The Independence of the Philippines

The United States had many reasons that compelled them to enter the Philippines; the compulsion to spread American culture, the desire to expand and develop commercial relations, the goal of gaining access to raw materials and markets, and the strategy of increasing national security. When the US acquired the Philippines, Filipino insurgents resisted the transfer of authority and wanted independence. Under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo, a guerrilla war began, and though the United States was not prepared, they captured Aguinaldo, gained his allegiance, and won the support of many Filipinos. In 1901, the US set up a colonial government under William Taft and implemented many reforms that were very successful, but also oppressive. Later in 1935, the Philippines became a commonwealth, and Manuel Quezon was elected as president. During 1941 in World War I, Japan invaded the Philippines and remained there until 1944 when Douglas MacArthur defeated the Japanese. This left the Philippines a mess; the economy was hurt badly and Manila, the capital, was destroyed. The above picture is of President Truman signing the Treaty of Manila.

The United States granted the Philippines complete independence on July 4th, 1946, under the Treaty of Manila. As a display of American symbolism, the treaty came into effect on July 4th, the same date that the Americans announced the Declaration of Independence. The treaty recognized the independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Islands. But, most Filipinos consider July 12th Independence Day because on July 12th, 1898, they gained independence from Spain, though this was not recognized by the US until 1946. Manuel Roxas was elected the first president of the independent Philippines. During his short presidency of two years, Roxas achieved many things, but arguably not for the benefit of the Philippines. He ratified the Bell Trade Act which gave the Filipinos $800 million for war damage in exchange for some limitations on their economy which was later criticized as interfering with their sovereignty. He also included the Parity Amendment in the Constitution which granted US citizens the right to use Filipino natural resources. Lastly, he signed the Military Bases Agreement which allowed the US to operate major military bases in the Philippines. The above video is about the Philippines independence.

The Philippine Trade Act

            The Philippine Trade Act, more commonly known as the Bell Trade Act, was passed by the United States Congress in 1946. The Philippines economy had been devastated by World War II and their economy was in debt. The Bell Trade Act was the gift of independence of the Republic of the Philippines from United States rule, but with a numerous amount of strings attached. This act also tied the Philippines economy to that of the U.S. Although the act was frowned upon by the majority of the Filipinos, both the Philippine government and the United States government agreed to it.
           The Philippine Trade Act was controversial in many ways. The United States promised a payment of $800,000,000 as an incentive to sign the agreement to the act. The act set quotas on Philippine exports to the United States. The Philippines currency, the peso, was set at a fixed rate to the U.S. dollar. Also, provided after 8 years of free trade between the two countries, there would be the application of tariffs for the next 20 years. The United States citizens were granted equal rights with Filipinos in the operations of public utilities and the exploitation of natural resources in the Philippines in what was known as the Parity Amendment. The Philippine Trade Act also prohibited the manufacturing or selling any products that could compete with U.S. made-products. Today, Philippine historians see the Bell Trade Act as the ignoring of their national sovereignty. The above pictures are of the American and Filipino flags and the American dollar and Filipino peso.

The Huk Rebellion

               Prior to the war, what fueled the Huk guerrillas' aggression was their hatred for the Japanese. The Hukbalahap, translates to the “People's Anti-Japanese Army”, and their original intent was to resist the Japanese. During World War II, their anger for all of the lives lost to the Japanese combined with their weapons and combat experience, caused them to strongly resist the Japanese. But after the war, US forces came in to try to disarm and break up the guerrillas. Many of the Huks, led by Luis Taruc, escaped into the forest and concealed their weapons. When the elections began, Taruc gained a seat in the House of Representatives. When he was denied the seat by Roxas, the president, he retreated into the jungle and rebuilt the Huk war units to start a terrorist campaign.
                The Huks targeted Luzon, a rich farming area, and appealed to the peasants using the promise of land reform. The national police, the Philippine Constabulary, was unable to stop the Huks and their hit-and-run tactics. By 1950, the United States was afraid for a communist insurgency because the Huks had almost all of Luzon under their control. They sent in millions of dollars and tons of military supplies, and Ramon Magsaysay. He joined the new Philippine army with the Constabulary and increased government intelligence. As the Hukbalahaps were going to attack Manila, the city where the main government was, government agents raided their secret headquarters in Manila and arrested most of the Huks in one night. Magsaysay became president in 1953, and in 1954, Taruc surrendered.
The above pictures are of the rebel leader Luis Taruc, and of the rebels behind a hill.

Ferdinand Marcos

         Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was the 6th president of independent Philippines who was in power from 1965 to 1986. He ruled with absolute and merciless power, taking down anyone in his way. Before he came into power, he graduated first in his class from law school, served in the armed forces, and was an assistant to Manuel Roxas. He then was elected to the House of Representatives and later the Senate, but soon, his sights were set on bigger and better things. He ran for president in the Liberal Party, but lost to Diosdada Macapagal in 1961. Angered at his loss, he joined the Nationalist Party and won in 1965. In his first two terms as president, Marcos instituted various agricultural industrial and educational reforms, but civil unrest increased. Faced with the likelihood of losing the 1973 elections, he declared Martial Law in 1972 and suspended the Constitution, ruling by decree.
           This marked the beginning of his downward spiral. For the next ten years he suppressed rebels, dissolved Congress, censored the press and arrested his opposition. He used the Philippines Constabulary to control and oppress any resistance. During this time, the Philippine economy was sinking under the weight of corruption and mismanagement. Soon, Marcos was in poor health, and communist and Muslim insurgencies ran amok in the countryside so he decided that the nation was ripe for change. In 1981, he ended Martial Law, but continued to rule by decree. His presidency took another turn for the worse in 1983 when Senator Aquino was murdered upon his arrival to the Philippines. This event set off massive anti-Marcos demonstrations across the country, and more unrest due to political restrictions and declining economic conditions. Corazon Aquino, the Senator's widow, was swiftly gaining popularity so Marcos, desperate to hang onto his presidency, called elections 18 months early. Aquino won the vote, but Marcos claimed his own victory. But, he has underestimated the amount of public resentment against himself. Thousands of people in nearly every province protested and rebelled against him and he was accused of election fraud. He was forced into exile after the People's Power Protest, and he went to Hawaii along with his wife Imelda where he died. His death helped him evade being tried for more than 60 counts of embezzlement and tax evasion. The Philippines in shambles with many economic problems; millions of dollars stolen and billions owed to foreign banks. The above pictures are of Ferdinand Marcos and an Anti-Marcos Demonstration in the Philippines.

Proclamation 1081 (Martial Law)

If a government or ‘a people’ is unstable, the imposition of temporary military rule and authority is necessary to maintain law and order if the civil authorities at the time fail to function effectively. This is sometimes inevitable during a time of civil disobedience or rebellion. This is called Martial Law. Starting in 1972, when the Philippines were under the rule of Ferdinand Marcos, it was declared in Proclamation 1081 that the entire country was now under martial law. Marcos claimed that he needed extra powers to suppress the rising wave of civil strife and the threat and violence allegedly caused by the communists. According to Marcos, it was necessary to enforce martial law to eliminate the quickly forming start of a rebellion. While a total of around 30,000 prisoners were held in military-run camps, opposition figures were being arrested left and right.
                 Similar to other dictatorships, the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos was a violent and lawless place. The military used force and violence to extract information from those thought to be opposing Marcos. Like the Nazi SS and the Soviet Union, the military abused human rights excessively through torture and assault targeting any person who resisted the government. Like Stalin, Hitler, and many of the other tyrannical rulers, Marcos expressed ideas of moving towards a totalitarian state. Covering up his paranoia, he explained that Martial Law was not military takeover, but rather a necessary step to resolve the Philippines dilemma on rebellion that would eventually lead to chaos in the country. He claimed that by imposing Martial Law, it would contribute to his ultimate goal of leading the nation into what he calls a “New Society.” However, the Filipinos rebelled against this in the People Power Revolution. The image above is a newspaper explaining Marco's ideas on Martial Law

The People Power Protest of 1986

Ferdinand Marcos had been in power for 18 years when the People Power Protest began. After years of “buying the elections” and martial law, much of the Filipino population was fed up with the dictatorship. New groups began to form promoting terrorism such as the New People’s Army. This organization targeted government officials through guerrilla warfare. Unlike the New People’s Army, which used aggression and brutality to achieve their goals, Corazon Aquino began peaceful protesting, leading the People Power Protest from 1983-1986. She began her protesting after Marco’s men assassinated her husband, Benigo Aquino, a politician. The death of Benigo Aquino was a microcosm that drew the attention of the majority of the Filipino population to the corruption of their government. Two million people attended the funeral, showing Marcos just how many Filippinos were against his cruel and brutal ways. The above picture is of Corazon Aqunio making the "L" symbol with her fingers. This stood for the Filipino word "laban", meaning fight or contest. This refers to Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator she was opposing.
Corazon Aquino began preaching to the people of the Philippines over the radio saying that their had to be change and that this government was not acceptable. In fact, Marcos acted similar to Stalin and Lenin of the Soviet Union by targeting any politician, or person that posed a threat to their power. Aquino then began to take serious action, planning rallies to protest. But she differed from any of the rebel groups of the Philippines, for Aquino pressed for peace, "I'm not asking for violent revolution. This is not the time for that….now is the way of nonviolent struggle for justice. This means active resistance of evil by peaceful means". The New People’s army had proved that fighting with violence can be difficult and sometimes impossible for they never succeeded. The guerrilla warfare made a statement to the government, but made no impact internationally. To the rest of the world, the New People’s army was just another terrorist organization. Aquino brought civil protest that gathered millions of people across the Philippines and brought them together to fight without weapons in their hands. Over the course of three years, her protesting continued, and with the help of international support, Marcos surrendered his power and Aquino was elected into office. The People Power Protest proved to the world that violence is not always the correct way to make a change, and that civil rebellion can have a greater effect.

Today, the Filipino people feel that the corrupt government that the People Power Protest aimed to overthrow has slipped back into office.  

Islamic Insurgency

The Muslim people first immigrated to the Philippines in the 13th century for trade, but some of their motives have changed since then from economical, to terrorist. In the late 1800s rebelling Muslims began to wish for a South Eastern state to call their own. But unfortunately for them, in the 1940s, countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia were unwilling to comply. It wasn’t until the mid 1940s that terrorism spiked in the Philippines. After the Americans granted the Philippines their independence, the government was far weaker than it had been before and these organizations had the opportunity to rebel. The Islamic people from this region felt they were under foreign occupation for they held a stronger loyalty to Islam than the Philippine Government.
In the 1970s the Islamic rebels increased their activity planting bombs in areas with a high population of Christians, and targeting the government. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the leadership of Nur Miswaari was founded in 1972 and was one of the most active terrorist groups in the Philippines along with four main others, Abu Sayyaf, Rajah Sulaiman Movement, Jemaah Islamiyah, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (which was the original group that split creating the MILF and the MNLF). These groups having contact with Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda helped refuge members of Al Qaeda and plan attacks against American passenger planes and Pope John Paul II in 1993. This devotion to the disruption of foreign affairs shows their strong allegiance to other Islamic groups. Philippine rebels wish to be a part of this Islamic state and go as far as refuging them and providing support with their plots. The above pictures are of Islamic terrorists and a logo including the MNLF flag.
The Philippine Government struggles greatly with these attacks and has made multiple peace treaties with the rebel groups, yet the terror continues into modern day. The Islamists want their own land in Southeast Asia and use terror to try and fulfill their wishes. Holding only 5% of the Philippine population, the Muslims feel like foreigners. The government has always made an attempt to keep the state separate from religion creating religious tolerance, but the rebels want more. They wish to acquire an Islamic State and will stop at nothing to achieve this. 

Joseph Estrada

               After entering the world of politics following a career as an actor, Joseph Estrada became quite popular very quickly. He successfully gained the position as mayor in the Manila suburb of San Juan and kept it for 18 years. In 1969, he was elected for the Senate and eventually ran for vice-president of the National People’s Coalition ticket and won. Finally, Estrada ran for president. His competition was stiff as his competitor was Juan de Venecia, an endorsed House speaker. Fidel Ramos, the previous President, supported many business men including de Venecia, who were opposed to Estrada’s populist ideals. Although his presidential competition was tough, he received no help from the Church either, who denied him their support after hearing that he fathered 4 children with women other than his wife. Despite all of these barriers, Joseph Estrada finally became President.
                However, Estrada’s Presidential term was short-lived after a corruption scandal was discovered. A fellow politician declared that millions of dollars in bribes had been accepted by Estrada. He was put on trial but it was discontinued after other senators “blocked the admission of evidence.” Eventually, Estrada was kicked out of office after mass protests. Estrada remained relatively popular, even after he was brought to trial on charges of having obtained over $80 million through bribery and corrupt dealings and charged with plunder. Finally, Joseph Estrada was convicted of plundering and sentenced to 40 years in jail. However, the new President, Gloria Arroyo, pardoned him and two years later, he was running for presidency again (although he didn’t win).

American Influence

Though the United States of America legally granted the Philippines independence in 1946, their influence has remained present throughout the country for the past 66 years. Culturally, America is much different than the Philippines, but both countries share similar outlooks on the way their society should be run.  The easiest connection to see between the two countries would be the fact that both have a form of a republic.  The Philippine government is just a republic while America has a constitutional republic.  After years of American occupation, it would be hard for the Filipino people to migrate away from the dreams of freedom and equality that Americans preach about so diligently.  Human rights are very similar to that in the United States, though problems throughout history regarding racism towards Muslim populations along with predigest towards women and sometimes children have caused more issues in the Philippines than in the US. 

            The United States held Clark airbase in the Philippines until 1991 along with several other military bases until 1992 as a part of a treaty.  Following World War II, the United States was engulfed suddenly into the Cold War.  These bases were used as protection from and a threat towards Communist China.  In 1992, the last base was handed back over to the Philippine government and the last of America was out of the Philippines. 
            The United States not only had an impact on the government of the Philippines, but also the cultural outlook.  From American pop music, to the love for the arts, American ideals are seen everywhere in the Philippines.  For instance, the “Jeepney” is a Philippine vehicle that is not only functional but expresses the creativity that many Americans cherish as well.  Following World War II, American Jeeps were left on Philippine territory.  The people then transformed these machines used once for transporting soldiers and weaponry into a flashy, fun, cultural symbol. The United States also left behind their language, and educational ethics.  Nearly 92% of the Filipino population over the age of 10 is literate and many use English as a second language.
            The Americans colonized the Philippines in the nineteenth century, and decolonized in the twentieth, but their cultural and governmental influence still remains today in the twenty-first. 
The White Man's Burden, a poem written in 1899 by Rudyard Kipling, suggests that the western/developed countries of the world (primarily the United States) had an obligation to help develop third world countries. This Picture of Uncle Sam imperializing the Philippines was posted in Life magazine, reflecting on the poem that was published in McClure's magazine that same year.


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