The Specter of Martial Law

Thirty four years since the declaration of Martial Law and 20 years since its downfall through a people power uprising, the specter of another dictatorship is more real today than ever.


Thirty four years since the declaration of Martial Law and 20 years since its downfall through a people power uprising, the specter of another dictatorship is more real today than ever. The conditions that brought about Martial Law can be seen today.

Just like the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is desperately clinging to power. Both the elections which supposedly gave Marcos a second term and Macapagal-Arroyo a renewed lease on the presidency were marred by massive cheating.

The economy then as it is now is in a state of crisis. And the country was deeply divided then as it is now.

The Marcos regime violently dispersed mass actions during the First Quarter Storm; suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971; then issued Proclamation 1081 placing the country under Martial Law. The Macapagal-Arroyo administration showed its contempt for the hard earned rights of the Filipino people when it issued the Calibrated Preemptive Response to suppress mass actions on September 21, 2005, the 33rd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law; and issued Presidential Proclamation 1017 (PP1017) placing the country under a state of national emergency on February 24 this year, the 20th anniversary of EDSA 1.

It is not a mere coincidence that a substantial portion of PP1017 was copied from Proclamation 1081 of Marcos. Marcos used the supposed threat of communism and destabilization by “oligarchs” to justify the declaration of Martial Law. Macapagal-Arroyo used the alleged Left-Right conspiracy to justify her proclamation. Marcos blamed communists and demagogues for the problems confronting the nation. Macapagal-Arroyo blames communists and “destabilizers” for the crisis enveloping the country.

Upon the declaration of Martial Law, Marcos closed all media establishments and arrested people from a broad spectrum of the opposition. Upon the declaration of a state of national emergency, Macapagal-Arroyo raided the Daily Tribune and threatened all media establishments with closure or censorship. She attempted to arrest Bayan Muna (People First), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Gabriela Women’s Party representatives while threatening to arrest all other members of the opposition.

Marcos, during the 14 years of his dictatorship, ordered the arbitrary arrest and detention of around 120,000 people; the extra-judicial execution of 1,500 activists; and the enforced disappearance of 769 individuals. Human rights violations were committed with impunity then.

Trumped-up charges

Macapagal-Arroyo, during the five years of her rule, ordered the filing of trumped-up charges against progressive party-list representatives and libel suits against the media and the opposition; threatened anybody opposing the regime with charges of rebellion and inciting to sedition; ordered the extra-judicial execution of 752 activists and their supporters; and the enforced disappearances of 184 people. Human rights violations are being committed with impunity now.

Marcos relied on the support of the U.S. to prop up his regime. The Laurel-Langley Agreement which defined the terms of trade between the U.S. and the Philippines was to expire in 1974. Marcos promised that he would preside over the drafting of a new constitution and enactment of new laws that would be favorable to foreign trade and investments; protect U.S. properties and capital against expropriation; and guarantee the continued presence of the U.S. military bases in the country.

Macapagal-Arroyo is banking on U.S. support to keep her regime afloat. In exchange, she is promising continued support to the U.S. “war on terror” and the revision of the constitution to remove all restrictions to trade and investments as well as prohibitions on the basing of foreign troops in the country.

Marcos used the 1973 Constitution to declare himself as president and prime minister and extend his rule indefinitely. Macapagal-Arroyo is pushing for Charter Change to give her the powers of both president and prime minister and extend her rule indefinitely.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos burdened the Filipino people with their corrupt and extravagant ways. The Filipino people are being burdened by the many corruption scandals involving the Arroyo family.

Marcos supposedly lifted Martial Law in 1981 but used his dictatorial powers until he was ousted in 1986. Macapagal Arroyo lifted PP1017 a week after its declaration but is continuing to exercise dictatorial powers up to now.

Marcos was so confident of his powers and the fear it instilled on people that he did everything that pleases him no matter what the public thinks and its implications on people’s rights. Macapagal-Arroyo believes that her administration is over the hump and is pushing for her agenda come hell or high waters.

The Filipino people bore the brunt of the Marcos dictatorship when the country was under Martial Law then. It is bearing the burden of another dictatorship under a state of undeclared Martial Law now.

The Filipino people ousted the Marcos dictatorship then and vowed that never again will it suffer under Martial Law. Will the Filipino people stand up against another dictatorship now? (

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