It is, of course, unequivocally true that the change in the Philippines is welcome. I do not think anybody in this country has doubts about that. At a minimalist state, one could remember the covers of In Dublin magazine during the Seanad elections which said that anything was better than a certain party leader. There is no doubt but that anything would have been better than the corrupt oppressive, murderous regime that existed in the Philippines. Therefore, the change is very welcome. The manner of achievement of change in the Philippines is welcome. As one with an attempted justification for non-violence as a method of achieving fundamental social change, it was very satisfying to see some sort of change achieved by nonviolent means. The capacity of ordinary people to resist the oppressive forces of a corrupt State was very well demonstrated as was the quality of leadership given by Cardinal Syn and other Church leaders in the Philippines subsequent to the appalling abuse of democracy that the Marcos regime perpetrated on the people of the Philippines.
Having welcomed what has been done, one is entitled to at least raise an eyebrow about the depth of the change in the Philippines because it is impossible to ignore the fact that the prime movers in the transition from the Marcos regime to the election of President Aquino were people who had an unsavoury record and, judging by what the international news media were reporting, a very personally gratifying record under President Marcos. There was considerable amount of allegations in the media that Mr. Enriles had done extremely well out of the Marcos years and that his belated conversion to democracy may have had far more to do with self-interest than it had to do with the establishment of a very noble and idealistic and altruistic democracy in the Philippines. Similarly, the Army Leader, General Ramos, who supported him may well have had something more on his mind than the liberation of the people of the Philippines from oppression and injustice.
Nevertheless, their actions did bring about a considerable perception of liberation in the short term and a sense of freedom and a freedom of expression which is apparently quite obvious in terms of the freedom of the press and the freedom of people to express different views and so on in the Philippines at present. All of that is very welcome from the point of view of the ordinary people of the Philippines who suffered far too much from various forms of arbitrary State power.
I have some reservations about much of what we are saying regarding the forces of democracy in the Philippines. I have some reservations as to whether, given the vital interests that the western powers, in particular the United States, have in the Philippines whether the final destiny of the Philippines is going to be left in the hands of the Filipino people irrespective of what their free choices may be. I also have some reservations as to whether, given the enormous level of poverty and of injustice and inequality in the country and also the general level of poverty collectively — if I can use the word; I do not intend to give the meaning to it that the word "collectively" might imply — the normal process of parliamentary democracy, as we understand it, can of itself without some sort of external guarantees really succeed. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the perceptions of most Filipinos about their own State and their own conditions have been dramatically transformed by what has happened in recent months. More than anything else, more than my ideology or anybody's else's ideology, the feelings of ordinary people that they are free in a way that they have not been for 20 years is to be welcomed unequivocally, irrespective of the circumstances and some of the dubious circumstances under which it was achieved.
In terms of the future development of the Philippines and the Filipino people the history of the involvement of the United States in the Philippines in the last 20 years does not encourage one to believe that there will be a vast measure of freedom conceded. One thing which was noticeable during the interregnum, during the period of uncertainty coming up to the election and subsequent to it, was the very clear acceptance by every international commentator whose words I had a chance to either read or hear that the United States would not tolerate. under any circumstances, a Government in the Philippines which would not allow US bases in the Philippines. Given that the United States claim to be the world's number one champion of democracy, the quite clear and unequivocal hints that were coming from their State Department that the United States would take whatever means were necessary to preserve its bases in the Philippines, I would not be too optimistic about the degree of freedom of choice which the people of the Philippines will be allowed to have about matters which they regard as central to their own sovereignty and destiny and particularly with the question of the military bases and the less than savoury sociological and social impact that the presence of large numbers of footloose and lonely, to put it mildly, military personnel may have on the people of the Philippines and the huge incidence of activity such as prostitution in the immediate vicinity of large military bases.
The people of the Philippines may well feel that they have had enough of American military bases, that the American military bases represent the possibility of intervention in the event of an unsatisfactory or unacceptable Government being elected in the future in the Philippines or in the case of some fundamental attempt to change the direction of Phillipines for eign policy. I have to say at this stage that I have no reason to believe that the present administration in the United States has any willingness or any commitment to allow any form of democracy other than a form of democracy that happens to agree with itself which, of course, is not democracy at all. If you are not prepared to tolerate a democracy which produces the opposite of what you wish yourself, then you do not really have any tolerance for democracy at all.
Therefore, in terms of the future of the Philippines it is very important that any attempt by either major superpower to use pressures of any kind, whether they be the obvious military ones or the less obvious forms of pressure through the international lending agencies, either the international banks or the so called development agencies to influence the course of Philippines internal or foreign policy, whether it be internal economic policy or external foreign policy, should be watched with considerable scepticism by our Government and, indeed, by the countries of the European Community who have, on occasions at least, shown an admirable independence from the United States in terms of their attitudes and decisions. To give them credit, our Government and this present Government in particular, have contributed on some occasions at least to an independence of thinking on the part of the EC that other EC Governments would not have been attached to or endeared by.
I have memories of the shock and horror on the faces of American politicians, diplomats and academics at a conference in Cork when our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Barry, articulated the EC view on Central America. I must say that, whatever my criticisms on occasions, that attitude is to be welcomed. I hope a similar independence of view will characterise our attitude to what is happening in the Philippines in the future.
There are enormous problems in the Philippines. The trouble with the country to the extent to which my limited understanding extends is that to change the structural injustice in the Philippines will mean the Government taking on some of the forces which actually contributed to the overthrow of the Marcos regime, in particular the structure of land ownership, the structure of business ownership and trade union rights, three issues that need to be developed and need to be extended upon. Whether they are reconcilable with the perceived self-interest of the community and the business community and the propertied community, which supported change out of frustration with President Marcos and in fairness to them probably out of an honest commitment to at least some form of free democracy, is, to say the least, a very large question.
I will look with great interest and, indeed, with some apprehension at the form that the new Constitution, currently being drafted, takes. I will look in particular at commitments that may spring from that in the area of land reform and in the area of the future foreign policy and the future status that the country gives itself in terms of the superpower rivalry. I wonder will the Filipino people really be free to decide what they want in a constitution or will there be the threat in the background all the time of intervention by the armed forces or by the armed forces in alliance with vested interests? What most of us worry about is whether, if this revolution was brought about by those who used to give unquestioning loyalty to President Marcos, they can now really sacrifice the gains they personally made, in many cases under the Marcos regime, in the interest of the people they claim to serve.
There is a considerable amount of evidence at this stage that both of the super powers, one given to loud speeches about democracy and the other given to loud speeches about socialism, are both demonstrably capable of actions which give the lie to what they claim to represent in both cases. In this case the United States have a reasonably good record at this stage of intervention where democratically elected governments or, obviously, popular governments do things which are recognised or reckoned to threaten the self interest of the United States. Chile being the most obvious, the most painful and the most ruthless example of a deliberate campaign by the so-called champions of freedom to destroy democratic freedom in the interest of their own economic and political interests. The history of Guatemala in the fifties and the current extraordinary suffering of the people of Nicaragua underline what I am saying.
I must say that my suspicions about the depth of conversion of the present United States administration to the principles of democracy and freedom of speech and habeas corpus are called into question by their unflinching support for the regime in South Korea in particular which is anything but a model of democracy or freedom or civil rights or anything like that. Therefore, despite the willingness of the United States which is the patron in many ways of change in the Philippines and which none of us doubts had a considerable if not overwhelming influence on those who finally decided to deal with President Marcos, we must ask whether they are really committed to democracy or to stability in the Philippines which may not coincide in the short term with democracy and particularly with a stability which preserves US interests.
The evidence from Chile, from South Africa, or from South Korea is that the United States Government does not necessarily see democracy, no matter how much its rhetoric may suggest the opposite, as being reconcilable with their own interests. If their own interests are threatened it seems to me that they are just as willing as the Soviet Union is willing to sacrifice socialism, to sacrifice democracy to defend the interests of the United States.
That leads me on to what is probably the biggest problem that a country like the Philippines faces, though it is not alone in this, and that is the problem of the enormous indebtedness that that country and most Third World countries now suffer from. The capacity of large western countries like the United States to exercise enormous leverage over internal economic policy, internal social policy and, clearly, foreign policy as well, is enormous. It is true at this stage that the Third World countries generally, are now paying more back to the wealthy nations in interest and debt repayment than they are actually receiving in aid so that year to year we are actually net beneficiaries from the state of the Third World because of that scale of indebtedness. I should say they should be paying it back. I look forward with some enthusiasm to the possibility of a debtors' cartel which says that we will not pay but in the short term it seems to me that the scale of repayments is enormous.
I worry, therefore, that no matter what the rhetoric may be or no matter what the kind words may be, that international indebtedness alone and the sort of reactionary social and economic policies that international bankers and the world bank and the international monetary fund demand will undermine whatever democratic gains have been made. I remain convinced that the sort of demands made on Third World countries in terms of cut backs in public expendiure, increases in prices, reduction of real wages are fundamentally inimical to democracy and will, therefore, undermine it. It is interesting, therefore, that the countries very often in Third World areas that are regarded as models of economic development, all have one thing in common and that is that they are not democracies. Those who champion the free market and democracy as the model for development would really want to think a bit further about the way international lending agencies threaten contries like the Philippines and threaten their democracy by the pursuit of what is as blindly an ideological position as people like myself are often accused of taking. I wish the people and the Government of the Philippines well. I hope that they are allowed to develop as they see fit in their own way at their own pace without the threats implicit or explicit of external intervention in one form or another.