321. Letter From Philippine President Marcos to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President:

I am gratified that you sent Vice-President Mondale on a state visit to the Philippines as your representative to meet with me on problems of mutual concern to our two countries. As you noted,2 we indeed moved the celebration of both Bataan Day and Corregidor Day so that the two occasions may be observed by us during Mr. Mondale’s visit. In this way, in accord with what I have referred to as the “universality of principles” in our relations, we had hoped to symbolize the desire of the Filipino people to achieve growth and progress alongside the United States on the basis of mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit.

I am writing this to you out of long-held sentiments of warmth, admiration and respect for the United States. These are feelings rooted in an American-inspired education and nourished by training in a juridical system derived largely from your country. They are feelings [Page 1047] sealed by the sacrifices personally shared with Americans who fought for the liberation of the Philippines in World War II.

Among Filipinos of my generation, positive reactions to the United States are commonplace. But what of subsequent generations? What of the millions of Filipinos for whom World War II and the beginning of independence are not even childhood remembrances? As the years pass can the same sympathy between our countries continue?

To sustain a legacy of that kind, it is not enough to dwell on the sentimentalities of the past. Here, as in the United States, people ask for evidence of the relevance of any relationship to contemporary needs and aspirations. As a consequence, the meaning of the U.S.-Philippine relationship is being subjected to tests, the most important of which at this time involves the status of the military bases. Everytime an incident occurs between American military personnel and a Filipino, the value of the bases is brought into question anew. To be sure, these bases can continue to serve our security interests. They will do so, however, only as long as they are accepted here and in the United States as mutually beneficial.

To be sure the principle of Philippine sovereignty over the base areas has already long since been recognized by both nations. However, in present circumstances, that is not enough. The arrangements which govern use of the bases must also reflect the principle. I will say in all candor that the protracted negotiations have yet to come to grips with this reality.

With regard to the political situation in the Philippines, I would note that when martial law was declared in 1972, it was recognized on all sides that the nation was in the throes of a political paralysis and on the verge of a complete collapse. The economy was at a standstill. Crime and corruption were rampant. The country was fragmented into a number of private armed encampments.

Under martial law, the highest priorities have been given to providing security for the Filipino against violence to his person and to expanding the livelihood of his family. Personal security and adequate sustenance are regarded widely here as the most basic of human rights. While much remains still to be done, much has already been done in the past half-decade to give meaning to these rights.

At the same time, we have not been unaware of the need to proceed with the development of political institutions to replace those which gave way in 1972. To that end, we have experimented with a revival of the ancient Barangay system of local government and we have held various national plebiscites. In early April there took place a nationwide election for the Batasang Pambansa or interim assembly. Contrary to some superficial analyses, that election was a significant step in a return to full popular participation in government. When the Batasang [Page 1048] Pambansa convenes shortly, it will contain elected representatives who generally support my administration and those who do not.

The political forms which emerge in this country in the years ahead are bound to reflect influences from the United States and other nations. However, we are determined that henceforth these influences shall no longer be merely skin transplants. We are determined that they shall be blended into our institutions together with what is indigenous to our traditions. We shall not be deflected from that resolve under any circumstances.

I have written you at length because it seems to me that the relationship between our two countries has entered a period of trial. Whatever the immediate difficulties, much that is constructive for the peoples of both nations can emerge from this interlude. If that is to be the case, however, it is essential that in our reactions to each other’s internal affairs we reflect a perceptive understanding of the prevailing situation and, in addition, that issues between the countries be faced and resolved without delay. I assure you, Mr. President, of my full cooperation in this respect even as I am confident that I can count on yours.

Mr. Mondale and I have met in a congenial, extensive and cordial discussion of the subjects mentioned in your letter. I am satisfied that our meeting covered ample ground, and that he will accordingly report to you our perspectives and perceptions on the base negotiations, on economic matters of mutual interest to us, and on the advancement of human rights.3

I am taking this opportunity to communicate to you directly my concern over another problem. This concerns the fact that the media and the bureaucracy in the United States may be unable at the present time to convey, particularly to decision makers in your country, the true situation in the Philippines. We are consequently anxious about the likelihood that our perceptions will be misapprehended not only in respect of human rights but also of the more delicate problem over the relationship of our two countries.

I sincerely hope, Mr. President, that Vice-President Mondale’s visit and our discussions would bring to our country’s relations with yours new dimensions and expectations.


Ferdinand E. Marcos
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 39, Philippines: 1978. No classification marking. Carter initialed at the top of the first page.
  2. See Document 317.
  3. See Document 129.