thumbnail of In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador William Sullivan
Transcript
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Okay, so we're going to open this way and if you don't like the way you start, start again and stuff like, 73 you get there, Marshall Law has been declared a year before. If you could build, try to introduce the subject rather than, you know, it's not a big question answer. So what's it like? So when I arrived in Manila in the summer of 1973, Marshall Law had been an effect for a little less than a year and Marcos was very popular. He had been able to squelch all the antics of the more rampant politicians. He had rounded up all the loose guns and weapons that were lying around. He had broken up the gangs and private armies that were fighting with each other. He had established a much more efficient government. The Chinese, the business people who had taken their money out during the period of chaos in 1772 were bringing that money back.
The country looked as though it was on its way to prosperity and Marcos, who was a brilliant man, had given the whole administration a new face and a very popular face with Filipinos and internationally as well. So things were looking up for the Philippines in the summer of 1973. What, how long did that last, did you feel that this momentum was going on, did you begin to see signs of it flowing down? Well, I would say that about a year of honeymoon into 1974, middle of 1974, things began to have a different turn largely because of external problems. You remember, 74 was the period of the gasoline, the fuel crisis, the Arab boycott and so forth. This was not indigenous to the Filipinos, but of course it affected them and it affected
them more seriously than many countries because they are totally dependent on external sources of fuel and external sources of their energy, supplies. So that was the thing that I think began to tilt the Filipino economy downward and began to convince people that perhaps everything wasn't going to be all for the best, for the all future time. Let's go back. What you first began to deal with Marcos as an American ambassador, you had a kind of special relationship with him. I wonder if you could describe the nature of that being an American ambassador in a place like that as contrast to other places, plus what he was like personally. Well, the special nature of the American ambassador's position in the Philippines is not confined just to dealing with the President.
It's a pretty special relationship with the Filipino people, as you know from your experience in the Philippines. There are many Filipinos who consider themselves on some islands that are just off Catalina somewhere. They think of the United States, they have many relatives in the United States. I think of the United States as being a sort of other home. I was always impressed when I would go around the country. People would greet us and they'd sing the star-spangled banner and they knew all three verse, all three, verses of the thing, more than I knew. Also there's a big states-right movement, a state's, people want to be the 51st state of the United States. I've gotten what they call a state's movement in the Philippines. There's a big Filipino state-hood movement. Start where, Drew? I would just start, and there was also something like even just starting on that thought. All right, and there was also a big movement for Filipino statehood in the United States.
They want to be the 51st state. That's still quite a large political grouping. The American ambassador was considered something apart from other foreign ambassadors. He was considered sort of one of us, Filipino, somehow, rather considered that we were all one together. Now, in the relationship with the president... Let me go on to the relationship. So I want to ask another question about being an ambassador. Did you feel like, and maybe you could illustrate it when you go on to do it, did you feel like you're, if I kind of a visor oil in a sense, in a sense that you could really sort of let your hair down and tell them what you really thought they would do? Well, there was always a great temptation for an American ambassador to act like a vice-roy. I had come from a previous ambassadorial incarnation, four and a half years, and
allows where I really was a vice-roy, or perhaps even a little more, as the Soviets used to say the fourth prince of Laos, but so I wasn't as much tempted to get into that syndrome as perhaps some of my predecessors had been, because I knew some of the limitations of that and some of the back lashes from it. But surely the opportunity was there for an American ambassador to throw his weight around and attempt to be a presence and a political force internally in the Philippines. I'm going to stop. Pete is out there now. I'm going to be every 15 minutes. I'm going to ask him a few. Considering the quality of what eventually comes out from the other. I'm sorry about the American ambassador, and he's very special from status in his place. I'd been through the drill with the popular attitude, and then I started to say how it went with the president.
Before you get to that, let's look at the question of how much leverage did you have an extraordinary amount of leverage as an American ambassador? Obviously, the American ambassador has more leverage than any other ambassador in the country, and probably the only other extraneous political force of equivalent leverage would be the Catholic Church, not exercise through the NUNCIO, but through the Cardinal or the group of bishops and the Cardinal acting collectively. And in the past, obviously in the days of Magsai-Sai and so forth, the American ambassadors used their leverage pretty openly and pretty broadly. In the time I was there, I thought that period had pretty much come to an end, and I was very reluctant to use the leverage that we had as vigorously as many people wanted me to, by many people I mean American business community people, and oddly enough Filipinos.
Great many Filipinos used to come to see me to try to get me to intervene on their behalf with their own government, and it took quite a bit of telling to make them understand that I was the American ambassador and not their ambassador to the palace, because a great many of them still had a little confusion of the role of the American ambassador and the role of American high commissioner in the days of the Commonwealth. Anyway, that relationship did translate itself obviously into a special relationship with Marcos, with the palace. They made a great effort to cultivate me and to be sure that I was in their corner and in their pockets. Emelda's efforts, I felt, were a little too heavy-handed and I rejected a lot of them, much to her, unhappiness.
But she felt that she could not only flatter and otherwise bring the American ambassador around to her position, but that it was really part of the ambassador's role to do that that they used. Let's go back for a moment. What you're dealing with Marcos, for example, again, you're an ambassador, he's a chief of state. But then, you're an American, he's a Filipino. How familiar could you be? I mean, what was it like actually dealing with him on an issue? Can you sit down and know where you're on a first-name basis, or could you really choose that to go live? I think you already did it this way, or did he ask you for advice? What was the given tape? Well, it was intimate in the sense that I was at the palace very often, at the start with it.
All right, my relationship with Marcos was intimate in the sense that I was at the palace very often, not only on business, but socially, and that I suppose I saw Marcos more frequently than perhaps many of his cabinet ministers, and certainly more than any other foreigner there. I made it a point never to call him anything other than Mr. President. That was for a number of reasons, but part of my training, I guess, but he would call me Bill, but not whenever there was anyone else present, anyone else was present that was Mr. Ambassador, but privately. But I never even privately called him anything other than Mr. President. The man had a very, or has a, did have it when I was there, very quick mind. Not only was it quick, but it was well trained in American law, American history, American politics.
He studied the American Congress. He knew better how every American sitting congressman voted, and the attitudes that he had on things affecting the Philippines than most Americans did. He was a very keen student of American politics and American customs. So even though he was a Filipino, we were talking within the same apparent cultural framework. Now he was obviously talking from different perspectives because he had his own points of view to assert, but he also had his own cultural traditions, long, not old, and things of that sort that you are well aware of, that we Americans didn't quite accept in their general terms. I lived by that time about 15 years in Asia, so I understood, or 20 years in Asia, so I understood a little the context that we were working in, but I never pretend to understand
fully the context of a Filipino mind, no matter how much it's talking in the way of English vernacular in American substance. There's a kind of, I wonder if I don't want to put words in you about this, it's kind of unequal relationship. I mean, they live in our culture, but we don't live in their culture, if you see them in the UK. Yeah, they have an advantage in that sense that they have... Are they really living in our culture? Well, I mean, they know are they the superficial knowledge of things, or do you think it is that? It's more than superficial. Let me put it this way, they're knowledge of our culture. Let's just show you a news that you don't understand, okay, go ahead. Their knowledge of our culture is far more penetrating than our knowledge of their culture, and they have been trained, of course, people of Marcos' generation, under a curriculum which was basically a transference of an American academic curriculum. They have really absorbed at least the forms of our culture much better than we could ever
absorb the forms of theirs, unless we had been born and raised and lived in the Philippines and had the family relationships and everything that goes with the formation of a Philippine point of view. So, yes, there was a somewhat unequal relationship in the sense that they did have something in the way of a maneuvering advantage with us. On the other hand, when Filipinos maneuver with Americans, they're always a little transparent, as you know, and Marcos was no exception to that. He metilda was the classic example of it. She was so trans. You don't want to get into him, Ella. I want you to see if you can illustrate some case with Marcos. Well, let me take a case and see if this is what you're talking about. When I was there, the Laurel Langley Agreement expired, and the whole question of the ownership
of land titles and so forth, that had accrued to American businesses there under a sort of grandfather clause arrangement that was appended to that Laurel Langley Agreement expired. And the American business community was up in arms. They were going to lose all their land and so forth. And the solution that we worked out was a very Filipino solution, and it basically came from Marcos. The Americans just put their land in trust to the Filipino Red Cross, which keeps it in trust for 75 years, and they paid no rent, or they paid no rent, as I recall, maybe a dollar a year or a sum, some nominal thing, but they were able to continue to keep their land. He was able to say that they no longer had titles and so forth and so on. Now that no American lawyer, or no American jurisprudential system, whatever conceiver that comes out of the Philippine mentality.
And yet it was presented in legalisms that the American business community, most of them thought, well, we're just Jim Dandy, at least I accepted it, and then I had to sell it to a number of them, but most of them accepted it was fun. Did you feel it that, are we on? Yeah. Oh, so did you get that? Yeah. Oh, I see it. Well, that was intended to be chatty with… Sorry. I was good with your chatty. Again, you know, there's always a point made that it's very often when we find ourselves manipulated. Why? A country we think is our client country that's dependent on us, and we end up being dependent on them. I mean, did you sometimes feel like he was manipulating you, or blackmailing you, or he had the leverage of something like the bases, or whatever, or whatever example you would think of? He tried. I think he was never all that successful manipulating. Sorry.
All right. Marcos tried to manipulate American policy and American interests. I like to think that he wasn't all that successful during the time that I was there, but let me give you an example. We had the renewal of the Philippine military bases agreement arise during my time there. And at that time, Marcos was hurting very badly, or the Philippine was hurting very badly for petroleum. And there were some wildcat explorations off in the China Sea and out by the Spratley Islands in areas that were claimed by China and by Vietnam, by North Vietnam, at least, and by other potential claimants. And Marcos at that stage thought it would be great if we could somehow rather get the American Philippine security agreement explicitly to cover Filipino oil drilling operations in these disputed territorial waters.
And he threw in the suggestion that we could have a very generous renewal of the military bases arrangements if we would only just publicly make a statement that said that our security agreement applied to these areas, or to Philippine ships that were on the high seas in those areas. Now, that sort of thing might have been rather tempting to some of the people who thought they could save money and get better bases this way. I'm not sure I even referred it to Washington because I thought it was such a transparent manipulation. It was something I rejected out of hand. Yes, they would try. That sort of thing, and there were any other number of things, but usually, as I said earlier, his most Filipino manipulative efforts of that sort are somewhat transparent partly because most of them have the good grace to be a little embarrassed about the fact that they're
doing it. They're not like some of our other associates and clients that we have in other parts of the world. When I went to the Philippines, when I went to the Philippines in 1973, it was not a country that was very high on the agenda of Washington political interests. The president, President Nixon, had perhaps more acquaintance with the Philippines and most people in higher places than the administration. He had visited there quite a bit, particularly in the interregnum from his vice presidency until he became president. He had a number of Filipino friends and associates and business clients and his legal practice. So I think the president and he was from a generation where the Philippines meant something. The younger generation didn't really know anything about the Philippines, frankly, until
the revolution that brought Corioquino in. Henry Kissinger, who was very much in charge of foreign policy in those latter stages of the Nixon administration, when Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate, was, frankly, not all that much interested in the Philippines. He didn't see them as an important place in the American political geography. In effect, pretty much let me call the shots and didn't bother to interfere with me very much during the time I was there. I'll give you one example. I'd been there only three months when he called me home and asked me if I would come back and be under Secretary of State and I said I thought this would be a disgraceful way to treat the Filipinos and he hadn't really thought about that because he didn't think that was a matter of much importance. But I think the military who were concerned about their bases there and certainly are
command in Hawaii placed considerable premium on the strategic value of the Philippines. But politically in the whole geopolitical spectrum, they were not considered that prime a piece of territory and Washington's perspective at that time. When you're in back, here you are ambassador, now in one hand you've got to deal with the country. In the other hand, you've got to deal with Washington. What about, did you find that you're dealing with special interest groups in Congress or who would create any problems for you in Washington? Well, I had very few problems with Washington, but Filipinos in those days at least had their own very direct lines of access to the various committees in the Congress that had topics of interest for the Philippine.
You see, when they had been a colony, when they had been a Commonwealth, they learned very much how to deal with the Congress of the United States. Case on, who was the man who eventually convinced the Americans to grant independence to the Philippines, spent most of his time in Washington. He was a master manipulator of the U.S. Congress and he was a very popular guy in the U.S. Congress. They carried on that tradition. They knew exactly what the congressmen, and they invited congressmen out. They had them over to their embassy for parties. They were constantly sending them gifts. They were constantly in correspondence and they had a very close working relationship so that many of the problems that an ambassador might normally face with recalcitrance in Congress didn't really exist in the Philippines because the way was fairly well-buttered by the Filipinos themselves as far as dealing with the Congresses can say.
I had no appreciable problems in dealing with the bureaucracy in Washington and in the four years that I was there, I think I can't remember any issue that really became a problem between the United States and the Philippines except the military base rights arrangements, and those were problems in which I shared the Washington point of view. So I can't say that I was at odds at all with the Washington end of things. What kind of relationship did you have with that? Let's have some juicy stories. Well, Emelda Marcos was and is a rather heavy-handed woman, and she was the type who felt that she could take anyone under her charm and manipulate the person. I guess perhaps just Irish stubbornness rather resented that from the beginning, but I also felt
that there was some dignity of the American ambassador's office that should be preserved in all this. I remember two weeks after we'd gotten there, I guess, we were invited to a luncheon by a man that I happened to know who was, I think, a senator, had been an ambassador, and the luncheon was at the hotel at his family own. We were having lunch, my wife and I, with this man and his wife and his brother, and his wife. When Mrs. Marcos came in with a group of people, and she spotted me over at my table, and a soon one of her so-called blue ladies came over and said, Mrs. Marcos invites you to join her at her table, and I said, I've been invited here to lunch by the senator, and my wife and his guests so explained to Mrs. Marcos, I really can't join her at this time.
Well, I discovered later that it caused a grand scandal that apparently you didn't do that with Mrs. Marcos, and I think a few more people should have done that with Mrs. Marcos, and she might have had a few less pairs of shoes, but she just expected that she was able in that rather regal way to command everyone's presence, and the people who should cow-tow. I didn't, and that was the beginning of some rather testy relationship that lasted over four years. What were some of the dark-created problems for you, the testiness of the relationship? Didn't create any problems in my dealings, any problems that affected my work there, my office, because I dealt with President Marcos on a straightforward professional business man basis, and I also had a lot of, he and I used to play pilota together, we used to go out water skiing on the yacht, and so forth.
We had a very pleasant social relationship. It probably made his life a little more difficult because I was not his wife's favorite guest or person, but no, I don't think that it caused any serious relations at problems. Do you think that he really, if she was getting around the world and saying all these world figures and so forth, and he would, I mean, was he cat seriously depending on her, or did he really think that it was his way of getting rid of her? It's a very interesting relationship, a very complex relationship between the two Marcoses. He, of course, is an Ilocano from the North, and he had his political base in the North. She was a remuildist from the South, and that was a fairly potent political clandown in the South.
The marriage, I think, in its first instance, back in the days when he was a senator and campaigning to become president, was very much designed for political synergism and the idea of getting these two coalitions together. His intellect, his training, were far superior to hers, and he had no real trust and confidence in her intellectual capabilities. So I don't think he ever sent her any place where he had a serious issue that he wished to discuss. He may have sent her to places where some cosmetic work could be done, but she was self-starting. He didn't have to send her much of anywhere. She was mostly on her own initiatives on these trips.
Her relationship, however, was one particularly after it became so heavily, and this was largely after I had left the Philippines. So heavily engaged in money, where they had taken on and taken over so many enterprises. I think their relationship became somewhat more carefully construed after that. She of course had her own little dollies on the side, and there was no real marital issue there. As far as I know, she was always a woman who no one could ever say had any marital infidelity. She was almost a puritanical person in many ways. But their relationship certainly was not one in which she had much trust in confidence in her judgment or in her sophistication.
She was not a sophisticated woman. She was a quick study. She had a quick mind. She could learn things. She had a whole cadre of young fellows around who could teach her the subject matter, and so when she was going off on a trip somewhere, they would give her a quick briefing, and she could parrot these things back very well. Sometimes there were lacuna, I remember one time we had to go to the airport whenever she left on these missions. She was going to see Colonel Gaddafi, and I remember being at the airport, and she was wearing a bright red suit, and when she was leaving, I said to her, Melody, I hope you have that suit in a green model, and she said, why green? I said, because you know, Gaddafi lives everything to be Muslim green, and apparently her wardrobe was very largely tinted toward red in this trip, and her face blanched. I never saw Melody come apart quite so rapidly. The briefing hadn't been very complete on that particular score, but she's a superficial
woman, and I don't think he placed any serious missions in her hands. Could we stop this? Cut for water, yeah. Sir of the plate, she had her tasty one, he was the plate he had. Even if she prepared the plate for him, I was his tasty tasty one. Oh, it's a great, uh, great barge of household. Um, you're on well, there was a, uh, let me just throw an idea on to you, this extravigants of her looks. I mean, it's, um, I'm just, you can agree with this, but just pick it up from wherever you think. It's an extraordinary vulgarity about it, I, uh, I don't know whether you agree with that. Well, the Marcos, uh, came from very humble origins.
Her father was the black sheep brother of a rather distinguished family. Uh, her father, uh, however, was unfortunately an alcoholic, and he, uh, was sort of sent back to late A, uh, to carry on that branch of the family law practice while the older brothers were in Manila, in fact, uh, her uncle was a Supreme Court justice. Uh, her father's wife died and her father took as his wife, uh, eventually, um, legalizing or sanctifying it in a marriage, um, the woman who had been the housekeeper, the sort of, scholarly maid, and Meldy and Cocoa and the other brother, uh, were, uh, three products of this second marriage, uh, when her father died, the story is, no, I can't vouch for this,
but the story is that the older children from the first marriage literally forced these kids back into the kitchen, and they had to be servants in the household. If this is true, and there's every evidence that it was, I think this explains the sort of lust for material things, the idea to demonstrate that she had arrived at a point where she had, uh, a great deal of material possessions. And for some reason, rather, she could never get enough. She could never get, I remember one time saying to her, this was about the lowest point, I guess, of our relationship, Meldy, after the first 300 million, why do you need more? And she became quite annoyed about it, but it is a very, uh, pathological, um, need to have more and more material possessions.
The 3,000 shoes are just an example, uh, the houses, the hotels, the businesses that she had, why, and the Lord said she felt she had to accumulate it, as you said, it was a display of great vulgarity. I'm sorry, would you do that again, but don't say a new set, because this is your set. As has been said, it was a display of great vulgarity. Did you, uh, just, I mean, did you have any dealings with Orwin Ninoa or, uh, Ninoa? Oh, Ninoa. Oh, Ninoa. No. Um, let's, let's just, if you didn't have anything to do with the situation, it would drop it, but I did have something to do with the situation, but I didn't, I mean, Meldy, there was that instance when you were discussing why hadn't more been done for, well, um, it may, I don't say I deny it because it could have happened, but I have no recollection of it. It's become, was there ever any discussion of conditions in the Philippines with that?
Well, no, what I think, what I think it may have been, and I just assumed to keep this one off camera, because I'm ruminating now. We had a program, an AID program called a Nutribon program. Um, it was a school lunch program. We provided, uh, a, a big, you know, what kind of shoes, well, what I, Nina, I was in jail when I was there, but what I did have to do was, was, was an effort, uh, we were rolling out. Okay. All right. When I came to the Philippines, Nina, I, Akino was in jail, and he stayed in jail all the time I was there, so I never did see him. However, I did have, uh, two or three, uh, efforts that I made on behalf of other, uh, intermediaries, largely his family, his sister, his wife, and some of his attorneys, uh, to
try to arrange with Marcos terms on which he might be permitted out of jail to go to the United States. Uh, Jerry Cohen had set up, uh, something at Harvard, uh, where he could have gone to Harvard University. And indeed I thought I had a deal with Marcos on that, uh, I did have a deal, uh, but when Marcos then put the conditions to Nina, he added some conditions that he hadn't stipulated to me, which was that it would involve Marcos giving him a pardon. And Nina, I refused to accept that on the grounds that a pardon would have had a presupposition of guilt, and he refused to admit that he was guilty. So that fell through, uh, my dealings, therefore with Nina, I were all indirect, uh, with his family. When he did get out, eventually, and come to the United States, however, he was generous enough to come almost the first, or second day he was out of the hospital in Houston to
come to see me in New York to thank me for that. And incidentally in great LBJ fashion to pick up his jacket and show me his scar to prove that he had had a, a by-pass operation. And then I saw him, uh, several times in Cambridge when he was at Harvard, um, but, um, did not see him short, I guess a few, two or three months before he went back was the last time I'd seen him. No, I mean, the oil crisis was, but then the big lavish spending, you know, is that part of your period, or, okay, so what, uh, okay, go ahead. After the oil crisis had put a jolting halt to the optimism about the Philippine economy, a number of things started to go wrong. Marcos introduced this crony system. At the beginning, it wasn't all that clear that, uh, he was using it as a conduit to funnel
things into his own pockets, but it was stifling competition in a great many areas, and the people who took over these various enterprises that were allocated to his cronies, uh, were not very competent businessmen, and so things began to go wrong on that. Then, uh, Emelda and Cocoa started moving in on large— I'm sorry. Then Emelda, then you've got either saved Cocoa ears or leave them out, one at a time. All right. Emelda and her brother, then Emelda and her brother, Cocoa, all right. Then, uh, in 1975 or so, uh, Emelda and her brother, Cocoa, I began moving into various large enterprises, uh, taking over, um, banking operations, using the fact that many of these enterprises had borrowed money from government-controlled banks to put leverage on them, and
to require them to deal the Marcos from while this family in for, uh, shares, even though they were contributing nothing to the enterprise, uh, getting large fees from organizations, uh, otherwise, uh, beginning to encroach on big legitimate business in the Philippines, in a way that drove a lot of capital out, for example, the San Miguel Company, um, put a lot of its assets in Spain where they moved into other enterprises, and a lot of the Chinese business rather than taking the blackmail on this just moved out to Taiwan or to Hong Kong. The net result was that, uh, there was a great inefficiency in those Filipino business enterprises that had previously been pretty productive, there was also, of course, increasing amounts of corruption.
I don't think the mammoth corruption took place until after I left, uh, but during the time that I was there, I could see, uh, certainly, uh, the, uh, the remodeledist family and the emelders, uh, hand, and certainly the amounts of money that she was accumulating and putting into, uh, enterprises, uh, and purchases of real estate and what not in the United States and elsewhere. Uh, I was not as aware of Marcos's, President Marcos's personal involvement in these things as they later come out. And again, I don't know what the time frame was, perhaps he wasn't as active as doing it, uh, when I left in 77 as he was later in the late 70s and early 80s when it became very blatant. But, uh, whatever the amounts of money they took out, whether it was five billion or whatever it was, uh, the Philippines could ill afford to lose that amount of money per se and that amount of money in itself was also the tip of the iceberg because it scared away a lot
of other money that might otherwise have gone to the Philippines, Japanese money, particularly Japanese, uh, refrain from going into the Philippines during that period in a big way because they were afraid that they would have to pay much too much in the way of overhead to Marcos and his operators. Did you, now, again, your argument of basket was any United States, they said interest control being based on identity, did you try to communicate any sense of alarm back to Washington and did you get any feeling that Washington that people were concerned about the way this was going? One of the interesting things about the way in which all is developed is that for, I believe tactical reasons, American firms were deliberately immune from this sort of thing. No American businessman ever complained to me while I was in the Philippines that there had been any of this encroachment on an American business enterprise or that there had been
any, uh, suggestions, irregularities, uh, suggestions that, that bribes were demanded and so on. I had some doubts about what had happened in the, um, deal that took place on the nuclear power plant, uh, Westinghouse and, uh, the relationship with Mr. DeCene, but it was nothing I could prove. I did particularly ask that that be looked into because I had put quite a bit of weight on the, uh, export import bank to finance that, or to help finance that operation and therefore I felt the United States had an interest in it, uh, nothing was ever explicitly developed from that request that could, uh, substantiate the concern that I had. The knowledge that I had of what was going on came largely from Filipino businessman who came to me and told me about these things. But what I'm really trying to get at if we could do this simply is, the question is, okay,
Neonoy's assassination in 1983 certainly wakes up every part of it. But the real question is, why didn't it take us so long if you want to, if I could put that way? I know it's not. It didn't all happen in your own way. To wake up to the fact that we're dealing with a super corrupt and mismanaged inept regime. Yeah. All right. Let me try that. There's a kind of inertia. Yeah. All right. I mean, unfortunately the, the history of the Philippines is replete with corruption. The Spanish administration of the Philippines was corrupt, uh, corruption dogged every administration after independence in the Philippines. And I think Americans politically and every other way, uh, just developed a sort of callous, sort of tolerance for the kind of graft and corruption that went on the Philippine.
It was considered part of the culture. Uh, Marcos certainly in the time that I was there was less corrupt and his administration far less corrupt and almost anything that had preceded him, certainly if you go back to the time of President Kirino, for example, it was, uh, perhaps not in such astronomical numbers, but relatively was far more corrupt. Now this sort of corruption in the Marcos regime, first of all, developed rather gradually. And secondly, it was really a throwback to standard, traditional, more or less accepted and certainly tolerated practice in the Philippines. The United States, uh, I suppose, although I can't speak for what happened after it became so flagrant in the early 80s, but I suppose the United States considered that it was a hopeless effort to try to untangle. And I still, I don't know, but I don't believe that even in that era, did it really ever impinge upon American firms.
And that's where we would have had a neurologic point touched if they had tried to have corruption or extortion from American firms. So, so long as it was all in the family, I think people more or less tolerated it. Now that's in hindsight and it's not full knowledge because I don't know the period in the early ages, but that would be my suggestion as to why it was tolerated so long. Did you, uh, let's go onto the subject of the, the communist insurgency that's developing? Uh, did you begin, did you begin to observe this, was this beginning to concern you or did it look like it was going to come serious, uh, what was you feeling by then? When I was in the Philippines, there were really two separate insurgencies, one and indeed the one that was more active and more widespread was the Muslim insurgency in the South. The Muslim insurgency in the South has very deep roots, goes back to religious and cultural differences, goes back to differences in the land holding titles and back to the times
of the Spaniards and we certainly had in the American period, this is where general purging a young major purginger and his spurs down there in the moral rebellions. So that one was more active and it was the one that was the more dangerous as far as moving Americans around the country, for instance, I wouldn't let our peace corps people down in those provinces. The communist insurgency was a very small thing when I was there and mostly up in the tribal areas of the North and mostly had to do with, again, tribal relationships of non-tagalog people and non-elokano people dealing with the authority of the state and villages and traditional lands being impinged upon and so forth. There had been, of course, during the late 1940s, early 1950s, the Hukbole Hukbe Rebellion,
which was communist inspired, Luis Turuk, I think, was never a real Marxist. He just felt that this was something that was romantically communist about. That had been pretty well extroverted and the whole center of Luson had been pacified and there weren't any real problems breaking out in that area. So when I was there, there was a small spot of communist insurgency up in the northern part of Luson. There was a far more significant Muslim insurgency down in the south. The spread of that small kernel of insurgency that the communist had started in the north to cover what he some province is, whatever it covers now, was something that I would not have anticipated at that time. It went much more rapidly and I think was a byproduct of the sort of system that the Marcos' eventually corrupted themselves into.
Let me ask you just a couple more questions about just sort of more general observations about the Philippines. I mean, the point has been made over and over again that really is a feudal system in the Philippines. It's a quick version of the 50 or 100 families and, okay, I mean, it's their country. That's the way they want it. But here we, you know, in the same time, was it American colony for 50 years? We still have a lot of influence. What are we really doing in the Philippines? What kind of impact, you know, we talked about democracy in the Philippines, educating the Philippines, and so forth. But there are not two systems that are more anthropical in a way than theirs and ours. Well, let me try to answer it this way. On balance, and particularly in the light of the standard morays that prevail in the world from 1898 to 1946, I think that the American colonial period in the Philippines
was a positive experience. A positive experience for the Filipinos, and perhaps even a positive experience for the United States. Leaving aside the motivations which led us to take on the Philippines as our only colony, but going to the way in which the colony was administered by a succession of rather remarkable governors general and high commissioners there. We did a number of things that accelerated the prospects for the Filipino future. It had been 300 years under Spanish control, which meant very largely 300 years under the tutelage of various orders of the Catholic Church, because the Spanish government really concerned itself only with Manila and with the military defenses.
The whole tutelage of the country as far as social and moral and even political exercises concerned was exercised through various elements of the Church, the various teaching orders, missionary orders, and of course they emphasized particularly Spanish type of Catholicism, which was submission to the will of God, and that the will of God happened to appear in the form of Spanish administrators or in the form of a typhoon or in the form of whatever scourge it was, except this is all part of the penance of this world and peace prevails and the other. Now the Americans came along, they did a number of things. First, they did build roads and communications, they did tidy up the public health system and give a better, more healthy Philippine population, and they did have education and they did train people in our brand of politics, democracy.
What we didn't do, of course, was to make any change in the economic and social structure of the country, which was essentially futile. But you know, the United States in those days lived on the myth of Horatia Alger. We didn't really get around to having a social conscience of our own until Franklin Roosevelt came into office and began to talk in terms of the malefactors of great wealth. And the state didn't intervene in the functioning of an economy until the new deal where it was felt that perhaps something should be done to protect people who were disadvantaged from the system and that there might be a better way in which to organize the economy. So it would have been totally alien to the American experience at that time, the whole tradition of the United States, to have intervened in a way that would change the economic structure. It was just our general theory that economic wealth trickled down and that in due course
people would benefit from prosperity, rising tide, thoughts, all ships and all that sort of thing. So we did not. And retrospectively, we can be held in blame for that. We did not do anything to change this futile structure. And the futile structure, of course, enhanced by the Catholic teachings, depended on charity for these people rather than anything in the way of enhanced economic opportunities. So yes, we, I think, failed on that, but it would have been totally unnatural in the country to the moreies of the time for our government to have even thought in terms of making those changes. There were some people who worried about this, people in the administrations of various governors general, but in, by and large, the American administrators and the American military hobnobbed with the feudal elites and saw in them very modern, well-educated people who
thought in terms, political terms that would convene to them and they really didn't investigate how things were going back on their plantations and back on their large haciendas. But eventually it has been the crux of the problems that Philippines have had in attempting to apply democracy and paste it on top of the structure, which is essentially futile. So today, I mean, where is democracy in the Philippines, I mean, is it, is it all of the near, is it a shock, or a shock, well, you get into very, you get into very philosophical questions then. Well, that doesn't mean to be philosophical, but it's a, it's a, it's a, it's a, you know, are we, are we, are we, are we ourselves, when we talk about the restoration of democracy
or the showcase of democracy or whatever? We're trending into very philosophical ground if we start to talk about whether democracy as we know it and would like to see it can practice in the Philippines. I think social mobility in the Philippines is pretty limited, although there are a few instances of people who have been able without the advantages of birth to rise up through Filipino society and achieve positions of influence. Very largely we're talking about a sort of plutocracy. We're talking about people who are already in possession of wealth and through that wealth, the people who have had social position and who have had an education applying a governmental system. Take a man like Ninoa. Ninoa's family came from a huge Hacienda up in central Luson. He married into the Cochranco family, another huge Hacienda.
Absolutely nothing in the way of democratic background socially or economically. His education, however, led him to be an exponent of democracy. I'm prepared to believe that hadn't Ninoa lived. He would have tried to democratize the Filipino system, but democratizing it again is sharing authority and political power among a plutocratic group of elites because you're not reaching down into the structure of the average workman in that area. What you're asking when you talk about the prospects for the future of democracy in the Philippines is the philosophical and hypothetical question. When you really ever achieve political democracy without having essentially a social and economic revolution in the manner of which the country's economy functions.
I think there have been some examples that have indicated that you can, but the Philippines is a country that's awfully big and things deteriorating awfully fast. It's very hard to catch up with that. This is one of those, listen, his answer, but what's the question? I think in retrospect that Marcos blew a great opportunity, he came to have the authority in his hands by the assertion of martial law in 1972, which would have made it possible for him to lead the Filipino state in an economic revival that I think was feasible at that time.
It was a period when there would have been foreign investment from Japan, from the United States, which otherwise went to places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and so forth. They would have preferred the Philippines because the Filipinos understood American business practices. They were all well-educated and educated in an American system if it hadn't been for the graft and corruption that followed. I think there could have been enough generative investment that would have helped the Philippines get out of its economic morass. Marcos also had the capabilities, a brilliant man, a man who could have directed the government. People would have been willing to follow him, I think, had he been honest. Had he been a leek on you? Had he been a man who was more interested in the advancement of his country and his people than he was in lining his own pockets?
I think that democracy would have been sort of set aside, people would have been willing to accept or maybe even reelected him constantly to leadership the way they have reelected leek on you. He blew an opportunity, I think, to have advanced the Filipinos economically and socially. Perhaps it wouldn't have done all that much for the future of democracy in the Philippine, but it would have preserved a stability in an order probably would have mitigated the growth of the communist insurgency, etc. And certainly in the first year or so that I was there, I thought that Marcos was going to be able to develop this sort of opportunity. I thought he was going to be able to lead his country in that sort of line. And it was only after a couple of years when the incompetence and the corruption and the cronyism set in and then he meld us really, scandalous plundering of business and of
the government, that it became obvious that this was not going to work and his regime began to fall apart and people began to fall away from him. One last thing, why should we really care? I mean, it's a sovereign country if they want to thrive in it as it is in their business. Why should America have this particular hang up about what goes on in the Philippines? I think American attitudes toward the Philippines are rather mixed. It is a country that was our only colony. It is a country where we have long had strategic military installations located. It is a country that has sent hundreds of thousands, perhaps even now millions of immigrants to our country.
And it's a country for which I think we have a sort of romantic sympathy, their whole relationship with us during the war, their whole attitude of interest in the United States, rather compels the Americans to take a special interest in the Philippines. I also think just objectively we have an interest in seeing stability in that part of the world. We have an interest in seeing that this country doesn't spiral down into starvation and into the sort of civil war that may be impending. Let me get some water. We have an interest in seeing that it doesn't spiral down into poverty, starvation and the sort of civil war that we see impending there. So I think we have objective reasons for an interest in the Philippines, but the rest
of it I think has a coloration of our past associations and our strategic military concerns. The code of seal to this question is, how much can we really do? How much can we really do? The code of seal to it, I mean, the follow up to it is this code of seal business. This code of seal business, we are in New England, we say codisol. That's the Cape codisol, I'm going to go ahead. Okay. How much can we really do in another country? Given all these problems in our concerns, sentimental and pragmatic, how much real influence can we exert? I think the United States always tends to exaggerate the degree of influence that it can exert or the degree of good that it can do in a country where it has romantic notions of inspiration.
In the Philippines, the problems are so fundamental and so intractable, we talked earlier about feudalism, etc. We start again because we talked earlier. We talked earlier. I talked earlier. I talked earlier about feudalism. Oh, you may be later. I say, okay. All right. In the Philippines, the problems are so fundamental and so intractable. Problems such as feudalism and problems that have to do with the entire structure and organization of the Philippine national community. That obviously an external influence can only touch the edges. As a matter of fact, the most valuable thing, I suppose, that the United States could contribute now, would be investment. And I suspect that's going to come more from Japan than it is from the United States. And I think there's no reason that we should have pride of concern about that.
If the Japanese will come in and make investments in there, fine, because it's just the capital that has needed. The formation of capital in the Philippine is so limited by virtue of the fact that they live so close to hand-to-mouth existence that they can't form capital. I think the United States certainly should continue to maintain a healthy and sympathetic interest in the Philippines. I think we should continue to have as close working relationship as we can. But I don't think we should dilute ourselves into feeling and to assuming that somehow, rather, we can go in there as the white knight on a charger and turn the whole thing around and make the Philippines suddenly a model mirror image of American democracy. The Philippines has its own cultural and historical roots, which are going to make it quite a different society eventually than the American society. Our only hope is that we can provide some sympathy and some concerted effort with other nations that may be of assistance to them as they go on through this.
I think that's fine. Do you guys need room tone? What? Oh. This is room time.
Series
In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines
Raw Footage
Interview With Ambassador William Sullivan
Producing Organization
Pearson-Glaser Productions
Contributing Organization
Pearson-Glaser Productions (Kittery Point, Maine)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip-04eef780b2e
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-04eef780b2e).
Description
Raw Footage Description
Ambassador William Sullivan discusses Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and Philippine crisis and history. Sullivan talks about how he felt that the Marcoses were committed to captivating Sullivan so that he was more predisposed to operate in support of the Marcos administration's interests. Sullivan felt that while Ferdinand Marcos was unsuccessful in trying to manipulate Philippine-US relationships, Imelda Marcos was a woman whom Ferdinand Marcos could not trust. He explains that they had a complex marriage, likely having an initial political motivation, and where Ferdinand Marcos only trusted Imelda to perform diplomatic duties that he felt she was intellectually capable of. Sullivan describes Philippine history as being dogged with corruption, stating that there was governmental corruption both prior to and after Philippine independence and even colonial governmental corruption with Spanish occupation. While the early 70s promised growth for the Philippines, Sullivan believes much of this was stymied due to the global fuel crisis.
Asset type
Raw Footage
Genres
Documentary
Interview
Topics
History
Politics and Government
Subjects
Imelda Marcos; Insurgency; Ferdinand Marcos
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
01:04:23:05
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Credits
Interviewee: Sullivan, William
Interviewer: Karnow, Stanley
Producing Organization: Pearson-Glaser Productions
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Pearson-Glaser Productions
Identifier: cpb-aacip-d9707471104 (Filename)
Format: Betamax
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador William Sullivan,” Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-04eef780b2e.
MLA: “In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador William Sullivan.” Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-04eef780b2e>.
APA: In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines; Interview With Ambassador William Sullivan. Boston, MA: Pearson-Glaser Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-04eef780b2e