Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Snapshots of Filipinos

My column this week looked at the emerging image-making of the incoming administration, and the President-elect’s now having to make his mark as president and not heir apparent.

Two noteworthy articles, two podcasts, and a book review round up this week’s newsletter.

Thank you to my Patreons, old and new, your support counts for a lot.

The Principalia

This week’s The Long View

Picture perfect | Inquirer Opinionopinion.inquirer.net

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:35 AM June 08, 2022

He is the 11th senator (most recent was Benigno Aquino III), 10th congressman (most recent was President Duterte), sixth soldier (most recent was FVR; Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was a commissioned officer, after all), and governor (most recent was Carlos P. Garcia), fourth Ilocano (most recent was his father), and third child of a former president to become chief executive. The numerologically minded have already made much of his becoming the seventh president of the fifth republic. In a nation where both candidates and the electorate believe that election can provide absolution, he can claim the most incontestable family vindication of all, by means of a direct mandate from the people.

But now, as they say, comes the hard part. He and his followers can point to the past being settled, but this leaves the problem of the future, which is now squarely on his shoulders.

And so it came to be, that the president-elect was photographed the other day, meeting his incoming economic team. In a room with fake grass on one wall and colorful charts outlining our four branches of government (yes, Virginia, our constitutional commissions in a sense are an independent branch as they aren’t under any of the traditional three branches), and the identity and core functions of government departments, on another, he sat at the head of a conference table and jabbed at the air with his index finger as photos were taken.

No smiles here, folks, just a picture-perfect image of a future chief executive already taking charge. It was a picture of unity since it included the next governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, even though he is supposed to be independent. Everyone looked suitably serious, because the situation, as the outgoing secretary of finance inconveniently pointed out recently, will require hard choices.

As the release accompanying the photo of Marcos Jr. said, he “outlined his priorities and issued his marching orders for economic recovery.” This was followed through by Benjamin Diokno announcing “a new Road to A credit rating program” or medium-term fiscal plan would be forthcoming, soon.

At a recent symposium, a respected academic tried to break down into politicos and technocrats the names announced thus far, as constituting the forthcoming Marcos Jr. Cabinet. Two, however, seemed hard to pin down: the incoming social welfare and press secretaries. I suggested they constituted the third side of the governance triangle: if there are politicians and bureaucrats (technocrats), then there are the informers: the ones tasked with cultivating, shall we say, “enlightenment.”

As generations of yearbooks quoting the last line from “The Great Gatsby” put it, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” This is where enlightenment is required. Marcos Jr. was elected, unlike his father, as a senior citizen-president: yet, he is in some ways, condemned by his own history as crown prince, to be frozen in time, whether the heyday of his father or in the calamitous final days leading to their fall, take your pick. Last week, I pointed out the president-elect’s perspective concerning the job he is poised to take up is a regal and not a republican one. So, imagine if Prince Charles wasn’t fully a white-haired, red-faced, bloated-fingered senior in the British imagination but still a polo-playing sensitive playboy.

There was a time when he wanted a more regal rebranding for himself. Back in the early 1990s, I remember a hand-drawn poster in UP announcing the attendance of “Ferdinand Marcos II” at some sort of event. Thirty years later, new strategies of communicating would compel him to be branded and run as something he hadn’t really been called before: “BBM” and not the Marcos Junior. Worse, he is being branded now as “PBBM,” which seems like a misspelling of peanut butter jelly sandwich. Presidents, once upon a time, used to be known simply by their initials; but modern insecurities are such that a “P” has to be tacked on: tacky, and actually, impertinent (what, people actually don’t know the president?).

Still, there is a history gap which is why you can differentiate those who only know him posthumously from those who remember him as president. The difference between “FEM” and “FM” is as much a sign of a lack of facility with language as it is of ignorance of the times: “FEM” was not used for the same reason Manuel Roxas didn’t use his middle initial as he found “MAR” an unfortunate result of three initials; for the same reason the hypermasculine Ferdinand Sr. wouldn’t take well to being “FEM.”

It is not that we have elected a President Peter Pan; but rather, now is the time to be reminded, the king is dead, long live the king (and that means, stop considering him a princeling).

With Razib Khan

By now you are quite familiar with an essay that Razib Khan wrote, which I think brings up a remarkably relevant phenomenon taking place in India. He recently invited me to an online conversation and the podcast that resulted is linked to, below.

Manuel L. Quezon III: Explaining the Philippinesrazib.substack.com
Listen now (56 min) | A century long relationship across the Pacific

#ProyektoPilipino ep. :

The youth has started to reawaken. As we have seen in the last elections, 52% of registered voters were young voters and many youth volunteers began to mobilize to not just support a candidate, but also extend education and aid to the more vulnerable sectors of the society.

In retrospect, we can actually trace back the youth movement in our history. The youth has always been a critical force in enacting positive change when it came to freedom, democracy, and politics. This is why in this episode, Fr. Tito Caluag, Manolo Quezon, and Carlo Santiago will take us back through the critical youth movements in history and how they shaped our country. And from this, reflect on what we should be doing today to continue supporting, mentoring, and guiding our youth, who — as Dr. Jose Rizal says — is the future of our nation.

Two contrasting reads

A blog post by a young Filipino diplomat. An interesting read! So do read it, and then check out my thoughts.

Two very interesting ideas here: that by his victory Marcos tacitly if not overtly accepts the EDSA institutions made possible by the fall of the dictatorship, and the identification of the current era being in favor of “disciplinary democracy” but not outright authoritarianism with that “disciplinary democracy” being a public unwilling to fully give up the rights established in the now-defunct EDSA consensus.

He dates the turning of the tide to 2001 which I partially do too, with one added thought I used to mention then and feel deserves refocusing on: 2001 destroyed an unwritten understanding among political players dating to at least the early postwar years, which was any administration’s fall from power drew the line at repercussions: to lose power was punishment enough despite pre martial law elections often hinging on the issue of graft snd corruption. The arrest of Estrada after he had not only fallen from power, but in essence accepted it, scrapped this unwritten understanding which even to a certain extent the Marcoses had enioyed. This added to things becoming an increasingly ultimate high stakes fight because no longer power but life and liberty itself were now at stake and increasingly put the major political players in the crosshairs of reform.

Arroyo tried to reset things through a pardon but was herself entrapped in the reform dynamic. There’s that going back even further we have to perhaps revisit our arbitrary definition of regimes since if defined by constitutions as we do, the Commonwealth and 3rd Republic are only one regime and make more sense if viewed as such. What confuses is the wartime interruption which on one hand revealed where the Commonwealth might have headed if the war hadn’t interrupted: a one party state led by the independence party which remained the evolutionary mode for nearly all the rest of our neighbors and including India. The war interrupted this and artificially divided the political class, ironically because Filipinos were farther ahead on the road to independence; the independence movement was divided on the question of collaboration when other similar ones didn’t suffer such a fracture because much more behind on the independence path: they did not have to choose between the old colonial power or the Japanese.

So the postwar Third Republic was built on the foundations of a typical Asian post independence one party state but with an artificial because dictated by weakness, two party system. The urge to coalesce however kept being thwarted by accident: at least twice, under Roxas and Magsaysay it seemed about to happen but their deaths meant weaker successors had to make due with existing divisions. This in turn was supported by a growing middle class that came to view as part of the democratic way of life, a party system the political class itself only partially accepted. When Marcos came along he managed to reassemble a monolithic party which proved acceptable to many in the public and political class and its echoes remains even if not consciously understood or appreciated by the political players. A further thought: a long view and an institutional awareness time and again the surveys tell us, is not part of the electorate’s approach to elections. So it seems to me more of a matter of projection on the part of observers when electoral outcomes are determined to be specific kinds of verdicts. In the first place the horizon in the minds of voters may be far narrower (shorter?) than commentators assume, the issues much more parochial; fundamentally it is a reaction to the immediate past and the concerns of the present. If that is the case then it is a stretch to read things as a verdict on events rapidly receding into the distant past for an ever-younger population.

There are times when the public’s opinion does lead to a changing of the guard: as was the case after WW2 and the death of so many political careers after EDSA Dos. But otherwise it is a verdict on the incumbent and a desire for a new direction as determined by the issues of the day and not the past. Which isn’t to say the political players know this. They have their own beliefs and so in this most recent case, the first real landslide in living memory, it would be easy for the Marcoses to think it is more of a vindication than it is (though it is, indeed, that by the measures of our political culture) when it was as much the product of hard-nosed political Math: North +South (plus each bringing in a chunk of the middle) = national majority when every election from 1992–2016 had taken place under different assumptions on math (forget a majority: you needed a minority only bigger than the next biggest minority: a very different game!

What the current admin enjoyed was an absence of any real scrutiny because of its infrastructure for communications and its policy of effective intimidation and unbridled patronage, both went together. Political observers noted the pandemic also strengthened incumbents. In that sense a unique situation that combined with the revival of the old electoral dynamics from before martial law with two uniquely endowed factions (Marcos and Duterte) to recreate what was last seen in 1965: a first term majority in a regular election. That creates its own dynamics but its been so long even the political players are likely unaware of those dynamics. But they will persist: in the wariness of the two factions and the question of succession after the midterms which they have to remain united to face. But if the electorate voted with very specific short term concerns then the long term plans or ambitions of those elected may clash with public opinion down the line — including assuming the public voted for things they didn’t. That will be interesting.

Marcos Restoration? — DISPATCH GENEVA

ourguyingeneva.wordpress.com

Later this year, four months after the landslide election of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. as president, the Philippines will mark the fiftieth anniversary of his father’s declaration of martial law. That proclamation paved the way for the establishment of a fourteen-year dictatorship under the guise of a “New Society” that official history now refer to as the Fourth Philippine Republic.

The elder Marcos cleverly argued at that time that suspending the constitution, dismantling congress, gutting the judiciary, muffling the free press, and silencing dissenters constituted a necessary “Revolution from the Center.” This, he said, was the only cure for an ailing democracy beset by the twin cancers of oligarchic capture and communist subversion.

His appeal to ideology — apt at a time when the Global South, particularly Asia, was gravitating towards strong developmental states — attracted much of the country’s middle class and intelligentsia. It also satisfied the Filipino yearning for a strongman, a subconscious desire that predates the liberal teachings of Rizal and Mabini, tracing its origin all the way to the precolonial datu system. A strong national consensus supporting Marcos thus emerged, lending legitimacy to his one-man rule.

Yet this initial national consensus notwithstanding, Marcos’ “constitutional authoritarianism” proved disastrous. To the disappointment of his well-meaning technocrats, his highfalutin “Revolution from the Center” turned out to be nothing more than what Latin Americans call autogolpe, or self-coup. In the end, the caudillo’s promise of a “New Society” failed to materialize — and that is putting it generously. By 1983, famine had struck some parts of the country, the central bank had gone bankrupt, and the economy had completely collapsed — and along with it the legitimacy of the Fourth Republic.

A new national consensus then emerged, manifesting itself through the 1986 EDSA Revolution that paved the way for the establishment of the current Fifth Republic — or what Walden Bello calls “the EDSA system.” This new social contract revolved around the ideology of “People Power,” a liberal model that emphasizes good governance, human rights, and civil liberties. This new liberalism rejected not only Marcos but also the only other alternative to his regime up to then: Maoism. As Cory Aquino said, People Power was a rejection of “the mindless cruelty of the right and the purging holocaust of the left.”

But last month, we saw a shocking reminder of how much the state of play has evolved since then. Filipinos made headlines worldwide by electing, with an overwhelming margin, the son and namesake of the same man that the EDSA Revolution banished in 1986. The symbolic implication of this consequential election is so profound that people have taken to calling it the “Marcos Restoration.”

To be sure, the ascension of another Ferdinand Marcos to the presidency represents the collapse of the national consensus behind the People Power ideology. This is in itself a major historical shift, but it is something that has already been unfolding since 2001, or nine years before the junior Marcos entered national politics.

That was the year when the virtue-signaling liberal elite and its reform-minded middle class constituency appropriated the role of gatekeepers of People Power. They subverted the constitutional process to oust a popular president who did not share their reformist disposition, only to replace him with an unpopular technocrat who would eventually, and ironically, apostasize People Power itself. By doing so, the reformist coalition alienated a constituency crucial to the continued legitimacy of the EDSA system, thus unraveling the People Power consensus. After giving the EDSA narrative one more chance in 2010, this constituency turned its back on liberalism completely in 2016, thus consummating the political divorce that has since manifested to us acutely as the dilawan-DDS divide.

Meanwhile, the re-emergence of the Marcos dynasty has been three decades in the making. The family methodically built hard power through soft power. Refashioning themselves as harmless icons of popular culture, the Marcoses worked to gradually increase the level of their acceptability to the public, even as they slowly built — from their two local bailiwicks of Ilocos and Leyte — the necessary machinery to mount a national comeback. They were lucky: growing popular revulsion towards the aloof liberal elite, the coalescence of a political class threatened by this modernizing liberal elite, the emergence of social media as a potent political tool, and a powerful global tide of populism and illiberalism have all converged to form an environment receptive to a Marcos return.

But let us be clear: this not a restoration of the pre-EDSA ancien regime, whether in form or substance. In the strictly formal sense, this election in fact completes the absorption of the Marcos dynasty into the EDSA system. When the new president swears fidelity to the constitution at the end of the month, he will by implication reaffirm his family’s recognition of the legitimacy of the revolution that drove them out of the country in 1986.

So far, the Marcos family appears concerned merely with the rehabilitation of their name, and understandably so. If how Marcos conducted his campaign is any indication, he might avoid spending political capital on battles unnecessary to such rehabilitation. The political barons that comprise his coalition, meanwhile, appear concerned only with maintaining their positions in the political order amidst the broad modernizing social shifts that threaten to displace them. They have no real interest in re-litigating the past. In terms of substance, therefore, the goals of this new Marcos coalition appear significantly more modest than mounting a counter-revolution from the center or resurrecting the old “New Society.”

Further, the populist constituency that elected Marcos and Duterte may find liberal constraints on government superfluous, but there is no indication that they are prepared to give up the democratic rights guaranteed by the EDSA system. What they voted for, scholars are now positing, is a “disciplinary democracy,” not an outright autocracy.

Even this moderate aspiration would still have to contend with entrenched institutional constraints that have proven resilient amidst current illiberal flirtations. Despite the populist yearning of Marcos’ supporters, we are likely to see technocrats and insiders of the EDSA system — what others might pejoratively call the “deep state” — driving much of policy under this new Marcos administration. For obvious reasons, there will likely be a few major shifts in the work of institutions such as the Presidential Commission on Good Governance. For the most part, however, policy orthodoxy is likely to be upheld. The key cabinet appointments that have so far been revealed are already indicative of such continuity. The bureaucracy, especially the armed forces and the foreign service, and the constitutional commissions can be counted upon to carry on with their respective mandates.

In the end, a real “Marcos Restoration,” one that would substantively and not just symbolically repudiate EDSA, requires the same national consensus that backed the New Society in 1972 and People Power in 1986. Such consensus does not exist — at least not yet. The pillars of the EDSA system — civil society, the major universities, the media, the Catholic Church, and the middle class — may have been weakened, but they remain unbowed. Their constituency, as Leni Robredo’s campaign demonstrated, remains a potent political force, ready to be mobilized to frustrate any attempt to dismantle or erode the prevailing liberal order.

In the past, the predecessor regimes of the EDSA system — the First Republic, the Commonwealth, the Second and Third Republics, and the New Society — were replaced amidst major upheavals in cycles that never exceeded three decades. The collapse of what used to be a very solid consensus behind the People Power ideology is natural if one considers that, at thirty-six years, the EDSA Republic is way past its shelf life. In the coming years, we might see its final decline, or we might be surprised of its stubborn and enduring resilience.

Rey Ileto stated “Voters are passing judgment on competing narratives over the country’s political history.”

One would have to inquire if this was consciously a factor; on one hand the Marcos Restoration scheme precisely aimed to make the past a non-issue; second, it has to be asked how long the public’s frame of reference actually is.

These are slides I ask people to reflect on in my presentations. The first is why supporters supported each candidates: only FM Jr has the peer acceptance factor; suggests bandwagon effect. Otherslide is actual issues that mattered to voters. See which went up which went down.

Why supporters supported each candidate
The actual concerns of voters over time

I am increasingly wary of attributing historical judgments to the electors and the outcome of elections. Judgments on individuals, yes; but the electorate as a whole has a short attention-span and framework when voting. Ileto makes other assumptions that are difficult to accept: such as the assertion, “There is overwhelming evidence that his removal was directed from Washington.” From George Bush attending the 1981 Marcos inaugural to the manner Reagan had to be maneuvered to grudgingly shift support away from Marcos, as in most things the Americans were catching up with events the way everyone else was. As an American observer recently reminded me, this was the era of Iran-Contra and foreign policy thinking was best expressed by Jean Kirkpatrick’s dictum that America ought to support dictators who opposed Communism.

The Philippines Presidential Elections: a story of duelling legaciesasialink.unimelb.edu.au

by Reynaldo Ileto

The 9 May election in the Philippines is capturing worldwide attention because the likely winners of the presidential and vice-presidential races are children of presidents with an unsavoury reputation in the global press. The presidential frontrunner, with around 58 percent of the vote compared to the 22 percent of his closest competitor, is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of Ferdinand Marcos, president from 1965 to 1986. The elder Marcos is often called “dictator” for having ruled by decree under martial law from 1972 to 1981. He was ousted in February 1986 by a peaceful uprising that installed Corazon Aquino as president.

Bongbong Marcos, or “BBM” for short, is teamed up with vice-presidential bet Sara Duterte, the current president’s daughter and the mayor of Davao City. Inday Sara, as the public affectionally calls her, has a similar popularity rating to BBM’s as she prepares to face the separate election for vice president. The team’s impending victory will effectively result in a continuation of the Duterte administration’s policies. BBM has repeatedly made assurances to this effect. Moreover, Sara’s election will position her as the likely successor to BBM and place in high office another former mayor, as her father had been for over 20 years.

The election is being pitched to the outside world as the archetypal battle between democracy and authoritarianism. For Australian observers, this has been the conventional lens for viewing political change in neighbouring countries. For the past six years, the Duterte government has been portrayed in the media as authoritarian and populist. Duterte’s seeming empowerment of the executive arm of the state to the detriment of the judicial and executive arms is portrayed as evidence of democracy’s decline. Duterte’s “war on drugs” is condemned as the displacement of the rule of law by the rule of violence.

What is worse is that Duterte did not subscribe to the conventional discourse about the “dictator Marcos”. Three months into office, he implemented the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the burial of the dictator, who had died in 1989, in the Cemetery of Heroes. The link between the Duterte presidency and that of the late dictator was formally established. The BBM-Sara team that appears to be headed for victory can thus be portrayed as the harbinger of dark times.

This is not the way the Filipino voting public sees things, judging by the polls and the massive turnouts in BBM-Sara rallies and motorcades. And this is the problem. For the potential losers in the election there is puzzlement, disdain and anger at the voting public’s seeming acquiescence to Duterte’s anti-democratic practices and, worse, its failure to understand the dire consequences of a return to the “dark age” of Marcos rule. Should we subscribe to this view as well, or should we delve deeper into what is going on beneath the surface?

Perhaps this is not a poll over democracy, but rather the outcome of an ongoing clash of political narratives over the past 50 years. Perhaps what is at stake is the truth about the martial law era under Ferdinand Marcos beginning in 1972 and the so-called People Power revolution in 1986 that took down Marcos and installed Corazon Aquino as President.

Marcos represents dictatorship for having grabbed power in 1972, while Aquino represents democratic revival from 1986 onward. The narrative of a descent into a dark age of despotism upon Marcos’s declaration of martial law in 1972 leads to a redemptive event: the assassination of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino in 1983 and the victory of his widow Cory in a show of People Power in 1986. Thus, the tyrant Marcos is driven out and democracy renewed.

What is missing in this narrative is the wider context in which these events took place. The year 1972 brings us back to the Cold War era when military or authoritarian rule was commonplace throughout the Third World. Marcos was anointed by the US to the leadership of the former American colony. A question rarely asked is how Marcos performed in comparison with Suharto, Lee Kuan Yew, Ne Win, Park Chung-hee, Mahathir Mohamad, Nguyen Cao Ky and other Asian autocrats of that era.

By 1986, the Cold War was nearly over, the era of globalisation was emerging, and democratic restoration was the new American buzzword. Marcos was unseated by a military coup under the cover of a “nonviolent” urban uprising — the first “colour revolution” in Asia — supported by the Catholic Church and the US Embassy.

In recent decades, the dominant narrative of a dark age of dictatorship under Marcos has been eroded by the uncovering of new information about what had really happened in the 1970s and 80s. The alignment of Filipino political forces with shifting US foreign policy was particularly noted. As the US moved towards globalism, Marcos insisted upon following a nationalist trajectory of development prioritising industrialisation and self-sufficiency in food and energy. There is overwhelming evidence that his removal was directed from Washington.

The public, largely through social media, is increasingly aware of alternative readings of the narrative of Marcos’s rule. Whilst the image of Imelda’s hoard of shoes may still shape Western perceptions of the Marcoses, most Filipino voters now know that those shoes were mostly gifts to the First Lady from the shoe manufacturers of the town of Marikina, whose entry into the world market was facilitated by the government.

Whilst the opposition continues to taunt BBM as the “son of a thief”, it is an open question as to whether the elder Marcos had looted the treasury or, as claimed by the family, possessed wealth of his own even before becoming president. Numerous cases of plunder against the Marcoses have been filed in Philippine and US courts but most have not prospered for lack of evidence. The central mystery revolves around Marcos’s apparent discovery and possession of much of the gold left behind by the fleeing Japanese in 1945.

The triumphalist narrative of democracy restoration in 1986 has also been contested. There still are unanswered questions. For instance, who ordered Ninoy Aquino’s assassination? In the 12 years that Cory and her son Noynoy Aquino III occupied the presidency, there was a lack of urgency in discovering the truth. Furthermore, Cory Aquino’s presidency did not fulfill post-People Power expectations of an age of prosperity. Energy and food security, peace and order, and industrial development declined. Democratic reform did not lead to a better life for the average Filipino.

BBM’s only real opponent is Vice President Leni Robredo, leader of the Liberal Party, which seemed invincible when Noynoy Aquino III was President from 2010. Robredo was Noynoy’s anointed candidate for Vice President in 2016 — a race she won over BBM by a small margin. Today she is fighting for the survival of the 1986 narrative of Democracy Restoration through People Power. She has waged a negative campaign on the theme of preventing another Marcos from casting the country into another dark age, but the strategy has backfired.

The blame for the voting public’s support for the BBM-Sara duo is placed on the elder Duterte. The vigorous public debates over whether the late dictator should be buried in the Cemetery of Heroes served to heighten public consciousness of an alternative history of the Marcos years that had been swept under the rug by the democracy narrative of the 1986 People Power uprising.

Perhaps the forthcoming election is less about democracy than about the future of the Philippines in a changing world order. The descendants of the 1986 ‘revolution’, as if acting in concert with the US pivot to Asia, loudly contested Duterte’s every move to strengthen diplomatic and economic ties with China. Duterte astutely recognised the implications of the rise of China as a global economic power and potential regional hegemon. He battled with the widespread perception among the public, stoked by his predecessor Noynoy, that China was the aggressor in the South China Sea conflicts, and he largely prevailed.

Strengthening ties of friendship with China and Russia was the natural offshoot of Duterte’s attempt to push back on the immense influence that the US has had in Philippine foreign policy making, particularly under the previous government. Duterte’s speeches during his first year in power were often dotted with history lessons, notably his resurrection of the “forgotten” Filipino-American War of 1899–1902. He reminded the nation as well as the world that the US had come to the Philippines as an aggressor that committed atrocities against both Christian and Muslim Filipinos who resisted the American takeover. The US destroyed the first Republic founded in 1898, and from 1901 to 1946 gradually transformed the Philippines into a friend and ally.

The US-Philippines special relationship was tested in WWII and the Cold War and seemed to be set in stone. But Duterte believes that the world has changed since the Cold War, and that the blind continuation of the special relationship could only bring disaster. He repeatedly states that the country would be crushed like an ant in a fight between the American and Chinese giants. Upturning his predecessor’s policies, Duterte insisted that the Philippines would side militarily with neither power. Recognising China’s rapid wealth growth — in contrast to America’s financial woes and de-industrialisation — the economy would be firmly hooked onto China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Over the years, Duterte has had to retreat somewhat from his ambitious goal of an independent foreign policy. The special ties with the US are too deeply embedded to be broken precipitously. There are pro-Americans even within his cabinet and certainly in the military. Anti-Chinese sentiments continue to linger in society and can be easily stoked by slanted media reports of incursions in the Spratlys. Joint exercises between the American and Filipino armed forces continue to be held annually, with China as the implicit adversary. The Duterte government, however, has clearly succeeded in steering the public mindset away from the 1986 Aquino narrative of banishing the tyrant Marcos, restoring democracy, and realignment with US policy in the world. Thus, we ironically see in the coming elections the return of a form of “people power” that now is anathema to the former colonial master and the Church.

The fear among the US and its allies is that a victory of BBM and Sara will mean a continuation of Duterte’s initiatives. BBM has made it clear that, while acknowledging the deep historical ties with the US, he will not revert to Noynoy’s policy of leading the charge against China. This is the opposite of how Australia views the problem, and so the gap between the Philippines and Australia can only widen further. The election has not yet taken place, however. The fear among the supporters of BBM-Sara, and the Duterte government itself, is that something unexpected might happen that will derail the present course of events.

Reynaldo Ileto is Honorary Professor, Emeritus Faculty member, School of Culture, History & Language at the Australian National University.

To read…

Got this splendid book through the good folks at Fully Booked bookstore, who have copies available. I find if a fair and insightful. Check out the review below to see why it should be on your shelf.

“The Making of the Modern Philippines: Pieces of a Jigsaw State” by Philip Bowringasianreviewofbooks.com

If any journalist has a claim to be the doyen of the international press corps in East Asia, it would be Philip Bowring. In this timely book, he turns his gaze on the Philippines…

The book’s subtitle “Pieces of a Jigsaw State” telegraphs Bowring’s approach. The first half is a straightforward chronological history from pre-history to the present day. The second half, however, is made up of a dozen short thematic chapters on the various jigsaw pieces, from politics and economics to sociology and foreign relations.

Bowring’s diagnosis is, roughly, that the Philippines has been going in circles…

The Philippines merits both more attention and more understanding and The Making of the Modern Philippines is both a good place to start and a useful crib-sheet for those who had been following along but whose memory needs brushing up.

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Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Spot.ph. Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.