The Third World Studies Center @ 45

The Third World Studies Center (TWSC) came into existence on February 5, 1977, at the height of martial law imposed by the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. It was a subversive space for academics and activists who wanted to carry on critical inquiry into the social conditions that brought forth dictatorship and revolution. Forty-five years later, the TWSC still stands strong as a research center that doubts dogmas through pioneering social science research on complex social realities.
This year’s founding anniversary is particularly significant as the namesake and only son of dictator Marcos is poised to capture the presidency, which for twenty-one years was a preserve of their murderous and thieving family. The anniversary also coincides with the final year of an administration that has explicitly chosen violence and pseudo-militarist solutions as the chief means to deal with the nation’s ills, the current pandemic included. As the brutal present may lapse into a dreadful future with the Marcoses, the TWSC, as an institution with a decades-long track record of research, extension, and advocacy activities on countering dictatorship and fostering democracy, is ever more relevant today.
Hence, for its forty-fifth anniversary, TWSC commits itself again to its prime mission of bringing critical understanding on how people in unequal societies like the Philippines quest for freedom. And how, in that very quest, it is unable to let go of its dehumanizing and corrupt authoritarian tendencies. With this in mind, the TWSC then would like to share some of its recent research and resources to the academic community and the public in general.
Since its fortieth anniversary, the Center has been making strides to make various resources freely accessible, beyond the open-access publications it has been releasing online since the early 2000s, as well as the video recordings of its various training and advocacy programs and the video documentaries it co-produced, which can be viewed at the Center’s YouTube channel. These include project-specific websites that serve as online repositories of papers, data, and media productions.
In 2018, the Center put up the website “The Mass Transit System in Metro Manila: From Tranvia to MRT, 1879-2014.” Besides interview recordings, maps, and written research outputs, the website also features a page dedicated to the historical documentary Tranvia: Ang Mga Riles sa Kamaynilaan. Other outputs of the program, which concluded in 2019, will be released within 2022.
In February 2020, before the start of pandemic lockdowns in the Philippines, the TWSC launched the website “Violence, Human Rights, and Democracy in the Philippines.” The website functions as a portal to the various outputs of the project, from published articles to infographics tracking the deaths in President Duterte’s drug war—regularly released via the project’s social media accounts since April 2021. Of late, it also serves as the venue of an online art exhibit, “The Drug War’s Visual Regime,” showcasing various artistic representations and interpretations of the current brutal anti-drug campaign. An open-access book compiling the project’s case studies will also be available for download in the website after the project concludes within this year.
In between the launch of these two sites, TWSC has been putting out resources related to its Marcos Regime Research program. A temporary online compilation of links to the program’s outputs is at an Iskomunidad page since March 2021. Among these are articles published in online media platforms, primarily Vera Files, that are sometimes accompanied by previously unpublished materials on the Marcoses and their rule, and multimedia productions intended to counter lies in favor of the Marcoses, which TWSC has been releasing via the social media pages bearing the name “Did a Marcos Lie Today?” since September 2018. In September 2020, the Center also made publicly accessible, via its blog, the complete transcripts of the oral history interviews conducted for the project “Economic Policymaking and the Philippine Development Experience, 1960-1985: An Oral History,” which allows public scrutiny of the (sometimes contradictory) claims of the Marcos-era technocrats. A book on how the Marcoses lied their way back to power is also forthcoming in time for the fiftieth anniversary of martial law in September.
For those making decisions on how to appraise political actors, especially those who view authoritarianism favorably; for those wanting to have a critical understanding of our current crises; and for those who want to formulate empirically based solutions to our perennial social and political problems: as the TWSC endures, it will continue to equip the scholars and the public with free and accessible knowledge resources drawn from the meticulous work of its staff and its tradition of critical research.