Foreign Correspondent: House of Cards


Manila, Philippines. President Marcos of the Philippines has been a busy man of late in his continuing efforts to drive the country headlong into socialism. Speculation varies about his motives, but the results are indisputable. The Philippines' economy is being plundered.

Perhaps Marcos is only trying to appease the sizable communist sentiment that exists in the Philippines. He recently issued a decree legitimizing the Hukbalahap movement as a legitimate veterans' association, thus entitling the Huks to all the benefits accorded to members of other legitimate veterans' organizations. The Huks did fight against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. But they continued to fight long after the Japanese had left—against the pro-American government of the Philippines, which opposed their efforts to establish a Marxist state.

Perhaps, by pushing onward to socialism, Marcos is simply trying to appease the communist sentiment in nearby Asia, where it appears that the United States no longer wishes to fight on behalf of "marginal" allies. A fawning toast to Chairman Mao last year demonstrated Marcos' desire not to alienate mainland China. He has also renewed once-strained relations with the Soviet Union.

Or maybe Marcos is simply a socialist. In the past six months he has:

• Introduced a system of land use control to "stop the indiscriminate conversion of agricultural lands into industrial and housing sites."

• Formed the Energy Development Board "to accelerate energy developments."

• Condoned plans to establish a government-owned copper smelter and refining plant which will be fully operational before allowing private investors to build one.

• Expressed solidarity, more or less, with member countries of the impoverished Third World, of which the Philippines, as a result of pursuing the policies of Marcos to their conclusion, will most assuredly remain a member in good standing. Marcos threatened "war or death" if the world's rich countries do not share with poor nations, and urged the creation of a new international welfare organization to provide aid and low-cost loans.

• And, of course, maintained martial law in the Philippines, with its innumerable curtailments of individual liberty.

One vocal critic, a former spokesman for the Philippines in the United States, believes that misrule will lead to Marcos' downfall within five years. In a just published book, The Conjugal Dictatorship, Primitivo Mijares asserts that economic difficulties will grow as the Marcos government attempts to hold power. In the end, he says, the armed forces will desert the dictator who now spends lavishly on arms to keep their support.

Marcos' one sop to his critics has been appointing 30 officials from educational and business institutions as members of performance evaluation committees, which supposedly will give "more teeth to the drive to improve the public service." Marcos has described the offer of the officials to serve in the audit teams as a "healthy indication of the private sector's concern and desire to help in improving the efficiency, integrity, and morale in the government service."

Baloney. Under the rule of President Marcos, the lights of freedom in the Republic of the Philippines grow steadily dimmer. Five thousand political prisoners are already in jail. And if Filipinos need any further reason to despair, they have to look only as far as the president's wife. Mrs. Imelda Marcos, a decadent beauty known as the Iron Butterfly, is maneuvering to become her husband's successor when he retires. To win the approval of the poor and the urban elite, she has marshaled hundreds of millions of dollars to build public housing and opulent cultural centers. The money has been extracted from private businesses that fear incurring the wrath of the country's most powerful woman. If they do not heed Imelda's demands for "voluntary contributions," they face sudden retaliation from the sprawling bureaucracy of the Philippines.

Thus, the outlook for freedom in this Southeast Asian island nation is anything but hopeful.

Guest columnist, Mark Coleman, a resident of Honolulu, is a teaching assistant in the communication program of the University of Hawaii. He is a writer for the circulation director of the state's largest underground newspaper, Sunbeams.