Sunday, April 1, 2012

end -- “It sometimes takes us a while to reach the right conclusion.”

Cory Aquino was an unusual politician in the sense that, when she said that she was going to pray and meditate before making a decision to run for President, there is evidence that she actually did so (l. 10820). The Church also came to her secular aid. Cardinal Jaime Sin brokered a deal with Salvador Laurel, a career politician in every positive and negative sense, in which Laurel agreed to run in the 1986 election as Cory's Vice President, in order to present a united front against Marcos (l. 10830).

Cory initially made some inexpert moves in the US news media, which was less obedient that its local counterpart. This gave Marcos-hugging conservatives all the excuse they needed to line up against her as a lightweight and not up to the job. As a result, Cory's entourage (aided by the American designer of her private estate's golf course) hired a US effective public relations firm. Cory's supporters had to keep the association low-key, as they had previously sneered at Marcos for doing the same thing. Her main PR adviser in Manila was presented as a British journalist (which he had been), partly in order to de-emphasize the US connection (l. 10844)

However, non-official Americans played a variety of supporting roles, including fund-raising and security. The US Embassy also provided support to the extent that they could without attracting the attention of President Reagan and other conservatives in Washington. The US Agency for International Development financed, directly or indirectly, several programs which had the effect of undermining Marcos's authority. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth was publicly circumspect, but was privately reported to have said: “If Marcos tries to stay in power, we'll disintegrate him in thirty days” (l. 10858).

But ultimately, control of the ballot boxes was more important than who supported you. “Election day, February 7, 1986, was marred by the usual cases of stolen ballot boxes, intimidation and even killings, almost all of it by Marcos's thugs. The serious cheating, though, came in adding the vote” (l. 10883). Independent vote-count monitors took refuge in a Catholic church, “contending that the figures showing Cory in the lead were being discarded” (l. 10885). A State Department task force provided massive evidence of cheating. But the Reagan administration preferred its own sources of information, including that from Imelda's calls to Nancy Reagan. Republican Senator Richard Lugar was dispatched to try to whisper some reality in Reagan's ear (l. 10897). Reagan claimed to have see a television report which featured Aquino's supporters destroying ballots – the report actually showed Marcos's supporters doing so. While the White House issued statements supporting Marcos and implying that the cheating on Aquino's side was as large as on Marcos's, Lugar publicly said in a speech that the President was wrong. “A few hours later, Marcos announced victory – and the first foreign envoy to congratulate him was the Soviet ambassador” (l. 10921).

In Manila, Bosworth had to bear the brunt of Aquino's displeasure, and offer excuses. “It sometimes takes us a while to reach the right conclusion, but I'm convinced that we will. Please be patient” (l. 10915). Bosworth then made his own displeasure clear to the State Department, which lead to a call from Secretary Schultz, who said “We'll try to fix it” (l. 10919). Two days after the election, he sent Philip Habib as a troubleshooting envoy. After a week observing unrest and talking to people in Manila, Habib concluded: “Cory had won the election and deserved our support. Marcos is finished, and we ought to offer him asylum in the United States” (l. 10933).

Parts of the Philippine Army, which had been the foundation of his support, began to plot against him, lead by defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile (l. 10951). They planned to seize Marcos – but not kill him. Manila apparent leaks like a sieve, and the plotters bragged about their upcoming activities in bars and restaurants. Four confederates were arrested. Soon, it was Enrile's life that was in danger. On 22 February, he held a televised news conference “revealing that he himself faked nearly four hundred thousand votes for Marcos in his own region” (l. 10978) and other duplicity. Enrile and constabulary chief Fidel Ramos holed themselves up in a loyal army bases in central Manila, while a circus of additional soldiers and mobile peddlers sprang up around the base. A confused series of public and private communications occurred between the main players in Manila, while the conflicted Washington foreign policy apparatus spun its wheels.

On Monday, 25 February, Marcos made a series of calls to Senator Paul Laxalt, hoping to arrange a phone call with Reagan. Between phone calls, Laxalt met with Reagan and others, who approved asylum for Marcos. Finally, Marcos understood from Laxalt that he would not be able to speak to personally, and the US wanted Marcos to step down. “I am so very, very disappointed,” Marcos said (l. 11103). Before departing his official residence, Marcos and Imelda stepped out on a balcony and sang a farewell song to the crowd.

Helicopters flew Marcos to Clark Field. Marcos said that he wished to spend “a couple of days” at Clark, but rumors of unfriendly soldiers mobilizing prompted the US commander to say “I want that guy out of here now.” Bosworth agreed. “You can go anywhere you want as long as it's out of the country” (l. 11118). That night, Marcos took off for Guam via Hawaii.

An avalanche of avarice and chicanery emerged, followed by lawsuits in many jurisdictions. A grand jury in Honolulu looked into the purchase of weapons to support a return, and another in Pittsburgh looked in kickbacks in a Westinghouse nuclear power project. On 23 August 1988, a New York grand jury issued an indictment for embezzlement for more than $100 million of Philippine government money to buy Manhattan property. The investigation revealed 20 secrets bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere (l. 11131).

Marcos died on 29 September 1989, after ten months in a Honolulu hospital. Cory refused to allow his remains back into the Philippines (l. 11137).

There were five coup attempts in Aquino's first year and a half in office (l. 11171). Cory turned out not to be a miracle worker. Her coalition cabinet was “a basket of crabs” (l. 11180) who plotted against her. The loose association of intellectuals, businessmen, clergy, and soldiers who had helped her into power fell apart when Cory failed to quickly stabilize the country (l. 11175). “Early in 1987, she held a referendum to approve her new constitution, a thick, turgid document that defied easy comprehension” (l. 11178). New legislation contained loopholes which specifically benefitted her family (l. 11191). There were accusations of human rights abuses by vigilantes, which Aquino originally applauded as an example of “people power” (l. 11253).

In 1988, the growth rate was six percent and new urban construction thrived, but poverty was still widespread. A 1988 World Bank study said that “there are more poor people in the Philippines today than in any time in recent history” (l. 11208), and half the population lived in “absolute poverty” (l. 11210).

A major impediment to further growth was the $28 billion dollar foreign debt contracted by Marcos, “which drained the economy of forty percent of its earnings” (l. 11215). Another was unchecked corruption. Finally, the Catholic culture discouraged birth control, leading to a high birth rate, leading to an inability to provide food, education and jobs. 

A side note: There were 56 million Filipinos in the late 1980s. Karnow says that the population “is expected to double again by the year 2010” (l. 11232). According to an official website of the Philippine government, a 2006 projection put the 2010 population at 94 million. The CIA World Factbook estimates the 2012 population at 103 million.

Karnow concludes the book with an analysis about how the rural Communists insurgents missed the boat in the anti-Marcos agitation, portraying them as out-of-touch, posturing, and poorly organized. By the time the book was published in 1989, events seemed to show that maybe it was Karnow that missed the boat about the reasons for their failure.