Monday, December 7, 2009

Remembering 1972

When martial was declared in the Philippines for the very first time in September 1972 by deposed Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, I was 18 years old, a second year college student of the University of the Philippines (Padre Faura, Manila), a college councilor of the student council, an idealistic student activist, a section editor of the over-all university student organ Philippine Collegian, an officer of various student service and cultural organizations, and an ROTC officer (cadet captain).

I recall that for the first two or three years of martial law (dubbed by Marcos as his “New Society” for propaganda purposes), the innocent Filipinos, sincerely trusting the bar topnotcher Marcos and his PMA-bred generals and US- educated technocrats and bureaucrats, accepted the situation with the hope that the country would soonest find genuine peace and order so that it could speedily move on as a new economic tiger in Asia.

As we all know, ex-dictator Marcos, his stupendous and fabulous wife Imelda, and their notorious conjugal cliques of elitist sycophants and voracious cronies (some of whom continue to reign in the Philippine economy as multi-billionaires and behind-the-scene political kingmakers to these very day with the help of traditional politicians who have been infected by the dirty political funds and the deplorable value system of the former), betrayed the trust of the helpless Filipino people, violently abused their sacred constitutional and human rights, prostituted the spurious 1973 Philippine Constitution, controlled the obedient Supreme Court justices, made a mockery of the rule of law, and greedily robbed the country of whatever was left of its meager economic wealth as a poor Asian republic for 15 years until the conjugal dictators were shamed and ousted by the Filipinos in the globally recognized People Power Movement of EDSA 1986.

Never again shall the Filipinos allow such a historical nightmare to destroy the future of our country which continues to suffer from the dark stigma of being the sick man of Asia whose blood is being sucked by political and economic draculas disguised as elitist politicians, generals and tycoons in expensive barongs or coats and in shining military uniforms.

Below is an article by a respected senior Filipino writer and journalist, Fernando del Mundo, entitled “1972: ‘Smiling’ Rule Turned Into A Monster” published the other day in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Please read it by heart to re-live the aforementioned painful and depressing trauma in the history of our abused country and to strengthen your personal commitment to genuine and lasting democracy and republicanism, notwithstanding the threats, intimidations and bribes from the ruling elites and their legitimized private armies in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and in the Philippine National Police.

1972: ‘Smiling’ rule turned into a monster
By Fernando del Mundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:34:00 12/06/2009

THERE were no tanks on the streets of Manila during the predawn hours President Ferdinand Marcos sent his troops to carry out on Sept. 23, 1972, a still-secret proclamation of what he later claimed was a “smiling martial law.”

It was so unlike the operation at sunrise Friday when troops in full combat gear descended on a warlord’s mansion in Shariff Aguak, reporters in flak jackets and helmets behind them, to enforce a similar edict.

The men who carried out the Marcos decree had a cakewalk. They were so unobtrusive the only sign something was amiss was the copy of Proclamation No. 1081 they had plastered on the offices of media facilities shut down.

I had left the Manila bureau of United Press International just before midnight, after wrapping up the day’s major event—the “ambush” of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile—and filing it to the UPI foreign desk in New York.

I had called my usual resident analyst and asked him what it meant.
And the reply was the stock answer at the time: Martial law.

The ambush was in fact the excuse given 24 hours later by Marcos for this extraordinary measure resorted to only for the second time in the nation’s history.

Much later, Enrile would admit that the event was stage-managed to justify the emergency.

In the last chapters of World War II, President Jose P. Laurel of the Japanese-created puppet Second Republic declared martial law, on Sept. 21, 1944, exactly 28 years before the man he had acquitted on a technicality for the murder of his father’s political enemy did.

Apparently, as I was leaving the UPI bureau, officers were arresting Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. at the Manila Hilton hotel, just around the corner, while he was in the midst of a committee meeting on tariffs.

I went straight to the Chinese General Hospital across town, where my ailing baby daughter was confined, unaware of what was going on—until I reported back the next day.
Finally, the announcement
The UPI bureau chief then, Patrick J. Killen, had been up all night, filing stories, until the government shut down all communications going in and out of the country, including our transmission lines. He was trying to figure out how to get our dispatches out on the world’s top story at the time.

All sorts of rumors were floating around, and the TV stations on air were simply alerting viewers that an important announcement was forthcoming.

Press Secretary Francisco Tatad at mid-afternoon gave a news briefing and Marcos himself, looking a bit ruffled, went on the air to announce that he had declared martial law, to arrest a growing communist insurgency and lawless violence and to reform society.

A series of general orders were announced, padlocking the legislature, radio, television and newspaper facilities, arresting supposed state enemies, banning demonstrations, clamping a midnight to 4 a.m. curfew, ordering the seizure of “loose firearms.”

“I wasn’t very concerned,” recalls retired bank executive Charlie Tan, obviously echoing the general sentiment of the time. “I was just an office worker,” he says. “The government people probably knew better.”


The declaration was actually dated Sept. 21, 1972, because the superstitious Marcos was preoccupied with numerology.

The backdrop was the perception that the Philippines was sliding down the road to perdition, prognosticators warned, after sanguine assessments in the early 1960s that the next economic miracle in Asia after Japan was going to happen in this former American colony.

The country certainly appeared on the brink of chaos amid a resurgent communist rebellion, a restless youth fired up by the anti-Vietnam war movement in the United States and attempts to tinker with the country’s political system.

In 1971, the bombing of the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda in downtown Manila left nine people dead and about a hundred wounded, including nearly all the eight opposition candidates. This prompted the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Charges of bribery tore the Constitutional Convention called earlier in the year as concern was raised that Marcos was out to tinker with the Charter to perpetuate himself in power.

Marcos had been the only president to win reelection and was serving his final four-year term ending in 1973.

Delegate Eduardo Quintero had exposed an alleged Marcos bribery attempt. After his widely publicized revelations, agents of the National Bureau of Investigation raided his ramshackle home in the working class district of Sta. Ana in Manila and seized P500,000. Obviously planted, the money was said to have been a bribe Quintero had received.

A series of bombing incidents wracked the capital just before the Enrile ambush was staged.

And so, it was no wonder that most Filipinos thought they’d give Marcos the benefit of the doubt.

New Society Movement

The purported desire of Marcos to reform the nation gave birth to the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, or the New Society Movement.

The clarion call, as it was broadcast repeatedly on radio and TV to a martial drum beat, was “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.” (For the nation’s progress, discipline is necessary.)

The crime rate went down in the early days of the emergency, at least this was what the martial law administrators reported. There was no way to check the truth of the assertion.

However, the drive to collect firearms later in the year sparked the Moro rebellion.

This was the explanation given by the Marcos hacks at the time: Moros loved their guns more than their wives.

In the early days of martial law, none in the media escaped censorship. Even foreign correspondents had to submit their reports to Malacañang for approval before sending them out. This went on for a few weeks for correspondents. The clampdown on local media persisted until the dying days of the Marcos era.
Notable kleptocrat

While martial law was initially well-received, it soon became unpopular.

Hidden from the public eye were the pervasive harassment of dissenters that included churchmen and students, the torture of suspected subversives, the extrajudicial executions and disappearances. Massive corruption landed Marcos after his ouster in the Guinness Book of World Records as a notable kleptocrat.

I got calls in the middle of the night from relatives and sympathizers of political detainees worried about the fate of their relatives. One such call involved the arrest of Jose Maria Sison, head of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines.

The Task Force Detainees in the Philippines at a convent in San Juan was a regular source for these horror stories. Covering raids on suspected subversives could mean arrest, as some colleagues experienced.

Conjugal dictatorship

Reports by the foreign press of abuses were published in the so-called “mosquito press,” or xeroxed and clandestinely circulated.

One of the main sources of news in Malacañang in the early days was Primitivo “Tibo” Mijares, a reporter of the Daily Express, one of the few publications allowed. He had access to Marcos’ inner sanctum. He would farm out his stories to the reporters covering the beat in the afternoon.

Mijares had a falling out with the regime. After he wrote “The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos,” Mijares disappeared. One report said he was dumped in the ocean while on a flight over the Pacific.

In December 1972, Marcos ostensibly lifted restrictions on freedom of speech to allow debate on a new parliamentary-type Constitution modeled after France.
He abruptly scuttled a plebiscite scheduled the following month after he got a barrage of criticism that he was simply out to prolong his rule. He said the evils he had set to stamp out had returned.

Instead, Marcos organized “citizen’s assemblies” to debate the charter. There, participants were asked to raise their hands if they wanted rice. And of course everyone in the hungry nation wanted the staple.

The next day the pictures of participants with arms raised were published in Manila’s newspapers that said they were overwhelmingly in favor of the new Charter granting Marcos strongman powers.

I still remember Sen. Lorenzo Tañada at a Supreme Court hearing questioning the imposition of martial law, when the Marcos decree declaring the Constitution enforced was on the basis of decisions in the citizen’s assemblies. He wagged his finger at the black-robed justice, angrily telling him “I told you!”

Appeasing Washington

In 1981, Marcos lifted the trappings of his strongman rule, but not its substance, apparently to appease his patrons in Washington.

“We love your adherence to democratic principles and to democratic processes,” then US Vice President George H.W. Bush said during a visit to Manila that same year.
That martial law lasted so long was explained in a hugely famous statement by a Reagan Cabinet member in 1982: “The Philippines is a nation of 40 million cowards and one son of a bitch.” That quote was later attributed to US Secretary of State George Shultz.

A year later, Senator Aquino—first to be arrested at the outset of martial rule and jailed for nearly eight years—proved him wrong. He returned in 1983 from three years of self-exile in the United States despite clear warnings that he faced certain death, planting the seeds of a revolution by unarmed multitudes that ended the Marcos rule.

The smiling martial law had by then become a monster.

(The writer was an editor, foreign correspondent and UPI bureau chief in Manila. He served as press officer in the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, before joining the Inquirer in 2005.)


The last taboo

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:23:00 12/05/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Maguindanao Massacre, Politics
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THE last taboo of the newly restored democracy the Filipino people put in place in 1986 was broken Friday evening when President Macapagal-Arroyo signed a proclamation placing Maguindanao—except for MILF camps—under martial law. Previous presidents had considered themselves bound by a broad, post-Marcos consensus: the exercise of utmost discretion in wielding certain constitutional powers—like the power to declare martial law. For this reason, even in the face of coup attempts, President Cory Aquino conscientiously asked for emergency powers from Congress instead of arrogating them unto herself.
Ms Arroyo has been on a path of increasingly aggressive political and legal encroachments on the separation of powers (e.g., calibrated preemptive response, Executive Order 464 in September 2005; state of emergency in February 2006). At 9 p.m. last Friday, she finally crossed the last remaining line separating post-Edsa I from the means and methods of Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Under the Constitution, Congress ought to convene a joint session within 48 hours from the martial law proclamation to determine if such declaration is justified. Instead, Speaker Prospero Nograles—after saying earlier he thought the state of emergency in Maguindanao sufficed—declared that it would be difficult for the House of Representatives to muster a quorum; that even if it could, there would be widespread support for the President’s move among legislators; and that finally, the earliest Congress could hold a joint session would be Tuesday after caucuses by each congressional chamber tomorrow. This first official reaction by a co-equal branch of the government is so muted as to be beyond meek and simply sycophantic, even though common sense (and statesmanship) should have led it to convene sooner than later.
The Executive Department’s justifications range from the contradictory (a province caught up in a total breakdown of government tantamount to a rebellion, or on the verge of rebellion, said Justice Agnes Devanadera in Saturday’s press conference) to the disingenuous (government needed to undertake warrantless arrests, which sidesteps the question of why a state of emergency fortified by the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus wasn’t enough. The President has declared the writ’s suspension and martial law; Marcos allowed at least a year to pass between the former and the latter.)
The quibbling in official circles betrayed, on one hand, the unwillingness of the President’s allies to question her game plan and, on the other, how her critics feel stymied by the popularity of the martial law proclamation in a country exasperated by the stalemate between the Ampatuans and the national government.
In a sense, it doesn’t matter that Congress drags its heels in convening a joint session to pass judgment on the President’s action; or whether the Supreme Court—which can’t receive petitions questioning the basis for martial law in Maguindanao until Monday—does anything beyond going through the motions of oversight. The President has acted: the Armed Forces, police and the bureaucracy have obeyed. The Palace insists the public hails its decision; on the other hand, many voices condemn the President’s action as rash, ill-considered and unjustified.
Meanwhile, government has taken to trumpeting its martial law as a “smiling one,” remarkably free of untoward incidents, yet responsive to the public clamor for justice in Maguindanao.
Few doubt that the ruling coalition in Congress has the numbers to endorse the President’s declaration. But we must ask: Is the martial law proclamation justified? In Congress, it will not be enough for legislators to rubber-stamp the President’s arguments. The public must be walked through the report, so as to judge the President and Congress. And while we believe the Supreme Court remains a bulwark against a possible “conspiracy” between the President and Congress, the public should consider the implications of the President breaking this last taboo from the days of the dictatorship.
Ms Arroyo could have invoked the Human Security Act; she could have suspended the writ; she could have taken other steps before going whole hog.
Is the proclamation then an attempt to play to the gallery, to put a lid on the mounting domestic and foreign criticisms of her coddling the Ampatuans?
It does seem to recklessly put in danger our ongoing democratic project—one she has repeatedly tried to scuttle time and again.