The contemporary history of the Philippines is the country’s history after 2000.
Philippine party politics presents a fragile and constantly changing image. The parties act as a kind of election engine for prominent politicians, and consist almost exclusively of representatives of the country’s economic elite. The ideological differences are small, the party loyalty small, and drop-offs and changing alliances are common. Parties representing workers and peasants have been too weak to challenge the traditional rulers. In many provinces, large cargo holders have a dominant position. Many of the rulers have equipped themselves with private militia forces, so-called vigilantes, who have often been guilty of human rights violations.
There is unrest associated with extreme right and left groups as well as Muslim rebel groups. Since 1969, Philippine authorities have been fighting against a communist guerrilla army, and the Islamic Abu Sayyaf guerrilla is carrying out attacks on the island of Jolo. On the island of Mindanao’s southern part, Moro rebels have fought for 40 years to create an Islamic state. The battle cost more than 120,000 lives before a peace agreement in 2012 laid the foundation for an agreement on increased Muslim self-government in southern Mindanao.
The Philippines has in recent years been in conflict with China over disputed areas and borders in the South China Sea.
The Philippines is an agricultural country less industrialized than neighboring countries. In the 1990s, liberalization of economic policy led to economic growth, but there is still great poverty in the Philippines.
Presidential elections in 1998 and 2004
The Philippines has been an independent state since 1946. Ferdinand Marcos ruled the country almost unanimously in the 1970s and 1980s, but had to go into exile in 1986, and a democratic constitution was introduced the following year. Corazón Aquino became new president in 1986, followed by Fidel Ramos in 1992.
When President Fidel Ramos made it clear in 1998 that he would not run for re-election, former actor and Vice President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was elected new president. Despite the superb election victory, Estrada only sat as president for just over two and a half years. Under great political drama, in January 2001, he was forced to step down after allegations of corruption, prompting a popular uprising with support from the army. Estrada was followed by its Vice President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a US-trained business economist who sat on the presidential post for the term of office.
At the head of the People’s Power Coalition, Arroyo emerged victorious in the 2004 presidential election with 40 percent of the vote. The populist film hero Fernando Poe jr. received 36.5 per cent as the main counterpart. A dramatic election campaign demanded 117 deaths.
The Philippines has a major poverty problem, with major differences between the richest and the poorest. Smokey Mountain (Barrio Magdaridad) is a slum at a large rubbish dump. Here, thousands of people live by sorting and recycling garbage.
Arroyo in political turbulence
Political turbulence with partly violent riots and several failed coup attempts marked Gloria Arroyo’s new presidential term. She came under heavy pressure immediately after the 2004 election. Large crowds demonstrated after allegations of electoral fraud. But unlike its predecessor Joseph Estrada, Arroyo had the army and the church on his side. Twice she averted the opposition’s push to get her to stand trial. Following widespread unrest in 2005, the president faced a new emergency with a state of emergency in February 2006. The army then intervened to halt an alleged coup attempt. 49 politicians and military were charged with a plot aimed at overthrowing the Arroyo regime. New alleged coup plans were halted in July.
Arroyo suffered a moderate setback in the May 2007 elections, but the government still managed to continue. The election campaign cost at least 120 people their lives. In November, government forces turned down yet another alleged coup attempt: A group of officers charged with a failed riot against Arroyo in 2003, managed to break out of the courtroom and occupied one of the country’s largest hotels; from there, they broadcast calls to overthrow the president. Loyal forces overpowered the numerically inferior mutilators.
Estrada judged and pardoned
Six years after Joseph Estrada was overthrown as president, in September 2007, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and the withdrawal of colossal sums, totaling approximately $ 500 million. The accusation was about massive corruption in various forms. Only a month later, however, he could leave prison as a free man. He was then pardoned by Arroyo, who himself came to power when Estrada was overthrown.
Despite the corruption verdict, opinion polls indicate that the former action actor is still popular, especially among the country’s many poor.
Communist and Islamist uprisings
Military operations against extremist movements, both Islamist and Communist, continued to run. Norway had been facilitating a peace process between the government and the banned Philippine Communist movement since 2001, represented here by the National Democratic Front (NDF) – the political branch of the guerrilla movement New People’s Army(NPA). The formal talks broke down again towards the end of 2004, but a new negotiating contact was established by Norwegian intervention in 2005. After rounds of talks between the parties in Oslo, there was a new break in July 2006, followed by a major offensive from the government army. A new round of negotiations in Oslo in November 2008 also did not produce results. The government now insisted on a ceasefire as conditions for continued discussions.
In December 2008, the NPA marked the 40th anniversary of the communist uprising with a five-year plan for the establishment of guerrilla groups in all of the country’s 168 congressional constituencies. The army, for its part, claimed that ten of the NPA’s 80 “fronts” had been crushed during 2008, and another eight greatly weakened. The NPA is believed to have a strength of 5,000 guerrilla warriors, an estimated halving of the force since the 1990s. Over 40,000 people, most of them civilians, have lost their lives during the conflict since the 1960s.
In the south of the Philippines, especially in the main islands of Mindanao and Jolo, the army has been in occasional battles with the extremely extreme Islamist group Abu Sayyaf and another Islamic separatist movement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Abu Sayyaf’s chief executive, Khadaffy Janjalani, was found killed in January 2007 after fighting at Jolo. The fighting escalated in February when over one thousand US soldiers participated in a joint maneuver with Philippine troops against Abu Sayyaf. In April 2007, seven Christian evangelists were beheaded by the Islamist separatist group. US troops have subsequently been in action against the now obviously severely weakened extremist group.
In July 2008, the government negotiated an agreement with the MILF to expand the autonomous Muslim region of Mindanao. Another 712 villages were to be entered under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). This paved the way for a resumption of peace talks, which are being sabotaged by outbreak groups. However, the expansion of the MILF-ruled region was canceled by a court order following protests by Christian groups.
Since Arroyo came to power in 2001, there has been a sharp increase in the number of left-wing and human rights activists killed. Even more have disappeared without a trace. In February 2007, the government came up with a startling report: Groups within the army are held here responsible for the killing of hundreds of political activists, primarily leftist radicals, since 2001.
No one has been made legally responsible for the liquidations. UN Special Envoy Philip Alston made this critical comment in 2007: “Certain parts of the armed forces have led a deliberate strategy by executing leaders of left-wing organizations, removing civil society leaders, including human rights defenders, trade union leaders and land reform advocates. In addition, they have threatened a large number of civil society actors and tied the political debate. ”
The report created problems for Arroyo, who has consistently supported the military against allegations of human rights violations. On Easter Sunday 2006, Arroyo pardoned all 1205 prisoners who were sent to Philippine prisons with a death sentence. The death penalty was then abolished following a resolution in the National Assembly in June 2006. The death penalty was first abolished in 1987, but reintroduced in 1994. In the period 1999-2006, a total of seven out of 1212 death sentences were executed.
Economic development in the 2000s
Arroyo has pursued a distinctly liberal economic policy, which until 2008 contributed to a massive influx of foreign investment capital. The government has been criticized by the left opposition for undermining the trade union movement and weakening workers’ legal protection. It has also faced criticism from the local community for giving concessions to multinational mining companies in violation of the local people’s rights. Among other things, there have been disputes regarding licenses to the Norwegian company Intex Resources (formerly Crew Minerals), which is planning large-scale nickel production on the island of Mindoro.
The unrest that characterized Arroyo’s tenure despite: Until 2008, gross domestic product growth ( GDP ) remained stable for more than five per cent for a number of years, with a peak in 2007 of 7.3 per cent. Increasing remittances from Filipinos abroad has been a very important stimulus. 8.7 million Filipinos, or nearly 10 percent of the population, live and work abroad, according to official figures (2008). The transfers are expected to amount to more than NOK 80 billion, or well over ten per cent of GDP. After a number of good years for the export industry, especially in the China market, the Philippines was also hit by the global financial crisis in 2008. With one of the region’s most open economies, the Philippines is vulnerable to fluctuations in the world economy.
In general, poverty is still high. High population growth is one of the reasons why economic growth has not resulted in a corresponding improvement in living conditions for most people. The state finances, which have traditionally been in poor condition, have, however, improved somewhat under the Arroyo regime.
The Philippines was ranked 102 out of 179 countries on the UN Index for Living and Human Development in 2008. The country was number 6 out of 130 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Equality Index in 2008 and number 141 out of 180 countries on the Transparency International Corruption Index in 2008. The Philippines was in April 2009, one of four countries blacklisted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for lack of willingness to cooperate in tax matters.
Every year, the island kingdom is hit by heavy tropical storms. In January 2006, more than 1,000 people lost their lives when a village on the island of Leyte was engulfed by a kilometer-wide landslide. Later in the year, around 1,000 perished during the typhoon Durian’s ravages. In June 2008, over 800 lives were lost when an overloaded ferry sailed under a typhoon.
Relations with the United States have dominated foreign policy. Under the Marcos regime, the Philippines supported US policy in Vietnam and participated in the war with an engineering battalion. In 1992, the United States withdrew from its military bases in the country, including Subic Bay Fleet Base and Clark Air Base, after the Manila Senate rejected an extension offer. The withdrawal marked the end of almost 100 years of military presence. In 1998, military cooperation got off to a new start with an agreement on annual joint exercises. The Philippines has since 2001 joined the United States in the “war on terror”. The United States has occasionally had hundreds of military advisers in the country to train the Manila Army, including in the Abu Sayyaf guerrilla’s core area in the far south.
Diplomatic relations with China were established in 1976. The Philippines has been in long-standing conflict with China over some of the Sprat Islands, which both countries claim. In recent years, the two countries have strengthened bilateral relations and committed themselves in the year 2000 to finding peaceful solutions to regional conflicts. Following the fall of the Marcos regime, the Philippines has placed increasing emphasis on strengthening relations with Europe and the Middle East, but primarily with Asian neighboring countries through the ASEAN partner organization.