Martial law remembered

September 29, 2009 at 1:24 am Leave a comment


vir2Martial law years from 1972 to 1986 had been regarded by many Filipinos as the darkest era of the Philippine government. On September 21, 1972, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos by stroke of his pen issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the country under martial law.

To his critics, that was the day when our democracy died; that was the day when the media was gagged and that was the day when authoritarianism ruled the country.

What was the real reason why President Marcos proclaimed martial law? In a booklet entitled “Man Who Leads a Revolution Without Arms” which was lifted from an international magazine, Archipelago, it was written “…President Ferdinand E. Marcos proclaimed martial law in the Philippines, in response to a secessionist movement and rebellion conspired in by both leftist and rightist elements. Its immediate effect was to overturn what many, particularly in the West, used to call the “showcase of American democracy in the Far East.”

In its place, Mr. Marcos has sought to found a political order that does not lend itself to easy categorization. He has invoked a “New Society” as his goal, and describes his regime as “constitutional authoritarianism.” His critics dismiss it as just one more form of dictatorship.”

Indeed, martial law was proclaimed to bring order to the rotten system of the government at that time- massive corruption, escalating rebellion in the countryside and the proliferation of oligarchs, thus there was a wide gap between the rich and the poor.

If we were to go back during the days of martial law years, people of the countryside have all good words to say.

Just recently, I was talking with my neighbor Tatang Belong and he cannot helped himself compare the gains of the martial law years with the present and its predecessors’ dispensation.

He said that it was those years when roads and bridges were massively constructed, rural electrification reached the remotest barangays, agriculture through Masagana 99 yielded triple rice production and hunger mitigation were at its best through the Green Revolution program.

His litany of Marcos’ achievements seemed unabated. I asked him why then that most Filipinos were nott contented of those achievements? He answered, “ Because of those who lost their powers. They wanted to regain that power and rule again in their turfs.”

In that same booklet, it was written, “Conventionally, governments invoke martial law to restore normality in periods of chaos and calamity.” In this case an interval of martial law that ended in a restoration of the old order would have been a cruel trick on the Filipino people. For “normality” here meant a drifting-back to the society of privilege and irresponsibility whose very excesses and inequities had spawned the violence that threatened it. And so Mr. Marcos claims for martial law, Filipino-style, “a unique character: from the untenable strategy of protecting or preserving the status quo to a militant, constitutional and legal strategy for creating and building, from the ashes of the old, a New Society.”

The New Society Movement during the martial law days brought order in the country. Its slogan, “Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan” had given the country a new image. From a violent and lawless society, it has crushed Communist rebellion, broken up warlord armies and seized half million guns from civilian hands. The economy had made a turn around. Infrastructures were built and support systems installed. Those were some of the gains of the martial law years under the Marcos administration.

When President Corazon Aquino toppled the Marcos government in 1986, the battlecry was that democracy restored. It was as if the Filipinos were liberated from the shackles of oppression – oppression as viewed by the critics that they could not do what they wanted to do. The feeling of oppression was changed with the feeling of hope.

From Cory Aquino, governance changed hands – Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and now La Presidenta Gloria. The democracy that was wanting during martial law years seemed to have been abused. The conditions before the proclamation of martial law in 1972 are now again emerging so fast that even the staunchest critics of La Presidenta are shivering to their spines that she may proclaim martial law or maybe a “failure of election” will be proclaimed in June 2010 – just to bring order in this country.

With or without martial law, the bottom line shall always be discipline among the people. A democracy that is abused is not a freedom at all to do what we would like to do. People are governed with laws and those laws how harsh they maybe shall be applicable to all.

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Entry filed under: Opinion.

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