Progressives debunk myths about Martial Law

Protesters mark the 36th anniversary of People Power 1. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)


MANILA – Leaders of various groups debunked the myths peddled by the Marcos camp in a protest action commemorating the 36th anniversary of People Power 1, Feb. 24.

The space near People Power Monument was transformed into an open classroom, with speakers discussing facts about the Marcos dictatorship. Nearly 4,000 marched along EDSA, site of the uprising that toppled Ferdinand Marcos, father of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr..

Here are the myths busted:

1. There were no rights abuses during Martial Law.

Bonifacio Ilagan, one of the political prisoners during the Marcos dictatorship, said that after Marcos declared Martial Law, thousands were arrested and detained.

“Many of those arrested were tortured. Women were raped, and many were not able to come home,” Ilagan said in Filipino. “The peace and quiet during Martial Law is the peace and quiet of the grave.”

Amirah Lidasan of the Moro Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) meanwhile talked about the 1968 Jabidah Massacre, which Lidasan said sparked the Bangsamoro people to take up arms.

“The Moro people cannot move on because the Marcoses have blood debts,” Lidasan said, adding at least 5,000 Moro civilians were killed during the Marcos dictatorship.

In a recorded message, Senator Leila de Lima said, “Life had no value during the time of Marcos.”

2. The Marcoses did not steal from public coffers; their wealth came from Tallano gold.

Lawyer Ricky Tomotorgo of Bunyog told the audience in Filipino, “If nothing was stolen, why were we able to recover ill-gotten wealth?”

Citing data from the Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), Tomotorgo said at least P172-billion worth of ill-gotten wealth has been recovered from the Marcoses.

Why were the Marcoses not imprisoned? Tomotorgo said that in 2018, Imelda Marcos, wife of the ousted dictator, was convicted of seven counts of graft for funneling about $200 million to Swiss foundations in the 1970s.

“Imelda should have been imprisoned for 42 years. The problem is that the decision came out in 2018; Duterte is the president, and the court allowed her to post bail,” Tomotorgo said.

In a recorded lecture, former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said, “The Supreme Court of the Philippines and Switzerland have declared that the Marcoses are thieves.”

Sereno cited the unanimous decision of the high court in 2003 stating that Imelda Marcos confirmed the existence of Swiss accounts, and such accounts were used to hide the wealth the Marcoses plundered from the nation.

Sereno added that at least 13 cronies of Marcos have returned the ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses.

The lies about the ‘Tallano Gold’ and the truth about ill-gotten wealth

3. The sins of the father should not be passed on to the son.

Makabayan Coalition Chairperson and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares said, “Bongbong Marcos is being made to account not for the acts of his father but for his own actions.”

Colmenares said Marcos Jr. was not a baby. In fact, Marcos Jr. was 23 years old when he became Ilocos Norte governor. “He was part of the Martial Law administration which plundered the nation’s wealth, and committed human rights violations,” Colmenares added.

Lawyer Howie Calleja, meanwhile, pointed out that Marcos Jr. was found guilty of tax evasion and therefore should have been disqualified from running for the presidency.

4. Martial Law years were golden years, and Marcos Jr. will continue the legacy of his father

Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairperson Elmer Labog said that wages of workers dropped during Martial law years. From P127 per day in 1962, the wage of skilled workers dipped to P35 per day in 1986. In the same period, from P89 per day in 1962, unskilled workers’ wage became P23 in 1986.

Labog added that Marcos prohibited labor strikes.

Former Agrarian Reform Chief and Anakpawis first nominee Rafael Mariano said that Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27 exempted large tracts of agricultural land from land reform and the coco levy further impoverished coconut farmers.

For farmers, Martial Law wounds remain painful

Economist JC Punongbayan said Martial Law resulted in the worst economic crisis in the Philippine history since World War II, with 14-percent economic decline in 1984 and 50-percent inflation rate in 1984.

Thousands of workers lost their jobs, Punongbayan said. Unemployment rate stood at 12.6 percent in 1985 and unemployment rate was pegged at 32.9 percent.

5. Marcos did not suppress press freedom.

Jonathan de Santos, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said Marcos ordered the closure of media outlets, and only allowed crony press to operate. He said that those who were critical in their reporting were branded as “communist sympathizers or propagandists.”

De Santos drew parallelism during Martial Law and the Duterte administration, citing the shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN.

6. Nothing has changed since Martial Law, it’s better for the Marcoses to return to power.

Sociology professor Gerry Lanuza debunked the narrative that EDSA was only made up by the yellows. Lanuza said that EDSA did not happen overnight, and was a culmination of the people’s anger and disgust at the dictatorship.

Marcos rehabilitation

Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said that the succeeding administrations did not make the Marcoses accountable. In 2016, Duterte allowed a hero’s burial for Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

“They [Marcoses] are now using stolen wealth to return to power,” Reyes said in Filipino. “Do not expect Marcos Jr. to change the rotten system, he will exploit this system to return to power just as his father did.”

Youth take on the challenge

Kej Andres, chairperson of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), said the youth take inspiration from the martyrs of Martial Law.

“The challenge right now is to frustrate the political comeback of Marcoses and Dutertes,” Andres said. (

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