The Marcos Case

Marcos Case

What actually made the Philippines “rich” before wasn’t Marcos… It was the PARITY RIGHTS AMENDMENT that gave American Citizens and American-registered corporations the same property rights and corporate-ownership rights that were afforded to Filipino Citizens that was in effect until 1974. The parity rights were a condition that the Americans said the Philippines needed to allow in order for the USA to send in American companies/investors and US AID for post-war reconstruction. It was because of the Parity Rights that lots of US companies and investors flocked to the Philippines to set up their Asian HQ’s and operations and so many of our parents who were born post-WWII were able to be upwardly mobile.

Marcos’ first term essentially just rode on the relatively good economic growth that resulted from those. It was after the expiry of those rights and Marcos’ attempt to do a protectionist-style import-substitution scheme using his cronies to act as the “chaebol industrialists” that things started to go downhill. The loans he took which he spread out to his cronies to “develop the economy” couldn’t get paid back because his cronies didn’t do any real work and instead simply pocketed the cash and created fake companies and set-up façade “factories” and offices that never really operated to make money.

Marcos’ attempt was to re-create the early Meiji Japan and Park Chung Hee South Korea model of industrialization. The problem is that while the ex-Samurai Landowners who got converted into industrialists in Meiji Japan and the ex-landowners in S. Korea who also got converted into industrialists were disciplined enough and COMPLIED with their governments and delivered, Marcos’ cronies did not deliver: they lived luxurious lives and lazily enjoyed the mountains of “free money” they had been allocated (which they were supposed to pay back since they were loans).

In any case, here’s the unfortunate problem…

It may very well be possible that Marcos wanted to do “good things.” Unfortunately, the system in place which was the Philippine Presidential System based on the 1935 Constitution plus other amendments HOBBLED him from doing what needed to be done because instead of a “collaborative environment”, the Presidential System’s separation of powers is prone to GRIDLOCK, and even between both chambers of the legislature (House + Senate), there is another gridlock-prone “conduit” between them.

His solution, thus, was Martial Law. Martial Law would allow him to unilaterally make decisions on his own and rule by decree.

But before Martial Law, THE LEGISLATURE (both the House and the Senate) — NOT MARCOS — had already decided upon Constitutional Reform to fix the flaws of the 1935 Constitution. It was both houses of the LEGISLATURE that decided upon that.

In 1972, before the Constitutional Convention could finish their job, Marcos declared Martial Law.

Well, in 1973, when the new Constitution was ratified, the resulting PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM that was proposed would have prevented Marcos from ruling unilaterally, and instead would have forced him to have to act COLLEGIALLY as a Prime Minister (had he been purely the Prime Minister) OR he would have become totally powerless as a purely ceremonial President.

Luckily for him, he already declared Martial Law in 1972 and that was still in effect. So, despite the “paper” declaring that the Philippines was to be Parliamentary, under Martial Law, Marcos was still the “unilateral” single-person-ruler of the Philippines.

* * *

Gridlock-prone systems are prone to crises.

Both “single-person-rule” and “collegial governance” work well in avoiding gridlock.

HOWEVER… Single person rule is prone to abuse and as we all know, a single person doesn’t have monopoly of knowledge/insights. This is not to say that single person rule doesn’t work. IT CAN WORK. Except that it DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK. You need a “Machiavellian Saint” to properly get such working properly.

A COLLEGIAL SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE such as the Parliamentary System (or Switzerland’s Council Parliament System) allows for a more collective form of decision-making to happen where there is more cooperation and “sharing of responsibilities” rather than concentrating power in one person.

* *

In the end, the Philippines was NEVER able to enjoy “Parliamentary” rule under Marcos. All that happened was that the TITLES were changed from Congressman to Assemblyman, from House of Representatives to Batasang Pambansa, the Senate was abolished, Secretaries became Ministers, Departments became Ministries, the VP post was abolished, etc…

Ultimately, Marcos – the President – was STILL IN CHARGE and in a real Parliamentary System, the President of the Republic is purely ceremonial and only does ribbon cutting and other symbolic stuff.

In 1981, the True Nature of his form of government was revealed when the LIFTING OF MARIAL LAW occurred. He made sure NOT to relinquish power over to the Batasang Pambansa and the Cabinet that should have emerged from among the members of the assembly… He amended the Constitution to shift away from a Parliamentary System and went into a Semi-Presidential System (still a Presidential System nonetheless) and appointed Cesar Virata as his “Prime Minister” who in truth acted as Marcos’ “executive secretary.” (Prior to that appointment in 1981, MARCOS WAS BOTH PRESIDENT and PRIME MINISTER.)

Marcos was SOLIDLY IN CHARGE until later on when his health deteriorated and he spent more time in dialysis than in meeting with the people under him.


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