Call for papers: Dynamics of Change and Continuity in Philippine Political Economy

Martial Law and the Marcos Restoration

February 23-24, 2023 via Zoom

Presented by the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University together with the School of Social Sciences of the Ateneo de Manila University.

Conference website

Half a century after Ferdinand Marcos Sr. put the Philippines under the grip of authoritarian rule, his son is elected as the republic’s 17th president. The election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the nation’s highest office, on the same year that the 50th anniversary of Martial Law is being commemorated, heralds a turning point in Philippine history necessitating a critical reassessment of the country’s darkest years in the 20th century. What has the historic authoritarian turn, embodied by the enactment of Martial Law, meant for the political economy of development in the Philippines? This question gathers particular significance as the return of a Marcos to national power fuels fears of historical revisionism, particularly in the portrayal of touted achievements of Marcos Sr. The deployment of political economy lens in assessing the consequences of Martial Law also enriches contemporary debates on industrialization, sustainable development, neoliberalism and global market integration, and inclusive growth.   

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“De-Marcosification” and the rise of new urban rentiers:

On the unintended consequences of post-EDSA privatizations.

I will be presenting this paper at the The 5th Philippine Studies Conference in Japan organized by the Annual Philippine Studies Forum in Japan, on 27 November 2022.

This paper revisits the lasting imprint left by privatizations after the EDSA Revolution on the development of capitalism in the Philippines in the early 21st century, with an emphasis on path-dependence, unintended consequences, and domestic technocratic and bureaucratic actors.

Focusing on the efforts of the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization (PCGR) in the late 1980s, it re-evaluates how a specific understanding of the state’s role in the economy was developed through the reorganization of crony- and state-owned enterprises. It proposes that consequential features of privatization were not the outcome of an ideologically-coherent liberalization. Instead, they were part of a moralized “De-Marcosification” process: liquidating crony-owned or inefficient state investments to fund agrarian reform. This practice of linking proceeds from privatizations to specific policy objectives, in the form of “special accounts”, had since proliferated across the Philippine government. Key development and policy objectives were linked to the speed and constancy of asset liquidation, and became decisive in how privatizations in the 1990s and 2000s were implemented.

“We must systematically ‘de-Marcosify’ society.” From Principles and Policy Proposals, the provisional report of the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization.
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Urban Property Development and the Creative Destruction of Filipino Capitalism

This material originally appeared as  a chapter in W. Bello and J. Chavez (eds.) State of Fragmentation: The Philippines in Transition. Bangkok: Focus on the Global South.

This entry is the first in a four-part serialization.

Part II: The new rules of the game
Part III: Back to the land
Part IV: The city and the restoration of class power

The past decade had been incredibly good for Filipino capitalism. In 2000, the combined profit of the thirty companies comprising the PSE composite index stood at PHP 26.1 billion. By 2010, it grew to 304.23 billion, or an increase of 635 percent in real terms. Within the same ten years, the Philippines’s gross domestic product grew by only 59 percent (see Table 1). In 2006, when Forbes began publishing an annual list of the richest Filipinos, the combined net worth of the forty wealthiest Filipinos was US$16 billion. By 2010, their fortunes were collectively worth 22.8 billion dollars, an increase of 32.3 percent in real terms. In comparison, GDP per capita increased by a mere 13 percent within the same period.[1] Far from depending exclusively on the Philippine market, several of their conglomerates are presently embarking on ambitious foreign expansion plans. Henry Sy’s SM Prime is presently planning to open five more malls in China within the next three years;[2] the Gokongweis’ Universal Robina is eyeing a factory in Burma, which would follow successful investments into manufacturing in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China;[3] and San Miguel Corporation, as part of its plan to bring total sales to one trillion pesos by 2013, is planning to put up plants in Burma, Cambodia, and Laos.[4]

This was by no means an expected outcome. The 2000s was a very turbulent decade for business: it began with Philippine capitalism in serious crisis, with the economy still reeling from the Asian financial crisis of 1997-8. The initial contraction, at half a percent, was mild compared to the severe drops seen in the rest of middle-income Southeast Asia. But an anemic recovery, coupled with a hollowed-out neoliberal state unwilling and unable to either stem the outward flow of portfolio investments or to spend its way out of the crisis, prolonged the economy’s stay in the doldrums, culminating in a fiscal crisis in 2005. For much of the decade, the country was also in the grips of a political crisis. The impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada, the subsequent revolt of middle Manila, and the installation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001 proved to be only the beginning: as the decade wore on, Arroyo’s questionable mandate increasingly became illegitimate, and would echo throughout the decade as a rigged election, mass mobilizations, and the reanimation of an adventurist, impune military. Finally, its closing years saw the global capitalism erupt in a systemic crisis that it has yet to emerge from.

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