KASAMA Vol. 20 No. 4 / October-November-December 2006 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

From the Archives: recollecting the Marcos regime of plunder

Some Are Smarter Than Others:
The History Of Marcos’ Crony Capitalism

September 21, 1972 is etched in Filipino collective memory as the day when then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation 1081 placing the Philippines under rule of Martial Law. To mark this date we are reprinting the preface to Ricardo Manapat’s epic research.

The present book is the expanded and updated version of a 40-page pamphlet published under the same title in September 1979.

The original work was published at a period long before exposes of Marcos and crony wealth had become fashionable and was a time when such an endeavor was fraught with danger.

In spite of the great risks and the financial difficulties accompanying its publication, the pamphlet was successfully reproduced and distributed by the Kasapi (Kapulungan ng mga Sandigan ng Pilipinas), a political group active since the late 1960’s. Using a dilapidated mimeographing machine and donated supplies, volunteers were sequestered for two weeks at the residence of Renato Taņada and were not permitted to leave until they had reproduced and collated 2,000 copies of the pamphlet. Members of the Kasapi as well as other friends took care of the distribution. As a safety precaution for the two authors of the original study, a disinformation tactic was employed and a note was added that the pamphlet was the product of company researches on the status of its business competitors. The aim was to mislead the martial law regime into looking for the corporate research arm of a leading company rather than an underground political group.

The 1979 study was an unprecedented success. Although the political conditions permitted dissemination only through informal channels, the pamphlet experienced extensive distribution since other concerned individuals and institutions reproduced the study on their own. Within a few weeks, the work had already circulated widely in Manila. Major newspapers in Asia, the United States, and Europe soon followed suit and cited the study in numerous articles. Concerned groups overseas reproduced the study and continued its distribution. The pamphlet took a life of its own. An excited public nicknamed it The Octopus, a reference to the two-headed octopus drawn on the cover of the mimeographed pamphlet.

Octopus An article from Mr. & Ms. describes the general reaction to the now-classic expose:

....whose xeroxed copies were passed in the Philippines surreptitiously from one hand to another and discussed in whispers and bated breath and gleaming eyes because it revealed the shameless greed of the Marcoses and their coterie…

The greatest compliment came from Ninoy Aquino, who, speaking while still incarcerated in Port Bonifacio, called the 1979 monograph “the most explosive document to have rocked Manila.”

But despite the positive reception we were clearly conscious of the limitations of the original study. The research had been hurriedly done in a span of two months and the writing was carried out within a few weeks. The subjects of the study were discussed superficially, while many cronies were never even mentioned. We thus promised to come out with an updated and expanded version.

A further limitation of the original work was pointed out by Luis Taruc, the old Huk Supremo. While the work was receiving praises from many quarters, Taruc was the only one who offered constructive criticism. He pointed out that, while the work had the value of identifying the properties of Marcos’ cronies, it failed to show how Filipinos had become poorer in the process of wealth accumulation. We thus again tried to improve the work in this regard.

This book then comes as a way of fulfilling these promises. While the present work has its obvious imperfections, it hopefully has improved upon the original work both in terms of its coverage and social and political perspective.

When Ninoy Aquino asked us in 1980 how long it would take to finish this updated version, we naively gave the answer as “around two weeks.” We slightly miscalculated our timetable. We required more than 11 years of research and writing to do full justice to the topic. Since we had already clearly established the pattern of cronyism in Marcos’ regime with our 1979 study, it was no longer necessary to engage in further sensationalism. In our judgement, it was far more important to present a thorough account by setting the events in their proper historical and political context. We hope that the present book proves to be worth the wait of those who expected the book to come out much earlier.

Our motivation in coming out with this book was to document what we believed to be the central aspect of Marcos’ regime. It was not our aim to malign the individuals mentioned in this study. Our purpose was purely historical in nature, and individuals were mentioned only in so far as their activities shed light on the history of the period. Our aim is best expressed by borrowing the words of Emile Zola:

As to the men I accuse, I do not know them, I have never seen them, I feel neither resentment nor hatred against them. For me they are only entities, emblems of social malfeasance.

The reader is cautioned that the book may appear tedious in certain parts but for the dedicated researcher much gold may be unearthed through the diligent patience of the quiet mole.

The History Of Marcos’ Crony Capitalism
by Ricardo Manapat

Aletheia Publications,
New York, 1991
ISBN 971-91287-0-4

Like the 1979 pamphlet, the book draws its title from a statement attributed to Imelda Marcos. Parrying criticisms of relatives who became overnight millionaires after her husband assumed absolute powers in 1972, Imelda countered:

“Sometimes you have smart relatives who can make it… My dear, there are always people who are just a little faster, more brilliant, more aggressive.”