American Presence in the Philippines: American presence in the Philippines began when the United States sought Philippine assistance in their war with Spain, promising independence from Spanish colonial rule. But after winning that war in 1898, the US “purchased” the Philippines from Spain for $20 million. To enforce its “ownershp” of the Philippines, the US military brutally slaughtered over a million Filipinos (15% of the population) during the Philippine-American War, the longest war in American history (1899-1913).
When the US granted nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946, it required the new “independent” government to agree to the presence of 20 US military bases, the largest of which were Clark Air Field and Subic Naval Base. The Americans used the Philippines as a staging ground from which to launch military attacks on China (1900 and 1927), the Soviet Union (1918-20), Korea (1950-53), Indonesia (1958), Vietnam (1964-75), Cambodia (1978) and Iraq (1990).
Ferdinand Marcos: Philippine President between 1965 to 1986, his close ties with the United States gave him power to exercise dictatorial control over the country. In 1971, Marcos declared martial law and proceeded to dismantle democratic institutions, outlaw popular organisations, and arrest and torture dissidents. The US not only maintained its support for Marcos, it also tripled its military aid for his martial law government, in exchange for the exploitation of the country’s natural resources and the use of military bases in the country.
On this day, the 21st of August in 1983, one man challenged the dictatorship and kleptocracy of Ferdinand Marcos. But on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, Benigno Aquino was shot as he returned to the Philippines. His assassination united the Philippine people to challenge the Marcos regime and three years later, Marcos was ousted from office in a peaceful People’s Power Revolution which the Americans did not disrupt with covert grenade and bombing operations, Marcos no longer useful to America’s interests.
One man. It took one man to bring back democracy and freedom to a country whose national identity remains mired by its colonial past.