Asia Society presents; 66
A fuel source why he resigned. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. It might surprise some of you to know that in the Philippines where you have a population of about 35 million people almost two hundred eighty thousand are receiving a higher education. Now that is quite a high amount. There are about 416 colleges and universities to accommodate them. And if I give you the comparative fact that in Indonesia for example where you have 100 million people you only have ninety seven thousand. Receiving a higher education so one might conclude that the students in the Philippines are contented and would have no reason to be unhappy. However as you know from reading the papers in early 1970 there
was considerable student unrest. What brought it about. Will it continue. How does it compare with student unrest in other parts of Asia or even the United States. Well these are all questions we hope to have answered. On this edition of the Asia Society presents and our guest is someone highly qualified to discuss this. He is Robert Tillman. Dr. Tillman at present is a senior research fellow at the Southern Asian Institute School of International Affairs at Columbia University and he has written extensively published both papers and books about this area of the world which we will discuss. And we're very glad you're here and not in the midst of a lot of students at risk. Dr. Tillman in the Philippines How did you happen to be there at that point. Well I was in the Philippines simply because I was on a sabbatical leave after working in the vineyards for so long they finally gave me some time off and I was at Yale at the time and I departed on a sabbatical leave supported by the National Science Foundation and I really did go
out to study students which was curious enough because at the time in the Philippines the students were docile they were generally described as apathetic. They weren't interested in what was happening in the world in fact I just attended a student conference in Korea on my way to the Philippines and when I looked around and there was no delegation of Filipinos there I ask why. And the Japanese students promptly said because they don't care anything about politics they're not interested in politics so we didn't invite them which is an interesting commentary when you stop to think that was August and on January the 30th just about less than six months later the students in Manila were massed outside gate four of Moloch and young palace which is the equivalent of our White House. They took over a fire truck. They tried to ram through the gates of Moloch and Yonge and they were shouting kill the president kill President Marcos. And in the course of the melee six students were killed. So it's interesting you know that between this time and August and suddenly that in January in
February you have a student eruption so I was there sort of at the right spot at the right time. I suppose it was the right time. Sometimes I wondered I was trying to give a questionnaire and suddenly I discovered that tear gas sometimes was coming into rooms where we were trying to give the question a questionnaire and so I wasn't entirely certain it was the right time but I just happened to be there that's all working on students at the time. And the students cooperated by becoming politically motivated for a change. Well there was a time when you think leading the academic life was this was the reigning philosophical contemplated. Now it's pretty rough and more adventurous than almost any other occupation. Well actually you know it's it is interesting because I think in the universities what you see is the meeting forces in the society that are really at odds in the battleground is new university because this is where these two forces happened to rub shoulders and come together whether it's in the case of the you know the fuzz off campus coming on campus or whether it's the
conservative liberal split on the campus itself but I think the major divisions of each of the societies are coming out on the battleground of the campus which is rather interesting because it's happening all over the world it's not just the Philippines it's not just the United States or Japan or Europe. Almost every place that you have universities you have this conflict of forces taking place and I think that's what we saw in the Philippines. Aside from Japan I believe then there are more students getting a higher education in the Philippines than probably I guess than any other country with the exception of India because India is a great country and India also now has a tradition of a great deal of education they have broken away to a great extent from the British pattern of higher education only for the elite So there are a lot of Indian universities now in India as you know the India just is overwhelming to all of us who work in Southeast Asia it looks so great that we just pretend it's not there because it's too big to talk about him is more than you can imagine and it's more than any one person can imagine.
Well Dr. Tilmon if we get quite specific about education higher education the Philippines we find that there are about two hundred eighty thousand students who are going surprising thing is that more of them are women than men. Is that true. Yes I don't we don't know the exact figures. The estimates have been made record keeping in Philippine education. Education is notoriously bad. And one of the problems I ran into in simply trying to run a random sample survey is that you don't have the basic data to work with how many students are in each school you say you have you have what. I can only call sort of an underlay ting student population because education is in great demand as a very high value placed on education. As a result you have a fantastic number of schools that some of which you can only describe in most charitable terms as degree mills. They operate for a price for profit and it probably comes as a surprise to many people that there are number of Philippine universities whose stock
is sold on the Manila Stock Exchange and it's a good investment to own a school because there's a demand to get in. So you've got an underlaying population that comes in and maybe part time they'll be in as long as they can pay their school fees and they'll drop out for a while so the population grows and shrinks. But it is extremely large at all time now. As I say our estimates are that there are probably more women than there are men in part this reflects I guess conditions after the war such as this in part. However it reflects that females can somehow or other find some support for education men have to get out and work part of the time and therefore at any given time a number of males have probably dropped out of school. Would you say that there is no unpaid on I think no free universal education there. Oh no no when you get to the university level you have to pay their school fees at all levels but when you get to the university then the school fees become a sizeable burden for a poor family. It's not expensive in
US dollar terms for example. I believe one of the larger universities that I'm most familiar with where it is a degree mill we don't like to call it that but it really is. I think that the school fee is something like about that time is about nine pesos a month. Now nine pesos a month on the present exchange rate is about a dollar and fifty cents a month is what he was having to pay for school. It's gone up now because of devaluation I'm sure. But that is roughly in the level but you know you're talking about people that would depend on what the income of so that you can so easily be a family like that that was sending their child to that school probably the father is living on the minimum wage which at that time was six pesos a day which is exactly the cost of the school fee for the month. In addition that was what he was supposed to be getting but probably because there's a tremendous labor surplus. He only claimed to the Bureau of Labor that he was getting six he was probably really only
getting four I think. So one can go without spending any exorbitant amount yet the amount can be a burden if you want to be a burden to the poor family. Families will just go to any length to make sure that the children can get into the schools. How about academic qualifications. Oh this is a this is a real kettle of worms because the universities in the Philippines the quality span everything from the best of the American universities to degree males that you wouldn't recognize as a university. They go all the way there are some schools in the provinces some universities and provinces that graduate functional illiterates. They cannot read. They can't they just can't they they're not they're not literate in any language you see this is one of the tragedies is that the medium of instruction is all English after the first two years of primary school everything is English. Well now this means that a person who goes to a good school has a great advantage because they come out speaking excellent
English and really having read English and American literature and really in good shape. But it means that a person who goes to one of the lower class degree middle schools particularly in the provinces is educated in a language that he never really understood and he speaks all of the time including among his classmates. He speaks the local dialect and of course there are many many local dialects so he speaks the local dialect with his parents and with his fellow students. There's no literature in the local dialect so he doesn't read to learn to read it there are no newspapers no local dialect except when you look Kano and the Galaga. And as a result he grows up being educated in a language he doesn't know and he graduates after four years of college. And this is done. Fourteen years of school because I have 10 years of primary and secondary school and four years of college. So he graduates after 14 years and he really is not literate and he will lose his literacy quite quickly. Now you take the other extreme you go to Manila and you go to antenatal demand all of which is the really the best of the Jesuit schools in the Philippines
are you go to some of the seminars at the University of the Philippines out in Carson City and you can talk to the students you can call the seminar. Do exactly the same thing you do in Colombia. You can use. You don't measure your words. You talk about anything you want to talk about you talk about concepts you have people people picking you to pieces. So you have a quality of a tremendously on equal quality and 100 results. Yes one more question before we complete this profile of students so that we can find out what made them so unhappy. You speak of the haves and have nots which every country contains. What would you say they are that you have a very small amount group of haves and the very large group of have nots in the Philippines. I think its probably more that way in the Philippines and in any country in Southeast Asia. I could probably get some argument on this but my impression is that the gap and I have to I say there are five classes in the Philippines because there is one class that is so fantastically wealthy that you can't even
just call them wealthy. They're up above everything else and then there's a broad broad base at the bottom. People who are so abysmally poor that you can't put them in the lower classes so I think there are the two extremes of classes and then there's the more conventional upper middle and lower classes but this is a very serious problem. It's been with the Philippines throughout their entire history. It grew up during the Spanish colonial period the American colonial period did nothing to restructure the society this way. The Japanese did nothing and the independent government is doing nothing. The present government does nothing in our body that system of taxation. You wouldn't believe it if I described all of the intricacies of the system of taxation because the laws are very very liberal. Liberal social welfare laws and taxation contributes to this. But you have to be very careful in the Philippines because there's a great distinction that must be made between. Thoughts in action and the loss of the thoughts the actions
the enforcement and that's something entirely different. It's quite often done on a barter system where you bargain with a tax collector. I see you really have no so I said good for what you hear. But I know there are a number of countries where. Taxes income taxes exist but as you say it is a far cry from what you're supposed to pay him like you do pay. Now the students who put tested so violently. Did they come from one or two of the Hyatt type universities which is a fairly general student on rest. Well first let me say that despite the appearances the unrest was confined to Manila I was down in the provinces when it started in fact I was living in the provinces most of the time only commuting into Manila when necessary and the provinces were very quiet. There was not a single meaningful demonstration in any university there were a few attempts to create a protest movement but nothing happened it was really confined to Manila. And it but it drew rather broadly from the Manila University's leadership probably came from the more elite
universities but the followers came from pretty much across the board. Just about everything. You must realize that even in degree mills that the degree mills of Manila are so far above the degree mills of the provinces that when I describe some of the lower end of the spectrum of how bad education can be sometimes I was really talking much more about provincial universities because there is not that much in Manella Manella is is much far much more advanced in education but it was pretty much across the board so far as the followers are concerned and very very large numbers of them and lasted a long time. It began in January and ended only with a premature closing of school in April. We were able to get caring determine whether late is where some of them from the Chinese minorities there were none from the Chinese minority in fact there were very few of the Chinese who even took part. They were not even the followers. They couldn't be. Their position in the Philippines is so precarious that if they were ever seen in a student demonstration it would
probably be grounds for deportation for their family. So these were Filipinos these were Filipinos. Hills And boy oh yes indeed both of the girls were quite active. Yes I guess I have to say bully for them. Even though I'm not too fond of violent demonstrations it really kind of a professor Tilman would you say that there was concrete grounds for this demonstration or was it more than hysterical and mass behavior one following the other. Well let me say to begin with that I think the student unrest in the Philippines is well founded. I think they have reason. In fact I must say I think that the great hope of the Philippines is probably in its students. I very impressed with Filipino students. They in many ways in their protests and in the demonstrations they exhibit Exhibit A lot more political savvy than have our students in the United States or the students in Japan for that matter. They knew the limits of the possible and only once or twice to
day go Beyond the Possible. Would you say possible you mean in what they demanded or in their behavior and their behavior they knew how far they could push. And one of the reasons for example that I heard very very frequently down in the provinces of why we had no demonstrations in the provinces my students told me theres no need in demonstrating that no one here to demonstrate against this is a highly centralized political system in which the power is in Mali can you run in Manila. So we demonstrate in Manila but theres no point demonstrating here we have no symbols to demonstrate it would be wasted if we wasted energy we have no leverage what was that. Just the devastation. Well what is it that seriously upset them. I think you know the question as it was put to me when I spoke to groups in the Philippines was what's bugging these cats right. And I think the answer is that they are beginning to get disillusioned with a system that has every four years promised dramatic changes and which really never has changed. Now as a political scientist I say that contributes to the stability of the system. But the
students are beginning to wonder why politicians shout about corruption and demand reforms when they're running for office and then don't change anything once they get in. And I think they're asking some very tough questions now. They're also asking why is it that if we have a Congress in which we elect representatives and we have a Senate in which we elect senators why is it that these people don't appear on the floor and debate issues rather than just using their office to further their own personal gain. And the students I think of a good point and they're quite serious about it are quite serious and I talked to a number of older people who said you know we don't approve of what the students are doing in upsetting Manella they were doing a lot of destruction at one point and Manella trashing as it's now commonly called I discovered where they simply go through and break windows and such as this and that was beginning to happen in Medellin the older people were saying we don't approve of this but they're also saying however they're doing something we never had
the courage to do. And they recognize that probably the Philippines would have been a little bit better shape if they had been more assertive. A generation ago but they weren't. What would you say though are some of their specific complaints. Well it is impossible to pin the students down to specific complaints in fact you know the whole unrest in the Philippines comes from sort of a general feeling a vague undirected feeling of dissatisfaction and one of the reasons that the unrest can take various turns and it takes it takes several different twists. It can be anti-american a time. Also I noticed in reading your paper that it why it becomes anti-American at times but that really isn't the main focus of discontent. The main source of it it becomes anti Marcos at times it becomes anti-business at times becomes anti-Chinese at times. Now I would say the reason is because there is this general unfocused sense of dissatisfaction that things aren't going right. And then the students do tend to
oversimplify I guess the students always do and they want to find the key. You know somehow they have the idea that there's a door there that door is locked and if they keep casting about until they find the right key and if it's not locked they open the door and there is the brave new world of the Philippines on the other side so they can shift rather quickly because they're looking for that single cause. So the single cause in the demonstration and in January 26 was Marcos the fascist. As they were then describing him in the 30th it was again it was again Marcos on February 18th it was the Americans. We were the cause of the problem. Later it became Congress and they began to demonstrate outside Congress later it was business and they began to destroy businesses now have various targets depending upon how they think at the moment. But I would say that part of their problem may be the main part of it would you document is this pervasive sense of frustration that one is getting a
good education in some cases and not knowing how to use it well. There you know slice to put it. There's no place to put it that is part of it now. An interesting thing I think and I've never seen anyone develop this theme. I think the United States has drained off a lot of potential revolutionaries in the Philippines. Yes. Migration to the U.S. from Philippines is extremely high. It's going down somewhat and I'll be somewhat lower now because of our own economic problems it's difficult to get a visa now because you have to have a job before you can get a visa. But we're running fantastically high rates I don't know precisely what they are and neither government will reveal them openly. I know in one time it was the Philippines at about anywhere between 30 and 90 a day were being approved at the consular section of Manila now. Who knows. KNIGHT He doesn't sound like many but you don't apply that by the working days of the year and multiply that by the number of years it's going on it's probably been higher other times. It means fantastically high migration and a lot of these people are the frustrated
ones with good educations. Now there's another kind of frustration. Curiously enough prior to this past year about the only kinds of demonstrations and protests you had in the Philippines were by students who were protesting the low quality of education they were getting. You know I hope in this country than ever start protesting against it against the faculty because we're not teaching them enough. But they did this they protested against poor faculty poor facilities bad education which they were shrewd enough to know that's what they were getting they were getting shortchanged they were. So you know and that is part of it but that isn't all of it. That's more of it is sort of the system itself. The system is highly diplomate ised a student can't hope to get anywhere unless he's got a diploma. So this means that you go into almost any department store any small specialty shop in Manila and quite likely the girl who's behind the counter selling you goods holds a B.A. from a decent university because the B.A. shows that she can speak English well and they need English
speakers in the shop so she gets hired. Is the unemployment rate very high. Fantastically high. Is there no need to professionally train people physicians and as you say teachers who they can do a better job. They are lawyers and so forth but they cannot be absorbed just from the system they have. Their output has exceeded lyrics are the absorptive capacity of the system is that because there were not enough people who can afford to pay for these services. Yes that isn't part of it and you see it is an underdeveloped country now. The Philippines you have to realize. One of the things that I've always thought about the Philippines The reason it gets such bad press from Americans who visit is that when they go to the Philippines they judge the Philippines on the basis of American standards. They go anywhere else in Asia outside Japan and they say well this is an exotic Oriental country and we don't expect things to be the same. But the Philippines is an underdeveloped country with fantastic odds against it. It has a tremendously mushrooming population the
growth rate of the population is so high it's doubling every lesson every 20 years. It's a Roman Catholic country in which it's not at all unusual to find families of 13 to 15 although I might be less in control is not illegal. It is not illegal but it goes against the grain of almost everyone including the politicians. We are bringing people is against it is against a final word to question so we can fit the both in one. Is the Communist Party illegal. No it is not me. It is underground and there is an underground communist movement there is the oh Hippolyte hop movement left over from the early Marxist days and always that in any way an influence in the student uprising Yes there was some I think the government put a lot of blame on it I think the government put far more blame on it than it deserved. It's a very disorganized movement. It is one of the most blundering of the communist parties in Asia and that may be the only thing save the Philippines is the leadership of the communists has been so bad incredibly bad.
Philippines and a final question how does this compare let's say with the student unrest in other parts of Asia. Has this been the worst example of the like the West and you know that Japan was far worse the Japanese universities were close for almost one whole term almost all of the universities were closed. Students so-called liberated the universities No it was nothing that the universities in Japan where they were they were virtually shut down and the students took over. Well Professor Tilman you've given us a very graphic idea of what is happening. A sad picture but perhaps that leads to some constructive action I can be optimistic in the long run because I have great faith in the Filipino students they are superb group they're very savvy politically and I have great hope. You know the sort of professional they are doing. As thank you very much for being here and I say that our guest on this program has been Robert Tillman. Dr. Tillman at present is senior research fellow of an Asian Institute School of International Affairs Columbia
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