To save the Republic

To save the Republic

CFMR photo courtesy

The Philippines will mark, in different levels of memory, the signing or imposition of martial law on September 21, 1972, declared on radio and television beamed nationwide two days later by President Ferdinand Marcos from his Malacanang office.

That year is seen by critics as a year away from the time he could no longer succeed himself, given his second four-year term allowed by the 1935 Constitution, the same charter that gave the sitting president the constitutional authority to declare the emergency.

Critics have said Mr. Marcos declared martial law so he could prolong his stay in political power since the Constitution allowed only two terms – one for four years and re-election to another four years and then period.

What critics often, if not always, leave out is that the government at that time faced rampant and runaway violence and lawlessness in the metropolis and elsewhere.

The echoes of narratives from the end of the 20-year and two months in power of Mr. Marcos have tucked away that was the third time in the then 74-year history of this country such martial law was imposed nationwide to enable the sitting president to save the country from what he, based on intelligence reports, saw were threats to the nation.

Some historians have conveniently eliminated that martial law was necessary to save the Republic, as witness the imposition nationwide first by President Emilio Aguinaldo (May 24, 1898-June 23, 1898) “to determine the real needs of the country;” and second by President Jose P. Laurel (Sept 23, 1944-Aug 17, 1945) “with the danger of invasion imminent” and he suspended “the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus.”

For the third time in the country’s history, martial law was imposed nationwide on September 21, 1972 but declared on radio and television only two days later by then 55-year-old President Marcos, drawing authority from the 1935 Constitution which made the declaration constitutional.

This was lifted on January 17, 1981, or eight years and nearly four months – with presidential elections in June that year when President Marcos emerged re-elected after defeating former Defense Secretary Alejo Santos.

Others have the continuing shrewdness to suggest, rather loudly, that Mr. Marcos was a dictator for 20 years – forgetting that he proclaimed martial law in September 1972 and lifted this in January 1981, four months before he called a presidential election where he won by a landslide against Santos.

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Many saw the unbridled anti-government demonstrations near Malacanang and in front of the US Embassy by student activists in Metro Manila, propelled by molotov cocktails-throwing leftists led by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army.

Many public utility vehicles were burnt in Quiapo and elsewhere as if the bombing of the opposition Liberal Party rally in Manila’s Plaza Miranda was not enough to destabilize the elected government the leftists wanted to replace.

But these burnings and other things had been forgotten.

Mr. Marcos declared the emergency, in his words, “to check a state of rebellion and subversion and to enable him to institute urgent national reforms” that September 50 years ago and save the Republic from becoming communist.

Many have nourished the sketches that martial law had violated human rights, portrayed the man who declared it as a murderer and other bynames, and drew a continuing veil on the good blocks the emergency did to the nearly 38 million population at that time.

The anti-Marcos chronicles keep turning the pages where opposition leaders were imprisoned but always conceal the fact that there were also members of the administration party who were locked behind bars.

There may have been abuses committed by those implementing martial law, but as Mr. Marcos said torturing enemies of the state was never a government policy.

Today the country, particularly those who experienced martial law in the 70s, remember the times that gave them, rightly or wrongly, the times of peace in their lives – sans the bloody demonstrations in the capital and elsewhere. (ai/mtvn)

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