Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

A Pacific partnership between the Philippines and the US

By Thelma Garcia Buchholdt / May 1, 1985

WE million Americans born in the Philippines worry about our hometowns and the families we left behind. We worry that the Philippines might become another Vietnam. We recall how other ``unlovely towns'' in Vietnam were bombed and burned with napalm, and their citizens killed in free-fire zones. We are concerned about alarming, highly negative reports filed by reporters who would depict beautiful Philippine towns like Claveria as unlovely, and even make it out to be the home of disloyal dissidents. It seems to me the story of what is taking place in the Philippines is being told by reporters who don't like the Philippines and Filipinos. We worry these reporters do not share our hope, vision, or confidence in America's destiny in our native land.

Skip to next paragraph

Our view of politics in the Philippines varies depending upon where we are from. Mine is an Ilocano's view. The Ilocano fought the Japanese throughout World War II, and went into the hills to join surviving remnants of the American Army. Thus it was that Ferdinand Marcos, an Ilocano, formed his working relationship with the United States Army.

Americans should realize that Ferdinand Marcos is probably the last political leader of the military fraternity that descended from the hills after World War II to take control of the government of Manila. This control was formerly held by Manila families collaborating with the military rulers initially sent by Spain, then by the United States, and then briefly by Japan.

Under foreign military domination, these traditionally ruling families held no military power of their own, and their civil authority was delegated by foreign military commanders. The only military power in the Philippines held by Filipinos was that of the Moros of Mindanao. In considering the Philippines, it is important to realize the former dominance of Islam until it was displaced from Manila by Spanish military power during the 16th century. The continuing military character of the Philippine government since then can be attributed to the ongoing rebellion of Mindanao.

From Mindanao, Islamic Filipinos regard the Marcos government as an extension of the US, which they feel holds the real military power in the Philippines.

While the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is motivated by its perceived participation in jihad, or holy struggle, in the Roman Catholic north, the New People's Army (NPA) continues a more secular tradition, against which the Philippine constabulary has struggled since it was first established by American military police authorities after the Spanish-American War.

Today, both the government and the NPA take some satisfaction from referring to the NPA as a communist force, because of international implications. The NPA's morale is lifted by believing it is part of an international struggle, and the Marcos government is able to blame NPA insurgency upon outside troublemakers and deflect blame from itself.