Iron Fists in Velvet Gloves
02. December 2018 at 09:01
Now that the similarities between the strongmen Ferdinand Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte are getting clearer, it is now the duty of the Filipino constituents to heed these lessons and raise social and political awareness before we spiral down to another probable doom.Media is pervasive, and as time progresses, it appears to infiltrate our ideology and mind-setting, thus leading to an increasing influence to a chunk of our everyday actions. This power encapsulated by media is often an end toward which politicians’ efforts are directed, using media as their instrument for their pursuit of prestige or self-preservation. Apparently, like what Andrew Heywood remarked, the media now constitute much more than a channel of communications; they are part of the political process itself, affecting, and not merely reflecting, the distribution of power in society at large.
What happens when the information distributed by this ‘media’ is distorted? The consequence is misinformation, misguidance, and, consequently, ideological manipulation. But what would be our defence against the distorted cudgels wielded by our sly politicians? We consult the facts. After all, numbers don’t lie; people do.
Golden Age of Philippine Economy: build, build, build?
Everything started off with a glorifying hook on the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ contributions, enumerating the infrastructures that arose out of his 1965 edict to “rebuild the country”. Consequently, the video remained firm in its conviction that Marcos rebuilt the country, amidst his government’s corruption, into a country of prosperous production of resources and thriving economy, as well as a promoter of the “Arts and Nationalism”, and that we’ve been in a worse economical state during the Aquino administration which favours the “accumulation of wealth of Cory’s oligarchs”.
The discussion has already jumped into its pursuit of tackling the practice of glorifying how Marcos “built hospitals, schools, roads, and bridges than all presidents combined.” It is undeniable that Marcos played an integral role in the development of public infrastructure, with many of the roads and buildings constructed during his time still useful today, and I agree that it is to be regarded as his “legacy”. However, such myths about his glorious acts can be debunked by the purpose – Marcos’ achievements in public infrastructure did not come without a price. The biggest, most famous construction project, the billion-dollar Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), was an overpriced, graft-ridden structure which paid Marcos millions of dollars in kickbacks. His crony Herminio Disini got such a large commission that he could afford to flee to Austria, buy a castle and settle down.
The country took years to pay off the BNPP and it still hasn't been used. Many of Marcos’ projects were funded by foreign loans that left the Philippines with an outstanding debt of about $28.3 billion by 1986. These projects were also often the site for gross overspending, garishness, and corruption. This is an elucidation that Marcos’ first priority is his family and cronies’ financial gain, and the welfare of everyone else was just an afterthought.
Furthermore, the main claim was that the economy during the time of Marcos was as flourished as we could ever imagine – with a currency rate of 1 peso per dollar, IR8 Miracle Rice during 1968, and the country’s self-sufficiency on rice. However, we cannot regard the Marcos regime as the “golden age” of Philippine economy, especially if in terms of the exchange rate. According to Dino Mari Testa, during the first term of the Marcos administration, the peso-dollar exchange rate played at around P3.90, which he picked off from his predecessor, Diosdado Macapagal.
While he was able to maintain the exchange rate during his first term, it had gone downhill after he was re-elected, followed by a series of mass protests dubbed the First Quarter Storm. Because of this, the peso further slid down to P6, and it just sank from that point. By the time of Marcos’ ouster, the rate was P25 per dollar, debunking the myth that there was a 1 peso per dollar rate throughout the governance of Marcos.
If to be based on the graphical figures by Punongbayan & Mandrilla (2016) derived from the basic data from PSA, we lost two decades of development. A continuous increase in GDP per capita (or income per person) is an indication of an overall improvement in economic welfare. The Philippine GDP per capita deteriorated after 1982 and did not reach the same level until 2003, or 21 years later.
This severe retrogression of Filipinos’ income per person – called “lost decades of development” – testifies to a truly dark era in our economic history. It took the country an entire generation to recover from the bad outcomes of the Marcos regime’s economic policies and management. Even with this data alone, it is difficult to understand why many people cling to the idea that the Marcos regime, taken as a whole, brought about the Philippine economy’s “golden age”. This incident took an entire generation of the country to recover from the consequences of the Marcos regime’s economic policies and management.
Graphs and figures all point out as either motives or consequences related to what they refer to as Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI). This refers to a trade and economic policy which advocates replacing foreign imports with domestic production. ISI is based on the premise that a country should attempt to reduce its foreign dependency through the local production of industrialized products.
ISI policies were enacted by countries in the Global South with the intention of producing development and self-sufficiency through the creation of an internal market. ISI works by having the state lead economic development through nationalization, subsidization of vital industries (agriculture, power generation, etc.), increased taxation, and highly protectionist trade policies. Import substitution industrialization was gradually abandoned by developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s due to the insistence of the IMF and World Bank on their structural adjustment programs of global market-driven liberalization aimed at the Global South.
The claim that we had a debt-driven economy can be backed up by our high total outstanding external debt especially during the Marcos administration. Corresponding to what the De Dios said, the bulk of construction and other capital outlays in both the private and public sectors were not very productive and many were outright wasteful. This is because borrowing is not necessarily bad – as long as the funded projects have high returns and pay for themselves, which is, apparently, what the nation suffered about.
ow is this phenomenon detrimental to our country’s growth and development? First off, it is manifested in the economy’s Effective Rates of Protection in Manufacturing, topped off with stagnation of manufacturing. We may oversee an increase in regulated commodities – all because current account deficits show the influx of imports but a struggle with exports. This now corresponds to the classification of the Philippines as an “import-dependent, export-oriented economy” which serves as a justification of why there is industrial growth but no genuine nation development. Nothing will change because the administration fails to base their actions to what the people of different classes actually demand. This is what happens when self-serving interests come first before duty and obligation.
Nevertheless, the speakers served the timeline of the schemes by wielding “hidden facts” as weapons to try to debunk the myths that we knew all along. Although I have accepted through research that most are factual claims, some are actually mere “assertions” utilized via invalid “premises”. I noticed that there is this illogical bias that utilized the trick of “exaggeration”, but in the end, it can be derived that the two presidents both had iron fists in velvet gloves – they use a gentle or unassuming appearance or disposition, but in reality are particularly severe, forceful, and uncompromising.
Media is, indeed, a tool for manufacturing consent, and that the political economy of the mass media is what powers this mechanism.
“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” As informed citizens, therefore, we must understand and not neglect that fact that the information being served to us is “processed” and are oriented towards the interests of the economic and political elite, and that we should not succumb to acknowledging that this information is based on balanced and objective scales.
The link between these two authoritarian regimes – the poor scheme of trade and industrial policies concocted with the prevalence of human rights violations which hampers the social outcomes– is a major factor that impedes the Filipino constituents, and therefore the nation itself, into genuine growth and development.
However, we can no longer change the past, nor convince ourselves that it never happened, but through its impact shall lessons transpire and every pain will be worthwhile. Now that the similarities between the strongmen Ferdinand Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte are getting clearer, it is our duty to heed these lessons and raise social and political awareness before we spiral down to another probable doom.
It’s time to take off those rose-tinted glasses and recognize processed information in a more critical perspective. Let’s seek the facts and figures. We must not be tricked by the cudgels and seek the authenticity of what is wielded before the media.