THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics Election Lexicon Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane All these from i’s special election issue Order your copy now!
THE LIGHTER SIDE
Making (Non)Sense of Politics
Quickie Quiz for the Politically Insane
All these from i’s special election issue
Order your copy now!
T H E C A M P A I G N — WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM (U.S.) FRIENDS
AMERICAN involvement in Philippine elections by way of dispensing advice (and raising funds) of course predates Napolitan’s 1969 stint. But the U.S. experts involved in campaigns previous to that were not private political consultants. They were operatives of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and included the likes of Ed Lansdale, who prodded Ramon Magsaysay to run against President Elpidio Quirino in the 1953 race. Quirino’s administration was perceived as corrupt, therefore giving fodder to the burgeoning rebel movement of the Huks (Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan). Washington considered Magsaysay, who was then the defense secretary, as one of its own, as well as someone who could contain, if not control, the Huks.
According to Bonner’s account, CIA director Allen Dulles offered the then colonel $5 million for the Magsaysay campaign. But Lansdale said he needed only $1 million, which was delivered to him in cash in a suitcase. The funds from Washington were augmented by business “donations” from U.S. corporations in the Philippines, such as the local Coca-Cola franchise.
“The CIA ran Magsaysay’s campaign as if the agency were the Republican or Democratic National Committee and he were its man for the White House,” Bonner writes. The CIA, he asserts, even drugged President Quirino’s drinks before he was to give a speech so that he would appear incoherent.
Assisting Lansdale in Magsaysay’s campaign were David Sternberg, a paraplegic who once shot an intruder “squarely in the forehead,” and New York lawyer Gabriel Kaplan who set up the Committee for Free Asia, which later became The Asia Foundation. Kaplan also set up the National Movement for Free Elections or Namfrel to make sure Magsaysay would not be cheated of the votes cast for him. Magsaysay, however, would not complete his term, perishing in a plane crash
Carlos P. Garcia, who succeeded Magsaysay, proved to be not to the CIA’s liking — he soon launched a “Filipino First” policy that encouraged an economic monopoly by Filipinos and practically shut out foreigners. Washington wanted “another Magsaysay,” and so the CIA’s Asia station chief, Joseph B. Smith, was dispatched to Manila to scout for one. He arrived in the country in 1958, posing as a civilian air force employee. One of the first things Smith did was put together a six-man senatorial slate in the 1959 elections, to which he funneled $200,000. Of this, $50,000 went to Diosdado Macapagal.
In 1961, the CIA decided to support Macapagal’s candidacy for president, pouring in a meager $200,000 but succeeding in getting U.S. businessman Harry Stonehill, a friend of the Garcias, to contribute P3 million. Of this, P1 million was used to convince actor Rogelio de la Rosa to give up his own presidential bid while the rest went to bankroll Macapagal’s campaign. Macapagal later gave Smith an autographed photograph acknowledging “gratitude for his services.”
Explaining the CIA’s involvement in the elections, Smith would later tell U.S. writer Stanley Karnow: “It was the American century, and we Americans had been chosen to do good in the world. We had a unique relationship with the Filipinos, special obligations toward them. The CIA was on the side of the angels, there’s no doubt about it. We hoped to bring a political, economic, and social revolution to the Philippines, break up the old oligarchy and promote genuine democracy.”
WASHINGTON decided to stay neutral in the Philippine elections in 1965, supposedly on the request of Philippine military and intelligence officials who had grown disenchanted with Macapagal. But the elections were by no means free of U.S. presence. According to Bonner, the United States probably contributed to both the Macapagal and Marcos camps. Both candidates also released biographies that were written by U.S. authors-Quintin Reynolds and Geoffrey Bocca for Macapagal the Incorruptible, and Hartzell Spence for Marcos’s For Every Tear a Victory.
Macapagal also retained the services of pollsters George Cohen, a stateless person of Russian origin, and Donald Muntz of Robot Statistics, one of the earliest polling firms to set up shop in the Philippines. Hired as Macapagal’s private pollster, Cohen withheld disclosure of the poll results showing Marcos leading Macapagal.
In the twilight year of his presidency, an increasingly unpopular Marcos hired Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, then a young public relations firm that had made a name for itself by helping sweep Ronald Reagan to the Oval Office. Bonner writes that Paul Manafort Jr., who had worked in the Ford White House, first checked with the Reagan administration before taking on the Marcos account. (Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly would later work for the 1988 Bush-Quayle campaign. The firm’s other clients included drug-connected Bahamian Prime Minister Oscar Pindling, a South African-supported Angolan rebel group led by CIA asset Jonas Savimbi, as well as cigarette giant Philip Morris.)
Marcos had called for snap presidential elections that pitted him against Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino, widow of the assassinated opposition leader Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr. Among the services Manafort rendered the strongman was to project Cory Aquino as being soft on communism and intent on throwing out the U.S. military facilities once she was elected into office. He also arranged for three U.S. journalists to go to the Philippines and paint a not-so-pretty picture of the opposition. In addition, his firm was able to veto names to be included in the State Department’s proposed list of members of the observer team for the Philippine elections. To ensure a “safe” team, it even had its own nominees included in it. For all these, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly received $950,000.
It would not be long, however, before the Aquino camp hired its own U.S. consultants. By then, the election was no longer just a battle for the hearts and minds of Filipino voters, but also a battle for support of the White House and the U.S. Congress.
It was Robert Trent Jones Jr., a golf course designer and a friend of the Aquinos, who tapped DH Sawyer and Associates for the Cory campaign. The firm, which was recommended by Michael Armacost, the No. 3 man in the State Department, waived its normal fee, which would have been about $250,000, says Bonner.
But there were other Americans involved in the Aquino campaign. Among those identified by Bonner are William Overholt, the Bankers Trust vice president based in Hong Kong, who served as an adviser to Aquino’s campaign policy committee, and journalist Mark Malloch Brown, who directed Aquino’s media campaign and prepared her for media encounters by playing the role of the nasty reporter. There was also New York-based public relations consultant John Scanlon, who did the lobbying with the media in the United States, including big names like Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather.
After Aquino was installed in office, her government hired Fil-American Aimee Laurel, who used to be associated for DH Sawyer and Associates but had since put up her own public relations firm, to handle the publicity of her trip to the United States. Laurel would also be hired later by Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada when they had their respective turns at the presidency.
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