The Philippine government is divided into three coequal branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The executive branch consists of the President and the cabinet, whose main task is to administer the functions of government. The legislative branch, which enacts laws, consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judiciary, the branch that ensures administration of justice, consists of a system of courts, the highest of which is the Supreme Court.
Philippine democratic tradition, established under the First Philippine Republic and strengthened under American rule, was interrupted with the imposition of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. Under the Marcos regime, trade remained liberalized but consolidated among government-favored oligarchs. However, this system was toppled 14 years later in 1986 by a bloodless “People Power” revolt led by several government officials and tens of thousands of supporters. Corazon C. Aquino was installed as President and authentic democratic rule was restored.
People Power inspired nonviolent movements for democracy in Burma, South Africa, Poland, and Chile. Cory Aquino is best remembered for reestablishing democratic institutions and presiding over the peaceful transfer of power to her successor. For her determination and courage in leading a democratic revolution without bloodshed, Cory Aquino received international awards such as the Time Magazine’s Woman of the Year, the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, the United Nations Silver Medal, the Canadian International Prize for Freedom, the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, and the International Leadership Living Legacy Award from the Women’s International Center.
Fundamental economic reforms were undertaken by the administration of President Fidel Ramos. The government allowed private sector participation in sectors previously closed to private investors such as power generation, road/toll road development, telecommunications, and transportation infrastructure through the BOT scheme and its variants. It also broke down monopolies, cartels, and barriers-to-trade such as tariffs. In a similar manner, the government significantly reduced state intervention in the market and encouraged private sector participation in economic and social development, fostering the development of labor-intensive industries.
President Joseph Ejercito Estrada assumed the presidency with the avowed intention of addressing the plight of the disadvantaged sectors of society and building upon the economic reforms began by Ramos. Estrada’s term of office was cut short by mass protests over alleged corruption, which led to the withdrawal of support by members of his cabinet and the military and police leadership.
The second People Power revolt in January 2001 was lauded by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Foundation, which presented the Nobel Peace Prize Award to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, installed as the country’s 14th president in place of Estrada, in ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the first People Power.
Pierre Marchand of France, head of the Foundation, praised Filipinos for once more inspiring the world. The Philippines is the first country to receive this citation for demonstrating that a peaceful revolt can lead a smooth transition of power.
On a similar note, an annual training exercise involving US troops, training and advising their Philippine counterparts to fight terrorism is held in the small island of Basilan, Mindanao, which is 650 miles away or two hours flight and an hour boat ride from Metro Manila.