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Fighting from a Distance

Fighting from a Distance: How Filipino Exiles Toppled a Dictator

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Fighting from a Distance
    Book Description:

    In this book, Jose V. Fuentecilla describes how Filipino exiles and immigrants in the United States played a crucial role in the grassroots revolution that overthrew the fourteen-year dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in 1986. A member of one of the major U.S.-based anti-Marcos movements, Fuentecilla tells the story of how small groups of Filipino exiles--short on resources and shunned by some of their compatriots--overcame fear, apathy, and personal differences to form opposition organizations after Marcos' imposition of martial law and learned to lobby the U.S. government during the Cold War. The first full-length book to detail the history of U.S.-based opposition to the Marcos regime, Fighting From a Distance provides valuable lessons on how to persevere in fighting a well-entrenched opponent.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09509-2
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The First Exiles: Escaping from the Homeland
    (pp. 1-8)

    On September 22, 1972, a nationwide dragnet swept up hundreds of Filipinos deemed hostile to the sudden imposition of martial law that day. They included politicians, journalists, civil rights activists, lawyers, and suspected members of the Communist-leaning insurgent New People’s Army. In the days to come, more people would be apprehended and moved to detention centers. President Marcos declared that this drastic action was necessary because these sectors had all threatened to overthrow the government. Months earlier, escalating street protests, riots, and strikes had been characterized as a plot to destabilize the government. As early as August 24, Marcos had...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Rough Landings: Surviving the First Years
    (pp. 9-13)

    Manglapus’s family’s escape took seventeen days, a measure of the ordeal that would-be escapees faced. Martial law security forces were extra-vigilant regarding people with the stature and the means to pose problems for the Marcos regime. Hence, even family members and close associates of prominent activists felt that they were under surveillance, especially those who had evaded arrest by “going underground” locally or who had somehow made it out of the country.

    Escape routes out of the Philippine archipelago were either by air or by sea. Some people took what became known as “the back door”—island-hopping from Zamboanga province...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Into the Land of the Fearful: Dread and Apathy
    (pp. 14-20)

    Much of the print coverage of the U.S.-based anti-Marcos groups tended to spotlight prominent exile figures. Having found the freedom to speak out, to write for publication, to demonstrate, to organize openly—activities that could get their colleagues back home in trouble with the authorities—they plunged into furious rounds of organizing the resident Filipino population. They arrived as eyewitnesses, with personal experience of what martial law was like on the ground. It was not derived from the U.S. news correspondents or from the Philippine-controlled media or from secondhand accounts. They had assumed that their compatriots in the United States...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Big Divide: Differences Hindering Unity
    (pp. 21-26)

    Census studies of Filipino immigration to the U.S. usually describe three “waves” or influxes of arrivals, evoking an image of a relentless, unstoppable mass of immigrants rolling in from the horizon. Another vision conjures boatloads of people, soaking wet, struggling ashore. The first “wave,” in truth, came by ship. They were young men hired at the beginning of the twentieth century after the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain in 1898. As America’s first colony, the islands provided laborers to work the fields of Hawaii and California. In California, they harvested lettuce and asparagus. Nonagricultural workers performed domestic or...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Martial Law and Beyond: How the Dictator Usurped Power
    (pp. 27-31)

    At his inaugural address as the sixth president of the Philippine Republic on December 30, 1965, at Luneta Park in Manila, Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed: “We must rise from the depths of ignominy and failure. Our government is gripped in the iron hand of venality, its treasury is barren, its resources are wasted, its civil service is slothful and indifferent, its armed forces demoralized and its councils sterile.” His election, he stated, “is a new mandate of leadership. It is … a mandate not merely for change. It is a mandate for greatness … Come then, let us march together towards...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Early Organizing: Conflicting Opposition Groups
    (pp. 32-43)

    The exile opposition found itself reacting to Marcos’s every move rather than taking the offensive. Manila’s pro-government newspapers labeled the groups as feeble as their Philippine counterparts, thundering against farcical referendum and sham election exercises—to no avail. When the exiles first began to mount an opposition front, they had no idea that Marcos’s staying power would test their endurance and commitment. Within a year after the September 1972 imposition of martial law, enough members and a core of leaders got together to formally create identifiable groups—the MFP was established at a convention in Washington, D.C., on September 22,...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Learning How to Lobby: How the United States Fought the Exiles
    (pp. 44-53)

    As soon as the MFP had established its structure, it launched its first lobbying campaign, against the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973. Each year a bill to allocate and authorize funding for foreign assistance projects underwent an approval process in the two chambers of the U.S. Congress. Foreign Relations subcommittees and House and Senate committees got the first crack at authorizing, then appropriating aid monies for specific countries. The United States had vital military interests in the Philippines. The Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base on Luzon Island were its largest facilities in the Pacific. They played an...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Down with Rhetoric! Turning to Radical Means
    (pp. 54-65)

    At the seventh MFP convention in San Mateo, California, on September 5, 1979, the members took stock of their work. The year before, some encouraging milestones had been achieved—a highly talented escapee had joined the movement; there had been an appearance and testimony before a House committee; contacts had been established with Muslim opponents of the government in the southern island of Mindanao.

    A new American president, Jimmy Carter, had taken office in 1977. At a press conference on November 16, 1977, he declared, “I think the allocation of foreign aid and the normal friendship of our country would...

  12. CHAPTER 9 The War of Words: Winning Hearts and Minds
    (pp. 66-74)

    To sustain momentum, the MFP scheduled annual conventions beginning in 1974. For symbolic purposes, they were held in September to mark the anniversaries of the declaration of martial law and the founding of the organization. At these conventions, the members refined their lobbying and organizing techniques and mapped out new projects. For instance, the 1974 Chicago convention launched the anti-torture campaign and a project to set up an offshore radio transmitter.

    Yearly conventions also kept the other groups alive. At the KDP’s fifth annual conference in 1978, one hundred activists gathered at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C....

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER 10 Reviving the Opposition: Arrival of an Exile Hero
    (pp. 75-86)

    In the New York City borough of Queens, in the Hollis neighborhood, there is a triangular cement island on a street at 184th Place, south of Hillside Avenue. On one side of the triangle is a hair salon; on the opposite side is a pharmacy. Along this street are rows of modest two-story wooden homes, similar in appearance, with small front lawns fenced with iron grilles. At one end of the triangle, atop two tall poles, Philippine and American flags flutter in the wind. Between them is a granite tombstonelike marker with an inscription reading:

    Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.


  15. CHAPTER 11 Reviewing the Decade: Adding Up the Losses and Wins
    (pp. 87-90)

    When MFP delegates assembled for a three-day conference in Illinois beginning on September 2, 1983, they chose a site owned by a religious order, the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), located in the Chicago suburb of Techny. The SVD has sent hundreds of missionaries overseas since 1909. The conference rooms were designed to showcase some of the countries where they were assigned. There was, for example, a Philippine room. One of the SVD’s Filipino missionaries, Fr. Edicio de la Torre, had been in military detention in Manila for eight years, a political prisoner charged with rebellion by the Marcos...

  16. CHAPTER 12 “It’s Not All Greek to Me”: Bringing the Fight to the Homeland
    (pp. 91-100)

    Published photographs of Steven Elias Psinakis show him looking fierce and unsmiling, with a bearded Ayatollah Khomeini-like face and piercing eyes. Apart from Manglapus, Psinakis was the most frequently pictured member of the U.S.-based opposition in both Philippine and American media throughout the martial law years. One early photo shows him “exhausted, wearing rumpled but stylish traveling clothes,” standing in a San Francisco federal court on July 6, 1987, charged with conspiracy and interstate transportation of explosive materials. He had landed at the San Francisco International Airport after a flight from Manila and was arrested upon arrival. Robert Lopez, a...

  17. CHAPTER 13 A Man for Many Seasons: The Leader Who Led the Movement
    (pp. 101-110)

    The four-page FBI file on Manglapus, dated March 6, 1981, lists his physical attributes: “Sex: male; Nationality: Filipino; Date of birth: October 20, 1918; Height: approximately five feet, seven inches; Weight: approximately 140 pounds; Hair: black; Eyes: brown; Race: white; Residence: 6616 Melrose Drive, McLean, Virginia.” No one looking at him would see a white male; he was evidently and truly a brown Asian. A New York Times correspondent saw a “short, compact man.” In a newspaper photo of his arrival in Manila in 1986, right after the deposed Marcos had fled the country, the returning sixty-eight-year-old exile, welcomed as...

  18. Epilogue
    (pp. 111-118)

    The fourteen-year agony of Marcos’s rule ended with his hasty escape from Manila on February 26, 1986. The situation in the country when he left was as bad as or even worse than it had been when he took over the presidency in 1965. At his inaugural address he had spoken of a “venal government … a barren treasury … a slothful civil service … a demoralized armed forces.” Fourteen years into his martial law presidency, the country had gone downhill. According to the Food and Nutrition Institute of the Philippines, 70 percent of the population was suffering from malnutrition,...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 119-134)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 135-140)
  21. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 141-142)

    • APPENDIX A Movement for a Free Philippines Chapters and Chairpersons (as of 1979)
      (pp. 143-146)
    • APPENDIX B Report on a Successful Demonstration
      (pp. 147-149)
      Gary King
    • APPENDIX C Chronology of Events
      (pp. 150-154)
  23. Index
    (pp. 155-162)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-166)