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January 23, 1971
Political War and Martial Law?
FIRST, it was the Catholic Church that the Marcos Administration speaking through its propaganda organ, Government Report, accused of being “the single biggest obstacle to progress in the country,” just because the Catholic hierarchy would not cooperate with Malacañang in its plan to make the visiting Pope Paul VI a kid of PRO for the social welfare projects of the First Lady.
Then, it was the turn of the private press to be accused of standing between the government and the best interests of the people—by blackmailing poor President Marcos, or trying to, anyway, into going against those interests.
Then it was the turn of Meralco, or, to be precise, Eugenio Lopez, Sr., Eugenio Lopez, Jr., and, because of his relationship with them, Vice-Pres. Fernando Lopez, to be accused of “undermining the best interests of the nation.”
In a speech before the first national convention of the Philippine Congress of Trade Unions, President Marcos accused “the powers who are in control of some of the media” of trying to blackmail him into betraying the public trust.
“You cannot perhaps know the pressures that the President is subjected to,” he said, “the coercion, the intimidation. Some time ago, I received a message which indicated the sickness of our society—to the effect that if I did not approve a certain favor I would be attacked in the newspapers. My immediate reaction was: go right ahead and attack me. That is your privilege but I am going to judge these questionable transactions on the basis of their merits, not on anything else. I have decided, I said, that in 1973 I’ll retire from politics. That is my wish, that is my hope, and nobody is going to intimidate me in any way.”
President Marcos pleaded for help from the “great mass of our people” while promising to do all he could to better their lives.
Then, last Wednesday night, after government forces shot to death four and seriously injured or caused serious injury to many during what started as a peaceful demonstration of students and jeepney drivers, President Marcos warned that he might be forced to use his powers to declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus if present disorders worsened while lashing out at “a particular pressure group” which he accused of inciting them to further passion.” The President said there were reports that the “pressure group” was financing the jeepney strikers as well as inciting them to violence.
On the other hand, he said, “I do not wish to believe this report,” and on the other, he said, “it is written and signed by responsible agents of our government.”
(Was it the same “responsible agents of our government” that told Malacañang that it was the American Central Intelligence Agency that was behind the recent troubles of the FREE PRESS and the President, in the first case, instigating the labor dispute—so a high Malacañang personage told the FREE PRESS editor—and, in the second case, planting Dovie Beams to smear the President and afterward oust him from the power as it did the corrupt Egyptian ruler Farouk?)
President Marcos went on:
“For and in behalf of the Filipino people, I appeal for sobriety. I beg on my bended knees that no man or group of men seek to inflame our people. Violence will not solve our problems. It will not solve our problems. It will not in any way help our country, it will not resolve any conflict.
He said that “this government under my leadership will never utilize the power, the latent, capable power that is in its hands to destroy any legitimate strike, nor to deprive the people of their liberties.”
“This should not be taken as a sign of weakness,” he said.
“There have been some talk about the President becoming soft and weak, supine and submitting and humiliating himself before the drivers.
“I do not look at it this way,” he said. “I look at it as a consultation with the people from whom my power comes. I consult with them because it is necessary that they know what the consequences are of their actions.
“I have not grown weak,” he said. “Rather, I have grown cautious and prudent because if violence continues, if there should be massive sabotage, if theirs should be terrorism, if there is assassination, I will have no other alternative but to utilize the extraordinary powers granted me by our Constitution.
“These powers are the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus under which any man can be arrested and detained for any length of time; and the power to declare any part or the whole of the Philippines under martial law.
“These powers I do not wish to utilize, and it is for this reason that I appeal to our people tonight.
“I do not do so for myself,” he said. “I do not say, ‘do not criticize me.’ I welcome criticism. But such things like ‘let us kill Marcos,’ or ‘let us fight in the hills,’ ‘mount a revolution’ is not going to help anyone, not even the press. . . .
“Yesterday there was a gathering of publishers called by a pressure group and they demanded that there be a pooled editorial to call Marcos all kinds of names.
“Now how will that help our people? How will it help solve our conflict? The pooled editorial is supposed to incite and inflame the people to further passion.
“I do not say anything except to appeal to them. Let the fight be between us, but do not involve our people. If the pressure groups have been hurt because I say that I will no longer compromise with them and I will stand for the welfare of our people, if in the past there had been compromises, now I will no longer allow it.
“I will not tolerate it. It is about time that we did this, and it is about time the President took the lead. I am taking the lead now.
“However much you may try to humiliate me, I will not knuckle down. I will stand by the people. But I appeal to you, please don’t bring down the house in flames. Please do not use violence to attain your end.”
The next day, Vice-Pres. Fernando Lopez resigned from the cabinet of President Marcos in which he held the post of Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. (Under him the department earned the designation by the FREE PRESS of “Government Department of the Year 1970.”) The Vice-President said that he had tendered his resignation as early as December last year and that he had gone to President Marcos to reiterate his offer of resignation.
The President accepted the Vice-President’s resignation from his cabinet.
Here is President Marcos’s letter accepting the Lopez resignation:
“It is with deep regret that I received your offer to resign from your position as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It is with even deeper regret that, in view of developments over the recent past, I must now accept your resignation.
“I assure you there is nothing personal in my acceptance of your resignation. You and I have been in the best relations. But your position in the cabinet has now become untenable in view of your relationship with the financial and political interests that I have identified as constituting a pressure group intent upon the destruction of my development program.
“I have given you more responsibility and invested your office with more prestige than any Vice-President notwithstanding the fact that the media controlled by the Lopez interests were vicious and malicious in their attacks against my person—with the obvious aim of discrediting the government in the eyes of the people, and thus undermining the best interests of the nation.
“While you were a member of my cabinet, the Lopez interests, specifically Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Sr., and Mr. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., were engaged in fomenting unrest and inciting the already militant and impassioned groups who advocate anarchy and assassination. The media controlled by the Lopez interests are still engaged in this, have in fact intensified their campaign against me, notwithstanding the fact that you once assured me of continued amity and cooperation.
“I have begged for unity in the political leadership, knowing that this is demanded by the times and expected by our people. However, the Lopezes have seen fit to make an issue of my refusal to approve their project for the establishment of a lubricating oil factory, a petrochemical complex, the purchase of the Caltex, and the use of the Laguna de Bay development project for reclamation of areas to be utilized for an industrial complex. There are many and varied favors, concessions and privileges which I am expected to extend to this group, but which I have not.
“As I have previously said, the pressure group I have identified is intent upon maligning my Administration and, by means of propaganda and various maneuvers, has sought to undermine public confidence in the government under my stewardship. These designs of this pressure group, according to very reliable information, took a particularly insidious form in the incitement and support it provided to the elements which participated in the violent demonstrations yesterday.
“It is now obvious that this pressure group is not unwilling to employ the most despicable means, including crime and anarchy, to achieve its ends. From our long association, you know, of course, that I have been tolerant of this and other pressure groups in the past—indeed, so tolerant as to give many people the impression that I have succumbed to their devices and manipulations.
“I assure you that I have not succumbed to them. I had merely endeavored to remain as calm, at the same time watchful, as the great responsibilities of my office required.
“You assure me that you cannot continue in your position as Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources while the shadow of doubt and suspicion hangs over you in view of your relationship to one of the pressure groups I have spoken of. I am glad that you realize the difficult and untenable position you are in. While I would have wanted you to continue as a member of my cabinet, I feel on the other hand that the events that will follow and the decisions that I will have to make from here on, possibly affecting the interests and personal fortunes of the pressure groups I have mentioned, could cause personal embarrassment for both of us, and the only way to avoid such embarrassment would be to accept your resignation.
“Finally, I wish to thank you for the assistance you have given my Administration.”
Eugenio Lopez, Jr., president of the Philippine Petroleum Corporation, a subsidiary of the Meralco Securities Corporation, said, in so many words, that President Marcos was lying when he said that he, Lopez, Jr., and his father had been exerting pressure on him, the President, particularly in the case of the lubricating oil refinery in Sucat, Muntinglupa, Rizal.
As reported by the Manila Chronicle:
“The PPC president said that the PPC had been duly granted authority to construct and operate a lubricating oil refinery by the Board of Investment on September 8, 1969, in a letter signed by then BOI Chairman Cesar Virata.
“The MSC applied to the BOI for authority to construct and operate a lubricating oil refinery on May 2, 1969, in response to a publication on April 9, 1969, of the second Investment Priorities Plan.
“The Central Bank of the Philippines, after ascertaining the economic viability of the project, approved PPC’s request to proceed with the acquisition of necessary foreign loans to finance the project.
“One of two unsuccessful applicants who applied for the authority to construct and operate a lubricating oil refinery questioned the BOI award to PPC.
“The National Economic Council conducted hearings on PPC’s application, after which it confirmed and approved PPC’s application on its merits.
“Lopez, Jr., said that on August 18, 1970, the Laguna Lake Development Authority in a letter signed by its general manager, advised the PPC that the area whereon PPC wished to construct the refinery ‘will be reclaimed by the Authority, and the Authority’s Board has approved a resolution for this purpose.’ The letter, he said, further stated that the PPC ‘may locate, install and operate your lubricating oil refinery on the land which will be reclaimed by the Authority.’
“Based on this letter, PPC purchased in October last year the necessary land on the lake front wherein the reclamation would be undertaken, he said.
“The memorandum-agreement to that effect, he also said, was signed between the LLDA and the PPC on Sept. 1, 1970. The two parties agreed that up to 24 hectares of land at Barrio Sucat, Muntinglupa, would be reclaimed for the PPC plant’s site.
“He said that prior to undertaking reclamation of the proposed site of the refinery, the Laguna Lake Development Authority coursed an implementation letter to the President of the Philippines. The letter was routed through the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Presidential Economic Staff and the Malacañang Legal Staff.
“All of these offices favorably endorsed approval of the order, Lopez, Jr., said.
“In other words, he said, it was only the approval of President Marcos for the Laguna Lake Development Authority to proceed with the reclamation of the proposed site of the oil lubricating refinery that was being awaited.
“Considerable expense has been made in various works preparatory to the construction of the refinery, it was learned.
“According to Lopez, Jr., the lubricating oil refinery when in full operation will not only earn dollars but will also allow the Philippines to net foreign exchange savings of up to $13 million annually or up to $35,000 a day.
“The Export-Import Bank of Washington, D.C., on December 30 last year approved financing for the PPC refinery in the amount of $15.5 million, Lopez, Jr., said.
“Also on January 5, 1970, the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the World Bank, approved financing for the construction of the PPC refinery in the same amount of $6.2 million and on the basis of the merit of the project agreed to purchase equity in the refinery in the amount of $1.8 million thereby providing financing totaling $8 million, Lopez, Jr., added.”
Leaders of the striking jeepney drivers said that “there was no truth to President Marcos’s charge that the demonstration which turned violent later in the day was financially supported by Vice-Pres. Fernando Lopez and his brother.”
One of the leaders said:
“I boil when people ask me about this report. There is no truth to that charge.”
Another leader of the striking jeepney drivers said:
“The Lopez brothers have not helped the striking drivers and the same is true with the members of the so-called vested interest group.”
One of the leaders of the student activists, Chito Sta. Romana of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, said that his group did not know of anyone belonging to “the so-called pressure group responsible for Wednesday’s rally.”
Raul Manglapus, president of the Christian Social Movement, said the Filipino people “are waiting for the President to muster for himself the courage to take firm steps to restore popular confidence in his leadership. . . Our country is fast moving into a state of anarchy, disintegration and despair. Most of this condition comes from a deep and rampant popular distrust in the word and in the action of the President.”
Nacionalista Rep. Antonio M. Diaz from Zambales said the greatest single factor plaguing the nation today is “loss of confidence in the leadership in all branches of government,” and, he went on, “unless faith in our leadership is restored, the anger of our people cannot be assuaged.”
Liberal Rep. Ramon V. Mitra from Palawan said:
“By using violence against unarmed citizens ventilating the ills and problems of present-day society, the Marcos Administration is stifling the voice of the people crying for much-needed reforms.”
The national president of the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino (MPKP), Ruben D. Torres, denounced the “renewed threat of President Marcos to impose martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus.”
Nacionalista Speaker Jose B. Laurel, Jr., said:
“The Constitution is specific. It allows the President to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or to place the country or any part thereof under martial law only in cases of ‘invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it.’ I do not think any of these circumstances exist at the moment.”
Nacionalista Sen. Jose Diokno proposed that President Marcos and all other elected national officials resign and another election be held in June to determine whether the people still have confidence in them.
Liberal Rep. Jose B. Lingad from Pampanga said that President Marcos should prove his patriotism by resigning from office or at least taking a leave of absence, the people having lost confidence in him.
“If Marcos went through with his threat to lift the writ of habeas corpus or declare martial law,” Lingad went on, “Congress might as well close shop.”
Must the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be suspended, enabling the President to send to prison or otherwise detain anyone indefinitely? Must 38 million Filipinos be placed—by declaring martial law—under a military dictatorship headed by Ferdinand Marcos?
The demonstrations held so far in the Philippines against the government and the violence that has marked some of them are nothing compared with the violent expressions of protest in the United States. President Nixon has yet to speak of the possibility of suspending the writ of habeas corpus or imposing martial law on the America people. If he were to do so, is there any doubt he would be impeached and ousted from office? Why does President Marcos keep talking of the possibility of suspending the writ or imposing martial law on us? The solution for the problem of social unrest in the Philippines is not suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the imposition of a military dictatorship on the Filipino people but reform. Regain the confidence of the people. Stop corruption and the waste of the nation’s resources in senseless extravagance. Set a moral example. Be a true President of the Filipino people. Is that too difficult to do?
Must the writ be suspended?
Must there be martial law?