A Reaction to Cory Aquino’s Speech to the U.S. Congress
President Aquino's Address to the U.S. Congress
When Former President of the Philippines Corazon C. Aquino gave a speech to the United States Congress on September 1986, a little more than half a year after assuming the presidency, she called on America to help the Philippines in preserving the freedom which the Filipinos have won for themselves. Calling to, “restore democracy by the ways of democracy,” she aggrandized the role of America in the world as the promoter of a righteous system of governance and further strengthened the reputation of said country as a model for greatness.
Anti-Marcos Movements and the Martial Law Era
Cory’s speech was adorned by countless references to her husband—Former Senator Ninoy Aquino—whom the Filipino nation had assigned as the poster boy for anti-Marcos movements. Her speech even went so far as to connect Ninoy’s struggle with that of the whole nation, all the while entwining their family’s history with the fate of the entire country. She justified her presence in front of the U.S. Congress using figurative words and metaphorical language, alluding to her connection with the late Ninoy on one hand and fulfilling her mandate to the Filipino people on the other.
She succeeded in her analysis of the Martial Law era regarding its origin and outcome. Marcos’ attempt to stop a 500-strong communist insurgency by imposing a restrictive policy only furthered the Red Army’s reach; in fact, it has been said that the Communist Party had 16,000 members by the end of Martial Law, making Marcos the Party’s biggest recruiter. President Cory said that the Martial Law was like, “trying to stifle a thing with the means by which it grows,” acknowledging the fact that the communist insurgency existed because of widespread economic inequality.
Philippines Foreign Debt and Preserving Democracy
She seems to have made a similar mistake, however, when she decided that the Philippines would keep the $26 billion foreign debt it incurred during Marcos’ presidency. The reasoning was that since we fought for honor, we should also honor the huge foreign debt, although its benefit never really reached us as a nation. What is more questionable is that, after declaring that we will pay the debt, she immediately asked for help in achieving that.
Cory Aquino appears to have the utmost confidence and trust in America that she invited the country to help the Philippines in practicing and preserving its democracy. Looking at it from today’s perspective, it seems like an open invitation for the former to aid the latter and subsequently use it for its own strategic interests. We remember that the U.S. bases were evicted by a historic vote in 1991, during Cory’s term, but such was the work of many nationalist senators who carried the lessons of Martial Law into their of service.
The Results of Her Speech
Not much has changed since the speech of Cory Aquino to the U.S. Congress in 1986. There is still no genuine economic and social transformation agenda which was mentioned in her speech. Thirty years on, we still owe a huge amount of money to various lending institutions, and in fact, our debt has grown ever larger and now includes not only foreign banks but also local ones. Furthermore, the communist insurgency which Martial Law sought to terminate is continually spreading and deepening its roots. This is no wonder since inequality is increasing at a steady rate; President Cory was right when she said that the communist insurgency feeds on economic deterioration. The most important lesson we can learn from the speech, I think, is that we cannot entrust our redemption to another sovereign state, and the only real solution to any type of rebellion is to address the causes. Solving the root problem will encourage everything else to inevitably fall into place.