Philippines: The Enemy Within The Family

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May 23, 2010:  Newly elected president Benigno Aquino III promised to deal with the endemic corruption, and resulting lack of economic growth. That will be very difficult, but not impossible. The major obstacles are the family and friends of the new president. The Aquinos are one of a few thousand families that control the economy, and have done so for centuries. This control predates the Spanish conquest of the Philippines in the 16th century. The tribal confederations the Spaniards encountered already had their elite families in control, and the conquering Spanish married into these clans, creating a Spanish/Malay ruling class which persists to this day. These ruling families never fully accepted democracy, which was imposed by America a century ago, after having deposed the Spanish colonial government. The Spanish controlled the Philippines by working with the rich families. It was a feudal arrangement that the United States was unable to change much. The families feud a lot, but will unite to face a threat to the feudal system that keeps them in control. So if the new president is going to succeed, he will have to prosecute and jail many members of his own class, including friends and family. That's hard to do. When his mother was president, she herself was not corrupt, but could not bring herself to punish family and friends who were. The new president could trigger a civil war, or at least a lot of violence (many of the families have private armies), by cracking down on the corruption. After all, most of the corruption is among people who are the government. And those people are related to most of those most qualified (by education and experience) to replace them. Many members of the ruling families favor changing the rules, eliminating (or at least greatly reducing) the corruption and making it easier to grow the economy. But many powerful people like things just the way they are.

The army has been moving troops around, to try and destroy NPA forces in some areas more quickly. The army still believes that the communist rebels can be finally be destroyed, but many of the local NPA units are proving very resourceful and resilient.

May 22, 2010:  In the south, NPA rebels killed three soldiers, while the troops were shopping in a local market place. Some 30 NPA rebels entered the market, and opened fire when they saw the soldiers.

May 21, 2010: Violence between warring MILF factions continues in the south. Two people died, and hundreds of locals fled their homes to avoid the gunfire during a two day battle. The Moslems rebels suffer from increasing internal disputes, making it unlikely that a peace deal with the government will completely end the rebellion. It will, like the least peace deal, in the 1990s, reduce the scope of the separatist rebellion, but not eliminate it.

May 19, 2010: In the south, troops captured another NPA camp, up in the mountains. This one contained large quantities of explosives and ammunition.

May 17, 2010: In the south, a mayor and four bodyguards, were freed by the NPA, after a week of captivity. The communist rebels had demanded $64,000 and some weapons as ransom, but the government would not say if ransom had been paid.

May 16, 2010: On Basilan, a raid on an Abu Sayyaf camp left one terrorist dead and fourteen arrested. Weapons and other equipment were captured, along with documents.

MILF leaders said they are ready to continue peace talks with newly elected president Benigno Aquino III. Negotiations are deadlocked over how much autonomy Moslem politicians in the south would have, dealing with corruption (which is worst in the south) and control over Christians living in the south.

May 14, 2010: In the south, the Ampatuan family lost the recent elections in Maguindanao province. Esmael Mangudadatu, the head of a rival clan won, largely because of a massacre of his kin, followers and journalists by Ampatuan gunmen last November. As a result, Ampatuan clan leaders are moving their families out of the province, knowing that the Maguindanao is likely to seek vengeance. The newly elected Maguindanao governor lost his wife and two sisters in the massacre (that killed 54 other people as well.) Government efforts to prosecute Ampatuans for the killings have been moving slowly.

May 13, 2010: Outgoing president Gloria Arroyo appointed another Supreme Court judge. During her tenure, she ended up appointing 14 of 15 justices. Critics of her corrupt government believe this will help protect her from prosecution after she has left office.

May 11, 2010: Benigno Aquino III was elected president. His mother (Cory Aquino) had served as president from 1986 to 1992. She led a popular movement that overthrew the corrupt government of Ferdinand Marcos, and restored democracy. Marcos had manipulated elections to remain in power from 1965 to 1986. But he went too far when he had rival politician and critic Benigno Aquino II (father of the newly elected president) murdered in 1983. The newly elected president promises to deal with corruption and lack of economic growth.

 

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