PERRY DIAZ: Commemoration of Declaration of Martial Law

SEPTEMBER 21, 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines. It’s a commemoration of the darkest era in Philippine history where it signified the signing of Proclamation No. 1081, which marked the beginning of the brutal 14-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

 It was not the only time martial law was proclaimed in the Philippines but it left an indelible mark that will linger in the memory of Filipinos who lived through the bloody and disastrous dictatorship under Marcos. 

 Throughout Philippine history, there were several periods of martial law wherein the head of state placed the country or its regions under the control of the armed forces.  Martial law in the Philippines was enacted by Ramon Blanco (from 1896 to 1898), Emilio Aguinaldo (for a month in 1898), Jose P. Laurel (from 1944 to 1945), Ferdinand Marcos (from 1972 to 1981), Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (for about a week in 2009), and Rodrigo Duterte (commenced in May 2017 and not lifted as of September 2018).  But these martial law periods were short compared to the reign of Ferdinand Marcos who ruled over a country with an iron fist under severe and bloody conditions where thousands died in the hands of martial law implementers whose brutality and corruption were despised by the Filipino people who were subjected to torture and punishment.  This led to the People Power revolution in 1986 that ousted the Marcoses from power.  

 The Commemoration of the Declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines was established in order to emphasize that the horrors of Marcos’s regime must never be repeated again.  When President Duterte proclaimed martial law in 2017, the opposition marked the day with protests.  Never again will the Filipino people fall under the yoke of martial law.

 Various forms of torture

 Victims will never forget the various forms of torture used by the Marcos dictatorship between the declaration of martial law in 1972 and the Marcos family’s ouster during the People Power Revolution in 1986.  These included a range of methods Philippine forces picked up during its long periods of colonial occupation under Spanish, American, and Japanese forces, but also a number of new methods arising from the modern technologies of the later 20th century.  These included sexual assaults including rape and degradation; non-sexual physical tortures including variants of electrocution, waterboarding, suffocation, burning, and beating; and various forms of psychological torture.

 Nearing the end of his second term of office in 1972, Marcos used the unrest on the newly formed Communist Party of the Philippines, despite both Philippine and American intelligence services noting that the communist situation in the Philippines was “normal” or at the lowest level of concern.  He then staged an ambush on Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, which was the reason Marcos imposed Martial Law.

 Martial Law’s objectives

 Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law had to achieve seven objectives:  1. Control the military and police; 2. Control the Supreme Court; 3. Undermine the Philippine public’s faith in democracy; 4. Exploit and abet lawlessness and instability; 5. Exaggerate the Communist threat; 6. Get political backing from the United States; and 7. Hijack the constitutional convention.

 The imposition of Martial Law accompanied curfews; the suspension of civil law, civil rights, and habeas corpus; and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians.  Civilians defying martial law were subjected to military tribunal (or court-martial).

  During the presidential campaign last year, Bongbong Marcos claimed that the martial era was the “golden age” in Philippine history.  Obviously, it was an attempt to revise Philippine history.  The fact that Bongbong was elected president, the post-martial law Filipinos were led to believe the “golden age” legacy of Ferdinand Marcos.  But the truth of the matter is that the Central Bank of the Philippines was bankrupted by the Marcos dictatorship.  

 Human rights violations

 Human rights violations were rampant during the Martial Law era.  In a report by Amnesty International, over 100,000 people were recorded to have been victims of martial law from 1972 to 1981, 70,000 were arrested, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed by the military and the police.  

 With Bongbong’s presidency entering its third month, inflation has hit an all-time high, while the peso is losing its value and deficit is rearing its ugly head.  And the people are suffering from hunger and high unemployment.

 Sugar crisis

 Lately, the economy is suffering from the “sugar crisis.”  How could that happen when not too long ago, the Philippines was exporting sugar?  But the Marcos administration believes that that the shortage is “artificial” and is caused by hoarding.   The government is now monitoring the situation and warehouses are being inspected to increase the sugar supply in the market and to lower the price of the commodity.   But sugar shortage, whether caused by hoarders or simply supply running out, is having a ripple effect in the economy. The top soft drink makers in the country have put out a rare joint statement, confirming they’re all running short of refined sugar, which could impact the production of soft drinks and other products that use a lot of sugar.  This caused the Sugar Regulatory Administration to approve a plan to import hundreds of thousands of metric tons of refined sugar from Thailand and other sugar producing countries.  But local sugar producers feared that would drive down prices — and they got a temporary restraining order to block the imports.

 And this is where politics come into play.  The Sugar Regulatory Board had authorized the import of 300,000 tons of sugar.  But the head of that board is President Marcos, who according to a presidential spokesperson, he had never agreed to.  As a result, the two officials involved in the announcement have now resigned, which begs the question:  Where is Marcos going to get the sugar to cover the shortage?

 Hmm… perhaps, Marcos should have his underlings handle the sugar crisis so he can address the planning for the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Martial Law.  However, it seems that he just got himself caught in a bind.  Well, he’d better come up with a solution lest it could cause a massive shortage of sugar.