ninoy’s politics: “Manifesto For A Free Society”

In the most unequivocal terms, not a few communist leaders have told me that there is no room for poltiicians in the CPP/NPA set-up. To them, all politicians are a product of the “comprador, bourgeois-capitalist system” which must be eliminated.

I have discussed my “ideology” with them. And the biggest surprise of my life: They not only rejected it but held it as more dangerous than the outright capitalist ideology.

I tried to explain to them that the Filipino is not one who is comfortable in an extreme position, that the Filipino is basically a peaceful, spiritual, if not a religious man. I was, they told me to my face, “historically wrong.” I believe not. And the freedom that is born of the spirit remains the foundationof my ideology, my life’s credo.

I think I can best explain my ideology by excerpting from a manifesto I wrote last year after my 40-day hunger strike to protest the judicial (dis)processes under the present martial rule. On the advice of my Jesuit spiritual adviser, I wrote down the outlines of my ideal society. Part of my Manifesto reads as follows:

OF A COMMUNITY OF LIBERATED CITIZENS enjoying the full benefits of a Free Society:
— FREE to choose, criticize and remove our duly elected governors;
— FREE from the imprisoning walls of ignorance, poverty and disease;
— FREE from the exploitation of a privileged and propertied few; and
— FREE from the entangling webs of super-power hegemony, imperialism and neo-colonialism.


ENDOWED with reason — which lifts us from the brute — from which we derive our standards of morality, justice and the rational method of ascertaining our duty to our fellowmen and our community.

ENDOWED with a free will and slave to no one, save our Maker. Exercising our free will, we enter into an agreement with all citizens on basic and fundamental tenets, to which we all adhere — and which we pledge to protect — to further the commonweal and our communal interests.

A FREE SOCIETY reconciles liberty and equality; rejects liberal freedom without equality and total equality without freedom. Its essence is the absence of special privilege. Its guarantee is an equal opportunity for self-fulfillment for every citizen. It is dynamic, not static, open to change, be it gradual or rapid, for no one does possess the last word, and the world of men and nature is in constant flux.

LABOR is the most effective human principle; social interest the fundamental stimulus to economic activity. Ultimately, all basic and strategic means of production must come under social ownership to ensure equitable proration of the national wealth and to safeguard the national interest.

THE DIALECTIC OF POWER AND RESISTANCE is one of the great motive forces of history. Power produces conflict and conflict between antagonistic forces give rise to ever new solutions.

AN OPPOSITION PARTY is indispensable in a democracy. The opposition should act as the critic of the party in power, developing, defining, and presenting the policy alternatives which are necessary for a true choice in public decision-making. It must therefore be guaranteed not only protection but existence, and must be allowed to speak freely and unafraid.

A FREE MEDIA, the most effective vehicle for untrammeled discussion, mutual criticism and refutation, is imperative if we are to prevent the entrenching of error.

A TRULY REPRESENTATIVE PARLIAMENT is a natural friend of liberty and an “unrestrained executive magistracy” is a natural enemy of freedom. The delicate system of checks and balances and the strict separation of powers are indispensable to a republican form of government.

UNDERDEVELOPMENT is the consequence of a capitalist system that perpetuates poverty and attendant human misery, of social structures based on gross inequalities in social well-being, privilege and power. This system must be replaced.

TYRANTS SUCCEED not because they are really strong but because the citizens are weak and indifferent. Threatened with various sanctions and “invitations to Crame,” the intimidated masses cower in fear and supinely agree to pay for a false freedom with their basic civil liberties.

Only when a man has learned to fear nothing but the scruples of his conscience is he truly free. If he is ready to die, who can threaten him with death?

THE ESSENCE OF THE DEMOCRATIC FAITH is that through the continuing process of political education, men become sufficiently reasonable to discover, with evidence and the give and take of free discussion, a better way of solving common problems.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF DEMOCRACY rests not on the belief in the natural goodness of man but his educability, not in the inevitability of social progress but in the potentialities of nature and intelligence.

IN THE END we get the government we deserve! No social or political organization can be better than the quality of the men and women who compose it. The quality of their lives will be determined by their visions, their courage and their fortitude.


TO REMAIN STEADFAST, unintimidated, and to risk jail rather than see our liberties nibbled away.

TO SPEAK OUT AND DENOUNCE RAMPANT INJUSTICES. Justice can be realized only when “those who have not been victimized become as outraged as those who have been.”

TO HELP OUR FELLOWMEN HELP THEMSELVES by removing the barriers of poverty, ignorance and disease that have stunted their growth for ages. Give them the tools and show them how best they can help themselves. A viable and a truly lasting revolution requires not only the overthrow of an oppressive external order but the continuing struggle for the minds, hearts and souls of men.

TO IMPOSE UPON OURSELVES the supreme obligation to crystallize and effectuate a determined and a committed OPPOSITION to the oppressive order, because tragedy of tragedies, we have become a nation with a history as dangerous to forget as it is painful to remember.

I grew up under a democratic capitalist system with its doctrines of free enterprise and laissez faire. Our economic system, copied from that of the United States, held out profit as the main motive force of economic activity. Profit is the great incentive. Capitalism appeals to the greed of men.

Capitalist doctrines went thusly: As much as possible, government must minimize its interference in matters of economics and business; governmental controls and regulations must be kept to the utmost minimum; the owners of business and industry must be allowed to fix the rules of competition.

But capitalism has not been all bad. History shows that it has been a vibrant, vital force.

Beginning with the 19th century, capitalism gave impetus to the growth of modern science and its application to daily life. It saw the triumphant assertion of individual daring, skill and enterprise over bureaucratic inertia and ineptitude. The ascendance of economic individualism brought with it a strengthening of political liberty.

But as the capitalist economy progressed, small economic units were gradually absorbed by the bigger enterprises that could afford the latest technological  innovations. Access to credit and capital became a key to growth. Those who got it, or had the “access,” grew, prospered, became the “signeurs” of the capitalist-dominated order.

True, work became collective. But ownership remained very individual. Thus the social phenomenon: the aristocracy of the moneyed few, the serfdom of the majority who are poor.

The challenge to capitalism was created by its failure as much as by its successes. Unemployment, for one thing, became a major problem. It demolished the myth that capitalism possessed a built-in, self-restoring natural harmony. For another, there was the contradiction between political freedom and economic dependence. This became more acute and accentuated with the growth of giant enterprises and the concentration of tremendous wealth in the hands of a few. Not content with making money, the new capitalists expanded into the field of media and politics. Politicians and journalists became like commodities — bought and sold in the open market!

The existence of industrial absolutism within the walls of political liberty, observes Prof. William Ebenstein, an eminent professor of politics, “lies at the basis of the critique of capitalism.” He elaborates, “Whereas in a democracy political policies are arrived at through a process of consent that begins at the bottom and ends at the top, in corporate business economic policies are made from the top to the bottom.”

And this is what handicapped Philippine democracy — from the start, it was a “capitalist democracy.”

The dogma of laissez faire created a political situation that violated the canons of democracy. The owners of capital wielded powers so far-reaching — over their employees, over the public — without being accountable to the community, without being responsible to those whose fate they determined with their vital economic and political decisions. They were the country’s plutocrats (they have been called “oligarchs,” which is a misnomer) — and plutocrats of the worst kind.

It is true that since the establishment of the Third Republic in 1946, there has been a substantial shift from pure free enterprise or laissez faire economy to a more government-regulated one. Currency controls were imposed in 1949, followed by import and export restrictions. Social security was established during the mid-fifties. Increasingly, with the establishment of the National Economic Council, central economic planning by government came to thefore.

During the late sixties and early seventies, the concept of absolute property rights began to give way to a more socialist concept of property. This concept — that property is a mere trust — even found a place in the 1973 Constitution.

But we are still a long way from freeing our economy from the tentacles of capitalism. Government financing institutions are still spawning overnight millionaires, just as they have done over the last five decades. I filed a bill in the Senate to limit government financing only to open corporations whose stocks are freely traded in the market. Closed family corporations, under my bill, would have to resort to private financing. It got nowhere.

Public mistrust in government-run businesses and industries continues to grow. And it is not surprising, because government planning is left to second- and third-rate minds who eventually penalize the whole economy with their half-baked economic concepts. Mediocrity is so prevalent in government because the better trained and experienced economic planners are pirated by private business after the government has spent much time and money on their education.

If central economic planning is to succeed, the private sector, instead of pirating government brains, must volunteer the services of their experts to the central planning agency. Only thus may the country operate as a national corporation dedicated to the welfare of all.

If I have taken great pains to elaborate on my personal ideology, it is because it grieves me profoundly to be carelessly branded a communist by those who never bothered to understand the difference between communism and Christian socialism. To them, socialism and communism are synonymous — a throwback to the McCarthyism of the early fifties in America. Unhappily, they are now the custodians of the New Morality.”