Restitution Needed for U.S.-Philippine History

By Drinan, Robert F. | National Catholic Reporter, November 5, 1999 | Go to article overview

Restitution Needed for U.S.-Philippine History


Drinan, Robert F., National Catholic Reporter


A recent memorial Mass offered in Washington for the late Raul Manglapus, long-time opponent of President Marcos in the Philippines, brought back multiple memories of how the United States has treated the gentle people of that country, which from 1898 to 1946 was the "colony" of the United States.

I became acquainted with Manglapus during his 13 years of exile in the black days of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, a man Manglapus failed to defeat in a bid for the presidency. My most vivid memory of Raul is of participating in a rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House when Marcos was being feted by President Reagan. Raul Manglapus introduced me at the rally as a friend of the Filipino people. I encouraged the 75 friends of the Philippines, mostly exiles, to persevere in their quest for a return to democracy and human rights in their beloved motherland. I recalled my affection for the Ateneo, the prestigious Jesuit university in Manila that many of them had attended, including Manglapus.

The ouster of Marcos in 1986 came sometime after I had participated in a human rights mission to the Philippines. Four colleagues and I saw the corruption and the cruelty that had been endemic in the years when Marcos, popularly elected, turned his country into a nation scorned and distrusted by the whole world.

But the ferment of human rights and the murder of Benigo Aquino, popularly attributed to the Marcos regime, led to what Cardinal Jaime Sin called the "parliament of the streets."

The demise of Marcos made it possible for his nemesis, Raul Manglapus, to return and work for the objectives of the Movement for a Free Philippines, which he had established in America during the days of the dictatorship. One of Raul's most successful efforts was the removal of the United States from its long-held Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Naval Base. Finally the United States, after 100 years of the usurpation of vast tracts of land in the Philippines was forced to yield the land to its owners.

Americans do not like to be reminded of what it did to its first "colony," "possession" or "protectorate." We were taught in grade school to rejoice that Admiral George Dewey on May 1, 1898, sunk the Spanish fleet in the Bay of Manila and seized the islands that Spain had exploited for over 300 years.

Did the United States ever apologize to the people of the Philippines for what America did to them during the years of occupation? …

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