Last of two parts)
Till the very end, Ferdinand E. Marcos remained a friend to Washington. Even while Malacanang was under siege by a civilian uprising in February 1986, Marcos, who had supported U.S. investments, America’s war in Vietnam, and its military bases, was plucked out from the seat of power and flown to Honolulu courtesy of the U.S. air force. He and his family would stay there in exile but under U.S. protection until the ousted dictator would die of illness in 1989.
BY BOBBY TUAZON
Posted by Bulatlat*
Vol. VII, No. 48, January 13-19, 2008
Washington, DC – Till the very end, Ferdinand E. Marcos remained a friend to Washington. Even while Malacanang was under siege by a civilian uprising in February 1986, Marcos, who had supported U.S. investments, America’s war in Vietnam, and its military bases, was plucked out from the seat of power and flown to Honolulu courtesy of the U.S. air force. He and his family would stay there in exile but under U.S. protection until the ousted dictator would die of illness in 1989.
Marcos, of course, felt betrayed by the way the Americans treated him as a staunch ally. After all, he was acclaimed as the U.S. government’s spokesman in Asia and he showed no qualms in beating the drums for America’s wars. He knew of course that he had lost America’s support: In 1984, a year after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the White House issued a National Security Study Directive (NSSD) which essentially called for a transition of power in the Philippines that would later pave the way for the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino representing the “Third Force.” The first force, of course was Marcos, and the second, according to U.S. intelligence, was the ascendant Left.
In his reign as president and dictator (1966-1986), Marcos enjoyed the support of the U.S. in exchange for increasing incentives and tax exemptions for American investors and backing the U.S. war in Indochina. It is unclear when and how Marcos’s association with the U.S. policy makers began but he somehow must have earned their ire when, as Senate president, he led the upper chamber’s rejection of President Diosdado Macapagal’s bill to send a 2,000-man Philippine contingent (Philcon) to Vietnam in 1965.
In November that year, Marcos explained to Edward Lansdale, who was then assigned in Vietnam as intelligence adviser, why he opposed Macapagal’s Philcon bill, saying that the treasury was empty, the military was demoralized, and “that to complete the gesture of real and sincere Philippine assistance, the contingent must be 100% financed by the Philippine government.” To show however that he would surpass Macapagal’s Philcon, he proposed not just a contingent but an entire division of medical, civic action, and psy-war teams from the AFP.
Marcos’ clarification, meant to reach the ears of Lansdale during the November 1965 elections, is cited in a 10-page memo written by N.D. Valeriano for Lansdale containing details of his talks with Capt. Cornelio Mendoza. Valeriano, a psywar expert in the anti-Huk campaign, became a close confidante of Lansdale in the Vietnam campaign. Valeriano had also written Marcos – a former lawyer of his in a 1949 election case in Negros – to back the sending of the Philippine contingent as a way of “gaining some advantage over his political opponent in the United States.”
Mendoza, an old acquaintance of Valeriano, was the AFP finance officer. According to the memo, Mendoza was sent by Marcos to ask for Valeriano’s support “in the event that circumstances force him to lead a civil war…if he loses the elections through Macapagal’s fraud.” Through Mendoza, Marcos also asked Lansdale to come to the Philippines if the elections ended in “factional strife of civil war proportions” and “appeal for reason, order, and peaceful process.”
By mid-November, news went around that Marcos was winning the elections despite reports of fraud. In another talk with Valeriano, Mendoza transmitted the elected president’s wish to visit Washington first before his inauguration to brief U.S. officials about the real situation in the Philippines and to let them know that he was “trusted and popular.”
Valeriano: “As a matter of fact, Marcos intends to complain about certain U.S. embassy officials and several private Americans of having been active for Macapagal.” Marcos also endorsed Lansdale’s appointment as the next U.S. ambassador to Manila. To which Valeriano retorted: “It is best that Marcos refer the matter to Washington through the U.S. embassy in Manila or the Philippine embassy in Washington.”
One of the first acts that Marcos did as new president in 1966 was to send to Vietnam the Philippine Civic Action Group (Philcag), headed by a rising West Point graduate and Marcos relative, Col. Fidel V. Ramos. That singular act endeared Marcos to the Americans and signaled the beginning of a strong defense partnership between the two countries. However, Marcos’s Philcag program and other pro-U.S. acts apparently did not impress Lansdale much as a secret memo he wrote on Feb. 14, 1967 would show. “Corruption, patronage, subversion, and ineptness are more rampant than ever in the Philippine Government,” he noted in his memo.
Meanwhile, Lansdale looked like he was also receiving uninformed tips from sources in the Philippines, including a retired AFP general, Philippine embassy officials, and some businessmen: “The gravest complaint about Marcos is his reported tolerance, and even open support, of known subversives, some of whom he has entrusted with critical staff positions close to him in the Executive.” Some of the names mentioned in the Lansdale memo are Rafael Salas, Marcos’s young executive secretary, Carlos P. Romulo, and Renato Constantino, a promising foreign service officer.
According to Lansdale, many of Salas’s presidential assistants “once were closely connected with the Huk Movement; a number of them were…recommended by Carlos Romulo, who seems to be recalling his 1937-39 association with Crisanto Evangelista and Benigno Ramos (the Communist and Sakdalista leaders, respectively, at the time) more than his long association with Americans while Ambassador to the U.S.” Lansdale cites the nationalist Constantino as having prevailed upon Vice President Fernando Lopez to lift the ban on travel to China. The lifting of the travel ban enabled Tonypet Araneta, whose family owned the influential Graphic magazine, to go to China and, to the chagrin of Lansdale, call for diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Despite Lansdale’s reservations about the Philippine chief executive, Marcos’s presidency saw the peak of the country’s involvement in the U.S. war in Vietnam highlighted by the use of military bases in Subic, Angeles City, and elsewhere as launching pads for bombing operations as well as for refueling, rest and recreation. U.S. military aid, in turn, propped up a brutal dictatorship at a time when the U.S. government was also supporting authoritarian regimes in Chile, Indonesia, and other countries all over the world.
Marcos’s fall in 1986 and Lansdale’s passing away a year later coincided with the beginning of the end of Soviet revisionism as well as turbulent and sweeping changes in China that gave birth to a capitalist market economy that it is today. Lansdale may have lost his wars in the Philippines (with the resurgence of the communist New People’s Army) and Indochina (where America suffered a devastating defeat), but the Cold War which he championed ended in what Washington’s neo-con ideologues would call the “triumph of western democracy.” Posted by
*This 2-part special report was originally published by the Philippine Graphic magazine in an early January 2008 issue.