chapter  5
The military in Philippine politics Still politicized and increasingly autonomous aries a. arugay
Pages 22

Much time has passed since the Philippine state began its process of re-democratization with the ouster of long-time autocrat Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Some democratic reforms have taken place since then, but instituting civilian control over the military has remained a significant challenge for government leaders. While not aspiring to establish direct military rule, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have engaged in more subtle and complex forms of political participation which are in conflict with the norms, principles, and practices typically associated with democratic civil-military relations, or CMR (Pion-Berlin 2001). The AFP’s practices include occupying positions within the civilian bureaucracy and assuming a dominant role in security policy, specifically in dealing with the communist insurgency and the separatist movement in Mindanao. The AFP leadership has also been able to have a say in key political appointments, challenge the legitimacy of the civilian government, and become a major player in presidential power games. In more sinister ways, the military’s newfound confidence and political autonomy have also been evident in its alleged involvement in electoral manipulation and the systematic persecution of political dissidents from the left of the political spectrum. To a great extent, the military’s post-Marcos renaissance started with the breakdown of the impeachment trial against President Joseph Estrada, which prompted the largest mobilization of civil society since the 1986 ‘People Power’ revolt. With the persuasion of the political opposition, the military withdrew its allegiance to the popular but corrupt president, effectively causing his downfall. This ‘extra-constitutional’ removal of a democratically elected president paved the way for the ascent of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the presidency in 2001. A daughter of a former president and an economist by training, Arroyo offered a platform of good governance and political reform, promising to lead by example and build strong institutions. By the end of her tenure in 2010, however, she had been largely discredited by attempted coups, political scandals, corruption allegations, and questions about her legitimacy as president. Despite these affairs, Arroyo managed to survive with the help of the military, leaving it increasingly politicized, deeply factionalized, and considerably more powerful. Indeed, her government has arguably contributed to raising the possibility of future military intervention in the Philippines.