January 23, 1971–THOSE who lived through the Japanese Occupation, and that includes Pres. Ferdinand Marcos himself, know what a total horror it was, how people were tortured and heads cut off on mere suspicion of resistance to Japanese military rule—and how it did not discourage resistance. Everybody was a guerrilla, or claimed he was.
President Marcos keeps hinting at the imposition of military law on the Filipino people when he does not hint at the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. With the suspension of the writ, President Marcos could order the arrest of anyone and keep him or her in prison or in a concentration camp at his pleasure—that is, indefinitely. With the imposition of martial law, that is, the establishment of a military dictatorship, “Congress might as well close up,” as one congressman has observed. And the courts might as well close up, too, for Marcos would have absolute power. The independence of Congress and the Judiciary would be a thing of the past. Marcos’s rule would be absolute. He would be king.
Is the fate in store for the Filipino people to live under the sovereign will of “King Ferdinand”—and “Queen Imelda”?
As noted in the article beginning on page 2, the demonstrations in the United States have been marked by violence which makes the demonstrations here models of law and order by comparison. A magazine, Scanlans, features in one of its issues “Guerrilla Warfare in the U.S.A.,” and presents, in a most graphic fashion, the almost countless acts of sabotage, dynamiting, attacks on persons in authority and other acts of war against the government and the Establishment it is supporting—yet the American president, Richard Nixon, has never ventured to speak of the possibility of suspending the writ or imposing martial law. Were he to do so, he would be promptly impeached and removed from office.
Why does President Marcos keep on talking about suspending the writ or imposing martial law? One would think he could hardly wait to do so. And what good would that do? What good would that do him? Never mind what good it would do the country, but what good wold to do him? Having imposed martial law and become a dictator, how could he ever leave Malacañang and rejoin a people finally free of his rule? He must be a dictator for life to be secure.
He’d never be safe otherwise, no more than the Japanese—what was his name?—who headed the Kempetai could have lived with any sense of security among Filipinos once the Japanese forces had been disarmed. As a matter of fact, the Marcos Administration is reaching the point of no return to a democratic regime, for with so many young Filipinos killed merely for demonstrating against the manifest injustices of the government, how safe would Marcos & Co. be when no longer in power? Could Marcos afford to be no longer in Malacañang if more of the young should be slaughtered?
Was it necessary or wise to arm government forces with Armalites to maintain order during the demonstration in Plaza Miranda last week? Armalites are used in war. (The Americans use them in their war in Vietnam.) Has Marcos declared war on demonstrators, whose right to demonstrate he continually affirms—after all, it is a constitutional right and he is supposed to uphold the Constitution—that he must have his forces armed with Armalites when they confront the demonstrators?
Is there a war on?
The British, confronted with rampaging Chinese Communists in Hong Kong at the height of the Cultural Revolution, kept their cool. They sent police with only truncheons to meet the mob. If the mob should break through the police lines, it would be met with police armed with tear gas and riot guns. Only if the demonstrators should be able to overwhelm the second police contingent would the government give them the works. Armalites are the works—and the Marcos regime resorted to their use last week, killing four and wounding many others—almost as a matter of course.
After “Black Wednesday,” military rule and a Marcos dictatorship would seem to be an inevitable development. The further use of Armalites against demonstrators and the slaughter of more who cannot stomach the Marcos Administration would make it certain.
What would life under Marcos dictatorship be like—and its political and other consequences of the Republic?
With the courts and Congress reduced to impotence and the independent press shut up—with publishers who dare to disagree with Marcos placed under house arrest or in concentration camps where they would be joined sooner or later by outraged justices of the Supreme Court, senators and representatives who would not lick the boots of Marcos, as well as others who would not submit to tyranny—the nation would be “polarized.” the Philippines would be divided into Marcos collaborators and those who love liberty and are branded “misguided elements” (as during the Japanese Occupation) and declared enemies of the Marcos state.
Marcos, as a former guerrilla leader, should know how the Japanese failed to stop the Resistance against their rule. The more atrocities the Japanese committed, the more Filipinos they tortured and killed—the more joined the Underground. It became a matter of honor to do something against the oppressors, whether it be merely to contribute money to the guerrillas or to commit some act of sabotage against the government if not actually to go to the mountains and take up arms against the regime. Filipinos in tremendous numbers found they were not afraid to die for freedom. They were suddenly free from fear. Marcos himself got a lot of medals for not being afraid, and many more showed the same lack of fear though they got no medals for it. The country became one vast concentration camp except when men dared to be free.
Life under a regime of martial law or a Marcos military dictatorship would be little different from life during the Japanese Occupation. How many would submit to it? And how would Marcos ever dare restore civil law? Would he dare to leave Malacañang? Would he not be compelled to declare himself President for life, that is, a dictator forever? And how long would “forever” be?
Our republican institutions suffer from corruption but they do guarantee certain civil liberties—like freedom from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without trial and the right to demonstrate peaceably against the government for redress of grievances and to write an editorial like this. The denial of such liberties in all-too-many cases does not argue against the goodness of the institutions. Because there are thieves does not make the law against theft a bad one but only makes enforcement of the law more necessary than ever. Under our republican institutions we enjoy certain liberties, to repeat—if not too much economic progress. Justice is often mocked, true, but under a military dictatorship, there would be no justice at all, no liberty at all, and even less progress than ever. The entire economy would be organized into a government corporation run by Marcos & Co., and one has just to contemplate how Nawasa, the Philippine National Railways and other government corporations are run to know how the people would suffer under such a regime.
Only Marcos & Co. would profit from martial law. They should. They would be the law. The rest of us would be mere subjects—or outlaws.
Those who wish the President well should advise him to stop talking about martial law. Whatever he and his friends get out of it—would it really be worth it?