The reactionary classes remained in power. In the face of popular demands, the ascendant US-supported Aquino ruling faction granted certain concessions such as the release of political prisoners, the restoration of formal democratic rights and the inclusion of a few civil libertarians in the government. But the reactionaries lost no time in taking away these concessions step by step.
Big comprador-landlord rule assumed a new face in the Aquino regime. It decked itself out with democratic trappings and waved the banner of reform, while preserving intact the fascist state machinery and perpetuating the essentially foreign-controlled, feudal type of traditional politics. Worn-out institutions and processes were recycled and many of the Marcosian policies and schemes were continued and even aggravated.
Just like the fascist puppet Marcos and his technocrats, Aquino and her economic advisers looked up to foreign investments and foreign loans as the principal means of economic recovery and progress. Their desperate need for foreign aid made them more slavish in following the dictates of the US-controlled IMF and World Bank. The Aquino regime committed itself to the full payment of the gargantuan foreign debt incurred by the dictator and “economic reforms” favoring foreign capital. The result was an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions, the burden of which was largely borne by the broad masses.
In a similar fashion, the Aquino government bartered national sovereignty and territorial integrity in exchange for the unqualified US support that it hoped would guarantee its survival. The Aquino government sought the retention of the US military bases and troops on Philippine soil beyond 1991, through such deceptive formulas as “gradual phase-out” and “continued US access.”
Like the much-trumpeted Marcos version, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) became a big farce. Since the beginning, it had been hobbled by the retrogressive principle of voluntary sale by landlords and by a policy of setting impossibly high prices for land purchases.
Aquino’s bogus land reform was a nefarious scheme for big landlords to overprice their land and rob the state treasury through the voluntary-offer-to-sell program. It was rendered inutile by government-authorized land conversion schemes cooked up by foreign and big comprador interests to displace a great number of peasants from the lands they till. No genuine peasant organization was deceived by CARP. The autonomy scheme for the national minorities was no different from its predecessor in that it allowed continued landgrabbing of ancestral lands and foreign plunder of the ancestral domain.
In every major area in the political, economic and military spheres, it gave the “autonomous governments” no authority and powers which are not subject to existing laws, national policies and congressional approval. “Ceasefire talks” were held between the Aquino regime and the NDF. The Aquino regime refused to negotiate a genuine political settlement of the armed conflict, but was merely interested in looking for an excuse to unleash all-out war against the revolutionary forces. When the “ceasefire talks” collapsed, the Aquino regime proceeded to launch the biggest, most comprehensive and most brutal counter-insurgency campaign in post-war history. As a result, its record of human rights violations surpassed that of the Marcos fascist dictatorship.
The “total war” policy against the revolutionary forces and people was ferociously carried out. The low-intensity conflict strategy of the US was applied. Fascist terror and militarization continued and intensified in both city and countryside, resulting in the dislocation of thousands of peasants and indigenous peoples. Human rights violations became more rampant in six years of Aquino rule than in fourteen years of martial rule under Marcos. The democratic space credited by the bourgeois populists and other reformists to the Aquino regime and not to the revolutionary disappeared.
With every coup attempt by ultra-rightists, the Aquino government became ever more dependent for its survival on the fascist AFP. The Ramos military faction became more powerful in political decision-making. The inability to assert civilian supremacy over the military led to an undeclared state of martial law—as exemplified by the continuance of nonbailable charges of political offense and the reinstitution of “warrantless arrests” reminiscent of Marcos’ PCO (Presidential Commitment Order) and PDA (Preventive Detention Action).
The US government continued to decisively influence political, economic and military decision-making processes in the country through a network of politicians, bureaucrats and military officials. It was the principal author of the total war scheme, in charge of funding, equipment, training, intelligence and other requirements. US imperialism engaged in more and more direct intervention, as the puppet regime increasingly failed to put its act together. It took advantage of its long-held dominance in Philippine affairs, the desperate economic situation of the country, and the deep internal divisions within the bureaucracy and military to realize its strategic as well as tactical objectives in the Philippines.
Though at first riding on the wave of popular rejection of the Marcos fascist regime, the Aquino regime soon became isolated by its anti-national and anti-democratic policies. It set as its strategic goal the destruction of the revolutionary movement but failed. Instead, the objective conditions for the people’s war became more favorable than ever before.