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The Liberal Party and foreign interests

The Liberal Party (LP) of President Benigno Aquino III is the second-oldest existing political party in the Philippines.  It dates back to late 1945 when the shrewd politician from Capiz, Manuel Roxas of the Nacionalista Party (NP), organized the so-called “liberal wing” of the NP to pave the way for his election as President of the soon-to-be Republic of the Philippines in 1946.

Roxas’ bold move was primarily prompted by his knowledge that the Americans did not want Philippine Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña to continue in office for the next four years.  It was also prompted by his awareness that General Douglas MacArthur, the liberator of the archipelago from Japanese oppression, preferred him to Osmeña.

MacArthur’s preference for Roxas seemed obvious from the start.  At the end of the war in 1945, President Jose P. Laurel and the members of his cabinet in the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines were accused of collaboration with the enemy.  Roxas was a member of the Laurel cabinet but MacArthur treated him as a close friend and ally.  MacArthur made sure that Roxas was not among those accused of collaborating with the Japanese. 

As far as Washington, D.C. was concerned, President Osmeña took his leadership of the NP too literally, as seen in his nationalistic policies, including his quest for a national language.  On the other hand, Roxas was seen as someone who could be coaxed into compromising Philippine interests in exchange for political favors.  For the Americans, a Roxas presidency in the postwar scene was in their best interests.    

Ironically, Roxas and Osmeña were old friends.  Nonetheless, Roxas went on to defeat Osmeña, as the Americans had anticipated.

During the campaign, Osmeña refused to take advantage of the resources of incumbency.  Each time the Osmeña campaign made use of government resources, e.g., a government airplane, Osmeña gave his old friend Roxas access to the same facilities. With the Americans on the side of Roxas, the defeat of Osmeña was almost certain from the beginning.  

Under an LP administration and with President Roxas in charge, Philippine independence became virtually illusory.  Roxas gave the Americans parity rights, which allowed them the same rights and privileges of Filipinos in the country, particularly in the exploitation of natural resources.  He also gave them their military bases—Clark in Pampanga, Subic in Zambales, and John Hay in Baguio—among others.  The Roxas administration was short-lived: in April 1948, Roxas died of cardiac arrest after delivering a speech at Clark Air Base.   

His successor Elpidio Quirino was also from the LP.  Quirino continued the pro-American policies of his predecessor.  His term was marked by accusations of election fraud, as well as large-scale graft and corruption.  Communist insurgency in Central Luzon was at its apex during the Quirino administration.    

The next Philippine president to come from the Liberal Party was Diosdado Macapagal of Pampanga.  His administration encouraged American investors to dominate Philippine commerce.  Harry Stonehill, a shady American businessman with extensive political clout in Manila, controlled lucrative industries in the Philippines, including tobacco.  When Jose Diokno, the Secretary of Justice, clamped down on Stonehill, President Macapagal fired Diokno.

On the other hand, most of the Philippine presidents who did not come from the LP were not so easily swayed by American pressure and influence.  Commonwealth leaders Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña, who were elected under the NP banner, were instrumental in obtaining Philippine independence.  Quezon himself is known for his immortal and prognostic statement that he preferred a government in the Philippines run like hell by Filipinos to one run like heaven by Americans.

Ramon Magsaysay of the NP, who was elected largely through the coordinated efforts of the US-backed National Movement for Free Elections, was seen as America’s “guy” in Malacañang.  The Guy, however, was unhappy with the lopsided trade agreement the Philippines had with the USA.  Thus, he sent an NP stalwart, Jose P. Laurel, to the USA, who succeeded in putting a cap to American trade opportunism through the Laurel-Langley Agreement. 

Carlos P. Garcia of the NP became president after Magsaysay was killed in a plane crash in 1957.  His administration enforced a “Filipino-first” policy in commerce and similar opportunities. 

The incumbent in Malacañang is a proud leader of the LP.  His supporters in the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte in particular, recently approved a resolution which will pave the way for the possible amendment of the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. 

If these LP stalwarts were to have their way, they want certain industries and privileges, which the 1987 Constitution wisely reserved for Filipinos, opened to foreign investors.  They actually want foreigners to own real estate, own and operate mass media, regain their control of the advertising industry, and dominate industries involved in the exploitation of natural resources. 

LP congressional leaders are also determined to let the controversial Bangsamoro Framework Agreement alter the existing political and economic landscape in Mindanao.  Under this deal, the provisions of the 1987 Constitution governing autonomy in Muslim Mindanao will be amended to pave the way for the replacement of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a near-sovereign political entity vested with extensive powers.  It will also be guaranteed an extra-ordinarily large share of the wealth in the region.  LP leaders and supporters laud the framework agreement as a step towards real autonomy in Muslim Mindanao.  It will be signed before the end of March 2014. 

That’s not autonomy.  That’s state-sponsored secession in violation of the 1987 Constitution, done under the auspices of the Liberal Party. 

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