I was in college for the most part FVR’s presidency. The anti-Marcos, anti-Martial Law sensibility was still very much present, what with very popular discourses on democratization, state and civil society, and an overall vigilance against state abuse and violence.
But at this point, too, the Cory fever was dying down as cold and hot wars continued through her policy of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). It was a technical term for counterinsurgency, an all-out war that did not defeat the communists but was very effective in thwarting the Filipino farmers’ struggle for genuine agrarian reform.
FVR did not fail the Philippine oligarchy and US imperialism in their expectations — continued land monopoly, new land grabs, a strong U.S. military influence and the codification of the tenets of neoliberal globalization as state policy.
It was also during this period when progressive social scientists tackled Philippine economy. Sociologists talked about how the GNP is not a reflection of economic growth, instead it is the quality of life of the majority of Filipinos that should be the yardstick of any talk of growth. The GDP was not spared. What with FVR’s heavily neoliberal vision of “Philippines 2000,” the radicals made it clear how GDP is a one-sided measure of the growth of capital and could not account for the absence of a living wage for workers; and has nothing to say about the fundamental problem of landlessness from which all vectors of labor is traceable, from informal work to service work, even wagelessness and the reproduction of the so-called surplus population mobilized by the state in various ways as targets of demolition, drug war, information war.
In hindsight, the FVR regime, at least perhaps for my generation and its life in the university, was a period of contestation and transition. There was an urgent and massive debate about the trickle down effect of globalization. Any decent young scholar had to grapple with the issue to avoid drawing fire from both sides whenever these debates took place in class discussions. The trickle down advocates dominated the scene. The leftists felt a little bit vindicated by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. But it will take a monster economist like former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to completely bring the trickle down advocates down with a bonus: neoliberalism mixes well with fraudulent and bad governance, hello Garci.
From that FVR period of contestation and transition emerged a more serious avenue for growth and socio-economic reforms. Even the commies recognize FVR’s statesmanship in handling the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations.
For anyone who is interested in studying the diversity of perspectives in peace and conflict in the Philippines, the most important document for that concern is The Hague Joint Declaration signed in September 1992 by representatives from both the GRP and the NDFP. That this document was produced in September 1992 shows how Peace Negotiations was an urgent concern for both FVR (who took office starting June 1992) and the CPP-NPA-NDF.
This landmark document turned campaigns for peace and economic reforms into a concrete noble aspiration that any freedom and peace-loving Filipino can embrace.
From a personal but certainly not narrow perspective, it has shaped my own views on class struggle, people’s war for national liberation, social and economic reforms, and how conflicting sides may choose to usher in a climate of openness to even the most radical critique of Philippine society. The Joint Hague Declaration had pushed the limits of what was possible to discuss and think about in terms of social reform and revolution.
Drawing due attention to it in the present moment definitely pushes the parameters of academic freedom that has been curtailed by red-tagging, book purging and campus militarization. We don’t owe the Joint Hague Declaration solely to FVR. But that he enabled that part of our history, which, to my mind is our march toward just peace, is a legacy that each president of the Philippines after FVR must be measured against.
FVR was a military man who served the Marcos regime and remained faithful to US military diktat until the latter’s directives favored the more patriotic clique of the Philippine oligarchy. The force behind this switch in ’86 was a massive anti-dictatorship movement, a product of the massive counter-hegemonic base building by what would be known as the Philippine Left that started in the 60s, from Kabataang Makabayan to underground party and armed revolutionary formations.
FVR and Cory Aquino (despite my own political bias) will be remembered now and by future generations as the only two post-Marcos presidents who were brave enough to ride the tide of our people’s determination to oust a dictator.
To my knowledge, FVR is the only post-Marcos president who lived long enough to witness the victory of the dictator’s son but was not involved in any presidential conspiracy to betray the Filipino people’s quest for democracy. We can’t say the same for Erap, GMA and Duterte.
FVR was a worthy ideological and political opponent of the struggle for national liberation. May he rest in peace and his contributions be remembered.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.