MANILA — An economics professor and a former Supreme Court Justice on Thursday debunked claims that the Philippines got worse after the EDSA People Power revolt ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Apart from the political upheaval during that time, the decline of the economy was also crucial in pushing the people to go to the streets in the EDSA uprising, according to UP School of Economics professor JC Punongbayan.
The Constitution which came after the EDSA uprising also made public officials more accountable for ill-gotten wealth, according to former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
Instead of being a golden era of economic prosperity, Marcos brought on the worst economic crisis since the Second World War, Punongbayan said.
”Idinulot ng batas militar ang pinakamalalang krisis pang-ekonomiya ng bansa mula World War II at ito ang isa sa pinakamalaking sanhi kung bakit nauwi sa EDSA People Power Revolution ang bansa noong 1986,” said Punongbayan at the 1SAMBAYAN forum.
(Martial Law led to the country's worst economic crisis since World War 2 and this is one of the main reasons why the EDSA People Power Revolution happened in 1986.)
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Punongbayan noted the economic numbers during the Martial Law period were so bad, the Gross Domestic Product growth rate plunged to -13.7 percent from 1984 and 1985.
Punongbayan said this was even worse than the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic which saw GDP shrink 9.6 percent in 2020.
Record high widespread unemployment and underemployment were also recorded during those two years, he said. This as prices of basic goods skyrocketed and the inflation rate reached record highs.
”Yung inflation rate na sumusukat sa bilis ng pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin ay pumalo sa 50 percent nung 1984. Ito yung pinakamalalang inflation sa ating kasaysayan base sa datos. At bukod doon naranasan din natin ang sobrang malulubhang inflation rate na lagpas 20 percent, lagpas 30 percent noong panahon ng batas militar,” said Punongbayan.
(The inflation rate, which measures the speed of price increases, hit 50 percent in 1984. This was the worst inflation in history based on data. Apart from this we also experienced inflation rate above 20 percent, 30 percent during Martial Law.)
”Samantalang ngayon nagrereklamo na tayo sa 4 percent, sa 5 percent, sa 6 percent inflation. Imagine mo yung 50 percent inflation rate noong 1984 at nagdulot ito ng matinding gutom, matinding kahirapan at yung halaga ng piso at yung income ng mga tao, yung kita ng tao ay talagang nabawas sa panahon na ito,” he added.
(In contrast we now complain when the inflation rate hits 4 percent, 5 percent or 6 percent. Imagine the 50 percent inflation rate in 1984, which led to widespread hunger, severe poverty, and the value of the peso, people's incomes were really reduced during this period.)
He said that P100 in 1965 before the declaration of martial law was worth only P8.10 in 1985, a year before the revolution.
Around 2 million were also pushed into poverty as the number of impoverished Filipinos grew from 3.91 million in 1971 to 5.87 million in 1985, he said.
This also prompted the exodus of Filipinos to work abroad as the number of OFWs grew 9 times from 1975 to 1983, he added.
External debt also grew to $23.53 billion from 1965 to 1985, according to Punongbayan.
”Ang perang ito ay nakurakot, ipinahiram sa mga crony at dumerecho sa mga bank accounts ng mga Marcos at mga cronies, at yun na nga ay parte ng mga nirerecover ng gobyerno na nakaw na yaman.”
(This money was stolen, given to cronies and went straight to the bank accounts of the Marcoses, and the government is still recovering part of their ill-gotten wealth.)
These led to social unrest which ultimately led to people marching in EDSA to oust the late dictator.
”Ang EDSA ay pwede mong tingnan bilang tugon sa pagkalugmok ng ekonomiya natin noong rehimeng Marcos,” said Punongbayan.
(You can look at EDSA as the response to the collapse of the economy during the Marcos regime.)
Marcos’ 21 year-rule, of which 14 years were under martial law, could be considered the “lost decades of development” for the Philippines, as the last decade before the uprising “derailed” the economic development of the country, according to Punongbayan.
The Philippines was tagged as the “sick man of Asia” during martial law, as neighboring countries Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia overtook the Philippines.
”Nangunguna tayo sa rehiyon noong 1950s, early 1960s pero bakit hindi natin na-maintain yung ganung klaseng estado? Bakit naging mabagal ang ating pag-unlad kumpara sa ating mga karatig bansa? Bakit tayo napagiwanan? Ang malaking sanhi nun ay yung mga polisiya, yung mga maling pamamalakad noong batas militar,” said Punongbayan.
(We were ahead in the 1950s, early 1960s but why were we not able to maintain that position? Why did we slow down compared to our neighbors? Why were we left behind? Its because of the policies, bad governance during Martial Law.)
Citing a study in 2016 by Punongbayan with the UP School of Statistics, he said if the Philippines had been able to match the growth rate of its neighbors, Filipinos would likely be earning 3 to 4 times what they were earning now. He said the country would have been richer than Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Punongbayan said this is far from the “Golden Age” of the Philippines as it would take almost two decades, in 2003, before the country fully recovered from the economic downturn caused by Marcos.
HOW EDSA BROUGHT CHANGES IN PH LAW
The People Power Revolution also brought changes in the law of the land, said Carpio.
”The EDSA 1 People Power abolished the 1973 Constitution and ushered in the 1987 Constitution. One very unique provision in the 1987 Constitution is the provision on ill-gotten wealth,” said Carpio.
This, he said, was included in the constitution after the plunder committed by the Marcoses.
”The right of the Filipino people to recover ill-gotten wealth from public officials and employees will never prescribe, the right to recover ill-gotten wealth is imprescriptible.”
”Yung mga nagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan ay hindi makakalusot, hanggang sa katapusan ng panahon, pwede pa rin silang habulin ng mamamayang Pilipino.” Carpio said.
(Those who steal from the country’s coffers will not get way. Until the end of time, the Filipino people can still pursue them.)
He said as of 2021, the Presidential Commission on Good Government has recovered P174 billion from the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos Sr. and Imelda Marcos, while another estimated P125 billion could still be recovered.
Punongbayan meanwhile lamented that disinformation about Martial Law has become much harder to fight because of the “bad ways in which Martial Law has been taught in our schools.”
He noted that Philippine history was removed as a subject in high school when the country shifted to the K-to-12 program.
Carpio said the lessons of EDSA must be taught in schools.
“That should be made part of the curriculum in grade school, high school and college because that’s part of our history, a very important part of our history and that should be really taught in our school but I don’t know what happened that there is a gap,” he said.
Punongbayan also blamed the spread of disinformation on social media.
”Kids these days don’t rely so much on textbooks, they’re more likely to encounter information about Martial Law on Tiktok, on Youtube, on Facebook, on Twitter kung saan talagang rife 'yung disinformation,” he added.