In hindsight the arc of neoliberal globalization of the Philippine economy is clear. The Martial Law regime started the market-oriented restructuring of the Philippine economy and its debilitating effects were immediately felt. After Marcos, cronyism was craftily used to justify even greater liberalization, privatization and deregulation as early as the Corazon Aquino administration but especially during the Ramos administration in the 1990s. This continued through the Estrada, Arroyo and the current outgoing Aquino administration to explain the stubborn poverty and chronic backwardness of domestic production.
What then to make of the Marcos era? The Marcos regime implemented the neoliberal economic policies demanded by the US-dominated IMF and WB in exchange for a share in the foreign loans and comprador business opportunities. Marcos and his cronies were allowed to directly control and profit from large portions of the national economy – sugar, coconut, bananas, tobacco, logging, mining, telecommunications, banking, construction, vehicle assembly, energy, shipping, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, gambling, and others.
There was no contradiction between neoliberalism and crony capitalism. Even with the oligarchs, foreign monopoly capital still benefited from the cheap labor, raw materials, and domestic market of the Philippines. At the same time the country remained a bulwark of US imperialist aggression in the region including from hosting the largest American overseas military bases at the time.
This experience under the Marcos dictatorship is relevant as the country elects its leaders on May 9. The Marcos years were an unmitigated tragedy and having its unrepentant vestiges in the political scene is not “moving on” but an affirmation of how much still needs to be done to overturn elite and undemocratic rule in the country. But the grip of neoliberalism on the country which started under Marcos also needs to be underscored as its real economic legacy for the Filipino people.