Asian Wisconzine Section/Heidi M. Pascual

Heidi Pascual

Thoughts on Philippine Political Leaderships and a Bit of History (Part 2)

Background: I worked in the Philippine government for more than 20 years, starting from the regime of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, widely known as our government’s “dictator,” right after my college graduation in 1977 up to the beginning of ousted President Joseph Estrada’s regime. I spent most of my public service with the Philippine legislature, from 1978 up to 1998, until I migrated to the United States of America to reunite with my mother and siblings in the Midwest. It is important to note that during the regime of the late President Corazon Aquino, I became the Philippines’ U.S. Congressional Fellow in Washington, D.C., and the first Chief of Division, Publication (Plenary Affairs Bureau) of the House of Representatives under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

This piece is just a bit of information (culled from various sources, but mostly from WIKIPEDIA) on every Philippine president from Ferdinand Marcos to Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, focusing on their major achievements as well as criticisms on important social issues of interest to the Filipinos.

Fidel V. Ramos

A retired military general and relative of former president Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel V. Ramos served as the 12th president of the Philippines after Corazon Aquino. He is remembered as one of the two leading Marcos’ officials (with then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile) who ignited the People Power Revolution that put Cory Aquino in power and ousted Marcos from Malacanan. During Aquino’s presidency, Ramos became the chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and later Secretary of National Defense. He created the Philippine Army's Special Forces and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force.

As president of the Philippines, Ramos was known to have renewed international confidence in the country’s economy. It was generally accepted that the Philippines experienced an economic boom during the first three years of his administration. However, soon thereafter, the power crisis occurred, primarily due to the abolition of many energy programs initiated by Marcos by the Aquino government. Ramos gave independent power producers (IPPs) contracts and incentives to “solve” the power crisis, providing them funding from foreign loans under government guarantees. He was credited with the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme, which invited the private sector to build government projects, operate and gain from them, then transfer the same to the government after a designated time. Ramos was also known as the most-traveled Philippine president who generated about $20 billion dollars in foreign investments.

It was also during Ramos’ administration when the government made peace with Muslim rebels led by Nur Misuari and the Communist Party of the Philippines, by repealing the Anti-Subversion Law.

Controversies during the Ramos presidency included: the Clark Centennial Expo Scandal, wherein charges of alleged massive corruption and misuse of funds (Php $9 billion) were reported by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; weak migrant workers assistance (when Ramos failed to save the life of OFW Flor Contemplacion who was hanged in Singapore); Public Estate Authority-Amari Scandal (158 has. of reclaimed land along Manila Bay sold to Amari for a small fraction of prevailing cost of adjacent areas, and displacing thousands of coastal families); the reinstatement of the death penalty; and on August 30, 2011, Wikileaks exposed reports (sent by the United States Embassy in Manila) that Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi allegedly contributed $20,000 to the presidential campaign of Ramos in 1992.

While the start of the Ramos administration was “good” in economic terms, it ended with the Philippines having a negative GDP growth, generally due to the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

Joseph Ejercito Estrada

Joseph Ejercito Estrada was a popular former actor and politician (town mayor for almost two decades, Senator, and Vice President) who was elected 13th president of the Philippines after Fidel V. Ramos. He used his popularity as leading actor of hundreds of Filipino action movies to appeal to voters that put him in power for many years. He became president of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001, cut short by an impeachment proceeding and a People Power2 revolution due to charges of corruption and plunder.

Estrada was known as the president who fought hard against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (that wanted secession of certain parts of Mindanao from the Philippines), captured several of its camps, and witnessed the surrender of hundreds of its members. The country’s economic position, though marred early by a negative GDP growth, posted a positive outlook in 2000. However, charges of corruption surfaced thereafter, particularly in the area of illegal gambling.

Jueteng is an illegal grassroots-based numbers game, and his then-friend Governor Chavit Singson (Ilocos Sur province) alleged that he gave Estrada millions as payoff from this game, and also from the government’s price subsidy for tobacco farmers’ cooperative. This was after Singson was ordered investigated by Estrada for allegedly misusing millions of public funds. This controversy opened the filing of an impeachment case against Estrada, and he was ousted soon after via a second People Power Revolution. His vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took his place as the next president of the country. Later, Macapagal-Arroyo granted Estrada pardon.

Estrada ran again for president in 2010 but lost to Senator Benigno Aquino III by a wide margin. He was later elected mayor of Manila for two terms, from 2013 to 2019.

Editor’s Note: In 1997, I immigrated to the U.S. for good; thus, I mainly depended on the news and stories from my friends and relatives in the Philippines about our political environment therein. However, I never broke my ties with my original country, making it a point to visit once in a while to see for myself changes, whether good or bad, in policies and new practices, that make Filipinos proud (or sad) living in a country that, for the most part, has been dependent on Filipinos working abroad, on foreign assistance, and on very hardworking locals who either work the soil or work for the government or the private sector.

In 2010, I decided to go back home, realizing the heavy burden of an American economic recession and the uncertainty of my family reunification through immigration. With my dual citizenship, I enjoy the beauty and comfort of simple living in my original country while I still work part-time and pay taxes to my second home country, the United States.

Here I am able to see the real societal happenings — the effects of government leadership on the lives of the masses of our people.

Next Issue: The presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.