40 years after the declaration of Martial Law

Philippine Sunday Express front page issue about the declaration by Ferdinand Marcos of Martial Law.

Today, 21 September 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by President Ferdinand Marcos to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of communist takeover following a series of bombings in Manila.

The justification of Martial Law started during the first State of the Nation Address in January 1970 after his second election in 1969. Protest happened at the first place as the rising of basic commodity prices like oil became rampant due to massive public spending by the Ferdinand Marcos to fund his electoral victory. The First Quarter Storm was the Philippine version by events of 1968 where the youths who born after World War II, had to clash the old ideas of their preceding generations.

The declaration of Martial Law became certain after the bombings during the proclamation of senatorial candidates of the Liberal Party at the Plaza Miranda in Manila which killed nine persons and injured ninety-five persons including the former Senator Jovito Salonga, who managed to survive from the small pieces of shrapnel that are still lodged in his body. According to Salonga in his autobiography book, the Communist Party of the Philippines led by Jose Maria Sison was the responsible of the bombings on which the CPP and Sison vehemently denied.

After the bombings, President Ferdinand Marcos suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus where any police authorities can detain civilians indefinitely. The declaration gained massive protests and later on 11 January 1972, Ferdinand Marcos restored the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Few days before the 21 of September 1972,  Juan Ponce Enrile was reportedly ambushed by communists while in his car, killing his driver but leaving him unscathed (Enrile later told the press that it was a fake to give a justification of Martial Law). The assassination attempt (which was later revealed as staged by the government), along with the growing threat of the New People’s Army and citizen unrest, gave Marcos enough reason to declare martial law on September 21, 1972 by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081.

Marcos, who henceforth ruled by decree, curtailed press freedom and other civil liberties, abolished Congress, shut down media establishments, and ordered the arrest of opposition leaders and militant activists, including his staunchest critics Senators Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Jose W. Diokno. Initially, the declaration of martial law was well-received, given the social turmoil of the period. Crime rates decreased significantly after a curfew was implemented. Political opponents were given the opportunity to go into exile. As martial law went on for the next nine years, the excesses committed by the military emerged.

As the 1973 was fast approaching and Marcos knew that he could not seek an another re-election unless he would revise the 1935 Constitution, he reconvened the Constitutional Convention for a new constitution that became the 1973 Constitution and maneuvered the proceedings to  adopt the semi-presidential form of government similar to France or South Korea. Knowing that it would be rejected by the electorate, Marcos decreed the creation of citizens’ assemblies which anomalously ratified the constitution.

During the Martial Law years, the Philippine economy grew a significant amount, with foreign investments and tourists playing a large part in the success, and GNP rising to a record Php 193 billion in 1980. During this time, the Philippines officially adopted the metric system as its standard, and has since fully implemented it in industries.

The economy during the decade was robust, with budgetary and trade surpluses. The gross national product rose from Php 55 billion in 1972 to P193 billion in 1980. Tourism rose, contributing to the economy’s growth. The number of tourists visiting the Philippines rose to one million by 1980 from less than 200,000 in previous years. A big portion of the tourist group was composed of Filipino balikbayans (returnees) under the Ministry of Tourism‘s BalikbayanProgram launched in 1973.

The first formal elections since 1969 for an interim Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly) were held on April 7, 1978. Sen. Aquino, then in jail, decided to run as leader of his party, the Lakas ng Bayan party, but they did not win any seats in the Batasan, despite public support and their apparent victory. The night before the elections, supporters of the LABAN party showed their solidarity by setting up a “noise barrage” in Manila, creating noise the whole night until dawn.

In order to appease the Catholic Church before the visit of Pope John Paul II, Marcos officially lifted martial law on January 17, 1981. He did, however retain much of the government’s power for arrest and detention.

Corruption and nepotism as well as civil unrest contributed to a serious decline in economic growth and development under Marcos, whose health declined due to lupus.

Following the lifting of Martial Law in 1981, protests against the Marcos regime became apparent as the opposition led by Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. motivated to protest the abuses of the Marcos regime and the resistance became intense after the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. at the tarmac of Manila International Airport, returning after three years of exile and an heart surgery in the United States.

The assassination of Ninoy Aquino was the final coffin of the Marcos regime as Marcos opponents motivated to resist the regime and the intra-factional infighting of Marcos succession between Imelda Marcos and her minions and Juan Ponce Enrile and his subordinates that led the later to stage supposedly the military coup that turned into a bloodless first EDSA People Power that toppled the Marcos regime and brought them into an exile in Hawaii, United States.

References (some of the paragraphs of this article derived from the first link below):