People yearn for deregulated times, more orderly rule of Marcos

Thursday March 15, 2018 ()

When President Ferdinand E. Marcos sounded the alarm bells over the communist threat after the Plaza Miranda bombing of August 21, 1971, and the landing in Isabela province of automatic rifles and other war materiel smuggled from Red China in July 1972, his critics discredited him, saying that he was merely fabricating excuses to turn the country into a garrison state.

He was called a tyrant when he suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus following the Plaza Miranda bombing and then declared martial law on September 21, 1972, following the arms smuggling and the subsequent wave of bombings and assassinations.

The Marcos family

To many who suffered detention or injuries largely for engaging in subversive acts inordinately described the martial-law period, ending nine years later in January 1981, as the most brutal in Philippine history. To memorialize their contention, they organized in September 1999 the Conference on the Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship, with American impetus (from the Legacies of Authoritarianism Project started by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998).

The apparent aim of this project was to portray President Marcos, from the perspective of the victims of martial law, as a dictator whose example must never again be followed. However, leafing through the conference report that came out in book form, what was found were a litany of allegations but a serious shortage of evidence.

The report evoked a feeling that individuals who hated Marcos for a certain reason, the American participants included, were making him a convenient scapegoat at a time when he could no longer defend himself.

For a long time, this version of Philippine history where Marcos and his family were villains and his political opponents were heroes is the only and jealously guarded interpretation of the Marcos era that spanned almost two generations.

To digress from their version of history invites a warning against historical revisionism. These self-styled historians desperately wanted the people to swallow only their version, hook, line and sinker.

Filipinos who have experienced the martial-law period up close would swear that life was better then than now. They remembered lawless anarchy to which democracy was reduced from the late-1960s onward, until the declaration of martial law disrupted it only briefly by the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus from August 21, 1971, to January 12, 1972, bringing a sense of pleasant relief.

Describing the period, American historian Lewis Gleeck Jr. agreed with US Embassy political counselor Francis Underhill that "the Philippines needs a strong man to get the country organized and moving again."

Gleeck noted:

"Significant evidence of the strength of the authoritarian tradition was that the introduction of martial law was accepted with relief by most of the public, and that it proved overwhelmingly popular in the beginning. Filipinos were fed up with the chaos produced by "surplundering" congressmen, corrupted media, venalities in the bureaucracy and crime in the streets. An approving majority applauded his abolition of Congress and even the muzzling of the press."

But his critics continued to demonize Marcos for his lengthy exercise of emergency powers for which President Quezon was similarly decried, for having used emergency powers until the end of 1941. Marcos's political rival, Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., echoed the communists' summation of the Marcos presidency when he declared in 1977:

"Mr. Marcos declared martial law to perpetuate himself in power. He deliberately abetted chaos for seven years so that, at the end of his constitutionally allowable term, he could justify the imposition of martial rule to cover up his mismanagement."

That was Aquino's opinion, the bias of which was understandable since he was Marcos's nemesis, but the theory was implausible. The historical fact is that Marcos neither invented nor abetted the communist and separatist insurgencies; rather it was Ninoy who morally aided both insurgencies and materially supported the communist movement, as well. These insurgencies were the major reasons for the imposition of martial law.

Had Marcos been obsessed with keeping himself in power at all costs, he could have turned the Philippines into a garrison state. Instead, he allowed the civilian government to continue functioning under a new Constitution.

He could have called off the holding of elections without consulting the people. Instead, he held elections, plebiscites and referenda 15 times during martial law and welcomed the participation of the opposition, foreign observers and the media. He also enfranchised the youth to the electoral process.

He could have fortified himself in MalacaƱang Palace and ignored the needs of his people. Instead, he proceeded to give them roads, electricity, potable water, public health facilities, Medicare, schools, land reform, irrigation, minimum wages, industrialization, socialized housing, Kadiwa rolling stores with low-priced goods, price controls on basic commodities, ceilings on rental increases, a mechanism to stabilize fuel prices and a lot more, not the least of them public order.

Marcos presided over not only an orderly government but he also worked hard to make the Republic strong, internally and internationally. To help contain the communist and separatist insurgencies, he also opened, with First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, diplomatic and trade relations with Red China on June 9, 1975, the Soviet Union on June 2, 1976, and member-states of the Eastern Bloc in Europe starting in 1973, with East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria and countries in the Middle East.

Memories of these make people yearn, in these deregulated times, for the more orderly rule of Marcos.


  • People yearn for Marcos in deregulated times, Cecilio Arillo, February 28, 2018, Business Mirror

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