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Philippines, protests, 1972-present

Pierre Rousset


  The imposition of martial law in the Philippines on September 21, 1972 had very deep consequences quite different from those foreseen by its promoters. Far from being a one-off measure, it was lifted formally only in 1981 – and only after the 1986 February Revolution brought to an end more than 13 years of what opponents called the “Marcos dictatorship.” The purpose of martial law was not initially to implement a policy of counterinsurgency. No revolutionary movement seriously threatened the established order. It aimed at more specific goals: to stop social radicalization and prevent the left from reorganizing after the failure of the Huks, to ensure that no disturbances interfered with the renegotiation of the agreement for US military bases on the archipelago. Washington was particularly concerned that nationalist pressure was making itself felt in institutions, far beyond anti-imperialist circles. Senator José Diokno was leading an investigation into the operations of oil multinationals and the Supreme Court was facing up to the American business lobby. Everything had to be done to ensure that the Philippines remained one of the main pillars of the US security system in Asia. In the longer term, the US wanted the martial law regime to create a strong, centralized state as a means to “modernize” the country -to end the fragmentation of power between the state and provincial ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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