As the chronic crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system intensified and the broad masses of the people clamored for revolutionary change, the exploiting classes could no longer rule in the old way. Martial law was imposed and the Marcos fascist dictatorship was established in 1972 to stem the revolutionary tide and to rescue and prolong the system of imperialist domination and reactionary rule. Through naked armed force and open terror, the US-Marcos dictatorship swept away whatever democratic processes and forms still existed.
The patriotic and progressive forces as well as even those sections of the ruling classes not belonging to the Marcos faction became the targets of repression. The fascist dictatorship built up an enormous military machinery and propaganda apparatus to maintain its fascist tyranny, especially over the broad masses of the people. Increasing militarization gave rise to unparalleled human rights violations.
Fascist decrees and the Marcos constitution overturned earlier anti-imperialist gains. Every area of the economy was opened up to imperialist plunder and control, and imperialist privileges were not only retained but multiplied several times over. The massive entry of multinationals into the banking industry was facilitated, foreign agro-corporations were allowed to take over large tracts of agricultural land, and the development of an integrated steel industry in the hands of Filipino entrepreneurs was stunted. The approval of the RP-Japan Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, previously barred by anti-imperialist opposition in the Senate, paved the way for the second Japanese invasion of the Philippines, this time on the economic front. The Marcos fascist clique also used martial rule to monopolize state power and engage in large-scale plunder of the national treasury. The dictator and his immediate family, relations and cronies, built economic empires through outright robbery not only of government resources but also of private business assets.
The Marcos dictatorship succeeded, not in bringing the nation out of crisis, but in driving it to complete ruin. The foreign debt ballooned to immense proportions, delivering the economy into the hands of foreign creditors and leaving an enormous debt service burden on the people. The strategy of export-led economic growth advocated by the IMF-WB made the country extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the world capitalist market and drew it further away from genuine industrialization.
Multinational incursions into agriculture and big-scale landgrabbing by both foreign and big comprador-landlord corporations devastated the livelihood of the peasantry, even the small landholders, and dislocated indigenous communities. The wanton exploitation of the country’s natural resources resulted in massive destruction of the Philippine environment, including land, forest, mineral, freshwater and marine resources.
There was an overall deterioration in the economic and social conditions of the masses, as inflation raged and unemployment spread. The overwhelming majority, including substantial sections of the middle classes, fell below the poverty line. Hundreds of thousands were driven to work abroad, only to be subjected to a more intense kind of wage slavery, racial discrimination and sexual abuse.
Urban blight became a phenomenon in the nation’s capital and other major urban centers with the continuing exodus of landless rural poor to the cities. Prostitution and organized crime flourished on the soil of social decay.