Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Deconstructing EDSA I

By his own admission, President Noynoy Aquino sought refuge in Cebu when his father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino II, was assassinated in 1983. It was also in Cebu where his mother, former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, took shelter from the political turmoil in Manila during the February 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that eventually deposed the dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power.
Now on the 28th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, President Aquino is making a revisionist historical claim that it was in Cebu where his mother Cory planted the seed of civil disobedience against the Marcos regime. Thus, why the President was in Cebu to celebrate the anniversary of the EDSA revolt as he emphasized the role played by Cebu in the initial stage of the revolution. As President Aquino said, “If the last part of the protest happened in EDSA, the first part started in Cebu.”
President Noynoy Aquino contemplates the legacy of his parents,
democracy icons former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former
President  Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino on the 28-year anniversary
of  the EDSA I People Power Revolution.
Everyone who knows full well the roots of the people’s protest in EDSA is aware that President Aquino was wrong in claiming that his mother planned the protest while she was in Cebu. Cory Aquino was in Cebu at that time for her own safety just as her own son took refuge there when he was a young boy during his father’s assassination.
The people’s protest in EDSA was the tipping point in the civil society’s struggle against the oppressive Marcos regime. Long before EDSA, the Filipino people had already been waging their battle to depose Marcos from Malacañang. Thousands had been killed and imprisoned by the Marcos dictatorship in its effort to remain in power, but EDSA became the critical moment in the people’s movement against the repressive regime. It was in EDSA where the people’s protest reached a critical mass.
But whether Cebu actually played an important part in the EDSA revolution only downplays its significance. What is more important is for us to grasp the true meaning of the EDSA uprising, and whether it has accomplished its purpose.
EDSA was successful in driving Marcos into exile, but the landscape of political power was never altered. The so-called restoration of democracy in the Philippines in 1986 was simply a transfer of political power into the hands of the oligarchic elite. There was a change in the characters on the political stage, but the play’s storyline remained constant.
Twenty-eight years have passed since the EDSA revolution. Income inequalities continue to intensify despite growth in GDP because the economic gains meant bigger profits to corporations and mainly benefited a few wealthy families. The so-called economic growth under the Aquino administration did not translate to higher and gainful employment, thus worsening poverty among more than 25 percent of the population. In short, the quality of life for many Filipinos either worsened or remained unchanged.
On the political side, political power remains the monopoly of a handful of family dynasties. The Marcoses were driven into exile by the EDSA uprising but it did not prevent them and their followers from coming back to regain their political influence. Now, the Marcos family is in the political picture again, and if unchecked, it may spring its biggest political comeback by capturing the presidency in the very near future, relegating the EDSA revolution to a sad and insignificant footnote in the country’s history.
Public corruption has become a way of life for politicians, making politics the most lucrative of all careers. With its “daang matuwid” mantra, the incumbent administration promises to clean the government of corruption. Yet, looting of the public coffers remains rampant from congressional pork barrel to the President’s own presidential pork barrel, both disguised as earmarks for development assistance.
Notwithstanding the return of democracy and restoration of political and civil liberties after the EDSA uprising, repression of political dissent continues to a point where it is allowed as a permissible culture of impunity. While the Philippine press has been bandied around as one of the freest in the world, journalists continue to be easy prey for government repression. The Philippines had the third most number of journalists killed last year and has continued to be among the countries where press freedom is imperiled.
In an interview with reporters, President Aquino said that online libel is justified since it constitutes equal protection for those who are aggrieved by information through the Internet. It is easy to understand why President Noynoy Aquino would rather protect those he believes could be criminally libeled on the Internet than preserving the lives of journalists and their right to freely express themselves. Journalists scare Aquino because he does not want to be criticized. To President Aquino, protecting him and others from criticism either on the Internet or on traditional media trumps the right to freedom of expression. Thus, it is acceptable for Noynoy Aquino to punish critics for criminal libel rather than to protect and preserve the rights of journalists and other critics to their life and freedom of the press.
This is not to say that no remedy should be made available whenever one defames another. Libel has already been decriminalized in many jurisdictions because the civil court has proven to be capable of providing appropriate remedies for damages rather than imprisonment. Why is it difficult for the Philippines to follow the trend towards decriminalization of libel, but for the very thin skin of President Aquino, Senator Tito Sotto and others who are easily offended by fair criticism?
President Aquino’s disquieting aversion to criticism also demonstrates his lack of human compassion to empathize with the oppressed and the poor. Take for instance the victims of super Typhoon Yolanda when they recently travelled to Manila in order to air their grievances for the government’s slow response to their plight.

Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda joined the People Power celebration at the EDSA
Shrine to press their call for press relief for their fellow victims in the Eastern
Visayas region, and tied violet ribbons in many places at Ground Zero to protest
their plight. Photo by Manny Palmero.
Instead of meeting with the protesters, President Aquino snubbed them for coming to Manila. The President said: “To those who are saying that we have been slow in responding... it seems to me that if they are capable of attending to their trip to Manila, perhaps they can also attend to their livelihood.”
Aquino’s Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman agreed with the President by saying “instead of coming here, they could have used the money to help themselves.”
Even much worse was the reaction of Rehabilitation Czar Panfilo Lacson who denied that the government had been slow in responding to the needs of the calamity survivors and dismissed the protesting typhoon survivors as pawns of communist agitators and leftist groups who wanted to destabilize the government. Here we go again with red-baiting which was a ubiquitous aspect of repression during the Marcos dictatorship.
Certainly, this is not the kind of heartless government we wanted after the EDSA revolution. We threw out a repressive regime but coddled another cruel government that suffers from a lack of consideration and empathy to people’s problems. And if we don’t agree with their demands, we call them communists, as if the end of the Cold War in the 1990s did not already erase that stigma of communism.
People in high echelons of government like President Aquino and his cabinet should be more sensitive to the needs of the people. If people criticize the government for being slow in responding to their problems, like the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, the best thing for the President or his staff to do is to sit down and listen to them, not to scold them for coming to Manila. After all, these people are also part of the constituency the President calls his boss. Unless, calling the people his boss is just another insincere publicity stunt.
The protesters who gathered in EDSA in February 1986 came in droves, armed only with the courage of their words and songs to show the genuineness of their intent and spirit to revolt against repression. They all knew full well that in the event of gunfire, their cause would be lost in a matter of minutes. But the dictator’s minions dithered and avoided the risk of action, in the end betraying their own loyalty to the cruel regime. In a few hours, the Marcos dictatorship crumbled without firing a shot and the entire country and the world begun to embrace the idea that a peaceful revolution was possible.
That was the essence of EDSA I, which was lost in the years of succession from one president to another. The only trouble is that every president after Ferdinand Marcos tried to outdo him, to become better or even greater. They all failed, even the current one.
Instead of transforming the narrative of the peaceful revolution of EDSA into a story of the making of a new country, a new constitution, a new world—every leader after Marcos emulated the dictator’s predilection for punitive action against the voices of dissent, for rewarding his capitalist cronies and members of the oligarchic elite, for reinforcing political dynasties, and for committing petty and grand corruption in all levels of government. The ordinary masses who persevered in the struggle for a better life actually never figured in the country’s democratic renewal after EDSA. They were victims of the old society under Marcos and they have continued to be the sacrificial victims of one regime after another of excess, extravagance, and small-mindedness.
Is it any wonder that those aching for the return of another Marcos in Malacañang are never in doubt that this reality is not any further away? This is a brutal simplification of history after EDSA I, but the fallibility of our memory makes the upcoming narrative almost frightening.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Continuing history after Marcos

I recently read Raïssa Robles’ blog about the return of the Marcoses to power ( and how certain of our cultural norms are enabling and helping them obliterate their crimes from the history of our country. It’s an interesting and a provocative piece of writing although I don’t fully subscribe to the author’s argument that our culture is partly responsible for the restoration of the Marcos political dynasty, and its recent resurgence because of persistent talks about the possibility of the former dictator’s son and namesake running for the presidency.
Former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda Romualdez-
Marcos, as the country's Marahas and Mapurot (ugly and undesirable).
What completely surprised me after reading Ms. Robles’ blog is the sorry state of history as a major field of study in university, which she rightly wrote is vital for a nation in documenting lessons from the past. Ms. Robles wrote: “to this day, The History of the Filipino People written by UP historians Teodoro Agoncillo and Milagros Guerrero – which a lot of schools continue to use as their history textbooks – has not been updated to include the Marcos years and the years afterward.”
I still have the 1974 edition of Agoncillo’s Introduction to Filipino History which we brought with us when we moved to Canada in 1987, a copy to remind us and our then- still-young children of our roots. The last chapter of the book was about the New Society, a phrase Agoncillo used only once in the book, perhaps revealing his great discomfort in using it, although the short chapter encapsulated the early crisis that Marcos alluded to from 1966 until he declared martial law in 1972 and changed the Constitution in 1973 to provide legitimacy to his dictatorship.
But Ms. Robles is on the correct side of history when she decried the lack of updating in Agoncillo’s book, or other history textbooks, to include the Marcos years and the years after his fall from disgrace. A saying from the philosopher George Santayana aptly reminds us why this is important: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It is not that there has been a great failure in documenting the events of the Marcos dictatorship which prevents their scholarly publication for use in the teaching of history and as a guide for us in remembering the past. There are plenty of written accounts in newspapers, magazines, local and foreign journals, archival reports, congressional and government records, and other influential books that can be used in accumulating the information needed to update our history. In addition, many survivors of the Marcos era are still alive and they can offer oral histories or personal accounts of what transpired during those repressive and cruel years of dictatorship.
In every transition from repression to freedom, many governments such as those in Argentina, Chile, and South Africa have established Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, not only for the purpose of documenting the repression the people have suffered under the old regime, but also to identify remedial measures which may be necessary. Unfortunately, the current president’s mother, former President Cory Aquino, put a brake on past efforts to create a similar commission after Marcos was driven to exile because of pressure from the military. The invisible hand of the United States’ government could also be partly responsible for this obvious ploy to expunge the memory of the Marcos dictatorship which it nurtured and supported.
Ms. Robles mentioned that Berlin has established a documentation centre of Nazi crimes during the war, as noted by her husband, journalist Alan Robles. Schoolchildren in Berlin are being taught of Hitler’s crimes to remind them of the horrors of the Nazi regime. Similarly, we also need to educate our children of the crimes of the Marcos’ martial law years and the rise of crony capitalism which continues to survive. My wife, who is also a writer and a classmate of Ms. Robles’ husband at the International Institute of Journalism in Berlin, was equally disturbed that Agoncillo’s book and other Philippine history books have not undergone an updating after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship considering we have so much archival information that can be used.
There are four cultural norms that Ms. Robles mentioned in her blog which she argued are being exploited by the Marcos’ political clan and their supporters in propagating their twisted version of reality. These are: respect your elders, do not speak ill of the dead, forgive your enemies, and do not bring the sins of the father on his children. All these so-called social practices are shallow and superficial and they only make light of the crimes committed by the Marcos dictatorship by reducing their culpability. We do not invoke such norms when confronted with the serious gravity of crimes committed against our people. We have long learned and appreciated the clear distinction between right and wrong, and these cultural norms that Ms. Robles mentioned do not by any means mitigate the crimes committed by a dictator against his own people.
Noam Chomsky wrote that memory and consciousness of what’s happening right in front of you must be repressed, because once the public comes to understand what’s being done in its name, they would resist and disallow it. This is what exactly was done during the martial law period, and Ms. Robles mentioned it in her blog. Marcos shepherded all the young intellectuals during that time and transformed them into propagandists and mouthpieces of the New Society. The Marcos propaganda machine took care and rewarded them well to crank out glowing and flattering accounts and achievements of the New Society. In other words, they were co-opted by the dictatorship. As soon as the Marcos regime had fallen, these intellectuals would cross the divide to become spokespersons and members of the government think-tank. Now they are either writing and regurgitating daily opinion columns for prestigious local newspapers or serving in the high echelons of government, and for whoever is elected president of the country. Loyalty seems so fungible that ethics or morality doesn’t even matter at all.

Propaganda. Photo courtesy of love unrefined.
Erasing memory and consciousness is the main reason for propaganda. Otherwise, there’s no point to it. Those in systems of control and power never tell the truth, if they can get away with it.
The only alternative in bridging this gap between the Marcos years and the present is in scholarship and the academe. Not that academia is totally resilient or immune to government influence, but there is hardly any place left to start this odyssey of reconnecting the past and the present but in the halls of the university. There is a need to fund such scholarship, perhaps through a foundation composed of the survivors of the martial law era and those who do not wish to repeat the past.
Ms. Robles’ blog must stir at least the consciousness of those who still yearn for a society that treasures freedom and dignity more than any materialistic achievement. Perhaps, it’s also time to create a new breed of intellectuals to replace the old generation who has betrayed the public.
In his book, Necessary Illusions, Chomsky wrote that citizens of democratic societies should “undertake a course of intellectual self-defence to protect themselves from manipulation and control.” In other words, we need to train ourselves to ask the obvious questions, and learn how to be skeptical. For example, if all political commentators are all in agreement with President Noynoy Aquino’s crusade against corruption but differ only on the means of achieving this noble goal, we should instinctively take a few minutes of our reflection to see that this can’t possibly be true. If everyone takes for granted something that cannot possibly be true, what does that make of our value systems and culture as a whole?
Any government is founded on opinion, and this extends to the most despotic and most militaristic governments, as well as to the most free and most popular. Rulers rely on consent, whether a state is democratic or totalitarian. The state must ensure that the people do not understand that they actually have the power. To Chomsky, this is the fundamental principle of government.
There are many ways by which the government can control the governed. We don’t need special skills to figure what these are.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Flunking history

As a student of history, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III gets a failing mark.
Recently, President Aquino compared China’s conduct of foreign relations on the simmering South China dispute with Hitler’s acquisition of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938. Aquino said the Sudetenland “was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Photo by AFP.
Aquino’s statement was only partly correct insofar as the European powers at that time, Great Britain and France, agreed to let Czechoslovakia give up the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany in order to avert another war in the continent. This was against the position of the US commission to the Paris Peace Conference which unanimously supported the unity of Czech lands, including the area of the Sudetenland that was occupied by ethnic Germans. Of course, Hitler eventually invaded and annexed Czechoslovakia to the Third Reich.
But where is the parallel between Hitler’s Sudetenland with China and the South China Sea dispute that President Aquino was alluding to?
The Sudetenland was inhabited by German-speaking ethnic groups and was driven by local nationalist sentiment to join the German republic. There was an impulse in the Sudetenland to rejoin Germany, unlike the islands and various rock formations in the South China Sea which are largely uninhabited by any distinct population or ethnic group. In fact, after the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of ethnic-speaking Germans escaped Sudetenland and resettled in West Germany. On the other hand, most of the islands being claimed by the Philippines, China and four other Asian countries remain submerged under water during high tide and are practically uninhabitable by people.
The South China dispute is a territorial conflict among several Asian countries which claim competing sovereignty over islands and rock formations, primarily because of their potential rich oil and mineral deposits. No claimant country is eager about going to war for the sole reason of asserting sovereignty rights. The dispute could be considered a flashpoint for a wider armed conflict, but that’s all there is to it—not necessarily an impetus for war.
Comparing China with Hitler’s aggressiveness in acquiring the Sudetenland is obviously inflammatory and contrary to negotiating a settlement through diplomacy. President Aquino is simply fanning the flames and outrage against China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea. Again, as a loyal American boy himself, Aquino is serving the interests of the United States for being the spokesperson for containing China’s rising hegemony in Asia and the Pacific.

Crisis in the South China Sea. Photo by UNCLOS and CIA.
President Aquino is emboldened by a mistaken belief in the illusion that the Mutual Defence Treaty between the Philippines and the United States will save him from his belligerent rhetoric against China. This defence agreement is a moribund instrument, signed by the two countries at the height of the Cold War in 1951, for the sole purpose of limiting the spread of communism in Asia. But with the fall of the Soviet Union and the decline of the threat of communism in the 1990s, the menace of communism has totally receded, even in the face of the local communist-inspired insurrection by the New People’s Army (NPA).
Like the former US bases in the Philippines, the Mutual Defence Treaty between the Philippines and the United States serves only as a magnet to foreign aggression. Instead of seeking accommodation and modus vivendi, President Aquino has been animated by the US commitments expressed in this 1950s vintage Cold War origin security treaty, which is backed by US-Philippines joint military exercises under the US Visiting Forces Agreement.
During her visit to Manila on November 11, 2011, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on the 60th anniversary of the Mutual Defence Treaty that “the US will always be in the corner of the Philippines. We will always stand and fight with you to achieve the future we seek.”
It was the most gratuitous, yet unconstructive declaration by the former Secretary of State, that could be deemed provocative and ill-conceived given the practice of the United States not to take sides and be involved in regional conflicts in Asia and the Pacific.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to the Philippines
which coincided with the 60th anniversary of the nations' Mutual Defence Treaty.
But the US mutual obligation under the treaty in the event of a foreign invasion is more illusory than real. Reading the fine print of the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty would show that it is not automatic for the United States to come to the defence of the Philippines in case of hostilities with China. Under Article IV of the treaty, in case of an armed attack in the Pacific, both parties must act in accordance with their constitutional processes before introducing their armies into any hostility. Thus, the treaty is not “self-executing” or binding on the United States unless its Congress enacts an implementing law to commit the US military.
Besides, the treaty expressly refers to an armed attack in the Pacific, and the South China Sea, arguably, is not part of the Pacific.
President Aquino would not have the audacity to rile China with his blunt, careless, and undiplomatic statements if not for the mirage of the US military coming to defend the Philippines in case of war. This is also true in the case of Japan. The Japan-China dispute would probably not have escalated to its current level by Japan provoking nationalization of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, if not for assurances of applicability of the U.S. defense commitment to the disputed islands.
North Korea’s provocative development of nuclear weapons and other acts of belligerence are also clear examples of how these US defence treaties operate in escalating conflict rather than promoting détente. The presence of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula serves in limiting China’s willingness and ability to exert pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.
At present, US servicemen join the Armed Forces of the Philippines on a rotating basis throughout the year, not only in military exercises but also in the latter’s campaigns against NPA and Muslim secessionist rebels. The U.S. also maintains some 28,500 servicemen and women in South Korea and some 34,000 uniformed personnel plus dependents in Japan. Two major U.S. air force bases and the Futenma Marine Air Base occupy a large part of Okinawa. The U.S. Seventh Fleet is also headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan.
To the eyes of any intelligent observer, the presence of U.S. military in Asia and the Pacific has therefore become more of an attraction for foreign aggression and an irresponsible shield used by leaders of these countries in promoting belligerence and a rationale for going to war.
The alliances built by the United States with the Philippines, Japan, and Korea clearly represent a dangerous remnant of the Second World War, and particularly the Cold War that has long since ceased to be justifiable under any reasonable scenarios. All countries in the region would probably enjoy greater stability and security if these alliances were dismantled and U.S. military forces withdrawn.
These mutual defence commitments, and the ongoing negotiations between the United States and the Philippines in Washington for a new military framework agreement, are stoking the bluster in President Noynoy Aquino’s immature broadsides against China, even to the extent of misinterpreting history. While the Aquino government has been proclaiming the need for a rules-based and peaceful settlement of the South China Sea dispute, it continues to undermine this process by unnecessarily portraying China as a bully and Hitler-like in dealing with its smaller and less powerful neighbours.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Amboys and the American empire

Some pundits and self-proclaimed Filipino patriots abroad, particularly Filipino-Americans writing in the United States whom we will refer to here as Amboys, are simply satisfied with the orthodoxy of a dictionary definition of sovereignty. To them the Philippines is a sovereign state because it is independent and self-governing, according to the dictionary.
But the basic lesson from the past hundred years tells us that our country has not fully achieved the upper limits of its political legitimacy – that of a nation-state. From the Philippine Revolution of 1896 to the restoration of democracy after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1984, the political reality is we have remained as a vassal of the great American empire. This is very clear, if not directly, through the control and influence over our nation’s economy by big multinational firms and their surrogates by way of the local oligarchic elite, the country’s virtual dependence on the US military for protection from foreign invasion, and the complete Americanization of the culture and minds of Filipinos.
Sovereignty in a nominal sense is not what the definition envisages. Neither is sovereignty in an aspirational sense good enough.
Well, this kind of opinion will be dismissed by these aforementioned Amboys as hogwash, ultra-nationalistic, or even communist-inspired. But what really is behind this anti-nationalist hysteria and revival of communist-baiting?
The United States Military has been well-loved in the Philippines, thanks to the
Americanization of our culture and minds that makes us believe America will
always help us against foreign invasion. Photo courtesy of the US Navy.
American hegemony in Asia, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, started to wane beginning in 1991 when the US waged the Gulf War to repulse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and the closing of US military bases in the Philippines. At the same time, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, the second largest terrestrial eruption during the 20th century, made it easier for the United States to close its military bases in the Philippines, particularly the US Naval Base at Subic Bay, the largest overseas military installation of the United States Armed Forces. From 2001 to 2003 until the present, the US military has focused its intervention to the Afghan and Iraqi wars, in addition to the continuing Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine and other Arab countries.
It was also during this time that China started to emerge as a major power player in Asia. Many international observers have also begun to entertain the possibility that the People’s Republic of China could emerge as a second superpower with global power and influence on par with the United States. Others also predicted that China will become the world’s largest economy by 2021, and will surpass the United States as a military superpower within twenty years. All of which is not good news to America, so its drum- beaters like the Amboys are sounding the alarm of a possible Chinese invasion in the event of war with China as the territorial dispute heats up over islands and other land formations in the China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as far as the Philippine government is concerned.
These Amboys, more rabid warmongers than their local counterparts in the Philippine press, have pointed to the ratcheting of China’s claim over territories in the South China Sea and its more recent regulations restricting fishing by foreign vessels in the disputed areas as clear and present danger of future military escalations. They have denounced those who have supported the closing of US military bases in the Philippines in 1991 and the present campaign for the abrogation of the current RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement as short-sighted Filipino nationalism. To them, these Filipinos do not understand that the Philippines is utterly defenceless against foreign invasion without the help of the United States.
They even mocked and denigrated Filipino nationalists who have taken a different political perspective on the assistance provided by the United States Navy to victims of last year’s super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Short of calling these critics of US military presence in the Philippines as ungrateful or “walang utang na loob” in local parlance, these Amboys would rather see the US be given access to basing rights. Their argument is that this would preserve the sovereignty of the Philippines and its territorial integrity.
But how do we exactly preserve our country’s sovereignty by giving in to US basing rights? Isn’t this a contradiction in terms?
The Amboys’ assumption is that the US military will come to our defence if we were attacked by a foreign enemy – basically the same expectation we have from the moribund RP-US Mutual Defence Treaty which was signed by the two countries during the height of the Cold War. Even then at that time the presumption of mutual defence has already been doubted and the US can only offer us very vague assurances that they will honour their mutual obligation under the treaty.

Philippines-US Mutual Defence Treaty relations. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Our history of bilateral agreements with the United States had always been skewed in favour of the latter, which only shows that the more powerful party to an agreement always wins by getting what it wants. Take for example the Laurel-Langley Agreement, which essentially tied the economy of the Philippines to that of the United States. The greater freedom to industrialize while continuing to receive privileged access to US markets failed to materialize as our economy never really took off from being agrarian-based.
Then we have the Parity Rights Act, an amendment to the 1935 Constitution granting Americans equal rights with Filipino citizens to own, develop and exploit the country’s natural resources and to operate public utilities in the country. The Act was required by the US Congress in exchange for reparation after World War II. It was approved during the 1947 plebiscite which the then Roxas government argued would be mutually beneficial to the US and the Philippines. Of course, this was not true.
In 1974, Parity Rights to American citizens were terminated and the right to patrimony was restored in the Philippine Constitution. However, there is now an impetus to amend the Constitution to allow foreigners equal rights with Filipino citizens to exploit and develop the country’s natural resources in order to attract more foreign investments in the country.
Now, the Amboys are leading the way in allowing the US military to have basing rights in the Philippines on the pretext that it will protect and preserve our sovereignty, especially against Chinese aggression and imperialist advances. This is a very shallow argument. The Philippines is never a threat to China’s core sovereignty. China’s aggression in the South China Sea is aimed at asserting sovereignty over islands and land formations whose ownership is disputable. We are on the same footing as China and the other countries claiming sovereignty rights over these disputed territories. The determination of the dispute will probably take a long time and military overtures, either by China or the Philippines (with the help of the US military), will not help in achieving a peaceful and lasting settlement.
What the Amboys have so far accomplished is to influence the so-called Asian pivot in American foreign policy in Asia and the Pacific that will counter the threat of Chinese hegemony. They have become America’s boisterous cheerleaders, who are willing to offer their souls for the renewal of America’s empire in Asia.
Here is a sample of one of these Amboys’ comments regarding the South China Sea dispute and US bases in the Philippines:
“These nationalists believe that without US bases on Philippine soil, China would spare us in the event of war with the US. Wrong! Without US bases, the Philippines would be the first to be attacked by China if war broke out with the US. It was proven that China seized Panganiban Reef and Scarborough Shoal without firing a shot. What does it take for China to seize Palawan and Mindoro?”
“Heck, the Philippine armed forces couldn’t even defeat the NPA and the Muslim rebels!”
Let’s deconstruct the particular Amboy’s argument.
This Amboy argued that without US bases in the country, the Philippines would be attacked in the event that China goes to war against the US, a scenario not supported either by history or actual Chinese expansionist policies. Compared to American military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and previously in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada and Central America, China’s military aggressiveness in the South China Sea is only a recent phenomenon. Besides, the disputed territories in South China Sea are also claimed by other several countries.
Palawan and Mindoro cannot be compared to the Panganiban Reef and Scarborough shoal because the former are not disputed territories and officially belong to the national territory of the Philippines. The truth is that no country has a clearer sovereignty right over the islands in the South China Sea, such that their ownership is disputed by several countries.
This Amboy also seems to suggest that we need the US military to intervene to help the Philippine armed forces defeat the NPA and Muslim rebels.
It beguiles logic and common sense that these Amboys would easily surrender our sovereignty rights to the United States in order to counterbalance the growing influence of China in Asia and in the world, yet still consider such act as helping to preserve our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity. To them, giving in to US basing rights is not surrendering one’s sovereignty if the objective is to restrain China’s hegemonic rise.

By all means, sacrifice our pride and integrity as a nation –this is the price of sovereignty these Amboys are willing to pay.