Monumental plunder (editorial)

It is clear that the Marcos dictatorship plundered and destroyed the Filipino economy. Justice demands that the government continue its efforts to recover every peso of the money stolen by the Marcoses from the people.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 21, 2004

The nation remembers today with great sadness and anger the 32rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Sadness and anger, because the fiscal crisis that the nation is facing today has its roots in the complete mess that Marcos made of the economy during his dictatorial rule.

Marcos, his relatives, cronies and friends thoroughly plundered the economy. The exact extent of the Marcos plunder may never be known, but estimates of the money he stole range from a low of $5 billion to a high of $35 billion. Think of how much good the stolen money could have done had it been used to establish industries, construct infrastructure or provide essential social services.

Marcos’ systematic sacking of the economy is detailed in The Politics of Plunder written by UP Prof. Belinda Aquino. She said that among the ways used by the Marcos clique to accumulate ill-gotten wealth were the takeover of large corporations; creation of state monopolies for vital sections of the economy such as sugar, coconuts and tobacco; award of loans to private individuals; use of offshore dummy companies to “launder” money; extracting kickbacks from companies doing business in the Philippines; skimming of foreign loans; direct raiding of the public treasury; and “salting” of dollars abroad.

Foreign loans were a rich source of funds for Marcos. When he was first elected president in 1966, the Philippines’ debt stood at just under $1 billion. When he fled the country in 1986, the total had soared to more than $28 billion. Most of the money went into the pockets of the Marcoses and their cronies.

The unprecedented level of foreign debt left by Marcos is like a millstone around the neck of the Filipino nation, preventing it from attaining a faster pace of development. Every year, about a third of the national budget goes to the payment of debts.

One of the biggest of the dictatorship’s odious debts was the $2.3 billion it borrowed to build the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Filipino taxpayers are now paying $155,000 (about P8.7 million) a day in interest on a structure that has not produced even one watt of power.

When Marcos first ran for president, one of his announced aims was to dismantle the oligarchic structure of Philippine society. When he became president, and especially during the martial law years, he replaced the old oligarchy with the new. Relatives and friends of the Conjugal Dictators were given access to capital and credit based not on their ability to pay but on their closeness to the First Family.

The government actively intervened in all sectors of the economy. The private sector was closely regulated through executive orders and presidential decrees. The national economy was opened to foreign investments with the offer of many incentives, including cheap labor, access to local loan sources, tax and non-tax incentives and liberal profit repatriation schemes. The government’s income policy cheapened the price of labor and reduced farmers’ incomes.

The economic policy of the dictatorship, which was export-oriented and gave preferential treatment to foreign investors, increased the alien domination of the economy. The poor became poorer. While Marcos was in power, the population increased by 12 million, from 38 million in 1965 to about 50 million in 1983. During the same period the number of Filipinos living below the poverty line increased by 17 million, from 18 million in 1965 (48 percent of the population) to 35 million in 1983 (70 percent of the population).

Even the current problem with the government-operated and -controlled corporations has its roots during the Marcos dictatorship. Accounting for 2.5 percent of the gross national product in 1972, they grew in number as well as in size to a 10.5 percent share of the GNP in 1983. Most of the GOCCs have failed and frittered away public resources. They have even mortgaged the future, imposing a huge public debt on the people.

It is clear that the Marcos dictatorship plundered and destroyed the economy. Justice demands that the government continue its efforts to recover every peso of the money stolen by the Marcoses from the people. Especially in these critical times, every amount recovered will help shore up the crumbling finances of the government.

On the occasion of declaration of martial law every year, the people must be reminded of the monumental plunder of the economy by the Marcoses. Never again should we allow a similar thing to happen to our country.

Categories: Asia, Odious Debts, Philippines

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