222. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Letter from Ambassador Byroade

Ambassador Byroade has sent you a personal assessment of the situation in the Philippines and of the proper role for U.S. policy (Tab B).2 This was the assessment he promised when he saw you in San Clemente last August. (I recently sent you his separate, highly sensitive, letter assessing President Marcos in personal terms.)3

Byroade refers to the convulsion of anti-Marcos feeling which swept Manila in January and he observes that it is still impossible to say with confidence what caused that movement and what it may portend for the direction of Philippine development. He nevertheless ventures some estimates as to what happened then, what courses are open to Marcos now, and what the U.S. role should be now and in the future.

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The riots against President Marcos. Byroade sees these as arising from the economic/financial crisis, from the psychological letdown following the election, from the revulsion against Marcos’ manipulation of the elections, and from the long overdue outbreak of student political activism. At least as important, factions of the local Establishment turned against Marcos out of personal animosity and from fear of his growing power reflected in his election victory. Through their control of information media, these factions did an incredible hatchet job on Marcos’ reputation within a matter of weeks.

(Byroade touches only lightly on another cause which was prominent in the Embassy’s reporting at the time: in many normally conservative quarters including the Church, there has developed a deep and widespread frustration and disillusionment against the Philippine political system and its venality.)

The choices before Marcos. Marcos could embark on one of three broad courses:

  • —Assume leadership of the forces calling for fundamental but non-violent change, and challenge the Establishment.
  • —Continue the present lines of Philippine politics, playing off one group against the other, using the carrot and the stick, and avoiding any fundamental challenge to the system.
  • —Retreat to a defensive position relying upon the military and upon the more conservative elements in society.

Marcos does not seem to have decided which course he will take, and he may attempt to temporize throughout his second term. With the best will in the world, he might well find it impossible to pursue the first course above. The Establishment is very powerful, and resistances to change would be powerful. Marcos might be murdered if he attempted to challenge the system, and in any case he would not carry Congress.

The U.S. role. Byroade continues to think that we should take the course that you have sketched out: to modernize our relationship and put it on a “most favored nation” basis. He notes that we are moving ahead to begin negotiations on the major areas of our relationship.

He predicts, however, that we should not expect a dramatic improvement from our efforts, and he observes that our problems are most acute in renegotiating the Bases Agreement and Laurel–Langley Economic Agreements. He notes the following problems:

  • —Filipinos really do not realize that they are getting most–favored-nation or better treatment in many areas. As an example he points out that our military criminal jurisdiction agreement is in fact as favorable as our NATO or Japan formulas, but that most other countries almost invariably grant us waivers of jurisdiction in criminal cases, whereas the Philippines almost never do. Marcos himself was astonished when Byroade cited the comparative statistics on waiver requests to him.
  • —The Philippines will pose exaggerated demands which we will not be able to meet.
  • —Negotiations will proceed in a “Chautauqua” atmosphere which makes it doubly difficult to come to terms.

Byroade recommends nevertheless that we go ahead with due caution on the negotiations, and he recommends that we push ahead with economic negotiations without waiting for generalized preferences to LDCs under GATT. He believes that we should be prepared to give the Filipinos something in the way of continued preferences, while we protect the legitimate interests of American business in the Philippines. He suggests that we consider simultaneously negotiating a Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty. (We have already urged State to develop a negotiating scenario for the economic negotiations.)

For the longer term, Byroade sees some hope. He says that all the Philippines needs is “good government and birth control.” He notes that there are powerful forces beginning to work toward an improvement in political morality, and that the Establishment is jittery and less inclined than heretofore to play “politics as usual.”

Ambassador Byroade urges that we provide quiet advice to move the Philippines towards correcting its own problems, but he also recommends more use of international advice through the IMF, the World Bank, etc. He urges also that we bring the Japanese into the exercise. He sees this as the way to move steadily away from our strictly bilateral “special relationships.”

I have sent an acknowledgement to Ambassador Byroade on his other letter on President Marcos. I have attached (Tab A) a note from you to Byroade, in case you wish to acknowledge this one.4 Byroade has done an outstanding job in Manila. He has gotten across to the Philippine leadership that we are moving toward a new relationship, that we plan to treat the Philippines as an equal, but that we will no longer tolerate the Filipinos treating us as a whipping boy yet at the same time expect us to be particularly understanding and responsible toward them. (On at least two occasions, Byroade has stopped cold schemes by Romulo to blame us publicly in disputes over military base and consular matters, by making it clear that such behavior is simply not acceptable.) He has gotten the same message across to our military and civilian personnel in the Philippines, and has stopped certain high-handed practices which annoyed the Filipinos. At the same time, he has established close personal relations with Philippine leaders. (He was Marcos’ personal guest on a recent Presidential boat tour of the [Page 473] outer islands.) I think that he would appreciate a message from you, and that he deserves one.


That you sign the letter to Ambassador Byroade at Tab A. The letter has been cleared with James Keogh.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 557, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. III. Secret. Sent for information and action.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. Document 219.
  4. Attached but not printed.