Philippines Recent History

The great Ferdinando Magellano, during his trip around the world, was the first European who discovered, in the immensity of the Pacific Ocean, the Philippine islands.

When he arrived, the islands were already inhabited by Malaysian peoples from the south, and were organized in sultanates, quite advanced.

In 1564, 43 years after the death of Magellan, a Spanish fleet under the command of the Spanish “conquistador” Miguel Legaspi landed several hundred armed men in the bay of Manila, with the aim of ensuring the possession of the entire archipelago to Spain. The islands were called Philippines in honor of King Philip II of Spain.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Philippines, the dominion of Spain lasted three centuries, ending in 1898, when a revolt broke out and the Filipinos, under the command of Emilio Aguinaldo, asked for independence and proclaimed the Republic. But in that year the Filipinos had found allies in the US government, so a war broke out between Spain and the United States.

Soon the Spanish army was defeated and with the Paris treaty of 1898 the Philippines was ceded to the United States. The Americans never considered the country as a colony, but immediately began to move it towards autonomy and independence. In the meantime, they boosted the economy, traffic, education.

In September 1921 the provinces of Jolo, Moro, Lanao and Cotabo rose up against the US authorities and on November 15 the Philippine Republic was proclaimed, independent, but protected by the United States. These in 1935 approved the establishment of an independent government chaired by Manuel Quezon.

During the Second World War, between December 1941 and May 1942, the Japanese seized the Philippines and remained there until 1945, when they were expelled from the Americans, at the end of the conflict.

Returning to the Republic, the Philippines granted, on March 14, 1947, the use of 5 major naval bases to the United States and for 99 years and concluded a mutual defense treaty with them, in Washington on August 30, 1952.

Philippines Recent History

But in the meantime in 1949 a revolt had developed against the Americans, accused of having prevented, with their continuous revenue from financial aid, the development and industrialization of the country. These rioters were called Huk and tried to advocate an anti-feudal agrarian reform in the country, inspired by the Chinese communists.

The Minister of War, Ramon Magsaysay, had almost managed to eradicate the Huk when Elpidio Quirino, liberal, president since 1948, promulgated an amnesty decreeing the end of hostilities.

Ramon Magsaysay, around which all the opposition had gathered, resigned from the government and stood as a nationalist candidate in the 1953 presidential election. He won them at the expense of Quirinus.

He became president after obtaining the surrender of Luis Taruc, head of the Huk in May 1954, immediately promoted an agrarian reform aimed at eliminating the latifundia and launched a sustained campaign against corruption.

But even before some results could be seen from his work, he died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957. He was succeeded by vice-president C. Garcia, also a nationalist, who was then reconfirmed in the elections.

As far as foreign policy was concerned, the Philippines constituted the advanced point of the Asian anti-communist party from the beginning and the body responsible for this purpose had its constitution in the capital Manila on September 6, 1954.

The partial elections of 1959, set on a campaign of economic decoupling from the United States, were won by the nationalist party of Garcia. Those generals of 1961, however, were won by the liberal party of D. Macapagal. The latter immediately found himself in serious difficulties; first, the United States refused to grant a $ 73 million loan because it did not approve of the reasons for which it was requested, and then because the vice-president and foreign minister, Pelaez, had to resign due to corruption.

So with the 1965 elections the nationalist party and president was F. Marcos, who immediately established an economic plan including the industrialization of the country with an impulse to private companies. Thus the chemical and mechanical industry and the woodworking industry were encouraged.

The improvements were so rapid that Marcos was reconfirmed as president also in the subsequent elections of 1969. He dreamed of applying the agrarian reform, the stabilization of the currency and the integration of the structures. But the too much difference between the social classes and moreover the high development of corruption led to unrest and rebellion in 1970.

But that wasn’t all; in the islands of Luzon the guerrillas of the Huk had resumed, while in Mindanao the struggles between Christians and Muslims raged. In 1972, as things were still, Marcos centralized all powers in the hands of men loyal to him. On 17 July 1972 a Constituent Assembly was convened during which the presidential regime was transformed into a single-chamber parliamentary system. 1973 The Philippines was a parliamentary republic with firm power in the hands of Marcos.

For foreign policy, which had always been pro-American, Marcos agreed with Nixon, then president of the United States, when he proclaimed the downsizing of the American commitment to Asia.

After which he re-established relations with all the countries hitherto considered enemies, first of all, popular China. In January 1973, following guerrilla acts scattered across the country, Marcos proclaimed a martial law which gave him extraordinary powers.

In 1974 the guerrillas of the “Moro National Liberation Front” occupied the city of Jolo, the capital of the Sulu islands. A year later, a referendum was called for citizens to speak for or against the maintenance of this martial law. And the president was allowed to continue it. Then Marcos, in March 1977, started the formation of an autonomous provisional government in the southern strip of the Philippines, including the island of Palawan, the Sulu and half of Mindanao. The members of the Moro Front were able to participate in this government.

For foreign policy, following the new American policy, Marcos was forced to return to China and in fact, in order to plead the cause for his country in person, he visited Beijing after breaking relations with Taiwan. And in June 1976 he restored relations with the Soviet Union and, therefore, an official visit to Moscow was also necessary.

In the 1978 elections Marcos also granted participation in the Popular Democratic Movement, headed by B. Aquino, a senator in prison awaiting execution. But only participation, without an election campaign. The ruling party won the elections and on that occasion Marcos returned Aquino’s freedom and entrusted him with a position as adviser in what was to be established as the “Council of Leaders”.

In January 1981 martial law was repealed, both because the guerrillas had almost disappeared and because the people, with the improvement of the general economic situation, were able to take advantage of an income higher than that of a few years before, and therefore the reasons for contest.

But certainly the economic situation was always precarious and therefore in 1982 Marcos returned to negotiate with the United States, after the years of the Carter presidency, which was unfavorable to him. He renewed the concession of two air bases to the United States, that of Subic Bay and that of Clark, in exchange for an annual rent of $ 100 million.

On August 21, 1983, after three years of exile in the United States, on his return home, Aquino was assassinated at Manila airport. He was to stand for the presidential election scheduled for 1984. Marcos’ right arm, General F. Ver., Was suspected for this assassination.

Aquino’s funeral initiated popular demonstrations against the regime. But given the support of the army, business forces and the United States, Marcos was able to continue ruling. Only now, due to his precarious health, it was necessary to think about his succession.

In 1984 the elections for the renewal of the National Assembly saw the victory of the opposition and then Corazon Aquino, widow of the assassinated senator, put forward his candidacy for the subsequent elections of 1986. And in fact on February 7, 1986 the elections were held, albeit between riots and deaths, and they assigned the victory to Cory Aquino.

Marcos, however, did not want to give up and still proclaimed himself president. Cory Aquino then launched the slogan of “civil disobedience”. The Catholic Church, the bourgeoisie and the armed forces, fearing the seizure of power of the communists, huddled around the Aquino. At this point, not only did the members of the regime begin to abandon office, but the United States also wanted to remain in the strictest neutrality, not wanting to get involved in any hybrid situations.

In February 1986, the Minister of Defense, Erile, and the Chief of Staff, Ramos, invited Marcos to resign; he did so and then retired to the American base in Clark, while Cory Aquino entered as President of a provisional government.
As soon as he settled in the government, Cory Aquino immediately fought against a precarious economy but also with the two branches of guerrilla warfare: to the north the communist branch and to the south that of the Moro Front. In September 1986 agreements were made with both groups to end hostilities. These, however, continued to the north against government forces and resulted in Erile’s departure.

Also in the autumn of that year, Cory Aquino went to Washington and obtained, from the then President Reagan, an economic aid of 200 million dollars. And in the meantime, the two guerrilla groups resumed hostilities.

There was a coup in August 1987, led by Colonel G. Honasan, ex Erile’s right-hand man; moreover the power of Cory Aquino was weakening due to the rampant corruption and also the Catholic Church rumbled for the notable prevailing malpractice.

On 28 September 1988 Marcos died in Honolulu, but the dangers for Aquino intensified. In December 1989, in fact, another coup took place that could be tamed only after 5 days of bloody battles and with the help of both the American aviation and with the intervention of Cardinal Sin.

In the following October, another event disturbed the already precarious situation. A small army of soldiers stationed in Mindanao, led by Colonel A. Noble, mutinied and proclaimed the island an Independent Republic. All this was dismantled in 24 hours. And that was not all, in the south of the country, and especially in the south of Mindanao, there were separatist movements on the Muslim side. In order not to complicate matters, Cory Aquino granted a certain autonomy to the regions concerned, but this certainly showed how weak and precarious the balance of his presidential policy was. So much so that in the elections of May 1992, F. Ramos, a Protestant, was elected president in a country with well-rooted Catholic traditions, and without even being a member of a family of great wealth. Cory Aquino did not run for election.


Meanwhile, in November 1991, Imelda Marcos, widow of the deceased dictator, had returned from forced exile. Ramos formed a coalition executive and then continued a policy of reviving the economy and national reconciliation. In September 1992 he granted an amnesty; he entered into negotiations with the two guerrilla formations, Communist and Muslim. He liberalized the economy, stimulated foreign capitalization. In the 1995 election for the House of Representatives, the government coalition was rewarded.

Despite the talks, the truces, the proposed agreements, the guerrillas, temporarily suspended, resumed dividing the country.

In 1998 there were the new elections, to which Ramos could not present by constitutional order. Vice-President J. Estrada won, supported not only by Imelda Marcos, but also by the “Philippines Mass Struggle Party”, which also won a majority in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile the talks for national pacification were again suspended and in December 1998 the Moro Front and the National Army clashed again and these clashes continued throughout the course of 1999.

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