This unclassified diplomatic cable of US Ambassador to the Philippines William Sullivan (1973-1977), which forms part of the latest Wikileaks release, provides a helpful glimpse into the official posture of the US with respect to the Marcos administration in the early years of Martial Law.. Objectively, it should also offer a new perspective into the early years of the so-called darkest period of Philippine history as presided then by the much-hated President Ferdinand Marcos.
Some key excerpts:
Marcos has conducted his continuous fight with the oligarchs with a persistent skill and toughness, but in an atmosphere of growing charges of corruption and duplicity, and of increasing questions about the role of his wife, her family and entourage….
…the concentration of economic power in and around the Palace has progressed more or less without interruption since Martial Law. While there is a strong and predictable tendency of onlookers to see the process only as the enhancement of personal wealth , and for many Filipinos to be fairly relaxed about the process, the present garnering of wealth and sectoral economic power appears to us more keyed to a future power design than a traditional bad habit.
In Today’s Revolution: Democracy, Marcos made an excellent if hardly airtight case for curtailing the power of the oligarchs with the beginning of Martial Law. The “New Society” depended in part on frustrating greater concentration of wealth in their hands—if not in absolutely reducing their existent wealth—and achieving a more equitable distribution of income In this regard, Marcos’ fight acquired some ideological validity and popular acceptance. Clouding this respectability…, however, was awareness of the considerable wealth Marcos himself had accumulated in office…
All that storm generated by the Sultanate of Sulu’s adventure in Sabah has produced a very interesting side revelation. And all along I accepted that the so-called Jabidah massacre is an incontrovertible fact of recent history.
MASSACRE OR MYTH? by Rigoberto Tiglao
Ninoy did not expose ‘Jabidah massacre,’ he even doubted it. (emphasis mine)
Contrary to many accounts, senator Benigno Aquino Jr. did not expose the so-called Jabidah massacre 45 years ago today, which the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) exploited to the hilt to rally Muslims to its secessionist cause.
What he revealed to the world, and asked for a stop to, was the clandestine plan of his archenemy president Ferdinand Marcos to train and send Muslim commandos to Sabah to organize a revolt against Malaysia, the first step for the Philippines to take over the territory.
This conclusion is incontrovertible based on the late senator’s privileged speech on March 28, 1968 titled: Jabidah! Special Forces of Evil?…
…That there was a Jabidah massacre has been mostly uncritically believed, as indicated in the following Wikipedia entry:
“The Jabidah massacre . . . refers to an incident in which members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines massacred a number of Moro Muslim recruits who were escaping their covert training to reclaim Sabah . . . It is widely regarded as having been the catalyst behind the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.”
The entry continued: “Sources differ regarding the details, with the number of victims ranging from 14 to 68, and some sources assert that the massacre is a myth.” The “some sources” it referred to consist solely of University of the Philippines anthropologist Arnold Molina Azurin who investigated the episode intensively in his book, Beyond the Cult of Dissidence.
For starters, the Jabidah issue broke out after Cavite governor Delfin Montano, one of Marcos’ most vociferous critic, had one Jibin Arula file charges at the Cavite Court of First Instance against major Eduardo Martelino and 10 other army officers and soldiers whom he alleged were involved in the purported atrocity. Arula would be the sole person ever to allege that he witnessed the massacre.
Arula claimed that with about a dozen of his fellow Muslim trainees, he was ordered to line up at the airstrip in Corregidor in the wee hours of March 18, 1968, and then shot by their trainers. He claimed that he was hit in the leg, so he managed to run, hide in the bushes, and then escape to the sea to be rescued hours later by fishermen.
The allegations became the burning issue, with the two major newspapers at that time, both stridently anti-Marcos, the Manila Times and The Manila Chronicle, portraying Arula as a hero. A congressional investigation was undertaken, which months later would turn out to be inconclusive.
Then congressman Rashid Lucman of Lanao del Sur claimed that the massacre was motivated by Marcos’ greed to claim Sabah for his personal property. Lucman months later would organize the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization, the MNLF’s precursor, and get Malaysia to secretly train its recruits.
Aquino though didn’t jump in to demonize Marcos over the alleged massacre. He did not only go to Jolo and Tawi-tawi to seek out the alleged victims’ relatives but interviewed Arula himself. Aquino in his speech concluded:
“After interviewing the self-asserted massacre survivor, Jibin Arula, doubt nagged me that there had indeed been a massacre . . .”
Aquino explained his thesis (note his use of quotations, presumably on the official copy of his speech):
“Arula must have made a dash for his life, thinking that they had been brought to the airstrip for the ‘slaughter.’ Told to halt by his escorts, he kept running. His escorts shot him in the leg to force him to stop. He kept going—and the rest is his story. But what happened to his eleven companions? Were they really ‘massacred?’”
Aquino went on: “Some say that when the firing started with Arula, his companions ducked. So that Arula was correct when he said that he saw his companions fall to the ground. But were they shot? Or did they duck because of the firing?”
The alleged “slaughter” Aquino referred to was Arula’s claim that he had suspected that 24 recruits who left two days earlier, whom their military superiors said were being brought to Sulu to be deployed to Sabah, were actually killed.
But Aquino pointed out:
“Meanwhile, in Jolo yesterday, I met the first batch of 24 recruits aboard RP-68. This group was earlier reported missing—or, even worse, believed ‘massacred’ . . . William Patarasa, 16 years old [one of the recruits] denied knowledge of any massacre.”
Aquino in his speech elaborated his view…:
“This morning, the Manila Times, in its banner headline, quoted me as saying that I believed there was no massacre on Corregidor. And I submit it was not a hasty conclusion, but one borne out by careful deductions.”
What were these deductions? According to Aquino:
• “What would have been the motive for the ‘massacre’? Some quarters have advanced the theory that the trainees were liquidated in order to silence them. But then, 24 boys have already shown up in Jolo safe and healthy. To release 24 men who can spill the beans and liquidate the remaining 24 ‘to seal’ their lips would defy logic.”
• “Arula’s fears, which in his place may be considered valid, may not be supported by the recent turn of events. Twenty-four recruits have turned up.”
Aquino emphasized that only a rigorous investigation of Arula’s allegations would arrive at the truth. He asked the military to “produce the eleven recruits” the lone survivor allegedly killed.
But if the eleven merely resigned and like the first twenty four returned to Sulu, or even deployed to Sabah, could the military have traced them and asked them to testify? Indeed, one of the strangest aspects of the alleged “massacre” was that through 45 years, there hasn’t even one victim’s relative who has surfaced to condemn the purported killing…
It is not even established as a fact pala, so why is the government commemorating it? The President is well advised to check and read for himself copies of his father’s speeches related to the case…
SECOND UPDATE: WARLORD VERSUS WARLORD
Here’s the controversial speech itself:
Machines are becoming smarter and smarter by the day and are slowly replacing humans in almost all aspects including the workplace. Is this very phenomenon causing the recession?
Conrado de Quiroz, a known rabid anti-Marcos advocate believes that for the sake of historical justice, the effort of recovering the entirety of the so-called Marcos fortune and eventually dispossessing and punishing the Marcoses must continue. If the very agency created to run after the Marcos fortune, the PCGG, is to end for failing to do its mission, as its own head now proposes, he says the task should then be transferred to something like a Truth Commission not to DOJ, because the task is larger than life itself, and DOJ is not grand enough for the role, or something…
Strangely, picking on the likes of him gives a perverse sense of satisfaction. Proffering contrary views to otherwise popularly accepted opinions, is akin to a mosquito taunting a dragon. But depending on the strength and weight of the argument it could very well be like carrying the deadly dengue virus.
I left this comment on the comment thread:
In a nutshell, this is the customary approach to Marcos’
unexplained wealth: Marcos is wealthy beyond imagination. He could not have possibly built such fortune
with just his salary as a government official.
Therefore, he looted the treasury.
Less the hate, one can see the problem with the foregoing conclusion,
with a basic premise missing. You learn that in Logic 101.
All the same, for anyone who knows the ins and outs of
government finances and budgeting, one cannot loot the treasury, especially so
at such a magnitude, without leaving a wide, open trail of documents to show
the looting. Yet, it
is a wonder that, for all the zeal and fervor that followed the ouster of the
“plunderer”, the government auditors and PCGG investigators assigned the task have
not found anything substantial and solid, after all the years of sleuthing, to
bolster their case. Why is that?
For another, it should mystify the people that while Marcos
was supposedly busy “emptying” the treasury wholesale, he was also building enormous
projects that demanded huge funding. For
comparison, on a relatively bigger budget and ever-increasing public debt,
those who came after could only show little.
How is that?
Now, what about exploring the possibility that the source of
that wealth was somewhere else? Aha, no,
you can’t! Hahaha. Stew in your own
Curiously, while points raised are clear enough for anyone to debunk and tear down to pieces, I have yet to meet someone who does so. I wonder, if they stand on solid ground about the so-called Marcos ill-gotten wealth, why, it should be a breeze!
Yet, this is typical:
Haang dami mo sulat, walang saysay – kundi ang defending the indefensible. Stew mo lolo mo!
Hahaha! How intelligent!
To illustrate the complications of a strictly-no-corruption policy in a corruption-laden setting, let us take for example the President’s much- vaunted multibillion peso Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative. Once touted the core component of a strategy to jumpstart economic activity, the entire program is practically at a standstill, more than two years into the six-year term of this administration. Hundreds of billions of pesos pouring into government projects with private enterprise investing in matching proportion would certainly cause an expansion of G and I, and indirectly into other variables too, resulting in an enormous expansion of GDP. So why is PPP on sleep mode? Well, because the very laws that seek to tighten control over corruption are the very same laws that now hold up the entire process. (Or read another way, the levers of power controlling the process flow as dictated by the law would not move –unless “greased”.) And interestingly because the government rose to power on a campaign of clean government, it understandably wants to maintain that image of supreme clean at all cost. Great. But for that reason ironically not one of the projects under the PPP scheme might materialize at all. If the assigned implementers take the no-risk, better-nothing-at-all-than-be-tainted-with-corruption posture, there goes PPP. Better no bridge than be accused of abetting thievery. Better no road or highway ... Mind you, this sentiment does find favor in a broad sector of society. Thus, this war on corruption could take a turn to a gross disadvantage because of a highly control-oriented system developing alongside an image-conscious government which considers delivering results secondary.
Let us take a look at the equation again. Our equation GDP = C + I + G + (X-M) is pretty uncomplicated a mathematical formula it actually gives a simple, straightforward view into how the sum would grow or drop. It means that any increase in the value of all variables, except M, would expand the sum GDP, and conversely, any decrease would mean lesser sum GDP. See, this is not even Calculus.
Since corruption necessarily involves Government and the private sector, for a start, one needs to inquire closely how corruption could actually hold back or diminish the aggregate values converging at I and G. What elements and factors are actually contributing most to their decline or weakening, or to sluggish build up? What theoretically could contribute to their upsurge or expansion?
Over the years, when questions about the lethargic growth of the Philippines pop up, the answer that leaps out every time , almost by reflex, is Corruption. Is it? Every so often, I have risen to question the wisdom of this assertion at the risk of being labeled a defender of the corrupt. I argued that corruption is more a symptom than the disease. On the whole, corruption spring from utter lack of opportunities to make a living and/or build a better life. Survival instinct and the normal desire for relative comfort do tend to slacken people’s sense of honor and decency, in times of need and scarcity. This is not saying greed has no place in the picture because the greedy ones will always be corrupt. But the true aggravation befalls when even the good guys have started joining the fray. My contention is that people in general would choose to get out of a no-win no-opportunity situation and seek out better deals for themselves if they see accessible opportunities elsewhere— rather than trade their sense of honor. So the problem of corruption would be diminished greatly not by laws designed to contain it but by economic opportunities that provide alternative.
Graft and corruption have been tagged the culprit of our poverty and underdevelopment since we could remember. As a consequence, our economic policies remained fundamentally unchanged for decades because we believed the policies were correct and the only one spoiling our march to progress was graft and corruption. In fact, blaming policies was tantamount to blaspheming that wisdom. Such a mindset of course finds resonance in slogans like “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap” and the common people lap it up: Corruption, my friend, is the problem; we eliminate it, and voila we are on the way to being a First World country. Oh well.
A good analogy would be a headache caused by a tumor in the head. Because a pain reliever suffices every now and then, suggesting it works, it is mistaken that the disease is a simple headache and the pain reliever is the cure. But you have to wonder, if the headache continue recurring over days and weeks and months, something else must be wrong.
All the passion and outrage which corruption scandals arouse seem to emanate from the view that every act of thieving represents an irretrievable loss of resources as when a burglar sneaks into a house and runs away with the valuables or when a pickpocket takes away the wallet. On the whole, corruption does not necessarily cause an equivalent harm because a leakage in one variable eventually flows into another. The loss of a kilometer of road, for example, could be a gain in somebody’s business which employs several people. The thousands of classrooms that were not built represent a huge loss but the fund diversion resulting from it could have helped prop up a food industry supposing the loot was used to buy foodstuff and groceries.
Because of corruption increasingly getting all of the blame and livid attention for the continuing economic decline, expectedly, cries to eliminate it by all means have grown all too forceful and strident too over time. Accordingly, laws and regulations were dutifully crafted to make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the usual suspects to commit the crime and hide their loot. Noble intentions though have a way of engendering unintended consequences. Layers upon layers of controls and regulations meant to eradicate the menace have as well systematically turned the bureaucracy into a super slow, control-fixated organization that it takes effort of colossal proportions just to get things moving, let alone to produce any significant result at all
Yet with exceedingly stricter laws and extra-vigilant anti-corruption watchdogs on the lookout, is corruption then held in check? Not so. It seems that corruption finds remedy by enlarging the booty so that somehow everyone gets a piece of the spoils and nobody remains unsoiled. For a campaign that relies on whistleblowers, this is a bare naked weakness. No wonder too that instead of the rate of corruption going down compared with the corruption in much-despised Marcos regime, it was going up instead.
Interesting how will this reflect on our equation. To escape the law now stricter and harsher than before, the loot must find a more hospitable fort: foreign banks, outside the reach of authorities. Logically, because after being subtracted from G, the larger part of the aggregate value exits from the system altogether, this would reflect in proportionate decrease of the GDP. Ironically enough, the stricter laws meant to trap the crooks have produced a worse consequence instead.
GDP↓ = C + I + G↓ + (X-M)
Graft and corruption is a tricky beast to engage. In our experience, the war against this social menace had so far left us literally swimming and steeped in our own river of tears as scandal after scandal squeezed out so much emotion, so much resentment, and indignation, draining out much of our vitality and energy– yet without much success to show. It must be asked: are we dealing with the beast correctly? Are we being smart or simply being too emo?
I wish to share my own insight if it could help clear the fog clouding the view. What is the nature of this ogre called corruption, this irregular appropriation of public money, or more graphically, the thievery of government fund? The prevalent notion is that pervasive corruption is the foremost reason for the poverty of our nation. This same notion is the force behind the staunch, even obsessed, assertion that if we could stop corruption, prosperity would follow inevitably, naturally. Indeed, it is the inspiration for popular slogans like “kung walang kurap, walang mahirap” , anchoring it seems the entire economic development strategy of the present administration. To be sure, for much of the years after 1986, after the downfall of Marcos, in reaction to the perception of excessive corruption of his regime, the anti-corruption theme dominated policy, the result being a bureaucracy saddled with innumerable laws providing layers upon layers of checks and balances seeking to stamp out corruption. If it is any measure of success, the Philippines is today considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
There is a formula widely accepted to measure the progress or regression of an economy. It is called GDP, and it would help to use it to better sort this out. If we could examine how graft and corruption affect each variable of the equation measuring an economy’s growth, we might have a better perspective from where to view corruption in the larger scheme. GDP or Gross Domestic Product is stated in this simple formula:
GDP= C+I+G+ (X-M)
where C, consumption, I-Investment, G-government spending, (X-M)- balance of trade, X-exports, M-imports.
Now, let us see. How does, say, a 50% ‘commission’ on government projects reflect on the equation? Because it is a cut, necessarily it would show up as a proportionate subtraction from Government spending (G). By a layman’s understanding, this would be seen as a diminution of its aggregate value and thence lost entirely, in turn reflected as proportionate drop in the sum, GDP. But is this the case? Let us take for granted said cut is deposited in the local banks, how would this be reflected? Because this amount then becomes part of investible fund in the banking system, it should reflect as an increase in the aggregate value of Investment(I). Thus, corruption in this case does not essentially cause a dissipation of value from the equation but simply facilitates a transfer of aggregate value from one variable to the other. The sum GDP should stay basically the same.
GDP= C + I↑ + G↓ + (X-M)
Now, let us suppose the cut is used to buy a fleet of car or expensive jewelry, or food to feed a horde, or provisions to throw a lavish party, or liquor to distribute to an entire neighborhood, or daily groceries to bring home to the family— how would it reflect on the equation? Because consumption or purchase of consumer goods show up in aggregate C, this kind of corruption would similarly reflect as a transfer of aggregate value in this instance from G to C. Curiously, as in the first instance, neither would result in a change in the GDP.
GDP= C↑ + I + G↓ + (X-M)