ON THE STANDARD ISSUES OF THE DAY
(Speech delivered by Jose Maria\ Sison at
Siliman University, Dumaguete City, on March 9, 1967; sponsored by the
Beta Sigma Fraternity.)
THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT has too often been vilified wittingly and
unwittingly as being unconcerned about current domestic issues and being
concerned exclusively with questions of foreign policy.
It is our task to show that standard issues of the day such as graft and
corruption, high prices, and crime and violence among others are concrete
manifestations of the essential errors of our neo-colonial status, our
national subordination to the ruling policies imposed upon us by foreign
and feudal exploiters in our society.
At this stage, it is a fact that nationalists or national democrats in
their attempt to stress the fundamental roots of social inequities have
spoken in generalities that the petty- minded or colonial-minded try to
misrepresent as having no concrete basis.
It should always be stated strongly that the general causes of the
suffering of our people are objectively observed in the chain of symptoms
and in the chain of concrete reality that we see from day to day. It is
our task to observe and list the concrete facts and issues of our national
life, such as graft and corruption, high prices, crime and violence,
unemployment, poverty, malnourishment, ill-education and ill-health; and
from all these, we proceed to our general conclusions and to the basic
causes if we plan to take national and fundamental action towards their
We employ generalization only to stress what is fundamental on a national
scale or on an international scale. But it should be our task to relate
what is general and essential to the concrete facts observed from one
locality to another and from short period to short period. In other words,
to know and say that the strategic problems of our nation are imperialism
and feudalism entails a prior perceptual knowledge of those specific or
concrete problems which appear at first as merely the responsibility of
this or that particular political party or administration, or of this or
that particular person. It is the task of objective and scientific
analysis to determine the relationship between the particular facts and
such general terms as imperialism and feudalism, or any other
We are bound by historical and objective conditions larger than anyone of
us or any subjective aggrupation of men. No amount of preaching and
individual or sectarian crusading will ever succeed if social inequities
such as those we have mentioned are mere particular characteristics or
symptoms of such a large historical and objective phenomenon as foreign
and feudal domination. We have to develop on a general scale the large
objective forces of national democracy that can effectively contend with
the large objective forces of imperialism and feudalism.
In this discussion we have chosen only three of the standard issues of the
day which frequently grace the front pages of our metropolitan newspapers.
These are graft and corruption, high prices, and crime and violence which
are often superficially said to be the issues or problems larger and more
pressing than the basic problems that are imperialism and feudalism.
Graft and Corruption
Let us take the issue and problem of graft and corruption. It has become
the traditional basis for throwing out or retaining a political party or
person in public office. Generally, however, despite our moral
pronouncements about honesty, we have only perpetuated a system wherein
the conservative political parties play what we call an in-and-out
confidence game on our people. Whatever party gets in goes out later, but
only after perpetrating graft and corruption, perpetuating a malevolent
tradition of graft and corruption. Why is there so much lack of
uprightness and integrity?
It is not enough to seek the help of God for light or to dismiss the
problem as a mystery or to blame the erring officials as inherently
crooked or simply opportunist, as suggested by the cliche "To err is
human". What is needed is a scientific analysis of the objective
situation, of the entire system which gives rise to graft and corruption
in the magnitude and regularity that we today observe. If we look around,
we should know very well (from first-hand accounts of people who have gone
there) that the People's Republic of China has successfully eliminated the
problem of graft and corruption that had characterized the Kuomintang
regime of Chiang Kai-shek and which had inflamed the Chinese people
against the regime. The experience of the People's Republic of China shows
that it is humanly possible to eliminate graft and corruption or to reduce
it to the degree of exceptionality or abnormality. In the United States,
big-time contract-pulling persists and more sophisticated ways of
making quick money have been developed by the military-industrial complex
and by the big bosses of the capitalist parties. Retired military officers
and men of political influence are hired by the big corporations to
expedite war contracts with the government: the irregular is made so
regular that it no longer looks irregular.
The problem of graft and corruption in the Philippines dates back to
colonial times. If the colonial officials bought or incurred great expense
to acquire their appointments in Madrid and in Manila, they would
certainly commit graft and corruption to recoup their investment; read
Rizal's essays and novels to confirm this statement. As in our own
neocolonial times, leaders have to spend so much to run for office, the
precondition for graft and corruption is perpetuated and, what is more
serious, honest and genuine leaders of the masses are excluded from such
office because they do not enjoy the financial support that the political
representatives of the landlord class and foreign vested interests enjoy.
Because of the scarcity of opportunity for the people in colonial and
neocolonial times, the government and the officials in turn become mere
dispensers of privileges. To have a job, which should be a normal right of
every citizen, is itself a privilege. Even within the middle social
strata, such is the case; the bright boys and the mediocre ones in the
middle class readily become the political agents and clerks of the ruling
class. They have to conform to the exploitative system or else suffer the
consequences for taking a different course of action or line of thinking.
The formal right of having a means of livelihood, the principle of freedom
from want, has become a granted privilege in this society. The
imperialists, compradors, bureaucrats and landlords are the selfish source
of privilege, including the "privilege" of having a job. Don't they always
say that they create and provide the jobs to us and they do not even
mention the fact that they exploit us?
Now, as in colonial times, there is a system that does not only prevent
the equal allocation of limited resources and means but also prevent
development in accordance with our national needs. The interests of a
vested few - the foreign and feudal exploiters - dictate the policies and
actions of thhe government and officials, and are opposed to the interests
of the broad masses of our people.
The government is made to function only as the mere executive committee of
foreign and feudal exploiters. This has come about because our political
life has been narrowed down by force of arms or by the state power of the
ruling classes to an internal competition of its shifting factions, those
political parties maintained and financed by the vested interests in the
country. The elections of today are essentially similar to the elections
of the principalia of colonial times; the only large difference, of
course, is that elections today are conducted on a grander and noisier
scale, Madison Avenue style; and on the mere pretense that the populace is
being given the chance to make a genuine choice.
But considering the fact that only the parties of the status quo like the
NP and LP, including the PPP, prevail and that a genuine working class
party has always been restricted from enjoying political freedom within
the system, can it not be said that a class dictatorship actually exists
in our country, a class dictatorship of imperialist agents, compradors and
landlords who manipulate, to uphold their narrow class interests, the
prevailing political parties to give us the mere illusion of democratic
choice? The question in point is: Can the masses of our people truly make
use of elections and other political methods provided us by the system to
discipline miscreant government officials and eliminate graft and
We know for a fact that the greatest opportunity for graft and corruption
presents itself in the breach between the government and the private
business sector, especially the foreign monopoly firms and the local
compradors. Contracts with private entities involving appropriation of
public funds or government approval provide the opportunity for graft and
corruption. Again, in the breach between two private entities vying for a
government contract or approval, the corrupt bureaucrat gains another
opportunity for making a fast buck under the table.
It is in the development of the private capitalist sector that graft and
corruption has grown in the same way it grew in colonial times, as shown
by the example of Capitan Tiago, Quiroga and Don Timoteo Pelaez in Rizal's
master novels - characters who symbolize the emerging cash relations in
the womb of feudal society. Whereas graft and corruption can occur both
between a public entity and a private entity, and between one private
entity and another private entity, it cannot occur in the gap between one
public entity and another public entity where public documents and public
property can easily be checked and verified not only by the government
officials themselves but by a political party of a new type that truly
represents the interests of the masses and most importantly, by the masses
themselves who have a high revolutionary consciousness.
Our proposal then is to change the entire system and make the public
sector the leading factor in the command and development of our capital
resources, in order to remove the malfeasance that attends the
appropriation of public funds and in order to consolidate and direct our
resources most effectively for accelerated economic growth. Moreover, we
propose that in order to guarantee public control for the public sector, a
new kind of politics, a new type of national democracy under the
leadership of the working class, should prevail.
Those who would be the first to oppose the revolutionary transformation of
our society and the strengthening of our public sector as the leading
factor in the command and development of our capital resources are
certainly those interested in the perpetuation of a colonial type of
economy and a colonial type of society.
They are afraid that the public sector, if strengthened and rationalizes
its investments towards industrialization, with the necessary support of
the working class party and the masses, would be an instrument that can
break the imperialist, comprador and landlord hold on the economy. They
prefer to have their "free enterprise", meaning to say, the rapacity of
corrupt bureaucrats, the foreign monopolists and the landlords.
What we are proposing is the strengthening of the public sector with the
broadening of democracy to the extent that the public sector is the
principal factor in our national development, and not merely secondary to
the private sector which in turn is controlled as it is now by the foreign
and feudal exploiters of this society.
The public sector is certain to take a leading role as the corrupt
politics of the reactionary parties is replaced by national democratic
politics. The organized masses under the leadership of the working class
share and assume power and effectively check on the integrity and
performance of public servants.
Let us take the issue and problem of high prices. The subject cannot be
seriously discussed without considering the colonial and agrarian
character of our economy and its subordination to U.S. imperialism. The
current rise in prices can only be understood within this context.
It is certainly dishonest for our colonial-minded leaders not to
acknowledge the disastrous results of the full and sudden decontrol of
1962. Decontrol doubled the peso equivalent of the dollar in the open
market, thus automatically depressing the value of the peso. This is one
imperialist debauchery of our economy.
Our national industrialists now have to pay more for imported capital
goods, fuel, raw materials and spare parts replacements. With the
resulting increase of the cost of production, some firms have been so hard
hit that they have had to fold up while others have had to raise their
prices in order to survive. In the course of the weakening of the peso,
Filipino firms have been easily taken over by foreign firms. Otherwise,
they are simply crushed by the foreign monopolies.
With the increase of the prices of the commodities that they buy and the
resulting depression of their real wages, the workers have to demand an
adjustment of their money wages. The hiking of the wage level in turn
increases the costs of production and, the vicious cycle of capitalism,
the capitalist must pass on the cost increment to the mass of consumers,
leaving the workers with the same or even much lower real wages. The
problem of high prices assails the vast majority of our people who have a
low fluctuating income or a low fixed income.
Inflation in the Philippines has resulted from the consistent breakdown of
local production in both national industry and agriculture. This in
reality does not conform with the Keynesian notion that higher prices
reflect higher production. This is the irony of a neocolony that must
perforce be subject to developments in the imperialist metropolis.
In agriculture, the glaring irony has occurred. We are an agricultural
country and yet we cannot produce sufficient food for our people. The
Laurel-Langley Agreement has perpetuated the colonial character of the
economy by the terms of preferential trade which favor a raw-material
export and a finished-product import trade relations. This is because our
landlords have been carried away by the attractive price of sugar extended
by the United States and they have turned from production of staples to
sugar production. Within the domestic market, even the price of sugar has
risen for local consumers because the bulk of it has been exported without
consideration of local needs.
Our government is so servile to U.S. imperialism that it has allowed U.S.
agro-corporations to take over thousands of hectares of good agricultural
lands in Cotabato and elsewhere for the production of pineapple, banana,
and other fruits. This has also resulted in the decrease of ricelands in
the second most important rice-growing area in the country.
In the U.S. an inflation is going on as a result of massive military
spending in the Vietnam war and other forms of deficit spending by the
U.S. government. And because we depend so much on manufactures from the
U.S., due to lack of industries in our own country, we automatically
import the inflation from the U.S. We have to pay more for U.S. goods. The
reactionary government also has to get U.S. loans at more onerous terms
only to cover artificially the chronic deficit in the colonial exchange of
Philippine raw materials and U.S. finished manufactures.
The Vietnam war has caused the upward spiral of prices in the United
States. Men are drafted for the non-productive work of fighting a war and
receiving pay for it. Basic materials are being diverted from consumer
goods production to the production of war materials like bombs, chemicals,
military vehicles, construction materials, fuel and the like. These
materials have become more expensive because of the high demand from the
war industry. Thus, commodities from the United States have become
expensive in the Philippines.
We observe that in the Philippines itself, as in many other client-states
of the United States, men and materials are being stimulated by higher
prices towards the Vietnam war. To cite an instance, if Philippine cement
is massively exported to Vietnam, the cost of constructing houses here
would rise; the rent for apartment houses would also rise as it is rising
now. Also, the expenditure of P35 million and more for the Philippine
puppet expeditionary force to Vietnam because of subservience to U.S.
policies weakens the internal capacity of the reactionary government to
look after the welfare and security of our people.
We can very well see that U.S. imperialist policies are basically
responsible for the specific problem of higher prices.
Turning to the basic problem of feudalism, its perpetuation means the
continued depression of the purchasing power of the peasant masses.
Because of class oppression and backward methods, Philippine agriculture
is not providing adequate food for the people. Because of imperialism,
Philippine agriculture is not providing raw materials for local
industries. Landlords constantly engage in luxury spending and this also
tends to jack up prices. The whole feudal problem is sustained by
The need to vigorously pursue national industrialization in order to
provide jobs to the masses of our people is urgent.
By it, we shall provide jobs for our people and they shall be afforded the
chance to buy the products of their own labor. In the long run, the
unrestricted industrial development of our economy will reduce the prices
of commodities. If basic land reform is used to support national
industrialization, our peasant masses reaching 70 per cent of our
population will be able to buy the products of our industries with their
increased purchasing power. Our peasant masses would be providing adequate
food and raw materials that serve as the basis for national
National industrialization and basic land reform are the main economic
demands of the national democratic movement.
Only the public sector backed up and determined by the organized workers,
peasants, students and other patriotic segments of our population can lead
in the achievement of national industrialization and land reform. We
cannot depend on foreign investors for these; it is futile to do so as our
experience in the last six decades tells us - four decades under direct
imperialist rule and two decades under indirect imperialist rule. A small
amount of capital is invested in quick profit areas by U.S. firms,
oftentimes from our own credit facilities, and in a period of even as
short as one year, super-profits squeezed from Filipino labor and from the
mass of consumers are already flowing out of the country. U.S. investments
always carry with them the curse of super-profit remittances which have
plagued and restricted the growth of the Philippine economy. Consider the
huge amount of capital that the oil firms, Caltex and Esso, are taking out
of the country; consider the danger of placing
control of such a vital commodity as oil in the hands of foreigners. By
this commodity alone, the U.S. controls the motion and prices of all goods
in this country.
Crime and Violence
Let us take up the issue and problem of crime and violence. Smuggling,
gambling, juvenile delinquency and prostitution, robbery, theft and
homicide are rampant today. Their widespread presence is condemnable. But
it is futile to preach about them if we do not make a systematic study of
them and subsequently take critical and constructive action. It is also
futile merely to do police work on the culprits. We have to attack the
roots within the system which gives rise to all this malevolence.
Smuggling occurs in its pure form on our coastlines; in many instances,
smugglers get their contraband through with the connivance of the PC and
other armed apparatuses of the state. In its so-called technical form, the
imported goods are undervalued or misdeclared at the customs area in order
to avoid the payment of taxes. This is subversion of the economy
systematically done with the connivance of the highest officials. The
imperialist supplier of the smuggled goods, which includes the businessmen
and their government, refuses to comply with the requirement of a
shipper's export declaration for purposes of checking the amount and kind
of goods being imported into our country and also refuses to check on his
side the use of boats for "pure" smuggling. As a matter of fact, the
imperialist supplier connives with obvious smugglers who arrange the
transport of goods by surreptitious means.
Smuggling intensified as a result of the full and immediate decontrol of
1962 which deprived the reactionary government of the right to control
foreign exchange for purposes of proper allocation and industrial
priority. With dollars now freely in the hands of private entities, their
misuse for quick profit operations like smuggling and real estate
speculation could be made. The policy of decontrol was adopted as a result
of U.S. imperialist pressures so that the foreign monopolies could destroy
our local industrial gains, remit their super-profits and maintain a high
rate of profit for their industries at home or their local subsidiaries.
Under the guise of solving graft and corruption in dollar allocations at
the Central Bank, the U.S. imperialists and their local agents agitated
for decontrol; but graft and corruption merely shifted to the Bureau of
Customs and to police agencies in even greater volume. The worst effects,
of course, have been the sabotage of our economy and the
massive outflow of much needed capital in the form of huge profit
remittances by U.S. firms and of luxury spending by their landlord and
At the upper rungs of our society, we see the corruption and decadence
based on over-affluence amidst public want. To tide them over their
boredom in a sea of mass poverty and to satisfy their distorted sense of
values, our wealthy businessmen, politicians and evil gentry engage in
maintaining queridas, in gambling, and in lavish banquets. Subsequently,
juvenile delinquency even among their well-provided children results from
the moral breakdown of the home and from their general exposure to the
decadent values of imperialist culture which plays up sex and violence, as
you will note from current American movies and other cultural vehicles,
which are the fetishes of the wealthy. Despite the preachiness of their
religious pretensions, their exclusive Catholic school upbringing, they
fall flat on their faces morally; they come out as split personalities of
the worst cultural complex, that of imperialist and feudal decadence in
our semi-colonial and semi-feudal society.
Murder and methods of fraud and terrorism have also characterized our
political life. The stakes among our corrupt politicians are control and
private appropriation of public funds, maintenance of queridas and
relatives on government sinecures, expansion of private businesses through
special government privileges, maintenance of vice dens and control of
coastlines for smuggling, to cite only a few items that are the crimes of
the rich. These comprise the adult delinquency of our so-called statesmen.
The magnitude and malignance of this delinquency makes the juvenile
delinquency of their children look puny and awkward.
Prostitution, juvenile delinquency in slums, robbery, theft, killings for
lack of appreciation of or inability to use the present channels of
justice are correctly described as crimes of poverty. We may pass the
strictest laws to discourage their commission; but so long as there is no
change in the material basis for their occurrence, we shall continue to
suffer these crimes of poverty.
Young women from the rural and city slums are annually misled into a life
of shame on the false promise of decent jobs or by the sheer lack of the
chance to exist decently. Prostitution is the fetishism of any
exploitative social system; woman is degraded into the status of mere
commodity, the way labor is regarded in this exploitative society.
The vast majority of our people are caught between the stagnation of
feudal conditions and the insufficiency of modern opportunities for
employment in our neocolonial situation. Robbery and theft are generally
forms of spontaneous retaliation by the dispossessed against those who
have excessive possessions.
Killings for various reasons at the lower rungs of our society are related
to crimes involving property or the alienation of so many people from the
moral values that are preached by the ruling classes which at the same
time employs legal or illegal means to violate them. Make a study of the
records of our brothers in jails and penitentiaries to confirm the general
causes of their crimes which at first appear as personal in character.
Of course, it is foolhardy to condone crimes of poverty. But it is simply
hypocritical to make any condemnation without understanding the objective
causes actually larger and more compelling than the individual culprit.
We are living in a society where our foreign and feudal exploiters do not
only provide us with backward, conflicting and alienated values but also
restrict our own efforts to develop the forces of national and social
progress and the material conditions necessary for a more democratic and
nobler existence and culture for all.
The national democratic movement stands for the liberation of our nation
and also the liberation of the oppressed Filipino masses. The exploitation
of one nation by another nation and of man by man or one class by another
gives rise to a chain of iniquities that should never be posed in
isolation of their root causes if we truly stand for the freedom,
creativity and dignity of man.