“Philippines is not poor, it is just being plundered all the time by politicians that POOR people vote for.”--Facebook post
That this is true of the Philippines is hardly debatable. What is debatable is why and how it came to be the fundamental truth of Philippine socio-economic life. My own take is that the why and the how of this truth can be found in the national security interests of our former American masters.
After Japan’s surrender that ended the war in the Pacific, Gen. Douglas MacArthur wasted no time implementing a comprehensive agrarian reform program that dismantled the Japanese feudal system of land ownership and production. Japan, freed from restraining feudal shackles, was quickly on the road to where it is today, an economic powerhouse and US partner.
Yet, in their close to half a century of occupation of the Philippines, the Americans never bothered to dismantle the more oppressive Spanish-style feudalism that then and now explains why we have remained an economically and politically backward and culturally ambivalent country.
Why the difference? Why dismantle feudalism posthaste in just-vanquished Japan but never in their long time colony?
Japan was already industrializing when it went to war. She was manufacturing her own warships, warplanes, tanks, etc. She went to war because she was short of raw materials and oil to feed and run its heavy industries. The US, therefore, could only envision Japan as an economic partner and not as a subservient raw material supplier to the US economy. Hence, the calculated and supervised move to free Japan’s economy of feudal restraints.
The Philippines on the other hand is an agricultural country rich in natural resources. She could easily be a supplier of raw materials to U.S. industries as she would have been to Japan if the latter had won the war. And what better way to insure that we become a satellite economy of the US than by keeping political power in the hands of a few feudal lords who would be docile to American dictates. Dismantling feudalism was not in the best interests of the US.
Hence, when the Americans left in 1946, they left behind a society whose basic political and economic structures were essentially Spanish but with the façade of American-style democracy. The mass of Filipinos were landless, voiceless, hence powerless as the same few rich and powerful economic lords remained in control. To this day we remain at the mercy of their successors, today’s politicians.
Yesterday, July 4, celebrated a strange friendship that has left us still hopelessly wondering how to break feudal shackles so our people can finally be economically and politically free and culturally enlightened.