Bank backing, to promote the bogus concept of market reform, as if the same market forces which aided the emergence of great inequality of land ownership in the last century were now able, without strong government intervention, to reverse that process. And without international backing for land redistribution by government the cause weakened, both inside and outside the halls of power. If signs of revival in the agrarian reform movement in recent years have eluded me (because research time on the Philippines has been displaced by my attention to the Middle East), I would be delighted to be introduced to new and future comrades in the struggle for reform. Land redistribution is an essential basis for the future maturing of Philippine democracy. (Sadly, espousal of land reform by the armed Left rarely makes a positive contribution to reform through law.)

Though the political mood in the country today does not bode well for another try at land reform in the near future, this certainly does not mean that the need or the opportunity for reforms in other areas of society has passed. In fact the need is greater than ever. The rape of the environment and destruction of human communities make the rapid growth of resource extraction the most dangerous development of our era. Today, those who would protect the environment and indigenous communities are faced not only by rapacious Filipino elites, but by their even more powerful foreign partners. Malacañang has been besieged by international mining executives, and in recent years the Canadian government has even offered financial assistance to Canadian companies to aid them in brushing up their images by co-opting NGOs. The obligation for Canadian political scientists to assist Filipino researchers in uncovering how this relationship really works is greater than ever. It is not good news for those Filipinos living on top of the valuable ore. And the refrain heard in Makati and elsewhere that mining investments are good for Filipino jobs is simply fraudulent.

The shift in emphasis by political scientists from land reform to resisting the depredations of corporate mining was due primarily to changed conditions in the Philippines. But for me it was reinforced by a momentous, unplanned decision in my life in the spring of 1968, moving to Canada and becoming a Canadian citizen. The move was the consequence of my having taken the lead at the University of Missouri in mobilizing opposition to the Vietnam War, followed by the effort of the Chancellor to blackball me at two universities where the decision to offer me an appointment had passed the first hurdle.

I knew little about Canadian universities, but felt lucky to be able to go to Windsor, where I accepted a tenured position. I was happy to be close to Ann Arbor, since I had been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan two years earlier, and remained an associate of the UM Center for South and SE Asian Studies. In Windsor I also felt fortunate to have a university president who saw Asian studies as a high priority. Furthermore, academic freedom in Canada was at that time better protected than in the US. In any case, being in Canada, like the Philippines a neo-colonial enterprise, gave me a new standpoint on world affairs, though I remained involved with American scholars by way of conferences and joint research. I thought my position would allow a dual perspective, that is, both as a citizen of a superpower and of a small power. But it didn’t work out that way; my sympathies were always with the latter. And I also discovered that Canadian corporations overseas, especially those in mining, often behaved as if they were American. In the Philippines the atmosphere for research by foreign political scientists had long been affected more by US than by Philippine government policy, which, until the imposition of Martial Law, welcomed foreign scholars in all areas. By 1961 the CIA was spreading its tentacles among American academics, journalists, and other professionals working abroad, a fact later documented in Congressional investigation (after the Vietnam War, by the church committee). When I arrived with a research grant in January 1961 at the Institute of Public Administration on Padre Faura, I was appointed a research associate. I soon discovered that I had been preceded by someone widely identified in local academic chismis as CIA, because he seemed to have generous funding from a relatively unknown source, no convincing research design, and spent a lot of time on Pres. Garcias yacht. His cover was that he was a researcher from the Institute of Public Administration in New York.

My choice of research topics did not help to differentiate me from the spook category: I was looking at the changing make-up of the political/economic elite, beginning with a panel of raters to identify those elites. (See Elites of Wealth, Elites of Power SE Asian Affairs [Singapore] 1979.) Nor was my pristine academic independence enhanced by citing a grant from the Social Science Research Council of New York, which was also relatively unknown then in the Philippines.

I was not fully aware of the problem I faced until the day when I was given after several requests an interview with Speaker Eugenio Perez. He had a reputation for being somewhat crusty, but I was not prepared for his first question to me, Are you CIA? Needless to say that put me on the defensive. I am not sure whether my defense was convincing; he was not helpful to my research, unlike several of his Congressional colleagues: some spent hours sharing with me their thinking behind their choice of candidates for political and economic elites.

Shortly thereafter I wrote a long letter to the US Ambassador complaining about the practice of the CIA using academic covers for their agents. The letter must not have been too persuasive it was never answered, and the CIA did not change its ways. But the incident did heighten my awareness of CIA infiltration of all aspects of American, as well as Philippine, society. In the 1970s, along with a growing body of scholars, I continued the fight against the CIA using academic cover when I became a member of the Board of the Association of Asian Studies.

Though many progressive Filipinos were shocked and angered by CIA actions, for some it seemed to be a hilarious guessing game, who is in, who is out, often played over an afternoon beer. The situation was essentially ridiculous, so the typical Filipino reaction, to laugh, was well justified. But for many American academics it was no laughing matter.

Appropriate language study for political scientists trained in the US for overseas research has always been encouraged, but policies shifted over time, as did linguistic reality. When I arrived in the Philippines in 1947 Spanish was still the language used in many governmental institutions some court decisions at all levels, some debates in the Senate (less often in the House), and in more than one daily newspaper. Furthermore, electoral campaigns for national office, most bureaucratic records, most debates in Congress, and most daily newspapers were available in English. Given this reality, and the fact that Tagalog was not taught at Cornell in 1951 when I first enrolled, it was not surprising that the Department of Government there allowed me to submit Spanish, and French, as my two languages for the PhD. (French was quite useful in Saigon in 1956 during my first research visit.) But with the impetus of a president, Ramon Magsaysay, who felt more comfortable in Tagalog than in English, the language scene began to change rather rapidly. Training in the National Language (later Pilipino) was taken more seriously in the schools, more and more magazines appeared in Tagalog, and Tagalog movies swept the country. Yet, even so, when I began in 1961 to study Tagalog (at Philippine Women’s University), my daily practice in Manila was often frustrated by friends or taxi drivers who felt sorry for me after I tried haltingly to communicate in Tagalog, so they then switched to English. In the short term our exchange of information was probably more accurate, but in the longer run my Tagalog study suffered. I was disadvantaged throughout my career for having failed to master Filipino. Though the record of political events was easily available in English, the vast sea of informal political and social life remains unrecorded. I must have missed many expressions of attitude and feeling important to understanding political behavior. This made my reliance on the writings of Filipino social scientists all the more crucial.

Comparative politics is at the heart of our discipline, I believe. Every evaluation we make is either explicitly or implicitly comparative in nature. As we have noted, contributors to the PPSJ have increasingly turned their attention toward comparisons of the Philippines with SE Asian neighbors. One of the most ambitious of such comparisons was made by Ben Kerkvliet with what may seem an unlikely pair, the Philippines and Vietnam. The comparative technique can produce unexpected results, sometimes forcing redefinition of terms and new thinking. But we cannot reject the technique, only ask for its improvement.

What would be the consequence of focusing on countries which have the greatest cultural and historical similarities with the Philippines? They would be found not in Asia, but in Latin America. And the greatest similarities of all would be found in Cuba, regardless of the minimal relations with the Philippines in recent decades. On a trip to Cuba last year I was overwhelmed by the unexploited opportunities for comparative analysis that could help explain some so far inadequately understood dimensions of each political system. It is a challenge which could be particularly fruitful for Filipino political scientists with experience in bi-national comparisons.

Both countries had more than 300 years of Spanish rule; both were purchased by the US after the Spanish-American War. After that both experienced corrupt neo-colonial regimes which were formally democratic. Only in 1959 did the two countries sharply diverge, with Cuba driven into the Soviet bloc by American threats while the Philippines was being wooed by US blandishments. At several stages in their development international factors were more important than domestic ones.

But in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was clear that the Spanish, then American, impact on Cuban culture and society had been greater than the foreign impact in the Philippines. For instance, in Cuba a high percentage of the population were brought as slaves from Africa. Furthermore Spanish had displaced other languages by the late eighteenth century. And the nationalist movement in Cuba was much stronger, earlier; the first War of Independence was launched in 1868, lasting until 1878, with a total of 800,000 Cuban and 80,000 Spanish dead in a country much smaller than the Philippines. Foreign penetration of Cuba continued in the twentieth century under the Americans, who owned two thirds of agricultural land by 1920. In doing field or documentary research one might want to introduce other variables, but what has been described so far should provide sufficient challenge. Greater Filipino attention to Cuba has already been promoted by the Philippine ambassador to Havana and by Dr Francisco Nemenzo when he was president of UP. But commitment to such a comparison by individual scholars is the essential first step.

The question to be asked by comparativists is why this divergence between Cuba and the Philippines emerged and whether there is any future prospect of convergence of policy and politics. Clearly a major difference between Cuba and the Philippines is that Cuba experienced a thorough social revolution; it is now more than 50 years since the revolutionaries seized power. While the Philippines has suffered for decades the agony of nationwide revolutionary struggle, massive American support for ruthless repression by the ruling elite, the lack of any significant foreign supplies for the revolutionaries, the failure of revolutionary strategists to exploit their most opportune moment in the 1980s, and the constant challenge of geography, among others, combined to prevent the success of that struggle. Central power based on the patron-client system was threatened, but never dislodged. Filipinos paid the formidable human costs of revolution without gaining its benefits. Thus most Filipinos, while eager for a society fundamentally transformed, are not willing to take the risks of another revolutionary attempt. Yet at the same time it seems impossible to remove the most intractable barrier to Philippine democratic development a system of elite exploitation of the peasantry, without some sort of revolutionary action.

Many national societies have avoided revolution, undergoing change through peaceful reform. Elsewhere change takes the form of backward looking decay, a breakdown of the previously effective institutions, a process well known in the Philippines and even rampant in some parts of the US today.

Both reform and revolution, each associated with a different form of democracy, may be encompassed in the term development. This term has lost popularity in recent years, partly because its advocates initially claimed too much for its explanatory power, and because it was often used to justify American aid policy. But with clarification of meaning and caution in its application, the term may still be useful. It does not imply that all change is progress, or that progressive change is inevitable. But certainly we cannot ignore in our comparisons the element of change over time.

Being born in the midst of the Cold War, it is not surprising that in its infancy the PPSA was reluctant to touch the hot potato of US-Philippine relations. Filipinos then were expected by both governments to accept without question the American analysis of the world scene. And most did. Those who did not were often labeled communists. Thus when I discussed, nay debated, US Vietnam policy with then teaching assistant Joma Sison at UP in 1966, he was formally introduced as a nationalist, but in the corridors of UP or in the national press he was often described in more colorful, and more precise terms. Naively I had intended only to explain US policy to him, not defend it. But the distinction was not clear to Sison, or the UP audience, for good reason I could not persuade them that there was a significant difference between explanation of a policy and its defense. And in that year, having just spent a few months in Vietnam for research, my own stance on US policy there was at a tipping point.

Since then the world power structure has changed, and more and more young Filipinos have had the opportunity to study abroad and not only in the US. Thus viewpoints as well as realities have changed. Nevertheless, younger Filipino intellectuals have still tended to be more gentle in their critique of American policy, more likely to give weight to good intentions, than other Asian youth. Given the history of US-Philippine relations and the structure of the educational system in both countries, this is not surprising. And it may already be shifting to a more critical approach.

To be sure, it is refreshing to see Filipino scholars, as in the PPSJ, embark on analyses of international affairs, both regional and global, without feeling the need to either justify US policy or condemn its illegitimacy, unless the topic requires. For example, the article by Asst. Prof. Dennis Quilala of UP carefully assesses the pluses and minuses of US policy in Mindanao in an academic framework, yet he is clear in pointing out that US actions were part of the problem, not the solution.

Nor does the comparison with America, whether explicit or implicit, any longer have to be front and foremost when comparisons are framed. Comparisons are now being made more frequently, as in the journal, with SE Asian neighbors. And when comparisons with the US do appear, they are based on sophisticated analytical frameworks, as with the article by Prof. Alejandro Ciencia of UP Baguio on judicial behavior in the Philippine Supreme Court. The only problem with reliance on frameworks developed elsewhere is that they may not give adequate weight to some factors which are important in the Philippines, such as corruption.

Though I have not had the pleasure of participating in previous PPSA conferences, my own efforts in helping to found and then reorganize the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies (CCSEAS) in the 1970s allow me to appreciate the burden on a few people that is often created in the formation of an academic society.

In any case, though there may have been challenges in the past, the size and quality of this meeting is most impressive, allowing one to hope that this association in the near future will be recognized more widely as a leader, both intellectually and ethically, among Asian social scientists. Congratulations!

It is especially heartwarming for an old soldier in the political science trenches to learn that the critical, analytical approach to the study of politics is alive and well in the PPSA. Given the power and ambition of dominant groups in the Philippine economy, and their political allies, democratic forces will need to sharpen their research techniques even further, augment their numbers, and build their confidence in order to prevent the collapse of the Philippines democratic experiment. Even in the US today such a collapse is not outside the realm of possibility.

David Wurfel is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Windsor. His major publications include: Filipino Politics: Development and Decay ; and The Political Economy of Foreign Policy in Southeast Asia (co-editor) (Macmillan, 1990).

Categories Philippines

By David Wurfel. In Asian Survey 2(3):25-37 (May 1962)

THE PHILIPPINES has just survived the fourth presidential election since independence. It was a wild spending spree, in long-standing Filipino tradition. Pre-election violence (mostly personal quarrels with a seasonal flavor—in only a few towns was violence organized with political intent) was given wide publicity and vote buying was rampant, but the freedom and honesty of the balloting itself and the tallying process were well-protected in almost all precincts. Therefore, despite some peculiarly Philippine pyrotechnics which we shall shortly chronicle, the election of Diosdado (“God given”) Macapagal as the fifth president of the Republic marked a substantial step in the direction of perfecting Philippine democracy, a democracy already nearer the Western model than any other political system in Southeast Asia. The Philippines is now the only country in Asia which has twice witnessed the transfer of power to the opposition party through constitutional processes.

The turnover of the reins of government to Macapagal’s Liberals has taken place amidst unusual bitterness, caused by discourtesy and irregularities on both sides. Nevertheless, the new Administration does provide some basis for hope that it will handle those reins more wisely and more honestly than its predecessor. There are some problems, however, which it has not yet faced squarely.

To understand better this most recent incident in the process of Philippine political development, it would be helpful first to sketch briefly the social and historical context. Philippine society is one of great extremes in wealth, accentuated by the enthusiastic and very conspicuous consumption of the upper classes. Gaps between high and low incomes have actually increased in recent years. Contrary to some predictions, however, this has not created a revolutionary situation. Revolution is, to a large extent, an act of frustration by leaders who find no career satisfaction in the existing social system. The Philippine social system is, for Asia, unusually fluid. Despite extremes of wealth, easy upward mobility permits advancement by ambitious persons even from the lowest social strata. Macapagal himself, truly a poor boy who became president, is the most recent and most dramatic example of this. (Many thought that Magsaysay moved from “nipa hut to Malacanang,” but he actually came from a middle class family.) The belief in the possibility of rising from rags to riches, from insignificance to power, may well be greater than the fact. But, at any rate, this belief exists, with enough examples to hold out hope to otherwise potential revolutionaries.

There are thus no sharp ideological cleavages in Philippine politics. Those who see opportunity for their own careers in the existing social system seldom talk of making basic changes in it. Widespread agreement on values inherent in the system is an important foundation for constitutional politics.

The Philippine constitutional structure itself is often assumed to be merely a replica of that of the United States. In fact, there are important differences. One is the high degree of centralization in the Philippines, contrasted with American federalism. But this centralization, which could be disastrous to national unity if too rigid, is itself changing. Only two years ago Philippine villages and other local entities were given substantial new rights of self-government. Barrios were for the first time given the power to tax.1 Though this power is just beginning to be used, it has already begun to encourage local initiative and to weaken the provincial political leaders’ control of the rural vote.

Perhaps as a beneficial consequence of the chronic over-abundance of lawyers and law graduates, respect for the Constitution and for the Supreme Court which interprets it is deeply ingrained in Filipino thinking—frequent disregard for traffic laws, election laws and laws protecting private property notwithstanding. In fact, political disputes which might not be considered by the American Supreme Court are often taken to the Philippines’ highest tribunal in the form of a legal controversy. The Court decides, and its decisions are respected. The most recent example of a major Court decision affecting politics related to the law passed last year to increase and reapportion Congressional seats. In August, the Supreme Court invalidated it on the grounds that it ignored the Constitutional mandate to create districts with an approximately equal population.2 This decision seriously hurt the Nacionalistas, the party in power, by reducing the total number of seats to be contested in this election, thus creating increased competition among the existing surfeit of Nacionalista candidates—averaging more than three per one-member district. Yet no responsible NP leader made any attempt to, or even suggested the possibility of, thwarting or evading the Court’s decision.

It is within a loose social structure, with little ideological conflict, and bound by a centralized—but now decentralizing—Constitutional system which is generally respected, that Philippine political parties have developed.

The Nacionalista Party, which had dominated pre-war politics, was challenged in 1946 by the Liberals, who were not necessarily more “liberal,” but were all followers of Manuel Roxas. With the election of Roxas as first president of the Republic, the Liberals gained control of the administration, and held it until 1953. The Nacionalistas, who had grown lean and hungry while out of power, re-entered Malacanang in 1954 under Ramon Magsaysay’s leadership. With the tragic death of Magsaysay and the assumption to office of his vice-president, Carlos P. Garcia, in March 1951, the restraint of stern honesty was removed and the Nacionalista Party supped well at the public trough. Garcia’s “old pro” leadership was not able to hold together the party as it had existed under Magsaysay, however, and the younger, more idealistic wing split off to form the Progressive Party of the Philippines. The PPP put up a full ticket in the November 1951 presidential election, running stronger than any previous third party, but in the final analysis merely helping to split incumbent Garcia’s opposition. In a field of four candidates Garcia won with only 43 per cent of the popular vote. However, the Liberals were able to elect a vice-president, Diosdado Macapagal.3

The Liberals and Progressives, recognizing the disadvantages of a divided opposition, attempted to create a “Grand Alliance” to defeat the patronage-rich Nacionalistas in the 1959 senatorial and gubernatorial election. But the Alliance broke up before election day and Garcia’s party again carried the field, with the Progressives trailing the Liberals. Steeled by the second defeat, the PPP finally accepted the necessity of opposition discipline, forgot past name-calling, put aside differences and agreed in October 1960 to merge with the Liberal Party. At this time there was also a tentative agreement that Vice-President Macapagal would be the Party’s 1961 Presidential nominee and that ex-Senator Emmanuel Pelaez, a 1959 Grand Alliance/PPP candidate, who was reported to have been Magsaysay’s personal choice for running mate in 1951, would be the vice-presidential choice. This agreement was kept.

Thus, after a brief aberration, two-party politics had returned. The influence of a list system election for senators, which would seem to encourage third parties, was not so great as that of the Presidential race. What is the nature of the two parties as revealed in the recent election? Both have stable leadership that has held the respective parties together in defeat and in victory since 1946. Both Garcia and Macapagal have been prominent members of the leadership core. In addition, each party has drawn unto itself a much less stable coalition of national and provincial leaders and their followers, so that Philippine political parties have been rightly called loose confederations of leadership groups.

There is no discernible difference in the class composition of the two parties. That the bulk of the middle class supported the Liberal candidate in 1961 merely indicates the point in the political cycle: the Liberals were the “clean” opposition fighting the Nacionalistas, a corrupt majority. Eight years earlier the roles were reversed.

Both parties are dominated by elite interests. But this does not mean that there is no difference in the character of the interests in each. For instance, the “tobacco bloc” (i.e., political leaders of the tobacco-growing Ilocos region) has for some time been composed predominantly of Liberals. The “sugar bloc” has since 1953 been united in its support of the Nacionalistas. In 1961 the National Sugarcane Planters Federation publicly went on record in support of Garcia. Not only did the sugar planters bet on the wrong horse, but they were unable to deliver the vote in “their own province,” Negros Occidental. (In 1953 they had switched to Magsaysay at the last minute.) This is the first such election defeat in the history of sugar politics. It is bad business for the sugar planters, who are dependent on the government-owned Philippine National Bank for the great bulk of their credit, to be in the opposition. Immediately after election day last November, the president of the Planters Federation, a Negros Nacionalista, resigned and was replaced by a Liberal from Macapagal’s home province of Pampanga. The sugar planters appear able to roll with the punch, but their political power is not likely to be so strong again.

Industrialists and tradesmen tended to oppose or support Garcia on the basis of their personal contacts with the Administration. Those whose connections were good looked forward to the continuance of such benefits as those conferred by the Central Bank’s Monetary Board in the field of foreign trade. Profit ratios in foreign exchange deals far surpassed those of the most prosperous legitimate business. Businessmen without such connections looked forward to the end of controls—primary cause of uncertainty for the honest producer—and the required party contributions which were so often the quid pro quo for an exchange license. They had reason to believe that though Garcia had made the same promise-under sugar bloc pressure—Macapagal, charter member and officer of the Free Enterprise Association of the Philippines, would be most likely to abolish controls. This assessment proved correct.

Even though Gil Puyat, Nacionalista vice-presidential candidate, was the first industrialist to run for high public office, the small, but growing industrial entrepreneurial class did not as a group rally to his support. There were at least as many who, thinking in particularistic terms, feared the growth of the Puyat family enterprises into a government-backed monopoly as there were those who welcomed the prospect of an industrialist in Malacanang who could protect industrialists’ interests. Interest group oriented organization is emerging, but is as yet an immature growth in Philippine politics. The majority of small farmers supported the Liberals this time, but, of course, because of their numbers, a candidate must gain their approval in order to win. An important percentage of the rural population can be considered in the “floating vote.”

On the ideological plane, the differences between the two parties in 1961 were at most minor, and in any case transitory. For instance, Macapagal charged Garcia with being “soft on Communism,” but the charge had only a little more validity than it had when used against Truman. It is true that the miniscule underground Philippine Communist Party sent out word to “campaign for Garcia” and that after the election, he released on clemency the captured American advisor to the Huks, William Pomeroy. It is also true, however, that the Nacionalistas had in Garcia’s term enacted legislation to outlaw the Communist Party (though it was already illegal by executive order) and that the police agencies of his Administration continued to investigate and arrest Communists and Communist suspects alike. He had not swerved from the Philippines’ anti-Communist foreign policy. Some of Macapagal’s charges had the unfortunate flavor of McCarthyism.

In the minds of certain observers the issue of “communism” and “nationalism” during the recent campaign were somehow linked. The Nacionalistas campaigned vigorously on a platform of “Filipino First,” attempting to attract the Filipino businessman and to use anti-Chinese and anti-American sentiment as a smoke screen to hide the damaging issue of corruption. That the tactic was unsuccessful is not surprising. No party has yet won an election in the Philippines on the basis of anti-Americanism. (The Liberals tried it in 1953.) The use of nationalism as a campaign slogan—to a greater extent than ever before in the post-war Philippines—reflected a genuine rise in nationalist sentiment among Filipino intellectuals and pseudo intellectuals during the past five years. (It also revealed the inability of those in Nacionalista campaign headquarters to assess rural attitudes.) To believe that this was merely a mimicking of the communist line is unfounded.

It is true that Macapagal is more pro-American than his predecessor, but the same contrast cannot necessarily be made between the two parties. During the campaign even Macapagal was forced by Nationalista attacks to make an affirmation of his own nationalism. The new administration cannot be assumed to be a willing handmaiden for all that the United States desires.

Because the major difference between the two Philippine political parties is that one is “in” and the other is “out,” the classic campaign cry of outs against ins, “corruption!,” spoken with fervent emotion, was usually the most popular point in Macapagal’s campaign oration.4 Garcia’s rebuttal was, at best, weak. To one audience he urged contemplation of St. Paul’s words, “faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.” He condemned the opposition for “negative thinking,” “perhaps caused by dyspepsia.” In Visayan-speaking areas he gained warm applause by reciting some of his balaks, the type of poetry that has won him a certain amount of literary recognition, but apparently poems did not dispel the corruption issue. A sharp rise in rice prices shortly before the election also hurt Garcia, because the Liberals generally succeeded in blaming him for the crisis. But disgust with corruption was still the main theme of opposition voters in most areas.

The corruption surrounding the Garcia administration extended into the conduct of the campaign itself. The Nacionalista cause was probably hurt most by the July nominating convention, frequently referred to as an “orgy” because of the generous portions of wine, women, song—and cold cash—reportedly distributed to the delegates. Senator Gil Puyat, who had previously been a politician of unusually good repute, bought himself the vice-presidential nomination at this convention for a few million pesos—which he assumed at the time would ensure election victory—but was never able to regain his good name or the people’s confidence.

In a country famed for expensive elections, that of 1961 was the most costly. All candidates for all offices spent an estimated P80 to P150 million, with Garcia himself responsible for nearly half the total sum. This amount would include payments from both private and “public” funds made primarily for campaign purposes.

If P80 million were the correct figure, this would mean 8 per cent of the annual national budget. The same percentage spent for campaigns in the U.S. would amount to $7 billion, which would put quite a strain on the Hatch Act. In fact, even Filipino politicians are feeling the strain. The inability of Garcia and Puyat to buy victory with such vast sums may reverse the trend toward greater election expenses, at least temporarily.

Money failed to bring the desired electoral result for several reasons. Garcia’s ceremonious distribution of public works checks from local campaign platforms may have given immediate satisfaction to provincial audiences, since it was in the traditional pattern of a leader consolidating his position by distributing material benefits to his followers, but the same audiences were often disappointed to learn that lack of cash in the treasury, shifts in political priorities, or bureaucratic delay would prevent them from spending the checks for local projects before the election. Opposition candidates also weakened the political impact of this “pork barrel” by driving home the point, “This is just your own money which the Administration is returning to you; claim it as your right and vote as you please.”

Furthermore, an increase in expenditure has become necessary because the same amount of money now has less political effect than before. An important way in which well-oiled political machines spend money is by direct vote buying. In many areas the price of a vote has increased two or three times in the last decade until it may reach as high as {$x} in some places, or a week’s wage for a farm laborer. As election administration becomes more honest, it is more and more difficult for ballot marking systems to prosper and therefore easier for the “bought” voter to vote as he pleases with impunity. It is still easier to distinguish a particular individual’s ballot, whether legally or illegally, in the Philippines than it is in the U.S. because the voter must write in the name of his candidate. Adoption of a printed ballot is an urgent electoral reform in the Philippines today.

Despite a sharp rise in pre-election violence5 and increased vote buying, the 1961 election generally maintained the steady progress of the past decade toward cleaner election administration. The inconclusive nature of election trends, followed by the seeming appearance of a shift toward Macapagal in the last two weeks, caused impartial citizens to worry about the possibility of election irregularities being perpetrated to keep the Nacionalista Party in power. The Liberals, in a somewhat similar election in 1949, had committed irregularities on a large scale. Among the techniques used at that time was alteration of precinct election returns after the polls closed. Since Garcia did not appear to be preparing more blatant violations, clean election forces decided to concentrate on protecting the tallying process. The Commission on Elections, while it might have done more, did at least authorize the preparation of additional official precinct returns which for the first time were distributed to both party appointees on the precinct election boards, thus preventing board chairmen from conniving with the party in power.

Civic leaders wanted to take more active steps, however. The National Movement for Free Elections,6 founded in 1951 to protect the ballot, and spectacularly successful in 1953, had declined by 1961 to the point of complete ineffectiveness. In the familiar pattern of Filipino voluntary associations, it was easier to form a new organization than to revitalize the old one.7 A new organization, formed in mid-August, was dubbed Operation Quick Count (OQC). From the beginning it received substantial backing from the influential Manila Times. Proceeding from the premise that tampering with the returns-was made possible by the normally slow process of tabulation, for which such political appointees as municipal and provincial treasurers were largely responsible, OQC decided that the best way to assure an honest count was to have a quick one.

They thereupon set out to establish their own national network for gathering the returns.

The results of their efforts were remarkable. In less than three months, they had established a nation-wide communications network, including runners, motorcyclists, airplanes, and radio, telephone and telegraph communications, with cooperating bodies in almost every municipality in the islands. (The Commission on Elections uses only mails and telegraph.) With the support of Lions, Rotary, Jaycees, Knights of Columbus and various other civic organizations, OQC was able to report accurate and conclusive election returns to Manila within 20 hours of the closing of the polls, compared to the normal lag of two to three days. It is clear that Filipinos can organize rapidly and effectively for a good cause when they see the need.

Garcia’s charge that these were Liberal-inspired figures turned out to be a source of embarrassment to him later when their accuracy was verified. It is readily apparent that Garcia’s further claim that there was widespread fraud committed against him is unfounded. His charges must be labeled those of a bitter, defeated candidate. Authoritative sources report that he attempted to use these charges as a lever with which to persuade Macapagal not to prosecute members of his family and political friends. If so, the tactic did not work. One of the first criminal complaints brought by the Macapagal Administration was against the ex-President’s brother, Cosme Garcia.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the 1961 elections in the Philippines was the nature and strength of independent candidates. To describe them provides new insights into the Philippine political process. Independent candidates for the presidency or vice presidency in the past had always run on a third party ticket. In 1961, however, there was an independent candidate for vice-president, Sergio Osmena, Jr., and one for president, Rogelio de la’ Rosa, neither of whom were officially allied with any other candidate, though unofficial alliances were numerous. (Voters may split their tickets.)

Osmena, maverick son of an illustrious father, wanted to be president. He decided to run as an independent for the vice-presidency because he believed that election to the vice-presidency in 1961 would be the easiest way to achieve this ambition, and because he was unable to get a party nomination, despite offers of substantial funds to both major parties for the privilege. The year 1961 was unusual because President Garcia, under the constitutional limitation of eight years on the president’s term of office, would only have been able to serve three years and three months if elected.

Sergio Osmena, Sr., founder of the Nacionalista Party and last president of the Commonwealth, had been a statesman of the old school, respected by friend and foe alike. While the father was in Washington during the war, however, the son remained in the Philippines, making a small fortune by selling scrap iron to Japanese military authorities. After the war he launched his political career, without the father’s blessing or support. While serving as mayor of Cebu City, governor of the province, and representative in Congress, Osmena Jr. has managed to be on all sides of all political fences, and at the same time has been able to maintain sufficient personal contacts to guarantee a substantial extracurricular income. He campaigned in 1961 on the questionable platform that he was the best qualified candidate to “clean up the mess” in Manila. While he was thus posing as an oppositionist, he made a not-so-secret deal with President Garcia for mutual support in the populous province of Cebu, and certain other places.

Since Osmena is from the Visayas and Filipinos tend to express regional loyalties in national elections, he badly undercut the strength of Pelaez, the Liberal candidate, who was also from the South. Because of his skillful welding of alliances with politicians all over the Philippines, because he successfully wooed “Bishop” Felix Manalo of the Iglesia ni Kristo,8 and because he capitalized on the sympathy extended to the family after his father’s death in October, Serging, as he is called, came close to winning. He placed a strong second, while Puyat came in a poor third.9

The independent candidate for the presidency was in some ways an even more colorful figure and certainly a greater threat to the Liberals, at least while he remained in the race. De la Rosa, before he was elected Senator four years ago, was known only as a movie star—a Filipino Clark Gable. Despite his unorthodox origins, he turned out to be a reasonably good senator. He made a real effort to understand and to help small farmers and fishermen in Central Luzon. He clearly had charisma.

De la Rosa’s decision to enter the race for the presidency was not entirely his own. While he was undoubtedly ambitious, he was not wealthy enough to afford a presidential campaign, and he had no political organization. According to well-substantiated rumor, a friend of Garcia helped to provide both. If this rumor is correct, it was a very clever move by the Garcia forces. De la Rosa comes from the same province as Macapagal—in fact, they are ex-brothers-in-law. By attacking Garcia as well as Macapagal, he appealed to opposition sentiment. With a much more attractive personality than Macapagal, he won rapidly growing support. By October, many people were predicting that he would get a million votes, or more than 10 per cent of the estimated total. Since nearly 90 per cent of this would be subtracted from the potential Macapagal vote, it could easily spell victory for Garcia.

Meanwhile, De la Rosa got the idea that he could actually win. His attacks on Garcia became less polite and more vigorous. He campaigned in the Visayas, Garcia’s home territory, which some say was contrary to the original agreement with the Nacionalistas. Garcia began to worry. What actually happened thereafter can only be surmised from a complex web of partly conflicting, partly complementary reports and rumors. Apparently Garcia grossly overestimated the damage De la Rosa was doing to him, and decided to stop his funds. This turned out to be a fatal mistake. De la Rosa’s ego was deeply involved in the campaign, so he decided to proceed, even going into debt to maintain his campaign organization.

It seems that De la Rosa’s increasing disillusionment with Garcia, his financial insolvency, and increasing pressure from family and friends who supported Macapagal caused him to decide finally to withdraw from the race, only ten days before the election, throwing his support to the Liberal candidate. According to well informed rumor, he also received a cash payment more than sufficient to pay his campaign debts. Macapagal’s margin of victory was less than the previously predicted vote for De la Rosa.10 An independent, who bid fair to be the perfect solution to the election dilemma of an unpopular incumbent, turned out to be most undependable for this purpose. The technique might have worked, but is not likely to be tried again soon. Needless to say, De la Rosa’s own political reputation is blighted.

The outcome of the senatorial elections was somewhat surprising. The Liberals, who were expected to get only half of the eight seats at stake, won six. Only one incumbent Nacionalista senator was re-elected, Lorenzo Sumulong. The three top Liberals11 were all close associates of Magsaysay and former Progressives. Macapagal has not given recognition to this Progressive electoral strength in the pattern of his appointments, however.

Despite Liberal sweeps of the other races, the Nacionaiistas won more than two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives. This reflects the weakness of Liberal candidates, as well as the fact that many Nacionalista hopefuls who were given money by Garcia to campaign for him spent it on their own campaigns. Party lines are not firm, however, and presidential power is great. After many weeks of intense maneuvering, and an offer of committee chairmanships to key Nacionalistas, a Liberal Representative, Villarreal, was elected Speaker.

The transition from the old to the new administration, despite a lack of ideological barriers and the general intimacy within the Philippine political elite, has not been a smooth one. Garcia helped to create a tense atmosphere by refusing to bow out gracefully. The Liberal “task forces” set up to arrange for the transfer of power were blamed by the Nacionalistas for attempting to make policy and administrative decisions before the inauguration. After the inauguration, conflict focused on the question of the tenure of persons appointed for a fixed term of office. Garcia had filled many such positions—including policy-making ones—with political cronies, and Macapagal was determined to get rid of them, in several instances to replace them—as it turned out—with Liberal politicians. But he has attempted to dismiss the good with the bad, and has openly flouted due process in order to do so—a serious blow to the already weak and harassed bureaucracy. The predominance of “old guard” Liberal politicians among Macapagal’s second string appointments means that this administration is bringing less new blood into governing circles than did Magsaysay. This is not surprising, however, since Macapagal himself is an “old guard Liberal,” having been with the Party since 1949.

Macapagal made a firm promise during the campaign to end all foreign exchange controls. He has carried out this promise, and earlier than many expected. His swift move to end controls did, in fact, prevent a large part of the speculation that had been feared. At the same time he substantially increased tariffs, before Congress reconvened, by executive order to compensate for the loss of protection which exchange controls had given to certain industries. Clearly Macapagal is taking a stronger personal role in the formulation and execution of national economic policy than have any of his predecessors. His doctorate in economics from the University of Santo Tomas may not be academically very meaningful, but it gives him a far better background than most Filipino politicians for making such policy decisions. Temporarily, at least, his policies seem to have been a success. Despite recent domestic price rises, the peso has held fairly stable on the international market. It is still uncertain, however, as to whether the ending of controls will provide the long-term stimulus to economic development which its advocates claim.

Macapagal’s promise to end controls was coupled with one to expand social welfare and reform programs. In this latter field, he has not yet performed. In fact, agrarian reform would appear to have been set back by the elimination of some experienced persons from administrative positions, despite the fact that the reform conscious Central Luzon vote, swung to him by De la Rosa, was decisive in the Liberal Party victory. Vice-President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Pelaez, one of Magsaysay’s chief advisors on agrarian reform, who is better informed about and more firmly dedicated to agrarian reform than was Magsaysay himself, has not been allowed to influence policy or appointments in this field to the extent he had expected. His likely rival for national office in 1965, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, seems determined to prevent him from becoming identified with such a politically appealing program. Failure to reinvigorate agrarian reform programs begun under Magsaysay and to correct their shortcomings, if continued, will surely lead to disillusionment with Macapagal in the rural areas.

There are also grounds for concern about Macapagal’s ability to fulfill his promises to end graft and corruption. Exchange controls, a fertile soil for corrupt profit, have been eliminated, to be sure, but the opportunity to manipulate customs and reparations regulations remains. Macapagal has made some dramatic arrests, but a man who was in part responsible for the “reparations mess” has merely been reassigned. Even more discouraging in the long run is the new administration’s failure to recognize the urgent need for an increase in government salaries, the relatively low level of which is one of the basic causes for continued graft. Undoubtedly the standard of public morals will be lifted substantially above that of the Garcia Administration, at least for a few years, but how thoroughgoing and how permanent the clean-up will be remains to be seen.

The elections of 1961 have given Philippine democracy a new lease on life. In these elections, the Filipino people have reaffirmed their dedication to the electoral process as the proper democratic method for changing regimes, for punishing dishonesty and for rewarding honesty. But whether the new administration will use the time it has been given to strengthen the other institutions of democracy, e.g., a wide distribution of landownership and an efficient, as well as honest, civil service, is still in doubt. Unfortunately this election does not appear to have produced any fundamental realignment of Philippine political and economic forces in such a manner as to provide more adequate political support for the necessary changes. The weakening of the sugar bloc, however, may eventually have this effect.

DAVID WURFEL, assistant professor of political science at International Christian University, Tokyo, was recently in the Philippines on a Social Science Research Council grant. He is the author of the section on the Philippines in Governments and Politics in Southeast Asia.


1 Republic Act 2310, June 20, 1959.

2 Article VI, Sec. I, par. 5.

3 See my article, “The Philippine Elections: New Trends,” Foreign Policy Bulletin, January 1, 1958, pp. 60-64.

4 His intense concern for honesty in government can possibly be explained in part by a boyhood experience which apparently left a strong impression: his father was jailed for embezzlement!

5 Pre-election casualties were 35 dead and 34 wounded in 74 incidents. This death toll was double that of 1959 and triple that of 1957, but did not exceed the toll in 1953. Manila Times, November 9, 1961. In contrast, election day was quiet.

6 See James Dalton, “Ins and Outs in the Philippines,” Far East Survey, XXI, 12 (July 30, 1952), 111-123.

7 See Mary Hollensteiner, The Dynamics of Power in a Philippine Municipality (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, Community Development Research Council, 19617) for an excellent analysis of this point.

8 Church of Christ is a church of unitarian belief founded by Manalo, who describes himself as one of the archangels mentioned in the Book of Revelation. This is the fastest growing church in the Philippines, and the most tightly disciplined. Church members unswervingly accept Manalo’s instructions on how to vote; he thus controls the largest united voting bloc in the Philippines, now estimated at nearly one million. Though Manalo had endorsed national candidates before, this is the first time that one has relied so heavily on Manalo for his electoral strength.

9 Pelaez—2,394,400; Osmena—2,190,424; Puyat—l,181,981. Commission on Elections, Canvass of Votes … in the November 14, 1961 Election …

10 Macapagal—3,554,840; Garcia—2,902,966. Ibid.

11 Those elected were: Manglapus (LP)—3,489,658; Manahan (LP)-3,088,040; Sumulong (NP)—2,811,228; Rodrigo (LP)—2,1l0,322; Antonino (LP)—2,636,420; Osias (LP)—2,634,183; Katigbak (LP)-2,546,141; Roy (NP)—2,443,110. Ibid.


The author wants to thank Mr. Rafael Salas for invaluable assistance to his research. The author, however, is fully responsible for any errors and all conclusions.

Categories Philippines, General politics

Article by David Wurfel, from Pacific Affairs 1954.

The Rice Share Tenancy Act as amended in 1946 is a much misunderstood piece of legislation in the Philippines today, and unfortunately that misunderstanding has been perpetuated by many Western reporters on Philippine affairs.

Former President Roxas did a magnificent job of salesmanship when he attached to this Act the label “the seventy-thirty law”. But popular though this terminology may have been, it has little relationship to the provisions of the Act. A more descriptive title, “the fifty-fifty law” would undoubtedly have been less popular.

The original Rice Share Tenancy Act was passed by the Philippine Legislature in 1933, during the administration of Governor-General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. He and many of the legislators were aware of the increasing inequality of the tenants’ and the landlords’ bargaining power. They believed that legislation, even legislation alone, could balance the unbalanced social forces — a belief not often verified by Philippine experience.

The Act’s many admirable provisions were unfortunately rendered useless by the final one. The law could go into effect “only in provinces where the majority of the municipal councils shall, by resolution, petition for its application to the Governor-General who shall make the law effective by proclamation”.1 In view of the landlords’ control of the municipal councils, it was hardly surprising that in no province did this law come into effect.

But while reform by legislation was frustrated, changes of another kind did take place on the land. By 1939 some 35.1 percent of all farmers were tenants-more than double the percentage twenty years earlier. And the tenancy problem was, in reality, the rice share tenancy problem: 98.4 percent of tenants were share tenants and 54.8 percent of those were rice share tenants.2 Rice was the Philippines first crop, taking 39.1 percent of the farm area and 39.9 percent of rice farmers were share tenants. The second crop by area, coconut, accounted for only 11.8 percent of the share tenants, while 21.8 percent of the share tenants were on corn farms and 2.8 percent on sugar farms.

The tenancy problem was geographically as peculiar to Central Luzon as it was agronomically to rice. In 1939 five Central Luzon provinces, all of which had the greater part of their farm land planted to rice, had share tenancy rates above 50 percent: Tarlac, 50.5, Cavite, 53.5, Bulacan, 62.2, Pampanga, 64.6, and Nueva Ecija, 66.3.3 The only place outside Central Luzon where rice culture and high tenancy rates coexisted was Panay. In the third important rice growing region, Hocos, the land was usually cultivated by its owners.

In most cases these tenancy figures were disturbing to former President Manuel Quezon and other Filipino leaders only insofar as they were associated with agrarian unrest. But the tenancy rate cannot be said to be a complete explanation of unrest-and population density, poverty and backwardness of agricultural techniques are even less adequate explanations of this phenomenon. The sharp increase of tenancy in the 1930’S throws more light on the problem, but only the broad term “change” can fully explain agrarian unrest, or other revolutionary outbreaks. The change was both economic and psychological. The Filipino tao (peasant) was in increasing numbers being reduced from owner to tenant at the same time that education with all its attendant blessings (or evils), as well as high-sounding phrases from Manila politicians spread abroad by press and radio, was raising the tao’s expectation of the kind of life he was entitled to. Thus the politicos who wrote a piece of “reform legislation” which could not be put in effect unwittingly abetted the incipient unrest. Tenants’ hopes, especially those of the more politically alert, were raised, then dashed.

Though it seemed right and expedient at the time, Quezon’s attempt to enforce the Rice Share Tenancy Act probably also contributed to later unrest. At his behest Commonwealth Act No. 178 was passed in November 1936, amending Sec. 29 of Act No. 4054 in order to read: “This Act. . . shall take effect . . . by proclamation to be issued by the President of the Philippines upon recommendation of the Secretary of Labor, when public interests so require. . . .” In January 1937 Quezon proclaimed the Act to be in effect in five Central Luzon provinces, and by 1941 had extended it to five more provinces on Luzon and two on Panay.

The text of the Act — which is long, technical, and in places ambiguous, remained incomprehensible to many of the tenants for whose benefit it was intended. The crop-sharing provision was hardly revolutionary; it merely stamped legal approval on the prevailing arrangement. When the tenant furnished work animal and implements, and shared production expenses equally with the landlord, he was to receive 50 percent of the crop. Other provisions of the Act, which remain in effect today, were designed to bring real change in existing practice. “To be valid and binding” the tenancy contract was to be written in a language known to both parties and signed or thumb-marked in the presence of two witnesses, one chosen by each party.

In practice the contract was usually verbal. And even if it were written, the landlord retained the sole copy and could alter it if he were so inclined. Section 10 provided that all advances from landlord to tenant should not bear interest of more than 10 percent per agricultural year and that a record thereof should be kept in writing. The existing rates varied from 50 to 300 percent per annum. To prevent evasion of this provision, it further specified that in case of loans in kind any inflation of the original price of the article loaned was to be considered usury. Section 11 prohibited loans in excess of 50 percent of the tenant’s average yearly share. By Section 13 a final accounting between landlord and tenant was required within 15 days after threshing, to be recorded in a language known by the tenant and signed by two witnesses. Normally the accounts were kept in English or Spanish and seldom shown to the tenant anyway. No debts in kind, once converted into money, were to be again converted into kind. This provision proscribed a widespread practice whereby formerly a tenant might have to borrow a quantity of rice at a time of the year when the price was high and have to pay back a much larger quantity at a time when the price was low.

Parts III and IV of the Act listed the rights and duties of the landlord and tenant. The landlord was to retain the right of managing the farm and was held responsible for payment of the land taxes. Most important, the landlord was prohibited from dismissing his tenant except for “just and reasonable cause”. Section 19 listed some of such causes, among them being: “Gross misconduct or willful disobedience on the part of the tenant to the orders of landlord or of his representative in connection with his work; negligence on the part of the tenant to do the necessary farm work expected of him so as to insure a good harvest; non-compliance with any of the obligations imposed upon the tenant by the Act or by the contract. . . .” The tenant had the right to work elsewhere when there was no work to be done on the farm, and if he were requested by the landlord to perform work not connected with his duties as tenant, he was to be paid accordingly-“unless otherwise stipulated in the contract”.4 The tenant was to be entitled to a home lot on which he might construct a dwelling, and, in case of ejection, he was to be given 45 days notice. His duties included the “obligation to cultivate the farm as a good father of the family”, and to inform the landlord of any trespass on his farm committed by a third person (including a labor leader).

Though some of these provisions, such as the last mentioned, were mainly of benefit to the landlord, the Act as a whole, if enforced, would have improved the tenants’ lot. But the new day had not yet dawned for them. On those estates where the tenants were both acquainted with the law and bold enough to demand its application, the almost universal reaction of the landlord was to threaten ejection at the end of the agricultural year.5 This could be perfectly legal, since the traditional contract lasted only for one agricultural year and Act No. 4054 as amended did not require that a land lord retain a tenant with whom he had no contract.

Legal or not, the wholesale ejection of politically aware share-tenants would have brought even more unrest to Central Luzon than it was then experiencing. Consequently, on June 9, 1939, the National Assembly passed — undoubtedly as the result of pressure from Quezon — Commonwealth Act No. 461, which stated that no tenant under “any system of tenancy” should be “dispossessed of the land cultivated by him except for any of the causes mentioned in [Section 19 of] Act No. 4054 or for any just cause, and without the approval of a representative of the Department of Justice duly authorized for the purpose”. If either party felt aggrieved by the action of the Department, he was entitled to appeal to the Court of Industrial Relations (which also serves as a court of agrarian relations). Landlords were aggrieved, or so they felt; they talked loudly of the unconstitutionality of this new act. In the meantime they continued to file ejectment suits against unruly tenants who demanded the application of the Rice Share Tenancy Act. When, in March 1941, in the case of Jacinto v Catacutan the landlord’s petition was denied by the Department of Justice and appeal was brought to the Court of Industrial Relations, the legal confusion which had delayed the tenants’ enjoyment of their rights was swept away.6 The Court upheld the constitutionality of Commonwealth Act 461 against “due process” and “freedom of contract” attacks and ruled that expiration of the contract was not a “just cause” and was thus insufficient cause for discharge of the tenant. One month later the Supreme Court gave a similar decision in Tapang v Court of Industrial Relations and Amalia Robles.7 Throughout 1941 some 353 of the Court’s 415 new cases were tenancy disputes; 138 landlords and 507 tenants were affected. Of those cases which were appealed to the Court from lesser jurisdictions, 265 were won by landlords and only 44 by tenants.8

Thus, though the Court did not allow the law to topple in the face of the landlord’s onslaught, neither did it frequently grant tenant demands. Yet at the same time the Social Improvement Service of the Department of Labor, which was created on May 1, 1937, worked diligently to inform the barrio people about the provisions of the Rice Share Tenancy Act “and of the invaluable benefits and advantages emanating from a happy and harmonious relationship between the government and the masses”.9 Up to 1939 rural agents had visited 981 barrios, held 384 meetings and distributed 7,500 pamphlets to explain the Act. This activity, however, since it was not followed by effective enforcement of the Act, created discontent rather than “a happy and harmonious relationship”.

Japan brought war to the Philippines and war brought new changes causing more agrarian unrest. A large percentage of Central Luzon landlords fled to Manila for the duration. Hukbalahap organizers urged their tenants to refuse to pay rent, and this the tenants did whenever they had Huk armed forces to back up their refusal. The Huks also provided the tenant a chance for participation in the governments which they set up in the areas not controlled by the Japanese. Thus for the rice share tenant the war was often a time of economic prosperity and of new-found political independence. The American “liberation” meant for many tenants the reestablishment of a near-feudal political and economic system which they had, at least for a while, thrown off.

Shortly after President Osmena returned to the Philippines in 1945, he and his Cabinet, as part of a deal to gain the support of the Democratic Alliance, agreed to amend the Rice Share Tenancy Act so that the tenant would receive 60 percent of the crop. But powerful landlord interests thwarted any legislative action to this effect. In 1946, however, when President Roxas came to power and when the Huks had demonstrated their political strength and resilience against armed attack, Republic Act 34, the so-called “Seventy-thirty Law”, was actually passed by a Congress still dominated by landlords.

Roxas and his followers seized the propaganda initiative from the Huks, but they had no intention of creating serious economic handicaps for the landlords. The new law ideally was suited for their limited purposes. It amended Section 8 of .Act No. 4054 to read, in part, as follows:

“. . . When the tenant furnishes the necessary implements and the work animals and defrays all the expenses for planting and cultivation of the land, the crop shall be divided as follows: the tenant shall receive seventy percent of the net produce of the land and the landlord thirty percent, for first class land, the normal production of which, based on the average yield for the three preceding years, is more than forty cavans of palay per one cavan of seed; seventy-five percent for the tenant and twenty-five percent for the landlord, in case of land the average normal production of which is not more than forty cavans of palay per one cavan of seed. In case the landlord furnishes the necessary work animals and farm implements and, likewise, bears all the expenses of planting and cultivation, the landlord shall receive seventy percent and the tenant thirty percent of the crop. . . .”

“The following stipulations are hereby declared to be against public policy:

“If the tenant shall receive less than fifty-five percent of the net produce, in case he furnishes the work animals and the farm implements, and the expenses of planting and cultivation are borne equally by said tenant and the landlord. . . .

“If the landlord is the owner of the work animal, and the tenant of the farm implements, and the expenses are equally divided between the landlord and the tenant, for the tenant to receive less than fifty percent of the net crop.”

The first sentence was most quoted; the second, less so. Actually the provisions of the second sentence were less detrimental to the tenant than might first appear, because the landlord rarely furnished both work animals and implements in addition to bearing all expenses of planting and cultivating. Nor were the provisions of the first sentence as advantageous as they appeared, since the tenant seldom furnished all capital equipment and paid all operating expenses. Both sentences were, for practical purposes, meaningless. Introduc ing the whole paragraph was the crucial phrase, “In the absence of any written agreement to the contrary”!

The first paragraph of Section 7 of Act No. 4054, which remained un-amended, had provided that “the landlord and tenant shall be free to enter into any or all kinds of tenancy contracts as long as they are not contrary to existing laws, morals and public policy.” Republic Act 34 proceeded to define “public policy”, something which had not been done by the earlier enactment:

In the final analysis the position of the average tenant had hardly been changed at all. The wartime mass destruction of carabaos (water buffaloes) by the Japanese had for the most part hurt the tenant, who had usually owned his own work animal. In the postwar period the landlord had capital with which to purchase carabaos; the tenant did not and so the landlord furnished the work animals. Thus for the tenant who owned his carabao before the war and afterwards did not-in most cases owning implements and sharing operating costs-the legal minimum share remained at 50 percent.

One might have thought that the Court of Industrial Relations and Supreme Court decisions of 1941 would have strengthened the tenant’s hand to the extent that he could have successfully refused to sign a contract without a 70-30 sharing basis. But it was not so. A Department of Justice Circular (No. 115 of April 30, 1947) held that:

“The refusal of a tenant to sign a contract of tenancy with his landlord shall, within the purview of Commonwealth Act No. 461, as amended, constitute a just cause for his ejectment from his landholding, upon proof of the following:

“( I) That the contract of tenancy is in accordance with the form prepared and furnished by the Department of Justice;

“(2) That the terms and conditions therein stipulated conform with the requirements of Act No. 4054, as amended;

“(3) That the ratio of crop-sharing assures for the tenant the minimum share that he may receive in conformity with the public policy provided in Section 7 of Act No. 4054; and

“(4) That the stipulations therein enumerated show a decided advantage or improvement in his favor or are better than the terms and conditions of his previous agreement or contract with his landlord entered into between them prior to the amendment of Act No. 4054 by Republic Act No. 34’”

By January of 1948 two decisions of the CIR, both written by Presiding Judge Arsenio Roldan, upheld this ruling. One cannot say that the Act was not being “enforced”. Judge Roldan was well acquainted with the text of Sections 7 and 8 when he said:

“The ceiling of 70-30 sharing basis allowed for. . . shall only prevail in the absence of a written tenancy contract formulated under the requirements of Section 4, Act No. 4054, as amended. If they [the tenants] reject it, the disposition of the Tenancy Law Enforcement Division granting authority to landowners to dismiss the tenants, contingent upon their refusal to sign the tenancy contracts offered, is well founded. . . . What the Act merely provides is a sharing in a level not less than 55 percent for the tenant, if he owns the work animals and farm implements and shares equally in the expenses of planting and cultivation.”10

Some decisions which went against the tenant were the results of his demanding even more than 70 percent of the crop, and by no means all the Court’s decisions were detrimental to tenant interests. In November 1947 the Court had rejected the contention of the Ongsiaco Hacienda that Republic Act No. 34 was applicable only to contracts drawn up after its passage.11 In March 1948 it declared that it had power to defer the dismissal of a tenant by his landlord, even though a just cause for such action existed.12

The Court’s November 1947 decision also included a ruling which called attention to the ambiguity of Republic Act No. 34. The Judges found in an examination of Sections 7 and 8 that in all cases the share of labor was 30 percent, of land 30, of planting and cultivating expenses 30, of work animals 5, and of farm implements, 5. Computing on this basis, and in light of the terms of the contract in the case at hand, the Court decreed that 60 per cent for the tenant would be legal. Thus the line between the sharing systems allowed by Section 7 as in accord with “public policy” and those allowed by Section 8 “in the absence of any written agreement to the contrary” was blurred-and rightly so, for the shares allotted to the factors of production were the same in both sections. One clear advantage of such an analysis is in its revelation of the real difference between the sharing provisions of Act No. 4054 and of Republic Act No. 34- The later act merely increased the share of labor from 25 to 30 percent and decreased the share of land from 35 to 30 percent.

There continued to be much talk in administration circles of the “enforcement” of the “seventy-thirty law”. Late in 1950 the Tenancy Law Enforcement Division was transferred from the Department of Justice to the Court of Industrial Relations. The transfer was said to be more economical for the government and to allow for a speedier disposition of tenancy cases.13 In June 1951 a delegation of tenants from Pampanga led by Judge Quirino Abad Santos visited the President to complain about the non-enforcement of the Law. The most that was achieved by this pilgrimage was the calling of a “tenant-landlord conciliation conference”.14 Tenant unrest and the potential mass base for Huk power remained.

Then on September 30, 1952, Chief Justice Ricardo Paras of the Supreme Court wrote a decision in Pineda v Pingul15 which, though it paid little attention to certain provisions of Republic Act No. 34, struck a blow for “social justice”. Pingul had just become the landlord of Pineda and 68 other cultivating tenants who had long been on the land. In the new contract which he asked them to sign he demanded a larger share of the crop than the previous landlord had received. In late 1951 the Court of Industrial Relations ruled that “the choice of contract terms is with the landlord and it is for the tenant either to accept or reject them. In the latter eventuality the landlord may exercise his property rights. . .” (i.e. evict the tenant).

With the help of Quirino and Vicente Abad Santos,16 the tenants appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. Though the newspaper reports led readers to believe that Chief Justice Paras’ decision would henceforth allow all tenants to choose the sharing arrangement,17 the “blow for social justice” was actually less telling. Paras agreed that the Court of Industrial Relations ruling held true at the inception of the tenancy relationship, when the “prospective tenant . . . , before being accepted, has of course to accede to the terms of the landlord”. But, said the Chief Justice, “We are inclined to hold that, where a situation involves an old and pre-existing tenant, as in this case, he cannot be forced to alter the existing share agreement.” Furthermore, “if any change is desirable in the matter of the sharing ration, the initiative and decision should lie with the tenant. . . .” The wording of this passage is certainly less than a clear promise to the tenant that he may choose the factors of production which he wants to furnish and thus what share he wants to receive. This decision, at least, makes the Rice Share Tenancy Act a bulwark against reaction in tenant-landlord relations, but re-emphasizes that its sharing provision does not constitute reform.

During the month following this ruling the Supreme Court in Vidal v Roldan again reversed the Court of Industrial Relations-this time to the detriment of the tenant. Section 1 of Republic Act No. 44 clearly stated that the latter Court had jurisdiction in disputes under “any system of tenancy” and Judge Roldan had assumed jurisdiction in a coconut tenancy dispute. But the Supreme Court held that the pertinent phrase in Republic Act No. 44 “should not be interpreted literally” and claimed that “the clear legislative intent is to make the law applicable to such other tenancy laws as may be enacted in the future, not to any system of tenancy for which no rules have yet been provided”,18 e.g. coconut tenancy. Thus the Supreme Court can become an agent by which tenant rights are diminished as well as expanded.

It is clear that a real attempt is being made by the Judiciary to enforce the Rice Share Tenancy Act. But it is not the great reform measure that the appellation “seventy-thirty law” connotes. Enforcement is not enough, nor is “amendment” by the courts. The task which the realistic Filipino reformer faces today in the realm of agrarian relations is the writing of an entirely new piece of legislation based on principles of universal application to all types of tenancy, of a 1ong-term tenancy contract — three agricultural years according to Dr. Jorge Bocobo’s proposals — and of at least 40 percent of the crop for the tenants’ labor. Dr. Bocobo, former president of the University of the Philippines, also contends that a new Share Tenancy Act should provide that the cultivator is manager of his farm, having exclusive possession of the entire crop before it is divided.19 The U. S. Mutual Security Agency (now Foreign Operations Administration) has helped the Philippine Council on United States Aid to draft a new tenancy law, but it has apparently become buried in the Philippine Congress. Such a law should have high priority in the legislative program of the new administration. The Philippine agricultural census in 1952 showed another increase in tenancy over 1939.

With these several needs in mind, it is disappointing to note a remark by the new President of the Philippines, Mr. Magsaysay, who has been hailed as a great bulwark against Communism. Shortly after the election President Magsaysay appointed a “rice committee” to make a study of that industry. On December 14 he approved the report which it presented, dealing mainly with the technical problems of production and of retail pricing. The one tenant representative on the committee, Segundino Samaniego, remarked that all the recommendations embodied in it were useless “if the tenant continues to receive the same deal as now”.20 Magsaysay assured Samaniego that the problem was easy to solve : “We will enforce the [tenancy] law and make it work”. It is to be hoped that with the keen appreciation of the plight of the rural masses which the President possesses he will, after more administrative experience, realize that the existing law cannot “work” for the tenants’ betterment and that he will demand a new one.

The key to the problem is greater political and economic strength for the tenant through organization. The Huks have completely discredited themselves and are unable now to work in peaceful ways even if they wanted to. Non-communist tenant unions and cooperatives will have to take their place as leaders of the agrarian movement. No tenancy law is likely to be enforced unless the tenants can speak with a powerful voice in the political arena.

Cornell University, February 1954


1 Act No. 4054, Sec. 29.

2 Commonwealth of the Philippines, Commission of the Census, Census of the Philippines, 1939. Vol. III, pp. 968, 1044, 1027.

3 Ibid., pp. 970, 1044. In this instance percentage is of cultivated land, not of number of farmers. In the Philippines as a whole 30.9 percent of cultivated land was farmed by tenants.

4 Tenants were often required to act as servants in the home of the landlord, or to build roads, bridges, dams, ditches, or plant fruit trees without compensation.

5 Karl J. Pelzer, Pioneer Settlements in the Asiatic Tropics, New York, 1945, p. 99.

6 Official Gazette:, 40:3 (July 19, 1941), pp. S80-S88.

7 Official Gazette:, 40: IS (October 11, 1941), pp. 31°7-3113.

8 Official Gazette:, 40: 7 (August 16, 1941), pp. !soS-ls06.

9 Jose G. Domingo, “What is the Social Improvement Service”, Manila Bulletin, February 1939, pp. 81-8S.

10 Policarpio B. Mendoza, “Tenants, What Now?”, Manila Times, January 28, 1948. The Court also upheld evictions when the landlord intended to cultivate the land himself or to employ tractors or other machinery to supplant manual labor. Ramirez v. Butor, et al., and Javelosa v. Mijares, et al. See also Department of Justice Circular No. II6, April 30, 1947.

11 Manila Times, November 27, 1947.

12 Manila Times, March 28, 1948.

13 Manila Times, February 11, 1951.

14 Manila Times, June 17, 1951.

15 Official Gazette, 48: 9 (September 1952), pp. 3901-05.

16 Brothers of both the late Chief Justice and the Central Luzon communist leader.

17 Manila Times, September 30, 1952.

18 Official Gazette, 48: 10 (October 1952), pp. 4343-46.

19 See Manila Times, January 18, 19, 1953.

20 {empty}

Categories Philippines, Agrarian policy

To: Vice-president-elect Emmanuel Pelaez
From: David Wurfel, IPA, UP
In Re: Suggestions for Administrative Reorganization and policy Changes in the Field of Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

December 27, 1961


I. Department of Natural Resources (suggest Gozon]

  • Bureau of Forestry
  • Bureau of Mines
  • Bureau of Fisheries
  • [new] Division of Surveys (old Div. of Surveys, B. of lands)
  • Division of Soils (old Soil Survey Division, B. of soil Conservation)
  • Division of Research

II. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development *

A. Under-Secretary for Agricultural Affairs

  • Bureau of Plant Industry
  • Bureau of Animal Industry
  • Bureau of Soil Conservation (minus soil surveys)
  • Philippine Sugar Institute

B. Under-Sec. for Agrarian Affairs (suggest Jaime Ferrer]

  • (new) Bureau of Agrarian Relations (or Agricultural Tenancy Commission) [suggest Fernando Santiago]
  • Abolish Tenancy Mediation Comm. and transfer its Tenant Legal Aid Section, greatly expanded, to ATC: transfer mediation function of TMC to Court of Agrarian Relations, if CAR personnel and procedures can be improved.
  • (new) Bureau of Land Management
  • Div. of Public Land Distribution (homesteads, leases, sales) NARRA (or Division of Settlement Projects)/suggest Oscar Sarte/
  • Land Tenure Administration (absorb B. of Lands, Friar Lands Division, transfer urban estates to PHHC) [suggest Julian de Vera]
    «Alternative: NARRA and LTA could be retained at Bureau level.»
  • (New) Bureau of Agricultural Credit and Marketing
  • Abaca Corp. of the Philippines
  • Philippine Coconut Administration
  • Philippine Tobacco Administration (absorbing PVTA) ACCFA

C. Under-Secretary for Community Development (suggest Binamira]

  • (new)Bureau of Agricultural Extension and Community Development (merging present BAE and PACD)
  • Field Services (integrate all bureaus’ fieldmen under regional directors: decentralize authority.)


I. Administration Policy Changes (in addition to enforcement of old policies)

  1. Abolish “isolated administrative surveys”. Let inter­ested persons pay for private surveys and put all gov­ernment efforts into cadastral and large public land surveys. (This would help make possible separation of Land Classification and Land Management and enforce­ment of prohibition on disposal of un-surveyed land.)
  2. Repeal provisions of Araneta’s directives in ACCFA fa­voring the landlords in the FACOMAS.
  3. Prosecute vigorously all delinquent debtors to ACCFA, beginning with the “big people”.
  4. Limit mortgage loans from all government banks to 50% of assessed land values.

II. New Appropriations

  1. Double or triple appropriations for surveys and land classification, including photogrammetric survey.
  2. Appropriate for at least 100 Tenancy Legal Officers for ATO. Slight expansion in judges and Commissioners of CAR. Create CAR sheriffs or marshalls to enforce orders. Give Executive Judge more administrative control over other judges.

III. New Legislation

A. Credit

  1. Gradually put all loans to FACOMAS on 50-50 matching basis. Loans to come from Philippine CO-OP Bank, DBP, Rural Banks, and
  2. Remove loaning functions from ACCFA, concentrate on management training, cooperative education, supervision, and stimulation of coop marketing.

B. Taxation

  1. Revise Assessment Law aided by photogrammetry to make assessed value a function of land classification categories which would be combination of capital­ization from average income of land types (with types to be determined on basis of soils), of drainage, of rainfall, of access to markets, etc. Such an assessment system, “potential income”, is designed to penalize under-utilization and exempt from ad­ditional taxation especially efficient utilization of the land.
  2. Special levy on uncultivated cultivable land.
  3. Establish penalty (which is now non-existent) for non-declaration of land for tax purposes.
  4. Heavy surtax on any landowner with tenants on 50 or more hectares who receives an income equivalent or more than 30% of gross produce.
    These measures, coupled with enforcement of the Tenancy Act, would help to reduce the price of agricultural land and would establish in law a relationship between land values and gross product, which is a necessary part of a land transfer program.

C. Land Transfer

  1. Repeal or amend Land Tenure Act of 1955. Pass Land Reform Act of 1962(or might be called Voluntary Land Transfer Act). Basic provision: any tenant who petitions for purchase of land he cultivates will be given loan equal to purchase price payable in 15 ( 20 ) years. Any landowner with more than 50 hectares whose tenant so petitioned must sell to him
    1. at a price equal to 3 1/2 times the annual gross product if payment in cash, in which case, loan will come from DBP, PNB, or Rural Bank,
    2. or at a price equal to 5 times the annual gross product if payment in government corporate stock or reparations certificates, in which case loan would come from LTA (and repayment period, 20 years).
      (Both owner and tenant could present data on gross annual crop; but owner’s claim in this regard would become conclusive evidence for purpose, of tax assessment.) Or, in line with thinking of Salvador Araneta, assessed value could be made prima facie evidence of land value, but owner’s income from land sale would be tax exempt.
  2. Place limitation on size of any newly acquired private individual’s landholding, preferably 200.

Categories Philippines, Agrarian policy

Review by David Wurfel in Journal of Asian Studies XXI:2, Feb. 1962
Magsaysay and the Philippine Peasantry: The Agrarian Impact on Philippine Politics, 1953-56. By FRANCES LUCILLE STARNER. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961. 304pp. $6.00 (paper)

Ramon Magsaysay and the Philippine peas­antry is a subject rich in resources both for the political scientist and the story teller, as earlier publications have indicated. Miss Starner has avoided story telling. This book is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of Philippine politics. Nevertheless, it is not entirely without a touch of romantic idealization of the subject more appropriate to the story teller’s medium.

Magsaysay was a colorful figure who charmed not only the peasant but the foreign observer. But four years after his death we are able to see his true role with some perspective. This book was apparently written, however, in 1956. It includes almost no material from that year and makes no mention of Magsaysay’s tragic end. Furthermore, its tone, aside from a prop­erly cautious concluding paragraph, is the es­sentially optimistic one which followed his 1955 election triumph. It makes no attempt to trace the administrative implementation, or lack of implementation, of the reform legislation, pas­sage of which is so carefully described.

Partly because of the locus of her field re­search, Miss Starner has defined the agrarian problem almost exclusively as it relates to Cen­tral Luzon. After a brief survey of the agrarian system in that region and the history of peasant movements there, she launches into a detailed review of the agrarian issue in the 1953 presi­dential election. Then follows a loosely struc­tured report on peasant political attitudes and the status of peasant organizations in Central Luzon. Nearly half of the 199-page text is de­voted to a description of Magsaysay’s agrarian program; a majority of this, and nearly a quar­ter of the entire book, is a lucidly written blow-­by-blow account of the enactment of the Land Reform Bill of 1955, a first-rate piece of legisla­tive history. Appended to the text are nearly forty pages of useful material, including elec­tion statistics for 1949 and 1953 and texts of the three most important agrarian reform laws passed during the Magsaysay administration.

Even with an abundance of primary sources, however, Miss Starner has reached conclusions which are not justified by her own text. This is possible partly because of failure to define terms. Nowhere has she defined “agrarian re­form,” the most important concept in the book. She has, in fact, used this term interchangeably with, “broad program of social and economic amelioration” (p. 39), “rural improvement” (p. 77), and at one point seems even to confuse “agricultural reform” with increased efficiency of production (p. 112). Terminological vague­ness and the previously noted tendency to ideal­ize Magsaysay have resulted in such generaliza­tions as “The significance of rural reform as an issue in the 1953 presidential elections can hardly be overestimated” (p. 23).

But Miss Starner, in more cautious moments, does not persist in this view. She adds, “it is by no means certain how much weight the rural voters attached to [Magsaysay’s] pro­gram” (p. 39), at one point, and “it would be difficult to overestimate the strength of personal factors as a basis for political choice in 1953,” at another. Elsewhere the conclusion is reached that Magsaysay’s “strength throughout Central Luzon appears to be more readily explicable on the basis of his contribution to peace and order than on the basis of any political promises he had made” (p. 69) In fact, this conclusion would seem the wiser; the contention that Magsaysay was “the one political leader who pressed most relentlessly for radical reform of the agrarian system” (p. 56) is nowhere substantiated.

Nor could the reference to the Nacionalista Party as “the party of reform” (p. 23), be sup­ported. Miss Starner herself admits that the Nacionalistas mentioned agrarian reform in only one of the fifteen planks of their platform, and even then failed “to come to grips with the question of means.” “In contrast, the Liberal party went to some length to enumerate spe­cific measures to assist the rural areas. . . .” “As a description of a multi phase rural im­provement program, the provisions of the Lib­eral platform were much more adequate than those of the Nacionalista platform” (p. 42).

To be sure these platforms were not an ade­quate reflection of the true intention of the respective parties and candidates (p. 46), but what Miss Starner seems not to grasp is the fact that Magsaysay was able to convey his intentions to the people without relying on plat­forms or programs. She makes only passing reference to the charismatic character of his leadership (p.37); it needs more emphasis. It was a sincere and intense concern for the peasants’ welfare, expressed through a warm and dy­namic personality, not a precise program of re­form, which won Magsaysay his mass support.

Even after his election Miss Starner fails to call attention to Magsaysay’s rather consider­able disinterest in the specifics of policy, though she does not conceal the facts. She maintains that Magsaysay’s first eight months in office re­vealed his “continued determination to carry out the program of rural reform he had out­lined in his presidential campaign” (p.141). At the same time she correctly reports that Mag­saysay’s first State of the Nation message “embodied few concrete proposals for agrarian legislation, and that the few it did contain were peripheral to the central issue of tenancy” (p.132). Even when agrarian legislation was pre­sented, Magsaysay’s failure to take advantage of the prerogatives of the presidential office per­mitted long delays in its passage and a serious weakening of its provisions.

Concerning Magsaysay’s second year in office, when the major event in agrarian policy was the passage of the Land Reform Act, the au­thor continues to insist that, “Without doubt, the enactment of the land reform bill was a tribute to the persistence of the President. . . .” Yet, alongside this statement is put the admis­sion that “the evidence seemed clearly to in­dicate that the President would have accepted a compromise with the House at crucial points in the discussions” if it had not been for the in­sistence of Sen. Montano and other presidential advisors (p.182). In fact, though Miss Starner warns that “it would be a mistake … to un­derestimate the role played by the President’s advisors on land reform,” her account does seem to underestimate their importance. Only Sen. Montano is given adequate recognition.

Errors or lack of clarity in analysis can often be redeemed by ending on a true note of the prophetic trumpet. Miss Starner’s trumpet is loud and clear. “The expectations of the peas­antry have been raised and it is no longer pos­sible to turn back the clock” (p.199). The fail­ure to meet those expectations could threaten “Philippine economic and social stability.” The threat has now become real.

International Christian University

Categories Philippines, Agrarian policy

By David Wurfel. In Democratization and Identity: Regimes and Ethnicity in East and Southeast Asia, Susan J. Henders ed. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004.


It is our purpose here to compare two countries in Southeast Asia so disparate in size and recent history that they are rarely regarded as comparable. Yet we will also find surprising similarities, which will help us explore the connections between ethnic and religious make-up, national identity and democracy. For the Philippines the question is: what has made possible the modest success with democracy despite a multi-ethnic society? For East Timor we are curious about the degree to which similarities with the Philippines are likely to produce similar political outcomes. This chapter asserts, using these two examples, that ethnic conflict occurs in authoritarian as well as democratizing, and democratic polities, and that democracy is compatible with inter-ethnic harmony in some circumstances. It identifies as crucial variables shaping the strength and ethnic inclusiveness of national identity under democratic and democratizing regimes: “balanced diversity,” the strength of the national identity to emerge during colonialism, and post-colonial religious, political, social, and economic institutions that cross ethnic lines.

The differences between the Philippines, today a state of about 80 million people, and East Timor, with less than one million, are obvious. The geographic contrast is as great as the demographic: the Philippines has more than 300,000 square kilometers and East Timor less than 15,000. East Timor is only half of one of the smaller islands in the Indonesian chain, while there are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippine archipelago.

Historically the Filipinos were the first people in Southeast Asia to throw off colonialism —if in the first instance only temporarily— and the Timorese are the last. The level of development in the two countries is also sharply different. Whereas literacy in the Philippines is reported at more than 90 percent, in East Timor it is probably less than 30 percent. The per capita GDP in the Philippines is more than five times that of East Timor, where unemployment, at least in the towns, has hovered at about 80 percent for the first few years since Indonesian withdrawal. Whereas agriculture in the Philippines contributes less than one-quarter of the GDP, for East Timor it is the overwhelming majority (World Bank 1998: 181). Altogether, East Timor’s society is more traditional than that of the Philippines.

National identity has also emerged in East Timor much more rapidly than it did in the Philippines. The process began in the Philippines in the 1870s and is still evolving today; ever since Rizal the intelligentsia have had an important role in “imagining” the nation. In East Timor, however, talk of an East Timor “nation” only started in the 1970s, as some of the educated elite began to return from abroad. From the time of the Indonesian invasion, however, nation formation was dramatic and intense and involved the local elite in only a relatively minor role, unlike cases cited by Anderson (1991). The sense of national identity was born of the shared suffering by all the people; one third of them perished. For those who were not fighting the Indonesians in the jungles, the daily insults and oppression meted out by the Indonesian overlords — who consistently called the local residents, not by their ethnic categories, but “East Timorese” — consolidated that identity. These differences, demographic, geographic, economic, and historical, are not insignificant when trying to understand the respective polities.

Yet the similarities between these two very unequal entities, while less well known, may be more important for a political comparison. The first and longest colonial regime in both was Iberian. Thus-though the causal link in East Timor is actually quite complex-both are today dominantly Catholic countries; the figure of 85 percent of the population is most often used in both places. Much more recently in East Timor, Christianity displaced, or at least overlay, animist beliefs and practices. It helped form a relatively cohesive multi-ethnic elite. Though the historical role of the Church has been quite different in the two during the twentieth century, as we shall note later, the religious affinity has been recognized by both sides in the last few years, leading to closer civil society contacts between East Timor and the Philippines than East Timor has with any other Southeast Asian country. Moreover, Catholicism played an important role in the democratization of both.

The avoidance of violence in inter-ethnic relations-with the exception of Moro-Christian conflict and the much more limited fighting in the Cordilleras (Northern Luzon mountains)1 — was also, of course, a result of the fact that the Filipino elite was first heavily Hispanicized, then even more intensely Americanized, just as the East Timorese were brought together by the Portuguese and Indonesian colonial impact. Common educational experiences, first Catholic then later also secular, contributed powerfully to elite cohesion, also a prerequisite of democracy.

The two societies are also heavily influenced by the values and relationships of patrimonialism, though the intrusion of bureaucracy and the rule of law today has been sufficient to earn the overall societal label of “neo-patrimonial” for the Philippines, and now probably also for East Timor (Wurfel 1988: 153) (the differences of degree within that category will be explored later). Patronage networks interlace ethnic identity and tend to dilute it by abetting a tendency to factionalism, as Brown also points out in this volume. Some intra-ethnic factions discover beneficial alliances with other factions outside the ethnic group. In both countries local patrons have needed to bargain with larger patrons elsewhere. On the eve of independence, both peoples chose democracy, which strengthened the bargaining position of clients and local patrons vis-à-vis central patrons. So democracy in both societies has been and will be infused with patron-client networks, a sign of an incomplete democracy. It survives in conditions of great inequality, where the poor and weak find little or no protection in the rule of law or from the actions of an honest and independent bureaucracy. For the weak client, patronage serves as the substitute source of security, but itself constitutes an obstacle to progressive change.

It is also probable that the culture of bargaining in the Philippines, which was essential for the maintenance of patronage networks based on calculations of mutual benefit, contributed to the avoidance of violence in inter-ethnic relations. For instance, it had been agreed that the members of the pre-1935 Senate would be elected by regions-some of which were ethnically homogenous-to ensure adequate representation for each. Party tickets for president and vice-president were balanced between north and south. After 1946 in elections for the Senate from a national constituency, representation of each region on the ticket was the first principle for both major parties. Patronage networks encourage inter-ethnic and inter-linguistic bargaining in East Timor as well.

What is probably the most important similarity to note in the context of this volume is the fact that in neither society is there a “majority culture” defined in ethnic terms. The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia having prolonged experience with democracy —albeit with the Marcos interruption— that also has a multiplicity of ethnic groups. There are more than 87 distinguishable languages. This very multiplicity, and the fact that no one group has more than 25 percent of the population has been crucial in the ability of Filipinos to develop a supra-ethnic national identity. East Timor, despite its small size, has more than 15 distinct ethnolinguistic groups, representing two different language families, Austronesian and Papuan. Four languages cover most of the territory, but data on number of speakers does not seem to be available (Wurm and Hattori 1981: Map 40).

Some analysts have argued that state-wide ethnoreligious homogeneity is essential for democratic stability (earlier it was said to be essential even for nationhood). It has certainly facilitated nation-building in Thailand and contributed to the rapid growth of Thai democracy in the last generation. But if the “ethnic arithmetic” is diverse and balanced-what we might call “balanced diversity,” with no one group assuming the right to control — a supra-ethnic national identity can and does emerge. The consequences for democracy may even be more beneficial than in the case of ethnic homogeneity, since a culture of inter-ethnic, then inter-group, bargaining is encouraged.

Also helpful for national unity in the Philippines was the fact that the largest ethnic group was not located around the capital. This is in contrast with Indonesia, where the Javanese, while little more than 40 percent of the population, were at the center and thus believed that they had the right to dominate —and had done so in earlier historical periods. They constituted the “majority culture,” even without a numerical majority. In fact, the Javanese have been nearly as confident about their destiny to rule as have the ethnic Burmese in Burma (Myanmar), who constitute around 70 percent of the population.

In early 1947, Aung San, the widely trusted national leader of Burma, had made a deal with the ethnic minorities (Tin Maung Maung Than 1997: 172).2 It was actually a rather awkward deal, with “self-governing” states for some minorities and not others. When Aung San was assassinated, just prior to the January 1948 independence, the glue of trust dissolved, and ethnic rebellions soon broke out. Minorities have been repressed by the military for decades in the name of “national unity.” The ethnic Burmese have remained unwilling to relinquish tight control over minority peoples; they also believe it is their right to impose their language and religion. This is a major obstacle to democracy even within the “majority culture.”

Another configuration of “ethnic arithmetic” is found in Malaysia, where “Malays” (broadly defined) constitute a narrow majority, followed by the Chinese and the Indians. Any tendency of the Malays to exercise unwanted control over the immigrant groups, which are geographically scattered, is slowed by the economic importance of the Chinese; without their capital and entrepreneurial skills the economy would founder. So a consociational policy has been followed, with the ethnic elites working out mutually acceptable political arrangements. Within Southeast Asia only Malaysia has an ethnic mix that would make this possible. And it does not always work; sometimes Malay rule has been oppressive as Judith Nagata’s chapter discusses. But it has certainly avoided the tragedy of inter-ethnic warfare experienced by Burma or Sri Lanka. In the latter case the minority Tamils are for the most part geographically isolated and do not have the economic clout of the Malaysian Chinese.


To be sure, the Philippines has had to deal with an ethnic rebellion in the Muslim portions of Mindanao and in Sulu off and on for thirty years. However, these struggles have had little impact on the nature of the central regime, which has been both authoritarian and democratic in this period. Muslims were on the geographical, cultural, and thus political periphery of the state, demonstrating that democratization can take place alongside ethnonationalist rebellion in such circumstances. The Moros (a term first used by Spaniards), a religious minority encompassing three major ethnic groups as well as smaller ones, had never been fully subdued by the Spaniards. Only in the American period did they begin to be integrated into the national society. By the 1950s many in the Moro elite were fully participant in patronage politics, even at the national level, but this was disrupted by the declaration of martial law in 1973. In the meantime Muslim religious education had grown remarkably (McKenna 1998). From the Moro viewpoint there was a “majority Filipino culture” — a Catholic one, though ethnically diverse — and it was a real threat. The rebellion continues to simmer because the economic and cultural threat is still formidable, because rebels get some external support, and because the military, ever since the Marcos era, is arrogant, abusive, and ineffective —all at once— creating more enemies than it subdues (Wurfel 1985). The Manila elite cannot reach a consensus either on basic policy reforms to undermine the rebellion or on a massive military campaign to crush it (as if that were possible). Conciliatory gestures by President Macapagal-Arroyo, though encouraging, have been inconsistent and thus probably not adequate.

A comparison between the Moro struggle for independence and that in East Timor is instructive. Even though it diverges somewhat from the theme of this chapter, this comparison demonstrates that ethnonationalist rebellion can and does occur under authoritarian and democratizing, as well as democratic regimes, and the regime type alone cannot explain its incidence. The first lesson is that massive and ruthless military might cannot subdue a nationalist rebellion (President Estrada never had at his command the military capacity that Suharto did, but still imagined in 2000 that he could “crush” the rebels). Neither can an assimilationist policy succeed. In East Timor its imposition merely caused a strengthening of Catholicism as a reaction and pushed church leaders as well as guerrilla fighters to embody nationalist goals. In Mindanao and Sulu the threat of assimilation stimulated a Muslim revival-now heavily fundamentalist.

In both the East Timorese and Moro resistances the fear of cultural genocide, made credible by a policy of assimilation from the center, was a major factor motivating continued struggle. In Mindanao and Sulu a policy of assimilation alternated from time to time with offers of, and feeble attempts to implement, autonomy both by authoritarian and democratizing governments. Other than the elites and their clients who cooperated in the “autonomy charade,” there was little or no benefit to Moros. The failure of real autonomy merely reinvigorated the demand for Moro independence, as under the present leadership of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). In East Timor when the offer of autonomy finally came in 1999, it was too late; Timorese could not trust the Indonesian government. Though the nationalist leadership in East Timor had earlier considered the possibility of autonomy during a transitional period, by 1999 they had been given the hope of an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination and, thus, the possibility of independence. Autonomy was much less attractive.

There were two other important differences between the two areas, firstly in the “ethnic arithmetic.” In East Timor there were more than 14 different linguistic groups, none large enough to claim hegemony and each splintered by the sway of more than one liurai, a chieftain or “king.” The half-island wide nationalist leadership was not riven on ethnic lines. In Mindanao and Sulu, while the Muslim population was also divided by a variety of languages, major and minor, three linguistic groups were sufficiently large, politically well-organized, and historically self-conscious to imagine that they could lead all Moros. In fact, the factions within each Moro nationalist grouping and differences between each organization were most often explainable in terms of Tausug, Maranao, and Maguindanao rivalries. This facilitated manipulation of Moro elites from Manila. The ethnic boundary between Moros and Christians was, nevertheless, very important, reinforced by religious identity.

Secondly, the demographic realities in the two areas were quite different. Indonesian migration to East Timor was overwhelmingly urban, to take up jobs in commerce and government. It was also fairly recent, mostly since the 1980s. For most Indonesians within East Timor, “home” was another province. Thus the political strength of ordinary Indonesian colons — to use an Algerian term — was not itself a major obstacle to genuine autonomy (in fact, most of them fled before the referendum in August 1999). Indonesian nationalist pride, especially within the military, was a more important reason, as was the economic interests of the Jakarta elite. All reinforced the fear of Indonesian break-up if the Timorese “lynch pin” were removed.

The migration of Christian Filipinos to Moro areas, however, had been going on for nearly a century. It occurred both as a direct result of government policy and without any government assistance, simply because of land hunger in other regions of the Philippines. A very large portion of the migration was by farmers taking over Moro land, most often illegally. The largest Muslim province before the war, Cotabato, had a non-Muslim majority already by 1948. The province of Lanao, which had a two-to-one Muslim majority in 1948, was split in two in the 1950s, with one of the resulting provinces becoming overwhelmingly Christian (Gowing 1980). In the l960s and 1970s more and more previously Muslim municipalities elected Christian mayors. Thus little by little the area where Moro independence or autonomy could be fairly or effectively asserted was shrinking. Muslim fear of demographic and, thus, cultural genocide intensified, just as successive Manila governments, authoritarian, democratizing, and democratic alike, have found it more and more difficult to gain national political support for genuine Moro autonomy. The resistance of Christian Filipinos in Mindanao to Moro independence grew even stronger. The ingredients of a stalemate were evident and factors that could break it are not at all evident.

In sum, religion has played an important role in both areas in forming national identity, though the cultural and historical depth of Muslim identity in Mindanao and Sulu was deeper than in Catholic East Timor. And, because military repression of East Timor was much more severe, the Indonesian government did not have the options for manipulating local elites that Manila did. The outcome of the struggle in East Timor was also significantly influenced by the quality of international pressure, a reaction partly to the severity of the repression. In the Philippines, on the other hand, while a few Muslim countries aided the rebels, the effectiveness of the Islamic Conference in exerting pressure on the Philippine government was limited by the fact that Indonesia, the largest and closest Muslim country, was reluctant to see too much international intervention on behalf of separatist rebels for fear that it would set a precedent for Aceh.

The similarities between the Philippines and East Timor that we have highlighted-the presence of “balanced diversity” instead of a majority (non-religious) ethnic culture; the emergence of elite cohesion fostered by common educational experiences and Catholicism; and the prevalence of patronage networks fostering a culture of bargaining across ethnic lines-all help prevent ethnic conflict at least of a non-religious nature. They thus provide some grounding for democracy. Timor is at a much earlier stage of modernization, which carries its own problems. Nevertheless, on balance, East Timor would seem to be launching its ship of state with more favorable conditions for democratic stability than those in Indonesia today. Timorese conditions are in some ways more similar to those in the Philippines a century ago.

Having introduced the major similarities and differences between the two countries, and the general conclusions that might be drawn from them, let us next describe in more detail the parallel developments in the two polities during two periods: (1) colonialism, Iberian in the first stage, and either American or Indonesian in the second; and then (2) independence and the preparation for it. This will preface a fuller elaboration of the impact of these developments on democratization in the Philippines and prospects for it in East Timor, particularly in light of ethnic diversity.

The Colonial Era

The Philippines

While both Spain and Portugal ruled their Southeast Asian colonies for more than 300 years, Spanish rule was much more direct. In its origins it was also more Church-centered. Thus though native animism was the belief system of the great majority of East Timorese until the mid-twentieth century that stage had already been passed by the eighteenth century in the Philippines, where the Church expended tremendous effort to proselytize and then participate in colonial rule. Catholicism thus played an early role in the formation of Filipino national identity.

On the other hand, the manipulation of traditional elites was the mechanism for Portuguese dominance until after 1912, when the colonial government crushed an extensive rebellion, which those elites had mounted. In the Philippines such indirect rule ended in most areas in the seventeenth century. Traditional elites there had either been eliminated or co-opted into a system of direct Spanish administration. Already by the 1870s the wealthier and more ambitious families in the new multi-ethnic elite (especially Chinese mestizos) were sending their sons to Manila and to Europe, especially Spain, for higher education.

The result of these differences was that nationalism, first voiced as a desire for equality with Spaniards, burst forth in the Philippines in the 1880s clothed in sophisticated European language, nearly one hundred years before the same development in East Timor. While the early nationalist movement was disproportionately Tagalog, in the vicinity of Manila where the political and economic impact of Spanish rule was the greatest, by 1898 it also had its adherents among the elites of most major ethnic groups. So, when the Revolution was launched near Manila, there were also some uprisings in other provinces (Constantino 1975: 212ff).3 Where it could be linked to agrarian unrest, the nationalist movement also had a mass base, an element repeated in East Timor in 1975.

The Revolution in Cebu has been carefully chronicled by Resil Mojares (1999). He found that, as in Luzon, the war against Spaniards, then Americans, was fought for diverse reasons by various segments of society. Foot soldiers were often more motivated by religious imagery or social discontent than by nationalist aspirations. But the fact remains that the uprising in Cebu in April 1898 was instigated by the Katipunan-which had triggered the first uprising near Manila-and organized by agents from Luzon. Until his capture in 1901, the leading Cebu rebel acted in the name of the Philippine Republic headed in Luzon by Emilio Aguinaldo, within the framework of his policies and, when possible, under his command. Those who fought for independence had their commitment strengthened by Spanish brutality in 1898 and by bloody American repression later. Ethnic tensions did sometimes erupt between Tagalogs in Luzon and those Cebuanos who joined in the struggle. However, given the paucity of their common experiences before 1898 and the difficulties of communications between them at the time, what is more notable is the degree of their cooperation in the nationalist cause.

Yet the Filipino elite, whether in Luzon or Cebu, which briefly rallied to the anti-colonial cause when revolutionary chances seemed good, was quickly co-opted by the Americans when the nationalist army was routed. After 1902 American rule offered social stability and local self-government, amidst talk of eventual independence. Local elites were soon given full control over municipal government. By 1907 the election of representatives to a national legislature under the banner of specifically nationalist parties-within the context of patronage politics-helped to create a moderate, accommodationist nationalism. Teaching about Jose Rizal was promoted in the American-run public schools, where English became the language of instruction.

Pardo de Tavera, a leading member of the elite who quite successfully survived the transition from Spanish to American colonialism, commented in 1928, “Each day tribal differences are being erased; and by means of facilities in communication, by our system of education… and principally by the extension of the Spanish language and now of the English, we have seen how local differences have passed away… how the idea of nation is gaining ground” (Abueva 1998: 169).

When a new constitution was framed in 1935 for the Philippine Commonwealth, Tagalog was voted “the national language,” even though the working language of government, education, and business remained English. Fortunately for nation-building, that “national language” was not pushed hard enough to produce a strong hostile reaction from non-Tagalog regions. Its usage expanded because Manila was the center of commerce and of journalism. Even more important was the fact that the Tagalog movie industry dominated the Philippine screen. It was already becoming a lingua franca before the enforcement of the use of Tagalog in public schools after independence.

The common experience of American administration (which greatly expanded education), the nationalist rhetoric of politicians-in full flight at election time, helping to keep alive, at least dimly, memory of the Revolution-and, thirdly, the constant growth of inter-island trade permitted the gradual strengthening of a Filipino national identity in the American period. However, since most Filipinos did not regard themselves as anti-American, especially after fighting alongside Americans against the Japanese, by the time of formal independence in 1946 many Asian neighbors regarded Filipino nationalism as “weak.” In fact, many Filipinos were themselves conscious of this perception. Said one writer, “Unlike the Indonesians and the Vietnamese, we Filipinos did not regain our independence on the battlefield, which would have given us a strong sense of nationhood. Instead our independence was restored almost on a silver platter…” (quoted in Abueva 1998: 227).

East Timor

In comparison, the period of anti-colonial nationalism in East Timor was brief-a few years under the Portuguese and 24 years against Indonesia-and intense. However, the beginnings of Timorese nationalism were not so different from those in the Philippines and overlay ethnic divisions every bit as numerous. There was no university in Dili, so by the 1960s the sons of the elite began to go abroad, often to Portugal. Those who went to Portuguese colonies in Africa, either exiled or by choice, got a particularly strong dose of anti-colonial nationalism, with a large portion of socialism mixed in (Joliffe 1978: 56ff). However, the vigilance of the Portuguese political police was such that when they returned home nothing could be said or written publicly about their nationalist aspirations.

Nevertheless, when the dictatorship was overthrown in Portugal in April 1974, so much nationalist political activity boiled to the surface so quickly that it was obvious that the underground had been active. Three major political parties were formed: the União Democrática Timorense (UDT) in early May 1974 and, less than two weeks later, the Social Democratic Union (known as FRETILIN (Frente Timorense de Libertação Nacional)). Both supported independence. Some of the founders of both parties were in the 2001 Dili cabinet. The third party was the Indonesian-backed APODETI (Associação Popular Democrática Timorense), already committed to integration with Indonesia. Most leaders of both UDT and FRETILIN were Catholics. However, while the anti-Communist UDT retained close links with the Church hierarchy, the younger FRETILIN leaders were at odds with the Church as an arm of the Portuguese administration, even though several had trained for the priesthood (Joliffe 1978: 70)-just as Rizal and the leaders of the 1898 Revolution had opposed the Spanish church in the Philippines. Notably, then, EAST TIMORESE parties expressed ideological rather than ethnic divisions.

The newly progressive Portuguese government launched a decolonialization process, which was well under way by the end of 1974. At the same time FRETILIN organized agricultural cooperatives and literacy programs using Tetum (the most widely used indigenous language in villages around the country. Agreement was reached on formation of a transitional government in October 1975. Under increasing threat from Indonesia, UDT and FRETILIN formed a coalition to work toward independence. Early 1975 was a time of hope (Joliffe 1978: 109).

But friction between UDT and FRETILIN was growing, sometimes triggering street fights. “Communist” charges against FRETILIN by UDT and the Church multiplied-with Indonesian back-up, even inspiration. In May UDT withdrew from the coalition. Then, in August, after some of their officers had visited Jakarta, they launched a coup against the Portuguese colonial regime. Many of FRETILIN’s local leaders were killed. Some Portuguese troops sided with UDT. But within days FRETILIN regained strength and by August 19 launched a counter-coup, also gaining the support of elements in the colonial army. By September they were in control of almost all the half-island. The Portuguese civil servants fled, and FRETILIN took over the administration.

In the next three months, though faced by increasing Indonesian threats and incursions, FRETILIN won widespread support from the population and continued to build agricultural cooperatives and village schools. There was a functioning administration in some ways comparable to parts of the Philippines in 1898. But the Indonesian invasion of border areas and finally the November 27 capture of Atabae, on the road to Dili was a turning point. In order to try to get the international attention that it had found so difficult to secure, the FRETILIN regime declared independence the next day. On December 8 the long-feared event happened: the Indonesian army launched a full-scale attack, including the dropping of paratroopers on Dili (Taylor 1999: 62-5). The major powers looked the other way. After bitter fighting with heavy casualties, colonialism was reimposed, though it took years for the Indonesian National Army (TNI) to control most of the countryside.

In 1974-75 the role of an educated elite “imagining East Timor” had been quite important. The dominant party helped spread its national vision to the countryside with a mass literacy program. Through the Dili media and by policy decisions, FRETILIN leaders were also able to disseminate their concept of economic nationalism, which was clearly distinct from the policies of the UDT. But in the subsequent 24 years of Indonesian military oppression, it was the common experience of that oppression, and the people’s reaction thereto that formed a nation in a crucible of fire. Elite images, despite moving rhetoric, were insignificant in comparison to the fact that virtually every citizen had had a family member killed by the TNI. Even the limited good done by the Indonesian occupation, especially the expansion of the school system, deepened the formation of a nation. Though the introduction of Bahasa Indonesia gave Timorese another common language, its forcible imposition, along with the doctrine of Pancasila, intensified student opposition to the occupying power.

In time-honored scorched-earth tactics the Indonesian military burned villages and crops and relocated farmers to virtual concentration camps along roads, trying to destroy traditional social structures that might form the basis of opposition. One third of the population died. By a cruel twist of fate this Indonesian brutality was largely responsible for creating a nation out of a mélange of linguistic and tribal groups, a process barely begun by the nationalist elite in 1975. Mass movements of population, whether under TNI orders or under FRETILIN leadership escaping the TNI by going deeper into the mountains, contributed immensely to the formation of a national identity, atop surviving traditional values and social networks. The tactical necessity for the guerrillas to find a means of communication among their units that was generally unintelligible to the TNI also contributed to the process. For that means was Tetum, used in the mountains by the guerrillas and in the towns more and more by the Catholic Church.

A segment of the elite that made a substantial shift toward assisting nation formation in this period was the Church hierarchy. As we noted, the Church had been widely viewed, even by devout Catholics, as an arm of Portuguese colonialism. In fact, in 1975 the Portuguese bishop was taking a stronger stand against FRETILIN than some of the progressive military officers representing Lisbon. But even the conservative Dom Jose Joaquim Ribeiro could not tolerate the slaughter of innocent civilians going on around him, so in 1977 requested retirement (Taylor 1999: 152ff). His assistant, Martinho da Costa Lopes, was named to replace him. Costa Lopes, formerly a member of the National Assembly in Lisbon, was the first Timorese —though obviously a fully assimilated one— to hold this position. Receiving regular reports from his priests in the countryside gave him a good understanding about the course of the war. At first he tried dialog with the Indonesian commanders. When this failed he turned to public criticism.

Costa Lopes became sufficiently successful as a spokesman for the Timorese people that Indonesian pressure on the Vatican brought the bishop’s forced “early retirement” in 1983 (see Lennox 2000). He was replaced by a young Timorese priest, Carlos Belo, who had spent thirteen years in Portugal and Rome. Many of the Timorese clergy, presuming he would be an Indonesian tool, boycotted his inauguration. But the Indonesian military were soon disappointed. Within five months of arriving Bishop Belo protested vehemently against Indonesian violence. His ongoing reports on the details of TNI massacres produced a sympathetic response from the Portuguese hierarchy, but alienated the Indonesian Catholic leadership. In February 1989 Belo wrote to the UN Secretary General calling for a referendum on independence. Meanwhile priests were frequently beaten and churches entered by the military to arrest parishioners. Major Prabowo, President Suharto’s son-in-law and an officer active in East Timor, warned, “the church… threatens East Timor’s integration with Indonesia. The people must turn against it.” But the Indonesian tactics were clearly counter-productive.

As John Taylor points out (1999: 157), “[The Church’s] opposition to the forcible Indonesian annexation marked the culmination of the process of growing institutional rejection” throughout East Timorese society. He notes that, “the differentiated social structure of the pre-invasion period,” marked by cleavages between urban and rural, rich and poor, assimilated and indigenous, and distinct linguistic groups, “converged politically and ideologically because of the military occupation.” The Church benefited from its nation-building role: the percentage of East Timorese who were Church members more than doubled in the years of Indonesian occupation. Prabowo was right, but, as a result of his regime’s policies, the people turned even more toward the Catholic Church. Ironically, there was a period in the 1980s when the Indonesians had decided, “if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em,” and built, at government expense, a number of large new churches, hoping to win over the priesthood. It was to no avail. TNI slaughter of innocent civilians in the countryside continued.

Though FRETILIN and the Church were fierce competitors in 1975, divided by charges of “communist” on one side and “colonialist” on the other, the struggle against the Indonesian occupation brought them together, just as it healed the bitter rift between FRETILIN and its political rival, UDT. Such reconciliations did not happen automatically, however, but were in part a product of enlightened leadership with an inclusive view of the nation, especially that of the charismatic Xanana Gusmão. By 1981 he had become president of both FRETILIN and its guerrilla arm, FALANTIL. Soon afterwards he took the lead in the creation of a broader nationalist coalition, Conselho Nacional de Resistencia Revolucionaria (CNRR), which brought segments of UDT under its umbrella. FALANTIL too was widened to include UDT elements.

Though he had made overtures to the Church even earlier, in May 1986, after Bishop Belo had already displayed his nationalist mettle, Gusmão wrote a long letter to East Timorese Catholic youth, revealing considerable movement since the heady days of FRETILIN Marxism in the late 1970s. Said Gusmão, himself an ex-seminarian (Gusmão 2000: 123ff), “The Church in East Timor… has been the moral support in the struggle of our people, a precious helping hand that has eased the pain of our people during their resistance to the vile and cowardly Indonesian aggression….” He added, “A Church like this is a church of and for the people!” He also noted the similarity in the role of the Church in bringing the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. But he concluded with another important point, helping to maintain unity along another dimension: “FRETILIN is a movement of liberation in which a militancy of Christians, as well as non-Christians, co-exists.”

Clearly to a much greater degree than in the Philippines, it was the nationalist struggle itself, against terrible odds that formed an East Timorese nation. In 1993 Benedict Anderson admitted that his emphasis, in earlier writing on nationalism, on the confluence of the spread of capitalism and printing was not appropriate for East Timor (Anderson 1993). But he could not bring himself to see the overwhelming importance of the experience of struggle in shaping identities.

The Post-Colonial Era

The Philippines

There are those who doubt if colonialism has really past in either country. In the Philippines, as long as the presence of US military bases dominated the country’s external relations, a type of neo-colonialism persisted (neo-colonial attitudes helped facilitate the renewed US military role after September 11, 2001). Though the American economic presence is still powerful, it is balanced by the cooperative/competitive role of Japan (Wurfel 1988: 197-201). The American cultural hangover from which Filipinos have not yet recovered is now the primary, and still very noticeable, colonial residue.

A number of nationalizing tendencies continued, for example, the spread of Tagalog, or Filipino, even to the point of being used in university classes and state addresses as well as pervading the media. Consciousness of national identity was intensified by the campaign against US bases in the l980s, culminating in the Senate’s rejection in 1991 of a treaty extending their tenure. Most important to remember is that there has been no revival of ethnic identity among the various Christianized linguistic groups since the transition to independence, or since the restoration of democracy in 1986. This is a tribute to the cultural cohesion of the elite and a political system that did not impose a “majority culture,” except in the view of the Moros.

To be sure, Muslim unrest in the South spread under authoritarian rule in the 1970s, as we already noted. However, it has not been extinguished since the fall of Marcos. Even though a series of negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front finally produced a second cease fire in the early 1990s (the first, only temporary, was in 1976) and the cooptation of its leaders, true autonomy was not granted. Thus a new, more militant group emerged to continue the armed struggle. Meanwhile Christian incursions on Muslim land and culture continued. Because it does not spawn other separatist movements in other parts of the country, Filipinos imagine that they can “afford” to neglect finding a solution to the Moro rebellion. The mirage of normality as viewed from Manila is sustained in part by the fact that election to national offices continues in Muslim areas, confirming Filipino cooptation of a segment of the Moro elite into the majority vision of a democratic nation.

In the Philippines more generally, one could argue that the electoral system based on patronage networks preempted any tendency towards regional linguistic chauvinism. Patronage was indeed a potent characteristic of the system. Even the emergence of the Marcos dictatorship did not eliminate, but only centralized it. In the post-Marcos democratic transition patronage was again decentralized. One small step toward undermining the patrimonial impact-and strengthening the nationalizing one-was taken in the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, which called for 20 percent of the House of Representatives to be elected by the party-list, or proportional representation, system. But Congress, unfamiliar with it and a bit worried that it might actually be able to achieve its intended goal-since members were already immersed in patronage politics-did not pass implementing legislation until 10 years later, legislation which has caused as many problems as it solved (Wurfel 1997). So the party-list election in 1998 was poorly carried out. Even so, it brought into the House of Representatives some new blood with a national perspective, more attentive to policy issues and the interests of the ordinary Filipino. After the May 2001 election an even larger number of reformist, and in a few cases, revolutionary, faces appeared in the House. They are able to ignore local and emphasize national, supra-ethnic issues to a degree impossible for those elected from single member districts.

During the martial law period, the Marcos dictatorship sparked a revival of the role the Catholic Church in the formation of national identity that had not been seen for centuries. As in a number of other authoritarian countries-including East Timor under Indonesian occupation-when secular political opposition was crushed, religious institutions took on more political roles. Under the leadership of Cardinal Sin in the mid-1980s the Church not only provided crucial direction to the anti-Marcos movement at the elite level, but opportunities for mobilizing mass support. This latter function was much like what was beginning to go on in East Timor at the same time. But within a few years after the return of free elections in the Philippines, the Church’s leadership had been dissipated by the many pressures of patronage politics, and it resumed the relatively minor role it had had before the 1970s.

East Timor

Though East Timor was liberated from Indonesian colonialism with the arrival of the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) in September 1999, and the takeover of civil administration by the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) a month later, the UN itself operated a kind of colonialism in the eyes of many East Timorese. UN employees lived apart from the local people, were often haughty in their dealings with them, and enjoyed a life style far above that of the local economy. In the interim, before East Timor gained juridical independence in 2002, political institutions were formed which will largely determine the characteristics of an independent East Timor, often with little consultation with East Timorese. However, one advantage of “UN neo-colonialism” is that its negative stimulus may have helped sustain Timorese national consciousness and discourage ethnic distinctions.

Crucial elements of this interim regime were both beneficial and detrimental to stable democracy. The most obvious factor was negative: the UN’s very slow pace in reconstructing the devastated economy. With urban unemployment remaining near 80 percent, the potential for social conflict, and its exploitation by every form of chauvinism, continued. In fact, gang fights in Dili and the second largest city, Baucau, multiplied in early 2001.

The second negative factor, which cannot be blamed on the UN, is the psychological letdown after a long struggle, the full consequences of which are not yet known. A whole generation of East Timorese put private gain and family happiness on hold for the sake of national resistance. A revival of personal priorities is almost inevitable. It has, for instance, become a major factor in the national psyche and behavior patterns of the Vietnamese since their series of wars against the French, the Americans, the Chinese, and the Cambodians ended in 1990. One saw the same phenomena in the Philippines among those who emerged from the underground struggle against Marcos in the late l980s.

Alongside personal priorities it is possible to note a revival of indigenous cultures and the patrimonialism that pervades them (this is not diluted as much by education, urbanization, or NGO activism as in the Philippines). While we have said that patronage networks may crosscut ethnic identities, it is not yet clear whether a part of the traditionalist revival, which certainly includes a reassertion of the community leadership of the liurai, will also strengthen first-language identity. It was over-ridden by an East Timorese identity for more than two decades of struggle and has even now been given little positive institutional reinforcement.

The positive indicators for East Timor’s future as a democracy relatively free of ethnicized conflict are to be found in the institutions and leadership, which are now emerging. Bishop Belo, who recently resigned, was more restricted in his political role by the emergence of competition from civil society and political parties. However, the Church remains the dominant national institution outside government and a major force for integration across ethnolinguistic lines.

Xanana Gusmão, who for a while headed the National Council (an appointive body representing all segments of East Timor’s society, which advised UNTAET), as president remains a strong voice for national as opposed to ethnically particular priorities and against corruption, though not all his friends are above reproach. He helped speed up the planning for independence-though his personal decision-making style is not always democratic. He has championed reconciliation with Indonesia and its East Timorese friends.

Gusmão endorsed what appears to have been the idea of European experts in UNTAET: a constituent assembly/legislature elected primarily from a nation-wide constituency through proportional representation. In fact, 75 out of 88 seats were chosen in this way on 30 August 2001, with only 13 elected from each of the administrative districts. Sixteen political parties presented lists of party candidates for the national constituency.4 In order to win, parties had to present linguistically balanced tickets. In so far as the political parties that gradually emerge are differentiated on ideology and policy, this system will weaken patronage politics as well as linguistic identities. The initial winner was clearly FRETILIN, which dominated the resistance movement for many years. It won 57 percent of the votes and 62.5 percent of the seats. It also won seats in all but one of the districts, indicating that its support was well distributed geographically, and thus linguistically, and that it would be most unlikely to favor any particular linguistic group.5 Nowhere else in Southeast Asia has a dominantly proportional representation electoral system been introduced. Hopefully, it will be hailed as a bold move for national unity. It was particularly appropriate to select in this way the body that drafted the nation’s constitution, as it allowed ten smaller parties to be represented alongside the dominant FRETILIN.

Unfortunately, on one dimension Gusmão’s leadership has been divisive, on his backing of Portuguese as the “official language” and the language of education. Given that probably less than 5 percent of Timorese have a working knowledge of that language, almost all in the older generation, this has split the people of East Timor on generational lines. High school and university students, who have so far been educated entirely in Indonesian, have been particularly vocal in opposing the introduction of Portuguese. Even judges have been resistant to the idea. The vice-president of the Dili court has told the press that judges expected to continue to use both Tetun and Indonesian for another fifteen years. Said he, “The courts will not risk using a language that is not understood.”6 But a primarily generational cleavage which cross-cuts ethnicity is hardly a threat to the most vulnerable dimension of national unity.

There was also a negative side to the rapidity with which independence preparations moved. Administrative institutions after independence were not ready to handle the tasks they face, made all the worse by the systematic way in which the Indonesian army destroyed all types of records (the destruction of land ownership and tax records may have been the most devastating). The establishment of a civil service was slow to begin. Departments and bureaus were handed over to the East Timorese, most of whom had no previous administrative experience, when the ink was hardly dry on the relevant regulations. To bring massive, but much needed, international funding for rehabilitation into this situation will be a formula tailor-made for widespread corruption, undermining the legitimacy of new national institutions.

Following the end of international aid will come a very substantial royalty from the Timor Gap oil field, exploited jointly with Australia, which is estimated at several billion dollars for East Timor over the next two decades.7 This could soon result in annual revenue more than three or four times the present yearly budget (The long-term returns would be much greater if Australia would agree to a maritime boundary consistent with precedents in international law). Some analysts believe that this will be a greater challenge to the growth of stable democracy than ethnic conflict, because of the widespread corruption that it may well engender (Ross 2001). East Timorese leaders are aware of the potential dangers and are talking about investing a large portion of oil and gas revenues in something like the Canadian province of Alberta’s Heritage Fund. Whether this will really be a solution remains to be seen. Thus, while the prospects for ethnic separatism appearing in the midst of East Timorese democracy are slim, the other problems are sufficiently daunting to make any analyst very cautious about predictions.


While this volume has recognized that ethnic conflict may emerge in both authoritarian and democratic contexts under certain circumstances, the East Timor/Philippine comparison emphasizes the potential by harmonious compatibility of ethnic diversity and democracy. This is true even when democracy is defined primarily in terms of free and competitive political institutions. When democracy has been “deepened,” that is, extended to socio-economic relationships as suggested by Rankin and Goonewardena, then the prospect of inter-ethnic conflict, intermingled with class warfare, is even less.

The comparison which is our focus recognizes that there are three important conditions which must exist to permit democratic development amidst inter-ethnic harmony: the proper “ethnic arithmetic,” that is, “balanced diversity”; a colonial experience that creates a supra-ethnic national identity; and post-independence institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, which strengthen that identity, or at least prevent its erosion by ethnic loyalties. Let us recapitulate the importance of those conditions.

Ethnic Balance

The percentage of the population that each ethnic group constitutes in a multi-ethnic society is a more important factor than much of the literature recognizes. Where one group is large and powerful enough to assume the right to dominate the others, and does so, the outcome is particularly damaging to inter-ethnic harmony, whether under democratic or authoritarian auspices.

In the Philippines and East Timor, there are not only numerous ethnic groups, but also no one that constitutes more than about 25 percent of the population. And in neither country is there a history of a large grouping controlling nearby ethnicities. Thus to reach national decisions, the necessity exists for inter-ethnic bargaining, a process compatible with democracy. In both cases the language of the capital region emerged to “national language” status, but was not imposed on non-native speakers without a period of commercial and cultural diffusion that expanded the number of “national language” speakers on a largely voluntary basis. In the Philippines Tagalog did not become the actual lingua franca until about a generation after independence, displacing English, which is still an “official language.” According to President Gusmão, Portuguese will remain the “official language” in East Timor for at least another decade, while the use of Tetun expands-but what this means in practice remains to be seen.

Colonial Experience

Colonial rule created, as a reaction, super-ethnic national identities within the boundaries of both polities. But the intensity and social levels of that identity varied widely. In the Philippines under Spain, self-identity as “Filipino” was largely limited to the elite, many of whom studied at European universities. During the American period the social basis of nationalism widened due to the rapid expansion of English education, in which there was some coverage of the history of Philippine nationalism and the rise of specifically nationalist political parties. The brutality of the Japanese occupation spread it still further.

In East Timor under the Portuguese, as under Iberian rule in the Philippines, national identity was limited to a small elite. But the ferocity of Indonesian conquest and occupation, resisted under the leadership of young nationalists, quickly created an awareness of East Timorese identity in the countryside as well as in cities. The best evidence of the width and depth of that identity was in the referendum of August 30, 1999, when nearly all registered voters turned out at the polls and voted for independence, despite considerable coercion by the militias to stay at home and moreover, even though many feared terrible violence would follow-as it did.


Because identities can change over time (see Gorenburg 2000) and are significantly influenced by institutions, the nature of institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, after independence is crucial. Without appropriate institutions the national identity that emerged from the independence struggle can be eroded. In both East Timor and the Philippines, religious, political, economic, and civil society institutions have served, or may serve, to consolidate a supra-ethnic national identity. The importance of religion can be seen in Mindanao, where a religious divide helped foster the emergence of a separate identity.

The most influential consolidator among political institutions in the Philippines has been the national constituency to elect the President and Senate, which has spawned national, not regional, political parties. In East Timor the August 2001 elections were dominated by the competition in nation-wide constituencies for the Constituent Assembly, making it very difficult for any party with strength only in one linguistic region to win seats. Nor is there yet evidence that cleavages of political ideology reinforce those of ethnicity. In any case, an electoral system that requires parties to make inter-ethnic alliances is likely to overcome any tendencies of this sort.

The significance of economic institutions, i.e. the accepted process for accumulating and distributing wealth, have long been recognized in the building of secessionist movements. For instance, if the territory of an ethnic minority is endowed with mineral wealth over which that minority has no control, a powerful motive for separation is apparent. But even before a secessionist movement has been formed, national/regional disputes over resources may be very contentious, as between Canada and Alberta. In the Philippines, oil is not a factor and mineral wealth is, fortunately, rather evenly distributed throughout the country. Even then, the centralization of revenue collection from mineral development causes center/periphery friction. But such friction is, except in Mindanao, not peculiar to an ethnically defined region. Land is also a basic resource, and particular peoples are tied by tradition to particular lands. The inability of the Moros to prevent Christian encroachment on their land is the root of the Moro rebellion. In matters of wealth distribution, the effectiveness of public administration in implementing the law honestly and fairly is crucial. The Philippine government in Mindanao failed particularly in regards to land law.

Economic institutions in East Timor are just now being formed, and these for controlling oil revenue is by far the most important. Fortunately the Timor Gap oil field, being undersea, is not located in any particular district, though related onshore facilities will be. Yet royalties will apparently accrue to the national government. Thus on these grounds there could be some friction. As noted, oil wealth may also breed corruption and, thus, undermine the legitimacy of the national government, as in Nigeria. Again the effectiveness of public institutions in responding to popular demands for fairness and proper legal procedures will be crucial.

Strong bureaucratic institutions, the legacy of British colonialism, have been said to constitute a potent constraint on ethnic conflict in India and Malaysia. This is undoubtedly true. But neither East Timor nor the Philippines entered independence so blessed. In Dili it is only in the last two years that Timorese have begun to get experience in the higher civil service. Furthermore, civil service rules are still incomplete, and there is almost no experience in applying them. If strong bureaucratic capacity were an essential prerequisite for ethnic harmony and democratic development, then East Timor is a born loser. Of course, the Philippines was better off at independence. Yet the Philippine bureaucracy is itself much more corrupt and less effective than that in Malaysia. By 1946, in the former polity, there had already been a generation of patronage politics during which elected legislators brought civil servants under their control. Despite several waves of reformist verbiage since, no major change has taken place. An honest, independent bureaucracy may not be essential for a modicum of democratic development, but more and more Filipinos are now recognizing what an advantage it would be.

Civic associations in the Philippines-where the number per capita is the highest in Southeast Asia-are more important than bureaucracy in weaving a network of national identity. Despite the fact that many work at the local level, there are also many national federations. However, again, the Christian/Muslim divide in Mindanao prevented civil society from playing an integrating role there; in Moro society there are very few civic activities not linked to Muslim institutions. In East Timor, on the other hand, secular civic associations, suppressed in the Indonesian period, have emerged since 1998. Now mostly inter-ethnic in character, they have become quite numerous, but may still be dwarfed by the extent and influence of traditional networks based on patrimonialism. As noted above, those networks, usually village-based, do not constitute a nationalizing force, but are more likely to fragment than consolidate ethnic groups, which extend over many villages.

Religious institutions do not contribute as much today in either country to the formation of national identity as they did earlier. However, since the dominant institution in each country is the Catholic Church, with highly centralized and well-articulated communication patterns, the contribution to national unity is still great. Furthermore, since in both countries the Church has demonstrated that it is willing to become a channel of citizen protest if the regime becomes authoritarian, this religious institution is also beneficial to the preservation-or, if necessary restoration-of democracy. In both countries identity as a Catholic and even, simply, as a Christian is closely associated with national identity. Whereas among Moros religious identity is broader than ethnic, among Christians ethnic identity is a much weaker, sub-national phenomenon.

In addition to the demographic, historical, social, institutional, and economic factors we have entered into the explanatory equation, one more cannot be ignored-leadership. This is hardly quantifiable, and thus unpopular in some circles. To be sure, it is a factor that has often been overemphasized, without sufficient analytical rigor, by traditional scholars. Nevertheless, it cannot be disregarded. The role of nationalist leadership in winning and/or consolidating independence has been especially prominent in the literature on Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India. That it was much less important in the twentieth-century Philippines is also deserving of note. The Philippines reaches back to the 1890s for its most celebrated national heroes, who were nevertheless unsuccessful in their struggle against Spain and the US. Potential national heroes just before and just after independence in 1946 were often tainted by their performance in government. Marcos was certainly a very strong leader, but hardly a “hero.” The partial success of national unity and democratic development has not depended significantly on Filipino leadership rising above contextual factors.

It is yet too early to give an unequivocal assessment in East Timor. President Gusmão is undoubtedly a charismatic figure, a quality derived in large part from his skillful and heroic leadership of the resistance against Indonesia even while seeking a negotiated settlement. Given his lack of peacetime experience when he was released from prison in 1999, he has played an especially constructive role in the preparation for independence. Though his record is not spotless, the presidency was his for the asking. After showing considerable reluctance to do so, he finally agreed to run and was elected overwhelmingly. Without him, without his inclusive vision and healing touch, East Timor would be in even worse difficulties than it is. Meanwhile, the Constitution has set up the office of Prime Minister as a formidable competitor to the role of the President. It remains to be seen whether the initial rancor of this competition will abate.

Though Philippine stability has been threatened in recent years by increasing economic inequality, corruption, and military and revolutionary adventurism-all compounding a process of institutional decay, within Christian areas at least ethnic conflict has not contributed to instability, making the Philippines more fortunate in this regard than several other Asian countries. East Timor has some of the same factors impinging on the prospects for democracy there. Inter-ethnic conflict is not likely to be a serious threat, but corruption and economic inequity, not to mention Indonesian machinations, could become serious problems (though Indonesia as a continuing external threat will serve to strengthen national unity). In both countries, history, demography, institutions, and socio-economic structures will have a profound impact on political developments. However, in both, as well, there is likely still to be a crucial role for the exercise of leadership committed to democracy, good governance, social equity, and harmony between ethnolinguistic groups.


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Constantino, Renato, 1975. The Philippines: A Past Revisited. Quezon City: Tala Publishing Services.

Gorenburg, Dmitry. 2000. “Not with One Voice: An Explanation of Intragroup Variation in Nationalist Sentiment.” World Politics 53 (October): 115-142.

Gowing, Peter G. 1980. Muslim Filipinos: Heritage and Horizon. Quezon City: New Day.

Gusmão, Xanana. 2000. To Resist is to Win! Richmond, Victoria: Aurora Books.

Hicks, David. 1976. Tetum Ghosts and Kin. Palo Alto: Mayfield.

Hill, Hal and Joao Saldanha, eds. 2001. East Timor: Development Challenges for the World’s Newest Nation. Singapore: ISEAS.

Horowitz, Donald. 1997. “Self-Determination: Politics, Philosophy and Law.” In Ethnicity and Groups Rights, eds. Ian Shapiro and Will Kymlicka. New York: New York University Press.

Jolliffe, Jill. 1978. East Timor: Nationalism and Colonialism. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

McKenna, Thomas. 1998. Muslim Rulers and Rebels. Berkeley: University of California Press.

May, Glenn A. 1987. A Past Recovered. Quezon City: New Day Publishing.

Mojares, Resil B. 1999. The War against the Americans: Resistance and Collaboration in Cebu. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Lennox, Rowena. 2000. Fighting Spirit of East Timor: The Life of Martinho da Costa Lopes. Annandale, Australia: Pluto Press.

Ross, Michael L. 2001. “Does Oil Hinder Democracy.” World Politics 53 (April): 325-61.

Steinberg, David Joel, ed. 1971. In Search of Southeast Asia: A Modern History. New York: Praeger.

Taylor, John G. 1999. East Timor: The Price of Freedom. London: Zed Books.

Tin Maung Maung Than. 1997. “Myanmar Democratization: Punctuated Equilibrium or Retrograde Motion.” In Democratization in Southeast and East Asia, ed. A. Laothamatas. Singapore: ISEAS.

Varshney, Ashutosh. 2001. “Ethnic Conflict and Civil Society.” World Politics 53 (April): 362-395.

World Bank. 1998. World Development Indicators, 1998. Washington, D.C.

Wurfel, David. 1985. “Government Responses to Armed Communism and Secessionist Rebellion in the Philippines.” In Governments and Rebellions in Southeast Asia, ed. Chandran Jeshurun. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

—. 1988. Filipino Politics: Development and Decay. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

—. 1997. “The Party-List Elections: Sectoral or National? Success or Failure?” Kasarinlan 13 No. 2: 19-30.

Wurm, Stephen, and Shiro Hattori, 1981. Language Atlas of the Pacific Area. Canberra: Australian Academy of the Humanities in collaboration with the Japan Academy.


1 Despite armed conflict between some of the peoples of the Cordilleras and the Philippine government in the 1980s, the struggle was not for secession. Even though as late as 1943 Carlos Romulo could write “the Igorot [one of the Cordillera ethnic groups] is not Filipino and we are not related” (quoted in Abueva 1998: 211). In the l980s a highly regarded anthropologist commented, more accurately, “because these highland Filipinos are nationalists,… they hope that within an autonomous region, they will no longer be second class citizens” (quoted in Abueva 1998: 199).

2 This recognition of the importance of ethnicity is, quite surprisingly, found only in the Tim Maung Maung Than chapter on Burma of the Laothamatas book on democratization in East and Southeast Asia. Ethnicity receives no mention at all in other chapters.

3 But to be sure, there were also tensions between different ethnic elites in the course of the Revolution (see May 1987: 163).

4 AP, 2 July 2001.

5 Mailing list tapol-etimor-l@gn.apc.org (not archived). Accessed on 8 September 2001.

6 “East Timor: Legal System to Retain Tetun and Bahasa Indonesia.” LUSA, 6 September 2001.

7 “In Timor Gap Deal, Little Guy May Finish First,” Christian Science Monitor, 21 May 2001; “East Timor gets $7bn for its share of oil and gas in historic deal,” Sydney Morning Herald, 4 July 2001

Categories Philippines, East Timor

By David Wurfel. In Current History (December 1992).

The May 1992 election was not a turning point in Philippine politics. That it was held, on schedule, that it was relatively free and honest, and that, despite a narrow victory in a multicandidate race, constitutional procedures were followed right down to the installation of Fidel Ramos-all this served to strengthen rather than weaken Philippine democracy. But there was so much dissatisfaction with the process — the great number of candidates, the confusion of simultaneous national and local elections, the lack of attention to issues, and the massive expenditures, including vote buying — that the events of May and June hardly constituted the conclusive “consolidation of democracy” that so many participants and analysts had been looking for. That consolidation now depends on the way in which President Ramos uses his power and how effectively he deals with the Philippines’ many economic, social, and political problems.

How Different Are They?

There are vast differences in the way Corazon Aquino, the previous president, and Fidel Ramos gained office. Cory Aquino was denied election in 1986 by fraud orchestrated by backers of President Ferdinand Marcos, despite being the more popular figure. She gained the presidency only as a result of a rebellion by a portion of the military, backed by “people power” demonstrations. The United States supported Marcos until nearly the very end, so Aquino felt in no way beholden to the White House, even though the American media and elements in the Congress in Washington strongly supported her. During the first months of her administration relations with Washington were cool; only much later did sheendorse a new treaty on United States military bases in the Philippines, and then not effectively.

Curiously, Ramos, a West Point graduate and former commander of the Philippine Constabulary, chief of staff of the armed forces, and secretary of defense, owes less to the military than Aquino did. Precincts in or near military camps reported large blocs of votes in the May election for Judge Miriam Defensor-Santiago, or for Aquino’s estranged cousin, “Danding” Cojuangco, but not for General Ramos-though Ramos does have a coterie of military supporters. Ramos was backed strongly by the anti-Marcos segment of the business communi£}’, by numerous members of the Philippine Congress, and by key elements of the Aquino administration. He was also cautiously and discreetly supported by the United States. But perhaps most important were the “campaign” swings around the country that he had been making for tWo or three years in which he established personal ties with local political leaders.

Though Ramos ultimately received a vigorous endorsement from Aquino, it almost did not happen. Ramos had declared his candidacy before the December 1991 nominating convention of the LDP (Lakas ng Demokratikong Pilipino, or “Strength of Philippine Democracy”), the largest political party, which backed the Aquino administration and whose secretary general was Congressman “Peping” Cojuangco, the president’s brother. But during the convention Aquino hardly lifted a finger for Ramos, while her brother maneuvered, successfully, to nominate Speaker of the House Ramon Mitra. At first Ramos seemed resigned to exclusion from the race and said he would support the LDP ticket. But later, perhaps having received signals from the presidential palace, he charged that he had been cheated of the nomination and would form his own political party.

Not until late January did Aquino give her endorsement to his independent candidacy. She clearly had no faith in either the honesty or the electability of Speaker Mitra. Her disgust with the corrupt behavior of her brother, which she had been unable to control, may also have been revealed in this split from the LDP. But it is certain that Ramos relied more on his own network of alliances than on Aquino’s help.

Alliance building to achieve power was important after election day as well as before. When the congressional canvass of the votes began in late May, both Santiago and onetime Marcos crony “Danding” Cojuangco claimed they led the polls, and no one denied it was a close race. Unlike Santiago, however, Cojuangco had a sizable block of supporters in Congress, and in the early days of the canvass they charged fraud and attempted to slow the pace of the process.

The consequences of delay could have been disastrous. If congressional canvassing had not been completed by June 30, the Philippines would have been without a president or a legally established procedure for choosing one-a power vacuum into which the military would have been likely to intrude. There are questions about what the real potential was for delay by Cojuangco’s faction, but developments in the newly elected Congress in July imply that some deal was struck betWeen Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition and the Ramos forces. The NPC supported the Ramos-backed candidates for House speaker and Senate president, despite Aquino’s urging that Ramos seek an alliance with the LDP. Cojuangco would expect in return to see his economic interests protected by the new administration.

Aquino’s and Ramos’s methods of achieving power were sufficiently different that his pledge to carry on the work she had begun and her backing of his candidacy are not in themselves sufficient basis for forecasting continuity of policy. Neither can such continuity be predicated on similarity of background and experience (although both Ramos and Aquino received bachelor’s degrees in the United States, he at West Point and she at a Catholic womens college). And though both have been characterized as having a cautious, even vacillating, decision-making style, there are other important differences.

Aquino was born into one of the wealthiest ChineseFilipino families, once the largest owner of the country’s rice-producing lands, in addition to holding a large sugar plantation in Tarlac and a family bank. Despite her personal modesty and graciousness she had little opportunity to learn to understand the plight of the vast majority of Filipinos. Ramos’s background could best be described as upper-middle class. His father, Narciso, was a lawyer and journalist who mvned some land in Pangasinan province. First elected to the national legislature in the early 1930s, Narciso Ramos was for a time after World War II ambassador to Taipei (marking the beginning of the family’s close links with Taiwanese interests). In 1966 he became Marcos’s first secretary of foreign affairs. Fidel Ramos, in choosing a military career, lived and worked within an institution whose officer corps was mostly from the middle or the lower-middle class, which helped color his perceptions of reality. He was brought up a Protestant, while Aquino came from a strict Roman Catholic family.

The elements within the elite with whom Aquino and Ramos have most often associated have not been that different, however. Aquino’s close ties with business leaders seem quite natural. given her family background; they were reinforced in 1985 when she became the head of the forces attempting to end the Marcos stranglehold on the economy. Ramos was also courted at that time by the anti-Marcos business elite, who saw him as someone who could bring stability to the country. With the growing fear early this year that “Danding” Cojuangco might win the presidential election, and afterward restore “crony capitalism,” those same businesspeople again turned to Ramos. Both Aquino and Ramos have had especially strong ties with the Chinese segment of the business elite. The only clear differences in their patterns of association have been Aquino’s close links to Jaime Cardinal Sin and the Catholic hierarchy and Ramos’s friends among retired generals.

The relations of the tWo presidents with those on the left of the Philippine political spectrum have not been all that different either, though superficially the contrast might seem sharp. As commander of the military effort to crush a Communist-led insurgency, Ramos’s knowledge of the left was based on information provided by military intelligence that was sometimes inaccurate or exaggerated. He was often seen as the enemy not only by insurgents but also by human rights advocates.

Aquino, however, associated with leftists in the opposition, indirectly through her husband, Benigno, and more directly in the mid-1980s, when her own coalition included people from the non-Communist left; she even appointed as her executive secretary a human rights lawyer who had sometimes defended insurgents. These contacts apparently had little impact on her; in 1987 she quickly imbibed the military’s view of the left and based policy on it, ridding her administration of those with a leftist tinge.

Even the moderate reformists, mostly connected with the Catholic Church, who made up the bulk of the “people power” movement in 1986 did not remain influential among those with access to Aquino. Middleof-the-road nongovernment organizations were by the late 1980s more often Aquino’s critics than her advisers, and left-of-center reformist groups had little contact with her. Last year the press reported that Ramos was in the process of establishing links with certain nongovernment organizations, but for the most part these were either business-funded or the fronts for local politicians, set up to receive national government funds.

In examining personal background and patterns of support and association, as well as methods of gaining power, it is possible to find hints of both change and continuity that could be expected from a Ramos administration. The factors most frequently publicized have pointed toward Ramos continuing Aquino’s policies, but this is not the whole story.

Perhaps the most obvious place to look for a shift is in population policy. Cardinal Sin was during Aquino’s tenure a frequent visitor to Malacanang Palace, and a close confidant of the president. His opposition to artificial methods of birth control was well known, and he personally persuaded Aquino to abandon much of the population planning program begun under Marcos, which had been registering some success. Ramos, who is a Protestant, kept a statue of the Virgin Mary on his desk when he was defense secretary, and he recently reassured the Catholic Church that he would “respect its views” on contraception. But he went on to say, “It is the government’s obligation to provide the best possible information to our married couples, who must make the basic decision of how many children they want. We are committed to reduce the rate of population growth in this country.” One has reason to expect renewed activity in government birth control clinics.

Democracy, Human Rights, And The Insurgency

The central issues for the Ramos administration, however, are the same as they were for its predecessor: democratic stability and the closely related issue of economic growth. Whatever her faults, Aquino reestablished constitutional government in the Philippines in 1986-1987. Her dictatorial powers under the “Freedom Constitution” she proclaimed were used sparingly; the Constitutional Commission she appointed devised a new draft, which was ratified by plebiscite in February 1987. The form of government established was largely a restoration of the one in place before the declaration of martial law in 1972, which had been modeled substantially on that of the United States. The distribution of powers among the three branches of government perhaps gave the Philippine president greater power than the American chief executivethough Aquino often failed to use it-and the system was unitary rather than federal. However, the greatest divergence from the American model derived not from the constitution itself but from the social structure and culture that determine the way in which institutions function in the Philippines.

The restoration of free elections and a strongly worded bill of rights did not create a fully democratic system in the Philippines. Elections again became contests between elite groups that sought support mainly by distributing money and favors through extensive patron-client networks. The 1987 Congress was composed mostly of Marcos-era incumbents (about one-fifth of the membership) and scions of wealthy families that had held power in their districts for decades, or even generations. The wide array of groups and classes that had helped topple Marcos were hardly represented. The best indication of the economic interests of the legislators was their emasculation of the broadly supported land reform proposed in 1987.

A democratic system should protect human rights as well as promote effective representation of public interests. Aquino, whose husband had been imprisoned, then assassinated, by the martial law regime, began with a strong commitment to human rights. She restored the writ of habeus corpus, created a Presidential Committee on Human Rights headed by the courageous and forceful ex-Senator Jose Diokno, and announced the release of all political prisoners, including Communist party leaders. The committee also began to prepare indictments of some of the military’s notorious torturers.

However, as early as 1987 there was evidence of a sharp rise in the country in imprisonment without trial, disappearances, torture, and “salvagings” (unauthorized killings-including among their victims human rights lawyers — by the military and their allies). After 1988 the disappearances and “salvagings” began to decline, but in the first six months of 1991 there were still more than 25 reported in both categories, with more than 600 political prisoners remaining in detention-about the same as at the beginning of Aquino’s term. Hardly any officers were convicted for Marcos-era violations and none was imprisoned; many were promoted. Why, in spite of Aquino’s apparently sincere beginning, did this attack on human life and liberty continue? Defense of the existing social structure and pattern of institutional power against a determined challenge served — at least for the ruling elite-to justify the continuing violations.

Profound socioeconomic inequality in rural areas, exacerbated by a history of military abuses, had triggered an insurgency under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines. By 1985 this had reached unprecedented proportions: the New People’s Army (NPA), nearly 20,000 strong, was the largest Marxist guerrilla force in Asia. Though severely set back by the overthrow of Marcos by a gentler leader and the restoration of relatively free elections with some leftist participation — not to mention the impact on morale of an extended cease-fire negotiated with Aquino’s representatives-the insurgency persisted into the late 1980s, providing the Aquino administration with a rationale for maintaining a large military.

The armed forces’ political ambitions had been stirred by Marcos, especially by the manner of his overthrow. As military factions began to mount coup attempts, Aquino found the armed forces more and more difficult to discipline, and decided to appease them instead. When the cease-fire with the NPA ended in February 1987 she endorsed a “total approach” to insurgency that resembled total war.

Private anti-Communist vigilante groups (including those formed by religious fanatics, and private armies organized by wealthy landowners) were at first embraced, and then, when their brutality against anyone even suspected of being an NPA sympathizer was publicized, ineffectually regulated by the administration. Local militias loosely attached to the military, which had been a major source of human rights violations under Marcos, were abolished by the 1987 constitution, but Aquino, under pressure from General Ramos, quickly re-created them under another name. By the late 1980s, violations by the military and its various allies were given fresh excuses by undisciplined attacks on civilians and by the waning, and frustrated, insurgency; violence against innocent civilians by one side was cited as a justification of similar violence by the other. The administration had largely lost control of events in the countryside. Only an entirely new approach to ending the insurgency could improve the situation.

Given his military background, many were surprised that Ramos tried a new tack. This was conceived of not so much as a way to protect human rights as a means of ensuring political stability, the foundation for economic growth. Ramos has recently offered amnesty for political crimes both to military rebels, some of whose leaders are still at large, and to Communist-led insurgents. At the same time he has promised to legalize the Communist party. (Both these proposals must receive Congressional approval.) But Communist leaders are unwilling to lay down their arms and renounce violence in order to receive amnesty, unless they can also attach political conditions. Furthermore, amnesty for “political crimes” is of little value if those accused of these offenses have also been charged with criminal ones. The Philippine army continues to launch attacks on the guerrillas, but this does not prevent informal consultations between the government and leaders of the insurgencies.

Greatly in the government’s favor are the deep splits in the revolutionary movement on how to react to peace overtures. Communist party leaders in exile in the Netherlands seem to have taken the hardest line, making demands that would certainly frustrate any peaceful settlement. Yet the Ramos administration has been able to persuade two prominent former members of the National Democratic Front, the party’s political arm, to act as advisers to the government team. Within the left, there are several other positions. Some are wary of the Ramos initiative, fearing it is only a ploy to create a deadlock that will be used to justify even more vigorous military action. Others believe there are at least some in government who are sincerely interested in ending the fighting and that every effort should be made to find a compromise solution. Whatever discussions have taken place with military rebels or with the Muslim Moro National Liberation Front on Mindanao and Sulu have received much less press attention.

If Ramos could extract from each of these sets of negotiations a lasting agreement, he would indeed be in a much better position to pursue economic development. The major question is whether the values, past practices, and prejudices of Ramos the general will prevail, or whether his new role as a president who plans for the future and is freer of the constraint of factional maneuvering within the military than his predecessor was will determine the outcome. Ramos certainly benefits from the fact that the three rebel forces are weaker than when last they had serious discussions with the government.

Corruption As Cancer

Amnesties, cease-fires, and peace agreements with the rebels, sought but never achieved by Aquino, may still not be sufficient to secure political stability. Corruption is also a cancer that can undermine a government. Corruption-state officials putting private profit ahead of the public good, in violation of laws and regulations — was not new in the Philippines in the 1970s, but it became more deeply embedded in the culture and in the conduct of business and government during the Marcos era. What was acceptable expanded, and the options for a truly honest bureaucrat were narrowed.

Aquino’s personal reputation was pure as the driven snow, and she came to office apparently determined to bring Marcos and his cronies to justice and pledged to uphold high standards of honesty for her own administration. Unfortunately she achieved neither goal. Initially she made high-quality appointments to the Philippine Commission on Good Government, which was assigned to recover the wealth that President Marcos and his cronies had stolen, and much was accomplished in its first year, but by 1988 the commission was headed by the attorney of Aquino’s brother in Congress, “Peping” Cojuangco, one of the most corrupt figures in her administration. Aquino was a woman of traditional values; she was loyal to her family, and she proved not to be strong enough to control them. In fact, she sometimes protected them against corruption charges. When the behavior of her relatives became widely known, the standard of probity in the administration declined generally. The magnitude of the corruption was probably nowhere near what it had been under Marcos, and unlike before 1986, it was somewhat decentralized. But it was sufficiently obvious to contribute to the decline in popular support for Aquino during her last few years in office.

Ramos did not approach the presidency with a record as clean as Aquino’s. The most serious charge against him-which he has never attempted to rebut-is that the Philippine Constabulary was the most corrupt branch of the armed forces during his years as commander of the constabulary. And the man President Ramos backed for speaker of the House, Representative Jose de Venecia, has recently been linked to some of the most corrupt elements remaining in the military. Another member of congress, accused by environmental groups of being involved in illegal logging, has been named by Ramos as his executive secretary, a powerful post sometimes accorded the title “assistant president.” The Ramos administration is thus in grave danger of allowing a level of corruption that will threaten its legitimacy, put weapons in the hands of its enemies, and jeopardize effective economic management.

This would be particularly unfortunate in view of the high degree of confidence that business leaders have shown in the Ramos presidency. Ramos has reciprocated, appointing business leaders to his cabinet; for instance, his secretary of foreign affairs, Roberto Romulo, is former chairman of IBM Philippines and his new finance secretary. Ramon del Rosario, is chairman of Asia Bank.

The economy, which contracted in 1991 — for the first time in the Aquino presidency — grew 0.5 percent in the first quarter of this year. Partly because of this, and perhaps also in anticipation of a peaceful election producing a new era of stability, foreign equity investment in the first quarter of the year was up 19 percent over 1991. Ramos thus took office in a rising economic tide.

The Aquino presidency had also started out well economically, moving the country quickly to rapid growth from the sharp recession of 1985. This was in part because considerable wealth since 1983 had either left the country or gone into hiding; in 1986 it began to be spent and invested. The flow of foreign aid and credit to a regime so highly regarded in the banking centers of the West was also a great boost. But adherence to trade and investment liberalization was not as complete as paper agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would seem to indicate.

And above all, the investment climate was hurt by repeated coup attempts. The kidnapping and holding for five months of a senior Japanese business executive in 1986 put a particular damper on Japanese investment just at a time when, because of the yen revaluation,Japanese funds were surging into other Southeast Asian countries.

Thus with further deceleration caused by a worldwide recession, the Philippine economy had begun to shrink by 1991. And despite refinancing agreements intended to reduce the repayment burden of the massive foreign debt, that debt actually increased from $26 billion to $30 billion between 1986 and 1991. Congress-motivated by the fact that 39 percent of the national budget went to payments of interest and principal, which contributed to a net outflow of capital-tried to put a cap on Philippine debt servicing, but Aquino blocked it. Her advisers feared a ceiling-IS percent of exports of goods and services, for instance-would cause the Philippines’ foreign credit sources to dry up. In fact, among major third world debtors, the Philippines was one of the most compliant with IMF and World Bank policy.

Business optimism about a Ramos presidency is indeed predicated largely on an expectation of political stability. But it will take more than political stability and friendship with businesspeople to promote economic growth. If one assumes that IMF and World Bank policies are appropriate, then the Ramos commitment to continue cooperation with them will be helpful. Such a stance has already won another debt rescheduling. But if the net capital outflow of more than $2 billion a year continues, primarily because of debt servicing, a new approach may be needed. A struggle between president and Congress over a debt service cap may reemerge; the inability of Ramos partisans thus far to control the Senate could lead to a vigorous tussle.

A feisty Congress could also hamper Ramos’s announced commitment to raise taxes and improve revenue collection, which are essential for economic recovery. The Philippine state has long been the most ineffective in Asia in terms of percentage of gross national product collected in taxes. Yet without increased revenues debts cannot be repaid, education cannot be supported-some teachers are already on a hunger strike because of nonpayment of salaries-the infrastructure necessary to support new investment cannot be built, and bureaucrats cannot be paid enough to reduce the temptation to dishonesty.

Because of the Senate’s rejection last year of a new treaty on United States military bases, and an American pullout accelerated by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Ramos also faces a severe drop in American assistance, direct and indirect. Partly for reasons associated with American politics and economics, and partly because of American pique at the Philippine rejection of the bases treaty, the administration of President George Bush and the United States Congress greeted President Ramos with a 60 percent cut in military and economic assistance for 1992, with the prospect of a cut of another 50 percent for 1993. These losses, which could cost the Philippines over $300 million in the first year, are in addition to a nearly equal loss of income from the actual operation of the bases. (The shock will be somewhat delayed by the disbursement of substantial separation payments to former base workers by the United States; next year will be worse.) This shock could have been lessened if the Aquino administration had been serious about planning for new uses for base facilities, but after various studies and the appointment of a special bases conversion commissioner, there is still no concrete plan. So Central Luzon, also devastated by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, will soon be in even deeper depression. And it is too late to think about other uses of Clark Field, since what has not been destroyed by Pinatubo has mostly been looted.

The loss of military assistance, and the consequent pressure from his secretary of defense for new, compensating budget outlays, naturally cause Ramos — who has often been charged by Filipino journalists with being an “American boy” — to try to discover mechanisms by which the Americans could be persuaded to stay on at Subic Bay and continue using the extensive ship repair facilities there, perhaps on a commercial basis. But the Americans symbolized the finality of their departure when they began towing the huge floating drydocks at Subic to Guam early this year, and Ramos has surprised some by his unwillingness to beg the Americans to stay. When asked by American diplomats to make a proposal, he bravely told the press, ‘They are the ones who need those facilities, not us.” But he added, “If we can arrive at an acceptable agreement which will result in mutual benefits for the two countries, well, let’s study that.”

In fact, it is unlikely that the bases use question will ever again become the tremendous irritant it once was in United States-Philippine relations. The relative insignificance of this issue during this year’s presidential campaign was an indication that most Filipinos believe the matter is behind them. Though the shortterm cost may be high (but probably less than some base advocates warned), there is still considerable satisfaction among many Filipinos that the umbilical cord with the United States has been broken.

As on the bases question, other fundamental errors of the Aquino administration plague Ramos’s current economic plans. There is, for instance, the failure to prevent the frequent power blackouts in Manila and elsewhere, which, in addition to severe inconvenience and discomfort, dramatically reduce industrial productivity every day. The Bataan nuclear power plant, built by the American giant Westinghouse after extremely corrupt dealings with Marcos cronies, is located near an active volcano and an earthquake fault, its safety features based on outdated technology. Even before the end of Marcos’s rule its power production had been delayed by court action and investigations, though everyone recognized that its productive capacity was soon to be needed. Aquino decided to mothball the plant indefinitely and took legal action against Westinghouse for bribery. But no plans were made for additional capacity, giving rise to the most severe electric power crisis in Philippine history. Thus Ramos is talking about reopening Bataan, despite dire warnings from safety experts, and has given the highest priority to new plants with more conventional technology. (No high official is talking about conservation of energy.)

A distinct deterrent to investment-the escalation of kidnappings of wealthy businesspeople, mostly Chinese-has also been tackled by Ramos through the creation of a special commission with Vice President Joseph Estrada at the helm. (The onetime movie tough guy has unearthed a kidnapping ring involving top police officials.)

Ramos was praised by the Philippine press, and rightly so, for the straight talk in his inaugural address. “Let us begin by telling ourselves the truth.” We are in trouble, he continued, and “there are no easy answers, no quick fixes.” Such an approach bodes well. Certainly the effort to forge a peaceful settlement with Communist-led insurgents, Muslim rebels, and military dissidents is the right place to start. But unfortunately there is no evidence that the Ramos administration is prepared to deal adequately with the problems that allow the more principled leaders of these groups to continue gaining adherents. There are hints that the agrarian reform that is already progressing at a snail’s pace will be scaled back, and there do not yet appear to be any serious plans to bring genuine Muslim autonomy or to crack down on corruption. Ramos does not seem sufficiently aware of the political consequences of the glaring inequalities in Philippine society — a failing he has in common with most Filipino elites.

Nor has the administrative performance of Ramos’s team been that impressive thus far. Quarrels over patronage and turf have frustrated the implementation of new policies. Ramos has appointed eight presidential advisers whose jurisdictions conflict with those of cabinet members, and he attempts to deal directly with subcabinet officers over the heads of their superiors. In the “chaos that surrounds him,” as the Far Eastern Economic Review’s Rigoberto Tiglao calls it, Ramos has already lost his first executive secretary. There may be more continuity with Aquino here than anyone wanted.

It seems unlikely that the stock market euphoria that immediately followed his election will be sustained by Ramos’s performance in his first year. There are both positive initiatives and forewarnings of serious problems. The “consolidation” of Philippine democracy hangs in the balance.

DAVID WURFEL is a professor of political science at the University of Windsor, Ontario. A longtime observer of the Philippines, his most recent book is Filipino Politics: Development and Decay (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988).

Categories Philippines, General politics