Monday, September 03, 2007

Magsaysay, the people's guy, was America's nightmare

Manuel L. Quezon III has lamented in his blog that the birth centenary (August 31, 2007) of Ramon Magsaysay was officially ignored. The young Quezon’s commemorative piece somehow re-ignited the debate of whether the seventh President of the Philippines had been America’s stooge, manipulated by The Ugly American.

The “basic assumption” that Ramon Magsayay was in fact packaged by the CIA as a rags-to-power politician while “overstated” could have some grounding. For one, Magsaysay was not a poor mechanic from Zambales but himself a son of a wealthy merchant and landowner. Atypically of a Filipino teenager of his time, he sported a Ford in high school, best-selling author Stanley Karnow has pointed out in In Our Image. There are certain serious materials indicating that Magsaysay, as an aspiring politician of national standing, agreed to work “for” the CIA. However when as president he converted, his term was cut short by a fatal plane crash. The conversion was from acting out his supposedly assigned role in America’s battle for hearts and minds to becoming an earnest reformer in protecting the Filipino peasantry from abuse in the belief that “he who has less in life should have more in law.” In having done so, Magsaysay actually began to live his manufactured image as a “man of the people,” as if a Jacksonian democrat, at a period of sensitive global strategic alliances.

The plot is not simple.

There’s a reason why American journalists called Ninoy Aquino a Jeffersonian democrat.

But first, a better way to understand a Jeffersonian democrat is to define its antithesis, the Hamiltonian federalist. Hamiltonian federalists, like John Hay, advocated the rule by the “best people” upon the idea that “those who own the country ought to govern it” and that government should not interfere with but support private enterprise.

Jefferson, born of a landed aristocracy, believed that the government should operate for the benefit of ordinary Americans, the yeoman farmers who best epitomize republican virtue. So, when Jefferson said that the best government is the one that governs least, he was not demanding the laissez faire system but only expressing his support for popular self-governance versus a strong central regime.

Ninoy too was wellborn who believed in the Filipinos and promised to subdue the oligarchs if he would be president. But he was an accomplished politician. Pressed with a question at a television interview during the 1978 parliamentary elections of whether he worked for the CIA, Ninoy deftly explained that he worked “with,” but not “for,” the CIA.

The conversion of Ninoy took place in his detention cell. After about 8 years in confinement, he was allowed medical furlough in the US for a heart bypass surgery but then to save himself from the drudgery of life in exile, he returned to fulfill his destiny and his belief that the “Filipinos are worth dying for.” Jefferson’s full conversion was at deathbed where he spoke of the end of democracy and freedom once power shifts to the aristocracy of “banking institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

Now, a better way to define Jacksonian democracy is to distinguish it from Jeffersonian democracy? Jefferson’s crowning glory was not the dismantling of Hamiltonian aristocracy but his successful negotiation for the purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon Bonaparte. The Louisiana acquisition however established the template for expansionism, the idea that people and territory could be acquired by purchase. Also, succumbing to pragmatic politics, Jefferson was accused of tyrannical act when he sought the passage of the Embargo Act which prohibited American exports, resulting in thousands of factory workers being thrown out of jobs. While Jefferson might not have lost faith in the common man (although he also believed that universal education should precede universal suffrage) Jeffersonians never became a mass-based organization.

Once again, when Jeffersonian democracy had called for the people’s self-governance, it was more of a call for state’s rights against the centralizing power of the Federal government; Jacksonian democracy two decades later went further by demanding direct governance by the common man (the electorate was then broadened to include all white male adult citizens, rather than only the propertied in that group of the Jeffersonian era) and therefore Andrew Jackson’s new democracy as politics for the people crossed social class lines and beyond mere geographic sectionalism. It was during this era that Davy Crockett, a semiliterate rifleman, was voted thrice to congress by Jacksonian rabble and was in fact groomed by his organized constituents to take on the presidency.

Karnow has suggested Magsaysay populism was Jacksonian.

The sub-plot: that Erap para sa mahihirap was stillborn owing to the pre-termination of the presidential term of another people’s champion unofficially by the conspiracy of the middle class and the “Makati rich” that was EDSA Dos and officially by a judicial misadventure in semantics (hence Erap’s ouster via “constructive resignation”) by elites in black robes.

Where is the connection?

Remember the intelligence dossier prepared by former US ambassador to the Philippines Joseph Mussomeli? The dossier was in turn based upon the reports of certain US agents detailed in the Philippines following the resignation of the “Hyatt 10” when the momentum for the Arroyo ouster movement heightened? The agents calculated that there was a clear and present danger People Power III would take place, hence the rush to scout for an acceptable replacement.

It was then logical for the US agents to conduct a job interview with the one who is formally next in line. However, not bound by constitutional requirements, the talent search has to meet other threshold priorities. How did Vice President Noli de Castro fare? Miserably by the interviewers’ own account.

First, De Castro was assessed to be lacking the required sophistication for the job in view, for one thing, of his comments on US-RP trade relations: sounding more like a fair-trader, he complained about the “imbalance” in those relations. De Castro was also quoted in the dossier as saying to the effect that the Philippines is America’s “Number One ally” and our President is its “Number One fan” and yet other countries are favored more.

Second, regarding De Castro’s take on Iraq, the dossier stated: “On Iraq, however, he said he didn’t understand ‘what was behind it.’ He then turned to his real interest in Iraq: jobs for Filipino workers.”

Third, on domestic matters, De Castro was portrayed as naive at best: “We asked about his legislative priorities and waited patiently as he searched for words. His chief of staff, Jesse Andres, broke the silence, noting that De Castro identifies his policy interest as anything that would benefit the masses. . . .”

U.S. can deal with a left-leaning nationalist or a patron of OFWs. But the third one was the proverbial straw that broke the Camel’s back. Why? Because a Filipino leader (or Third World leaders, for that matter) who pays attention to the needs of the masses is likely to ignore America’s powerful interests and U.S. strategic imperatives.

“[Magsaysay] undoubtedly had [American] support, because of the Cold War and the rise of the Huks,” mlq3 has attempted too make the connection. In the comment thread he added this caveat: “I understand some historians have been working on this which, combined with contemporary testimony, should lead to a reexamination of what has become a basic assumption.”

In another breadth, Jacksonianism, as reinterpreted by some historians today, is also about the creation of mass democracy as a check upon the expansion of manic free-market capitalism.

Not communism, not terrorism but the “excess of democracy,” or a true “government by the people, of the people, for the people,” whether of the Jefferson, Ninoy Aquino, Andrew Jackson or Magsaysay (and for that matter the Hugo Chavez) variety, is America’s worst nightmare.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's funny. De Castro can't himself articulate his own legislative priorities and ".. His chief of staff, Jesse Andres, broke the silence, noting that De Castro identifies his policy interest as anything that would benefit the masses."

September 05, 2007 8:57 AM  
Anonymous DevilsAdvc8 said...

u think all Phil presidents had to be approved by the US? at least, the next to be "interviewed" will have that in mind.

Say anything that'll please the Americans. Sometimes, I think having nuclear weapon's the only thing that'll make the US respect a country. And why they try their damndest to prevent others from acquiring it.

September 14, 2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

The Nobel Peace Prize 2008

We respectfully propose to The Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008, in alphabetical order, to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada and Ronaldo Puno for their efforts to create peace and national reconciliation in the Republic of the Philippines.The three nominees have worked hard to establish a political democratic atmosphere and firm respect for majesty of the Law (following the dictum of "justice delayed is justice denied")

For the past decade, the conflict the “Pro Erap” forces (the “masa” ) and the “Pro Gloria” (the ruling elite), has been among the most irreconcilable and menacing in Philippine politics. The parties have caused each other great suffering.

By negotiating the The Presidential Pardon For Erap , and subsequently following it up with the quick pardon after six (6) weeks from the conviction of Erap by the Sandigan Bayan, Arroyo,Estrada and Puno have made substantial contributions to a historic process through which peace and cooperation can replace a bitter political feud and possibly a dangerous civil war and hate among Filipinos.

In his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel wrote that the Peace Prize could be awarded to the person who, in the preceding year, "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations".

The proposed award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008 to Arroyo, Puno and Estrada is intended to honor a political act which called for great courage on both sides, and which has opened up opportunities for a new development towards fraternity in the Philippines.

It is our hope that the Committee will give the award to these great Filipinos to serve as an encouragement to all the Filipinos of different political persuasions who are working to establish lasting peace in this important country in the strategic ASEAN region.

The Profiles of the Proposed Nobel Peace Prize Awards for 2008

1) President Gloria Arroyo: She has declared the Philippines as the most democratic country in our region. “We have no tolerance for human rights violations at home or abroad.” GMA Speech in the UN General Assembly;Sept.28,2007

2)Ex- President Joseph Estrada:He served more than six years in detention — six years and six months to be exact. First in an air-conditioned suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, and then at his own well-appointed rest house in Tanay town, outside Manila .

3)Secretary Ronaldo Puno :The Peacemaker between President Gloria Arroyo and President Joseph Estrada. He is arguably one of the most successful campaign managers in Philippine politics. He supported the presidential bids of eventual winners Ferdinand Marcos,Fidel Ramos,Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.



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