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The Defiant Era, January 30, 2010

The Defiant Era

By Manuel L. Quezon III

Forty years ago, the First Quarter Storm rocked Manila, which had not seen anarchy on this scale since the Pacific War. A look back at the movement, where it failed and where it succeeded


January 30, 2010-THE thrilling thing about the year “was that it was a time when significant segments of population all over the globe refused to be silent about the many things that were wrong with the world.” “And this gave the world a sense of hope that it has rarely had, a sense that where there is wrong, there are always people who will expose it and try to change it.”

That was Mark Kurlansky writing in his marvelous book 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. From Cuba to China to Czechoslovakia, France, Mexico, Poland and the United States, young people began to rebel against the establishment. Kurlansky believes the postwar generation was prepared to do so, ironically because of the relative security and comfort they enjoyed and their having been born after the privations and traumas of World War II. And so young people in communist countries challenged party dictatorship while their counterparts in the democratic world turned leftward to challenge the bourgeois certainties of their elders, for it was in that year, too, here in the Philippines, that an elite family celebrated a wedding anniversary with heedless ostentation.

Filipinos born after the war, who had no memory of that period or the succeeding era of the Huks, came to share the restlessness and iconoclasm of their counterparts around the world: students demonstrated against the Vietnam War (it was the year of the T?t Offensive), and for social reforms in the Catholic Church and in the schools.

In that year, Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr. published a commentary in the American publication Foreign Affairs, describing the country as “a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy. Here, too, are a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite. Here is a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Aquino was writing in response to the massacre of Lapiang Malaya ralliers on May 21, 1967. Democracy had survived the Huk rebellion; and yet, even the beneficiaries of the relative stability of the mid-Fifties to mid-Sixties left an increasingly better-educated and cosmopolitan urban middle class in discontent.

The First Quarter Storm came two years after the rest of the world was convulsed by student rebellions in 1968. By all accounts, 1969 was the year in which protesting in the style of the civil rights movement in the United States – peaceful, nonviolent, reformist – gave way to more militant protests and bluntly revolutionary aspirations among the youth, along with the flag hoisted with the red field up.

Ferdinand Marcos won an unprecedented full second term as president toward the end of that year. In those days, when presidential terms began on December 30, a newly elected president delivered his annual State of the Nation at the opening of Congress in January. In 1970, that address to Congress was scheduled on a Monday, January 26. A mere four weeks had passed since Marcos’s inaugural as the [Third] Republic’s first reelected president.

Recalling the era for The Philippine Century, an anthology of writings published in the Free Press, veteran journalist Dan Mariano writes: “Outside the Legislative Building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention.” Jose F. Lacaba, in “The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account,” the first of his articles on the First Quarter Storm for this magazine, writes that student leader Edgar Jopson, who was then a moderate, had his group’s microphones kept away from radical student leader Gary Olivar, and the radicals wrangled with the moderates just as Marcos had finished his speech and was stepping out of the Legislative Building.

It was then, Mariano’s account continues, that “a paper mache crocodile (representing government corruption) and a makeshift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew” in the direction of Marcos and his wife, Imelda. “Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft-drink bottles, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.”

The moderates tried to pacify by means of speeches the radicals, among them the Maoist Kabataang Makabayan. But the radicals, as Lacaba reports, were “spoiling for trouble” with the cops and were “in no mood for dinner-party chatter and elocution contests.”

From the battleground that was the vicinity of the Legislative Building on Burgos Drive, the demonstrations that now launched the First Quarter Storm moved on to the premises of Malacañang, after a relative lull of three days in which student groups still took to the streets to denounce the government. Then came Friday, January 30 – “so far the most violent night in the city’s postwar history,” as Lacaba writes in retrospect about these events.

The radicals were demonstrating again in front of the Legislative Building, as the moderates went to Malacañang for an audience with Marcos that turned into a tense confrontation. By the end of that meeting, the radicals had trooped as well to the Palace. As Lacaba reports in “And the January 30 Insurrection,” “[w]hat specific event precipitated the battle that spread out to other parts of the city, and lasted till dawn the next day, may never be known. The students who came from Congress claim that, as they were approaching J. P. Laurel Street, they heard something that sounded like firecrackers going off. When they got to Malacanang, the crowd was getting to be unruly. It was growing dark, and the lamps on the Malacanang gates had not been turned on. There was a shout of ‘Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!’ Malacañang obliged, the lights went on, and then crash! a rock blasted out one of the lamps. One by one, the lights were put out by stones or sticks.”

Firefighters arrived at the scene, literally to extinguish the political conflagration at the Palace gates, but the hose they aimed at the protesters yielded a “sputtering spurt,” then the comical became tragic as the protesters ran after and roughed up the fleeing firefighters, then rammed the fire truck into Malacañang’s Mendiola gate. The very center of power suddenly became a tear-gassed arena, as the presidential guards at once engaged the protesters who were lobbing Molotov cocktails into the Palace grounds.

Amid the blaze of a parked vehicle that had been set on fire, the presidential guards managed to drive out the mob, and the battle shifted again to downtown Manila where, this time, not just cops, but “constabulary troopers” confronted the protesters, reports Lacaba. There were also looters among this defiant crowd, who exploited the situation, smashing shop windows and spiriting away “jewelry and shoes.” Soon enough, “the soldiers started firing with Thompsons into the ground,” the dreadful staccato intended as warning, and yet some protesters were hit by shrapnel. Lacaba himself became caught up in the frenzy of rushing some of the injured to the nearby hospitals, and it is remarkable, going by his account, that not a few residents in the area helped hide the protesters who, fleeing from their pursuers, had wandered into the maze of Manila’s dark alleys.

By dawn, the revolution of January 30 was quite over, hundreds had been arrested and an eerie, smoke-filled silence was restored in the city. But this was just the beginning of the Storm. Marcos did not immediately issue his infamous dire warnings – his threats to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and declare martial law. He still maintained that air of equanimity, as opposed to the spitefulness attributed to him since. Nevertheless this period became his transition to authoritarianism. Vice President Fernando Lopez resigned from the Cabinet the next day.

These events were chronicled by the Free Press writers in what has since been widely acclaimed as “literature in a hurry.” Lacaba’s articles for this magazine and Asia-Philippines Leader remain in print in a book titled Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage: The First Quarter Storm and Related Events, which harks back to a time when protesting in front of the US Embassy was daringly new and not the ossified ritual that such actions became since; when communism and socialism were daring new thought and not bogged down in debates over whether they’re old cant; when the established social order was besieged and a generation of Filipinos thought it was possible to push it to the wall so that it would either reform or suffer destruction through revolution.

In contrast to Lacaba’s reportage, Kerima Polotan, sympathetic to Marcos where Lacaba was brilliantly antipathetic, recounted the same events but with hardly any sympathy for Marcos’s critics, whether old or young. Instead, she wrote of those in whom the radicalism of the youth inspired not admiration but fear.

“Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof,” went Polotan’s “The Long Week,” published alongside Lacaba’s accounts of the January 26 and 30 riots in the Free Press of February 7, 1970. “They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books – altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passage, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.”

Lacaba’s book recaptures the ferment, the freshness, of a period of agitation that resulted, alas, in dictatorship and in a generation robbed of their chance to lead. Yesterday’s FQS protesters are today’s middle-aged baby boomers with grown-up children of their own, often ensconced in the establishment, either in business or government. Yet the historical verdict seems clear: Lacaba’s articles have survived, Polotan’s, forgotten; youthful idealism continues to be honored; the New Society generally acknowledged to be a sham.

To read Lacaba’s book is to be able to answer a crucial question about that generation: Have yesterday’s activists-turned-today’s fat cats been able to totally jettison their radical youth, or is there something in them ingrained by that period that bears watching as they now handle the levers of power? I would argue that those FQS veterans now in high places cannot avoid a radically different outlook, with its quiet but perceptible impact on how power is wielded in the present day.

Reading eyewitness accounts of great events also points to the depressing reality that some things never change. The reactionaries remain so; the reformists stuck, too, in a rut of self-doubt; and the radicals in a time warp. And, indirectly, Lacaba’s book raises a question no one has ever been able to answer in a satisfactory manner. Did the agitation of idealistic and romantic youth in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies make dictatorship more appealing? For the shameful fact is that martial law was greeted with relief by a majority of Filipinos, at least from the upper and middle classes, who rejoiced in the curfew, in the cutting of hippie hair, not to mention the padlocking of Congress and suppression of liberties. For, if so, the Filipino may be innately reactionary – with all that such a conclusion shockingly implies.

Recalling that eventful first quarter of 1970, Dan Mariano writes, “Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent a 100 percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2.00 to P4.00, then P8.00. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.”

By April that year, a general strike was held protesting against increases in oil prices and transportation costs. The next year saw the Diliman Commune, the revolt by University of the Philippines students in February. But the sign of those times was not the Diliman Commune itself, which continues to throb gloriously in the memories of FQS veterans, but a parallel effort overlooked because it’s inconvenient. As students barricaded the campus and broadcast a recording of the President’s postcoital croonings to Dovie Beams, some residents in the area banded together and hunted down the radical students in the defense of order and their property rights.

And it was Ferdinand Marcos, the last product of the American educational system, but a mutant one in that his political maturity took place during the confused, corrupt and corrupting circumstances of the Japanese Occupation, who gambled on form trumping substance. So long as the trappings of legitimacy were maintained, the upper and middle class would embrace his “Revolution from the Center” and tolerate, if not actually accept with enthusiasm, his “New Society.”

The Plaza Miranda bombing took place on August 21, 1971. Two days after, 20 people were arrested as Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Martial law followed a year and a month later, restoring order on the surface but fueling the already underground radical movement that Jopson himself would at last join and sacrifice his life for. Yet, when revolution finally came, it wasn’t what the young radicals dreamed of in 1970. It was an entirely different creature, what came to be known as People Power in 1986, and Velvet Revolutions elsewhere since.

Memories of a Martial Law minor

Note: this essay was commissioned for The Philippine Century: 1900-2000, published by the Philippines Free Press

Memories of a martial law minor
By Charlson Ong

I was twelve when Martial Law was declared. Too young for activism but old enough to have followed Ronnie Nathanieslz’ live updates on demonstrations in Plaza Miranda over radio; to have read Pete Lacaba’s scintillating reportage on the ‘Battle of Mendiola;’ to have been fascinated by my elder brother’s accounts of teach-ins at the Ateneo and the U.P.; to be intrigued by the presence of firearms and Maoist literature at our neighbor’s bodega; and be captivated by Ninoy’s eloquent put downs of Marcos on TV.

If I were older and in college, I too might have been caught up in the romance and rage of the times, gone to the hills when the time came to choose or settled down eventually to a comfortable mid-life with memories of the ‘First Quarter Storm’ and the ‘Diliman Commune.’ As it is I must contend myself with listening to the reminiscences of the ‘veterans’ of those days, feeling oddly that I had missed out on the most exciting period in this country’s post war history by a few years and increasingly convinced that our generation had been denied its place in history, had in fact become the subject of a most comprehensive, if not cynical, social experiment.

Still, I remember Damian Sotto, large and swarthy, cursing to high heavens, spewing venom, fouling up the airwaves with his diatribes against all and sundry. His every other adjective would likely be bleeped off today’s language sensitive primetime TV. We were never clear on his politics or advocacies, it was simply fascinating to listen to an adult using such language on TV that would have earned for us kids a dressing down from parents and teachers.

There was Soc Rodrigo and his Kuro Kuro, sober and thoughtful, his Tagalog sublime. There was Ninoy, clean cut and chubby, showing us scenes from a fast growing Taiwan, saying how this country could similarly take-off once his Liberal Party assumed power. There was Eddie Ilarde on Student Canteen, Orly Mercado on Radyo Patrol, Akong on Kwentong Kutsero. There was my father staying up to the wee hours hoping to catch the x-rated flicks that communists propagandists were supposedly broadcasting clandestinely as part of their destabilization campaign. There was Yvonne centerfolded in Pic magazine, another publication whose early demise we truly mourned. There was the Quintero expose and the Jabbidah Massacre. There was Rossana Ortiz, Jessica, Saging ni Pasing all at the mini-theatre along Recto. There was Bayside, Wells Fargo, the Flame, and other joints along Roxas Blvd. where my elder siblings and uncles went to for booze, roulette and slot machines. Rock was heavy and grass was cheap. It was crass, vulgar, decadent and exciting.

And then it ended. Not at once but sudden enough to catch the best of them off guard. I remember the tension that pervaded our household. The older people cautioned against discussing politics over the phone. School was suspended indefinitely and the streets, empty. Downtown Manila became a ghost town. The world had ended while we slept through the night of Sept. 22-23, 1972.

No Thanks, January 8, 1972


No Thanks
By Teodoro M. Locsin

January 8, 1972–IF you are enjoying your constitutional rights of freedom from arrest without warrant, to be informed of the charges and to confront the witnesses against you, to a speedy and public trial, and to bail except in cases of capital offenses when the evidence of guilt is strong, it is no thanks to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld President Marcos’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, that is, of these constitutional rights, placing us all completely at the mercy of the President. The President did not act arbitrarily when he suspended the privileges of the writ, ruled the court. Did he act correctly? The court would not say. But not arbitrarily, said the court. He had his reasons—as if we do not all have our reasons for violating the law when we do. So there went our liberties, thanks to the Supreme Court.

And after our liberties—the Supreme Court itself, with the imposition of martial law, for which the Constitution provides the same grounds as for the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus?

Under the Constitution, the President “in case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it… may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

But who is to say whether the constitutional justification for the suspension of the privileges of the writ exists or not?

Just the President?

That would be to insert, as previously noted here, an instant-destruct mechanism in the Constitution. There might as well be no Constitution at all. For all the President would have to do, under such an interpretation of the charter, is to say that there is invasion or insurrection or rebellion or imminent danger thereof and public safety requires the suspension of the writ—or the imposition of martial law—and that would be the end of the Constitution and all our liberties. The constitutional grounds for the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus are the same as those for the imposition of martial law, which is the law of war, which is now law at all but the law of sheer force. War is legalized murder, and when murder is legal, how can it be said that there is any law at all?

The Supreme Court, reversing an old ruling under which it inhibited itself from inquiring into the grounds for the Presidential suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus in the name of separation of powers, was satisfied in the present instance that one of the constitutional grounds for the suspension of the privileges of the writ did exist, namely, a state of rebellion. But the court would not say whether the other ground, that public safety required the suspension, also existed. That was for the President to judge, correctly or otherwise, according to the court, which thus abdicated its power of judgment to the Executive.

The logic of this decision is appalling. Logically, all that’s needed, in the view of the court, for the suspension of our liberties is the existence of a state of rebellion—limited or otherwise—and the President’s judgment that public safety requires the suspension of the privileges of the writ. Under such a ruling, the privileges of the writ might have been constitutionally suspended the last 25 years, for there had been a state of rebellion in Central Luzon all those years. Due process depended all that time on the discretion of the President, whoever he was.

All in the name of “separation of powers”! Such separation a lone stands between due process and arbitrary rule, between the rule of law and the rule of men, between democracy and dictatorship. The powers of government are distributed among the legislature, the judiciary and the executive to avoid concentration of powers in one, which is the essence of dictatorship. The legislature enacts laws; the judiciary adjudicates, and the executive enforces the laws. Legislators legislate, judges judge, the executive executes—and the rights of the individual are preserved. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Surely, there is not need to cite examples from history, recent and ancient, to support this proposition. Only saints may be entrusted with absolute power—but only because they are not interested in it. Our congressmen, judges and Presidents are no saints.

It is for the courts, then, to do the job of judging; it’s their proper function. While the courts are open, they should be open for business—it’s none of the business of the Executive to do it for them. To vest the President with judicial powers is to go against the principles of separation of powers while the courts can exercise them.

What are courts for if not to judge?

Why should they let the President do what they should do while they can do it?

In what way does public safety require such abdication of power by the courts?

Is somebody guilty or suspected of rebellion? Of violating the Anti-Subversion Act? File the proper charge against him in court. There must be some evidence against him to justify, if not prosecution, at least suspicion. Suspicion must be based on something, otherwise it is stupid or insane, and should the rights of citizens rest on such a base? If there is no evidence at all, how could the suspect be suspect? Of what? Judgment that is arbitrary is no judgment at all, so suspicion for no reason at all is not suspicion but the vagaries of a wandering mind.

But birds of a feather flock together, it will be argued. How about guilt—by association? There are Communists—and Communist fronts, serving, wittingly or not, the purposes of the Communists. Following that argument, the Civil Liberties Union, whose membership includes justices of the Supreme Court, may well be suspect, having demonstrated with alleged Communist fronts against the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus. And there is former Sen. Lorenzo Tañada of Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism—should he not have been arrested without warrant and jailed on suspicion of serving the cause of subversion? Look at his “suspicious” associations! But how would charges against him stand up in court, if courts performed their proper function? If he was not arrested and jailed, it was only because it was not to the convenience of the Administration—and no thanks to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court satisfied itself that one constitutional ground for the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus existed, namely, a state of rebellion, but would not say whether the other ground, that public safety required the suspension of the privileges of the writ, also existed, yet went ahead and upheld the suspension. A decision, one might say, that stood on one foot, not on two. A lame one. And our liberties limped along with it.

This is not to question the integrity of the Supreme Court but merely its judgment. Why such a decision? No less than President Marcos himself said early in 1971 that “last year, we broke the backbone of the Huk or HMB movement in Central Luzon with the capture of Faustino del Mundo, alias ‘Commander Sumulong,’ and Florencio Sala, alias ‘Commander Ponting,’ and with the death of Pedro Taruc, HMB chief, during a gunbattle with government troops. Successes against the New People’s Army were likewise significant. We captured several NPA commanders and forced that organization to go into further hiding. Our latest intelligence reports indicate a major dissension within its ranks arising from some failures of its leadership.”

And Brig. Gen. Eduardo M. Garcia, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, said in an article in the June 1, 1971 issue of the Journal of Commerce of New York that “insurgency and subversion are not serious problems of the government….It can be safely stated that peace and order in the Philippines can stand favorable comparison with other countries of the world.”

And Gen. Manuel T. Yan, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told the press that the grounds for the imposition of martial law—the same as those for the suspension of the privileges of the writ—did not exist.

Yet the Supreme Court said that the President acted in accordance with the Constitution when he suspended the privileges of the writ while refusing to say whether he acted correctly or not, leaving it to the President’s judgment whether public safety required the suspension or not. So long as he had reasons for acting as he did, he was within his rights—right or wrong. There must be separation of powers, so let the President be the judge!

So much for the refusal of the Supreme Court to say whether public safety required the suspension of our liberties, a constitutional condition for the suspension. With our liberties went the principle of separation of powers, which the court invoked in upholding the President’s act, thus investing him with judicial powers through their abdication by the court. While invoking the principle, the court scrapped it. The Executive became the Judge—while judges were still around. What kind of separation of powers is that? Consolidation of powers in one man is the truer term.

If we are enjoying our constitutional rights of freedom from arrest without warrant, to be informed of the charges and to confront the witnesses against us, to a speedy and public trial and to bail except in cases of capital offenses when the evidence of guilt is strong, it is, to repeat, no thanks to the Supreme Court. As a New Year greeting to the Filipino people President Marcos announced last week the restoration of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the country, effective as soon as the Quezon City court ruled on the question of the legality of the arrest without warrant of persons accused of violating the Anti-Subversion Act. The suspension would be lifted regardless of the decision of the court; the government was merely waiting for the court to decide, it was explained, so as not to make the decision academic before it could be handed down.

If not a trick, why did the President decide to lift the suspension of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus? Former Senator Tañada had announced that he would go to the Supreme Court to question the continued suspension of the privileges of the writ. Assuming for the sake of argument that the suspension of the privileges of the writ as justified last year, is continued suspension still justified? There was a state of rebellion then as there is a state of rebellion now—limited rebellion in either case. The existence of such a state made the President’s suspension of the privileges of the writ constitutional because not arbitrary although not necessarily correct, according to the Supreme Court. Whether public safety required the suspension of the privileges of the writ—another constitutional condition for the suspension—the court would not say. Now, if the President had not lifted the suspension of the privileges of the writ and the question of their continued suspension had been raised before the court, how would the court have decided? In view of the continuing state of rebellion, would the Supreme Court have once more upheld the President, refusing to look into the question whether he was acting correctly or not, whether public safety indeed required the continued suspension of the privileges of the writ? With the restoration of the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, the President spared the Supreme Court the possible embarrassment of having to pursue the logic of its decision upholding his suspension of the privileges of the writ to its ultimate absurdity, keeping the privileges suspended until the last Huk or subversive is dead.

Will there be Martial Law? January 30, 1971



By Napoleon G. Rama



January 30, 1971—His theme was sobriety and unity in the hour of crisis; his delivery, cool and slow; his tone, soft and supplicating. But the words were intimidating.

“If violence continues, if there should be massive sabotage, if there 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 writ of habeas corpus under which [suspension] any man can be arrested and detained 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 I appeal to our people tonight.”

With just this one paragraph President Marcos spoiled what could have been one of his best speeches, certainly the most impressive TV performance since he spoke before the US Congress.

All throughout the first 20 minutes of his speech—a persuasive plea for restraint and understanding—he displayed style and coolness under fire, until he struck the jarring chords. Thus, the newspaper headlines the next day couldn’t help but scream the frightening words: “martial law.” Instead of calm, the speech succeeded in spreading alarm throughout the breadth and width of the nation.

Weeks after he made the speech and after the jeepney drivers ended their strike, political quarters, campuses, coffee shops and wherever people gathered were still abuzz with the dreaded words—articulated sometimes in anger but mostly in fear.

School tots come home asking their mommies what’s this “martial law” their teachers were talking about in grave and fearful tones.

Opposition leaders bristle with counter-warnings and charges of goon mentality against the President.

Student leaders answered him with threats of larger and more violent demonstrations.

Religious leaders chide the President and invite him to look into what ails the nation, at the rampant social injustice that spawns social unrest.

Constitutional Convention delegates feverishly hold emergency meetings to plot out their moves in case martial law is declared.

For all the efforts of the President (buried in the inside pages of the dailies) to quiet the anxieties and allay fears, the nervous talk goes on. There has been, said the President, a misreading of his statement. He had stressed certain conditions before he would declare martial law. The present drift of events, he now said, does not lead to those conditions.

The reason he mentioned martial law in his speech, he explained, was to warn radicals about the consequences of their acts, to stop further violence which, he said, was about to crop up.

He branded as irresponsible the threat of LP Congress leaders to boycott the sessions of Congress if Marcos declared military rule in the country or any part of it.

“Ridiculous” was the word he used to describe speculations that he would manipulate the present situation to bring about the conditions which would justify the imposition of martial law.

What probably upset the President more than anything else was the damning reaction of leaders of his own party.

The proclamation of martial law, declared the top NP leader in the House of Representatives, Speaker Jose B. Laurel, would be “an admission of weakness” on the part of the government.

“It would seem that the situation has become uncontrollable and unless martial law is proclaimed the government cannot function,” he said.

The Speaker pointed out that although under the Constitution the President may proclaim martial law without first getting the consent of Congress, he has to meet certain constitutional requirements.

“Legally, the issuance of a proclamation on martial law may be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Laurel said.

In harsher tones, he called President Marcos’s “veiled threats” untimely and uncalled for.

He said that there are many “fence-sitters” now merely critical of the Administration.

“The moment martial law is declared,” he said, “and they suspect that they are on the list of people to be picked up by the military, they will go to the hills.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Arturo Tolentino commented:

“Definitely, there is no justification yet to impose martial law.”

In a meeting with his Congress leaders in the Palace, the President’s talk of martial law drew a similar reaction from NP solons: no good! Several NP congressmen and senators warned the President that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus might only worsen the already critical situation.

Sen. Leonardo Perez, one of the Marcos stalwarts in the Senate, said that military rule would be ill-advised for the moment.

In a hurriedly convened caucus, the LPs came up with a plan to boycott the session of Congress if President Marcos declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus. They elaborated that even if they went on leave, they will continue to discharge their duties and responsibilities….


In the mountains?

Sen. Gerry Roxas, LP president, said that the LP solons will continue to fiscalize the government outside the halls of Congress and will resume attending the session only upon restoration of the normal process of civil government. They will refuse to be identified with the government the moment it declares martial law.

Read the LP manifesto:


On the other hand, several delegates to the Constitutional Convention voiced their determination to continue holding pre-convention meetings and convention sessions, once opened formally, and risk life and limb in defense of the Constitutional Convention.

The most interesting comment came from churchmen. Isabelo de los Reyes, supreme bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, said that the President must have gotten the wrong advice, hence, his gross indiscretion.

He warned that the imposition of military rule would only “boomerang” on the President.

Fr. Horacio de la Costa, historian and former provincial of the Society of Jesus, said that the establishment of military rule would subvert the Constitutional Convention and only invite the very perils that the President would want to avoid—anarchy and communism.

Bishop de los Reyes suggested that the President unbend and mix with the people without displaying military force, to “show that he trusts his own people and that his own people trust him.”

The bishop was for attacking the disease and not the symptoms. He said that no democratic nation could subsist without social justice.

“Lack of social justice causes social unrest,” he argued.

“While President Marcos exalts the duties of the people towards the Republic,” he added, “young students and jeepney drivers exalt human rights and believe that social victory, permanent social victory, will come only through loyalty towards principles, justice, truth, sacrifice—and constancy in sacrifice.”

He went on:

“While the police and the army are ready to kill but not to die for a salary, our students and jeepney drivers, with a common devotion to social justice, are ready to fight and die side by side for their principles.

“This is no time for mediocrity anywhere in the government.

“Let our President show his grandeur not by words but by deeds; by showing himself a statesman who believes, speaks, and acts without anger to help the people recover from a long and somber period of economic desperation.”

Father de la Costa expressed concern over the coming Constitutional Convention. If the President, he said, opted for military rule, it could nullify all chances of the Constitutional Convention drawing up the radical but peaceful reforms that are needed and instead invite anarchy.

The Jesuit scholar, speaking before a seminar for newsmen, said that one of the immediate national objectives should be to ensure the holding of the Constitutional Convention, scheduled to open June 1 if not earlier. The imposition of martial law at this time is not necessary and will make the attainment of this objective impossible.

“The Convention must open under conditions that will permit it, in freedom, to at least initiate the radical structural changes in our government and society which will permit rapid progress towards both social justice and socioeconomic development,” he said.

Should martial law be imposed, the Convention could fall by the wayside, he warned, and another avenue for peaceful dialogue, for reaching a national consensus for reforms, would thereby be closed.

The press and other media and citizen groups should move together to impress on President Marcos the disastrous consequences of military government, the Jesuit priest added.

He forecast that if martial law came, it would polarize the people and could lead to anarchy, authoritarian rule, or even, possibly, a communist takeover. The repression implicit in martial law will effectively block the kind of national dialogue that is needed, he said.

The principal student organizations and adult citizen groups should be invited by the press, radio and TV to clarify both their thinking and their public statements and the meaning, the objectives, the advisability or the necessity of revolution, he suggested.

President Marcos’s opponent in the last elections, Sen. Sergio Osmeña Jr., warned that martial law might be “the trigger that could spark a bloody revolution.” The threat of martial law would make a bigger mess of the national economy already in a shambles. Martial law “would make more unfavorable the climate for business and capital, thereby aggravating the serious economic difficulties now confronting the country.”

Osmeña damned the brutal action taken by government troops against the demonstrating students. Granting, he said, that the explosions were caused by infiltrators, did they constitute sufficient provocation for the government troops to act as they did?

“It would have been enough for them to use tear gas to disperse the crowd,” he said. “But they went much further than that, as if their being in uniform and having guns gave them the license to kill at the slightest excuse.”

Indeed, the most intriguing feature of the Plaza Miranda incident where four were killed during the jeepney driver-student demonstration was the use of Armalites by rampaging government troops—not just to disperse but to gun down student demonstrators who were already on the run.

It was a ruthless departure from the agreed and civilized formula of employing truncheons or tear gas which proved so effective in the demonstrations middle of last year. This time, it seems, there was a deliberate plan to crush demonstrations by brutal force and terrorism—to give the demonstrators a lesson and a preview of what would happen in future demonstrations?

It was a peaceful demonstration until late in the afternoon when a pillbox was exploded somewhere in Plaza Miranda. This was followed by shots fired into the sky. At this stage, everyone was scampering out of Plaza Miranda, seeking cover. In a jiffy, national government troops, replacing the Manila policemen, invaded the plaza. In five minutes, or just before the troops armed with Armalites poured into Plaza Miranda, both the students and the on-lookers had emptied the plaza and spilled into Quezon Boulevard and the side streets. TV cameras showed that the troops were not there just to disperse the crowd but to give chase to demonstrators running for their lives away from the plaza.

A TV replay showed a soldier aiming and shooting at demonstrators who were no longer in Plaza Miranda. On the streets nearby the soldiers were engaging in mopping up operations, not to scatter a defiant crowd but, it seems, to hunt and shoot down those running away from the demonstration site. The scene was undistinguishable from a war operation in Vietnam: soldiers in single file, in crouching position, ears and eyes alert, trigger-happy fingers ready to shoot at the slightest noise or motion of the enemy.

But there is a difference. In Vietnam, government and American soldiers carry Armalites only in battle or mopping up operations. They don’t use the terrible weapon for police work—as did our troopers at Plaza Miranda.

Foreigners were shocked to see Armalite-carrying soldiers employed by the national government to break demonstrations by students who were not even armed. Why did the government abandon the civilized manner of controlling demonstrators in favor of the monstrous method? Why were truncheon-bearing soldiers conspicuously absent in that Plaza Miranda demonstration?

What is Malacañang up to?

It’s now evident that the net result of the President’s veiled threat of imposing martial law has alienated many of his political allies, if not the whole nation. None of his top lieutenants in the party has come up endorsing the presidential statement. Everyone of them thought the President made a costly tactical blunder in making such a threat, despite his cushioning conditions for suspending the writ of habeas corpus or imposing martial law. Worse, even the moderates who frown upon violent demonstrations are having second thoughts. Many of them are gravitating toward the radical group, the extremists.

The impression conveyed is that the President will resist reforms, hence the idea of martial law to defend the status quo— Marcos style. In political quarters, the martial law idea is seen as a Marcos formula for perpetuating himself in office—at all costs! All are agreed that, as things are, neither the President nor the First Lady can hope to stay in Malacañang after 1973, even if they succeeded in rigging the Constitutional Convention into drawing up a constitution permitting an expansion of his term or succession by the First Lady to his office. If they can’t stay in Malacañang beyond 1973 by popular election, then the only remedy is to place the whole country under a military dictatorship, with Marcos the dictator, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

That is, to stay in power not by ballot but by bullet.

If the President entertained such a notion, he would be smart to drop it. Military rule would need the support of some segment of the population to maintain itself. As things stand now, almost everyone is against the idea of martial law. You can’t just defy the whole nation and survive. The armed forces would carry out orders to fight certain segments of the population but not the whole population. When ordered to terrorize the nation and repress the rights of all on flimsy grounds, the armed forces would surely think twice before obeying such orders. It is doubtful that the majority of the military brass warms up to the idea of martial law.

The loyalty of the military men to the President is still to be tested. The defection of a Philippine Military Academy instructor, Lieutenant Corpus, should give an inkling of the shaky hold of the Establishment on the military brass. It’s significant that after Lieutenant Corpus defected, the President felt compelled to order a loyalty check in the armed forces, including a cloak-and-dagger once-over of the headquarters of the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary.

A government by martial law must be premised on indubitable loyalty of the military to the ruler decreeing the martial law and substantial popular support. Hitler and Mussolini had such loyalty and support. And the fact is, the President himself is not quite sure of the loyalty of the armed forces when the chips are down—and certainly not the support of the people.



Again? Editorial for January 23, 1971


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?