Dr. Walden Bello, an academic and an activist
Bij de verkiezingen in mei 2022 werd de nieuwe president van de Filipijnen Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, zoon van oud-dictator Ferdinand Marcos, die het land met ijzeren hand regeerde tussen 1965 en 1986. De nieuwe vicepresident werd Sara Duterte, dochter van de vorige president Rodrigo Duterte, die tijdens zijn bewind een brutale ‘war on drugs’ had ontketend met duizenden buitengerechtelijke executies tot gevolg.
Een maand nadat de nieuwe president en vicepresident de eed hadden afgelegd, werd academicus en kandidaat-vicepresident van de oppositie, Walden Bello, gearresteerd. Walden Bello werd beschuldigd van eerroof door een nauwe medewerkster van Sara Duterte. Die medewerkster was aanwezig op een strandfeestje in november 2021 waar de politie binnenviel en voor 1,5 miljoen peso (26.000 euro) aan drugs in beslag nam. Walden Bello had er een debat over willen voeren op Facebook, maar belandde in de cel en kreeg meteen een rechtszaak aan z’n broek. Het mag duidelijk zijn, wie het voor het zeggen heeft.
Het kritische middenveld wordt de mond gesnoerd. Antropoloog Ven de la Cruz herinnert zich Walden Bello toen hij in de jaren tachtig filosofiestudent was in Baguio City (Filipijnen) en schetst zijn achtergrond.
Dr. Walden Bello (born in 1945) was arrested in August on trumped-up libel and cyber libel charges brought against him by a political aide of Sara Duterte, daughter of the former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and now the elected Vice President.
This aide was involved in a beach party where a police drug raid was conducted. In the last May presidential elections, Bello was the vice-presidential candidate of a coalition of progressive political forces under the twin political parties, Lakas ng Masa (‘People’s Power’) and Laban ng Masa (‘People’s Struggle’).
In a lead-up to the elections, he criticized Sara Duterte’s support for her father’s Drug War in the Philippines, which had resulted in thousands of deaths and disappearances of suspected drug users and couriers, without the benefit of fair hearing and trial.
I first knew about Dr. Walden Bello when I was a young philosophy student in Baguio City, Philippines. His book, ‘Development Debacle: The World Bank in the Philippines’ (1982), was an eye-opener. It gave me an alternative view of politics and economics in my country and the role of US-led institutions, like the World Bank, played in supporting and perpetuating the brutal political regime of Ferdinand Marcos (president between 1965 and 1986), the father of the current Philippine President.
The World Bank gave the Philippine massive amount of high-interest loans to finance so-called rural development programs which were mainly infrastructure projects primarily meant for counter-insurgency purposes.
Bello and his co-writers exposed the duplicity of the World Bank in presenting itself as an apolitical funding institution when it was in fact complicit in the repression of the Filipino rural and urban poor by supporting the repressive policies of the first Marcos regime, an authoritarian leader favorable to US interest in South-East Asia.
Part of the loans was diverted to finance prestige projects to prop up the Bagong Lipunan (‘New Society’), the social face of the government. Another part was to be used to finance the armed and police forces to counter legitimate voices of protest and insurgency forces.
Another book of Bello, ‘Logistics of Repression: US Military and Economic Aid to the Marcos Dictatorship’ (1978), had been circulating in clandestine pamphlet form because his name started appearing or was rumored to be under the censored list of banned authors by the martial law government. Martial law was declared in September 1973.
Bello was adept in anticipating economic debacles and explaining the foundational weaknesses of so-called ‘miracle economies’.
He wrote the book ‘Dragons in Distress: Asia’s Miracle Economies in Crisis’ in 1990, six years before the Asian financial crisis starting in 1997 and causing massive currency devaluations and capital flight in Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, and Indonesia.
He is known worldwide for his critique of corporate globalization. He received in 2003 the Right Livelihood Award (the alternative Nobel Prize) for seeking alternative to the destructive ways of corporate globalization. He served as member of the Philippine parliament from 2007 until 2016 defending the rights of laborers and the poor.
Ven de la Cruz