Bayan USA’s Week of Confrontation against Marcos Jr.’s first presidential visit to the United States
September 21st marked the 50th anniversary of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s declaration of martial law in the Philippines. That week, the dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., paraded around New York on his first presidential visit. He spent the Filipino people’s money — wining and dining at a posh $1,400 per night hotel and watching concerts and Broadway musicals — while the Filipino masses suffer from record-high inflation rates and the value of the Philippine peso has plummeted to a historic low. He roamed freely around the country despite the standing $353 million contempt order filed against him and his family in U.S. courts tied to unpaid reparations to martial law survivors. But he did not get away with this without a fight.
BAYAN USA and our allied organizations met Marcos Jr. at every turn of his visit to the United States in militant protest, raising the burning demands of the masses and putting our bodies on the line to remind the regime that it will experience no peace if no justice is served. As his visit wrapped up this week, we take time to analyze what his visit meant, and the urgent tasks of building our anti-fascist movement against the US-Marcos regime.
The Philippines at the Auction Block
Throughout Marcos Jr.’s visit in New York, he pandered to U.S. corporations, investors, and the capitalist class to invest in the Philippines. His pitches were not premised on mutual benefit, but rather a sellout of Philippine land, resources, and labor. Marcos Jr. was proud of his regime’s efforts to further liberalize the economy: lowering corporate income tax rates, expanding the network of export zones; and further allowing full-foreign ownership of companies in telecommunications, shipping, railways, subways, airports, and others. Most shamelessly, he auctioned off the Filipino people, highlighting the country’s strong asset of “human capital,” its “young, educated, hardworking, and English-speaking workforce” from which “investors can benefit.”
Such neoliberal assaults on the Philippine economy have done nothing but harm the working and peasant masses. Backed by the Philippine military, foreign corporations flock to the country to steal land from peasant farmers and Indigenous peoples and set up exploitative industries. Liberal trade policies like the rice tarrification law have spelled disaster for farmers. The export processing zones Marcos Jr. is so proud of are notorious for violating workers’ rights and perpetuating contractualization of labor. Full-foreign ownership of public services has led to privatization and increased costs for people who already cannot afford the skyrocketing prices of goods. The combined effect of these economic attacks means no meaningful agricultural development and industrialization in the Philippines. It also means further export of workers abroad, a policy Marcos Jr. has been keen to intensify.
Given Marcos Jr.’s economic plan, his promise to the United Nations of an “upper-middle income” Philippines by next year is a vision saved only for the elite in the country, and nothing but a pipe dream for the vast majority of the Filipino masses.
Marcos Jr., America’s Lapdog
In 1972, U.S. imperialism celebrated the declaration of martial law by Marcos Sr. Today, that support for fascist dynasties continues, with Biden being one of the first to congratulate Marcos Jr. on his electoral victory despite reports of widespread fraud and disinformation. On his part, Marcos Jr. cemented the Philippines’ status as a neo-colony of the United States throughout his trip. True to his historical revisionist outlook, Marcos Jr. described the relationship between the two countries as “founded on a long history of diplomatic relations and historical cultural linkages.” This narrative was echoed at the first meeting between Marcos Jr. and Biden on September 22, where the two discussed security in the Asia-Pacific, in particular relating to China’s influence in the region. At a speech held at the Asia Society, Marcos Jr. again heralded the U.S.’ “important leadership role in fostering an environment of stability and peace.”
The relationship between the United States and the Philippines is one of genocide, imperial conquest, and continued political, economic, and military dominance. In addition to the economic exploitation by U.S. capitalists already laid out, the Philippines has most recently been caught in the crosshairs of the inter-imperialist contradictions between the United States and China. On the losing end of this conflict are the Filipino masses: the fisherfolk who continue to be edged out and attacked in the West Philippine Sea; as well as the women, children, trans people, Indigenous communities, and farmers whose daily lives are affected by de facto U.S. basing throughout the country.
While Marcos Jr. claims a foreign policy based on diplomacy and dialogue, in reality it is one based on carrying out the dictates of U.S. imperialism. From within the belly of the beast, we must continue to fight back as this neo-colonial relationship resolidifies.
Never Again, Never Forget! The People Rise Up in Militant Struggle
The history of martial law teaches us the horrors of fascism. But it also teaches us the strength of organized people power, and the necessity of revolution. BAYAN USA, the larger Filipino community, and our allies across the country reclaimed this legacy throughout the month of September. Protests and other actions were held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
In New York and New Jersey — where Marcos Jr. made his rounds — activists mounted daily protests confronting him at every step. We were there at his speech in front of the Filipino community in Newark, where he had the audacity to thank overseas Filipinos and frontline workers for their service and remittances, while at the same time slashing COVID benefits and misprioritizing where to place funds for overseas workers in his proposed 2023 national budget. We met face-to-face at his speech in the New York Stock Exchange, where he marketed the Philippines to the highest bidder. We stood firm with our allies in condemning U.S. imperialism when he was invited to a dinner with Biden and other world leaders, and when he met with Biden one-on-one. We mobilized in the hundreds as he was given a platform to spew lies to the international community at the UN General Assembly — the day before the martial law anniversary, no less. And we put our bodies on the line, staging a civil disobedience, outdoor protest, and direct action during his talk at the Asia Society that elicited brutal violence from police and security agents, including the arrest of three activists on trumped up charges. Our swift collective response led to their release, but the struggle to have the trumped up charges dropped continues.
The past week demonstrates that the anti-fascist movement of the Filipino people is alive and here to stay. Faced with the pressing issues of Typhoon Karding wreaking havoc in the Philippines; budget deliberations that will determine if the people’s basic rights to livelihood, healthcare, education, and other services will be funded; the assault on truth and history; and the ever worsening economic and political crisis, there is no other option than to organize the mass movement to fight. Marcos Jr. will no doubt visit the United States again. But he knows now that the people will meet him with raised fists to run him out of the country, and run him out of power.
Never forget! Never again to martial law!
Reject the US-Marcos II regime!
Build the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist people’s movement!
Makibaka, huwag matakot! Struggle without fear!
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