Grave crisis under the US-Marcos dictatorship
Forty-six years have passed since the facist US-Marcos regime declared Proclamation 1081 which placed the entire country under martial rule. Halfway through the martial law regime, in 1979, the country fell ignonimously into grave economic and political crisis. Curtailment of civil rights was also pervasive.
Amid this, the resistance of the Filipino resolutely surged onward across the country. Thousands participated in open and underground struggles and several hundreds joined the revolutionary armed movement to overthrow the US-Marcos dictatorship.
The Philippine economy deteriorated as the inflation rate rose rapidly in 1979. This was prompted by lavish foreign loans contracted by the dictatorship for its grandiose infrastructure program. More and more workers and peasants were reduced to eating two meals a day.
Oil price hikes also triggered an unprecedented increase in the prices of all basic commodities and services. The price of premium gasoline increased by 800% in 1979, from P0.37/liter prior to the martial law declaration to P3/liter. Prices of ordinary gasoline also increased by 900%, from P0.31/liter to P2.8/liter during the same period.
Connivance between US imperialism and its puppet, Marcos, was very evident in the implementation of the said price hikes. The imperialist oil cartel got 36% of the increase, while the Marcos puppet regime got 60% in the form of specific taxes. As a result, inflation ballooned to 21% on July and peaked at 30% by the end of the year.
This also resulted in the further devaluation of workers’ wages. At that time, there were at least 11.5 million unemployed or underemployed Filipinos, or 40% of the country’s labor force.
Since Marcos wanted to borrow more funds, the dictatorial regime become a flunky of the imperialist-controlled Inte
rnational Monetary Fund (IMF) which imposed the removal of the remaining feeble price controls.
During the first half of 1979, the country’s foreign debt stood at P70 billion ($8.7 billion at an exchange rate of $1=P8). This further increased to P72 billion ($9 billion) by the end of the year.
The dictatorial regime also imposed a series of new taxes. The residence tax was increased from P1 to P10. Taxes on workers and migrants, on public utility vehicle operators, and on lending by financial institutions have been imposed as well.
To appease the people’s anger, the US-Marcos regime ordered an increase in minimum wages from P11 to P13. But in fact, the meager increase was way insufficient to make ends meet for a family of six which during that period needed P45-P50 to live decently.
Advancement of the mass movement and armed struggle
In 1979, many thousands of Party elements and New People’s Army (NPA) fighters aroused, organized and mobilized the masses in ten regions of the country—Northeastern Luzon, Northwestern Luzon, Eastern Central Luzon, Western Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, Mindanao and Manila-Rizal.
The workers and peasants, who were hardest hit by inflation, launched strike movements in factories and marches (lakbayan) to urban centers to protest against militarization and the skyrocketing prices of basic necessities, respectively.
Teachers, student youth, and professionals mounted boycotts and participated in protests to fight for their civil and democratic rights. Some of those from national bourgeoisie, the Catholic church and other religious have become allies and actively participated in mass mobilizations.
Broad mass protests have encouraged even a handful of reactionaries, notably Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., Sen. Gerardo Roxas and Diosdado Macapagal, to fight the dictatorship.
In the countryside, although relatively smaller and weaker in terms of personnel and firepower than that of the enemy, the NPA continued to build up strength and combat experience in numerous guerilla fronts. At that time, there were already 29 guerilla fronts operating in 39 provinces across the country.
The revolutionary movement was side by side with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro people who waged armed struggle in Mindanao. As a result, the US-Marcos dictatorial regime was forced to strecth its armed forces in various parts of the country, and has been left with no choice but to feign ending martial law in 1981.