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Philippines

 
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Philippines

Unsolved Political Problems

In 1991, after five years of democracy, many systemic political problems remained. These included the twin insurgencies, the sputtering economy, the skewed distribution of wealth and land, and widespread human rights abuses.

As of 1991, the New People's Army had been in the field for twenty-two years and was further from being able to seize power than it had been a decade before. Many trends were unfavorable. More than a hundred communist leaders had been captured, armed troop strength was down, weapons were in short supply, and morale was low. Still, the government could not eliminate the New People's Army (see The Counterinsurgency Campaign , ch. 5). The stalemate made the government seem ineffective. Despite the decline in the late 1980s in the fortunes of the international communist movement and the Communist Party of the Philippines, the communists, as the only Philippine political party addressing the problems of the very poor, could not be discounted.

The Moro National Liberation Front and other rebellious Muslim armies on Mindanao remained in a state of discontent in the early 1990s. As had been the case under four regimes (Spanish, American, Japanese, and Filipino), there were scant prospects that the Muslims could be fully integrated into Philippine society. They were unlikely to be satisfied with the limited autonomy over a limited region embodied in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Neither the government nor the Moro National Liberation Front could win a final victory. Consequently, the problem was likely to continue to fester.

The Philippine economy has exemplified the "revolution of rising expectations." In the early 1990s, Manileños watched American movies and provincianos watched films made in Manila. Even rural villagers dreamed of cars, cities, excitement, and an end to the grinding poverty that condemned them to hunger and their children to malnutrition. Filipinos had high aspirations, as shown by the sacrifices they made to send their children to college, but most were doomed to bitter disappointment. The Philippine economy, strapped with a US$28 billion debt inherited from the Marcos administration, offered only limited opportunities (see External Debt , ch. 3).

One of the greatest disappointments of the Aquino years was the lack of progress in the agrarian reform program. Aquino could have used her political honeymoon and her inherited dictatorial powers to divest the old aristocrats of their estates and pass out land to the farmers who actually tilled it, but she waited until the new Congress was elected and gave the job to them. About 90 percent of Congress members were landowners. The version of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program passed by the Congress was signed as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law by President Aquino on June 10, 1988. It included many loopholes deliberately added by members of Congress to enable landowners (including themselves) to evade the intent of the law. A bloc of landowning legislators led by Aquino's brother, Jose Cojuangco, resisted efforts to pass more effective agrarian reform measures.

The Commission on Human Rights, established under the 1987 constitution, had not been effective, at least in its first four years. The Constitution grants the commission broad powers to monitor the government's compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights. The commission, however, claiming that it cannot investigate abuses that occur "in an environment of war," as of the end of 1989 had resolved only about 10 percent of the cases brought before it and reverted to investigating ordinary civil police matters. Even notorious cases, such as the 1987 Lupao Massacre, in which seventeen villagers, including six children and two octogenarians, were lined up and shot after an engagement between the army and guerrillas, did not result in any military or civilian convictions. In 1990 the Supreme Court decided that warrantless arrests of suspected subversives were constitutional.

Data as of June 1991


Philippines - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Government and Politics

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