Martial Law 40 Years After: The Spectre Continues

Many of the generation today only know about the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines in the history books in school. However, due to the colonial and elitist nature of our educational system, it is merely remembered as an event, just a milestone in Philippine history, without any reflection of its significance and relevance to us as a nation.

Much more alarming is, there is a concentrated effort by some interest groups to portray Martial Law and the whole Marcos regime as some benevolent leadership, the regime who saved the country from turmoil. But however hard they try to do and twist the truth according to their whims, the spectre continues to haunt the nation. The spectre that was Martial Law.

Martial Law was an instrument of Ferdinand Marcos to perpetuate himself in office. It had open support from the United States and it was the way that the country was opened to foriegn capital through neoliberal policies. It was a way of prolonging the life of a rotten and bankrupt neo-colonial and semi-feudal system.

Human rights violations were committed in epic proportions. 70,000 persons were incarcerated, and more than 3,000 were made victims of torture, beatings, physical assault and enforced disappearances. Marcos had mass leaders and activists as well as his political rivals jailed.

But despite the massive terror, it helped to forge organized resistance which not only fought against Marcos and his dictatorial regime but also to put an end to the backward state of Philippine society and struggle for genuine social transformation.

Continued and persistent struggle by the Filipino people eventually put an end to the dictatorship. However, despite the illusion of a “democratic space” upon the ascent to power by Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, the human rights violations which characterized the Marcos dictatorship did not disappear.

Martial Law produced an unwanted by-product: a politicized and entrenched military system which does everything as it sees fit. Killing, torturing and maiming persons.

The killings of mass leaders and activists were perpetuated by extremist elements of the politicized military, in which the “democratic” regime of Cory Aquino did not do anything, despite its pronouncements on their adherence to democratic processes and human rights.

Until now, no one from the military and paramilitary institutions were prosecuted for their leading roles during Martial Law. Most of them were able to crawl back to the political mainstream, presenting themselves as persons with honorable intentions.

The spectre of Martial Law indeed continues to haunt the nation until today. Legal mass movements and their leaders are subjected to harrassment, intimidation and summary executions, for the reason of an alleged connection to insurgent groups. Those who are fighting for people’s rights and freedoms are either silenced in death or held incommunicado in detention cells.

Such as Audie Lucero of YND Bataan, who was killed by alleged military elements in 2006 for his active role in the youth and student movement. Archie Bathan, also from YND Bataan, was accused of trumped up charges by the military for his vocal resistance and leadership of the people of Bataan against the revival of the BNPP. He is still in detention as of present.

The current Aquino regime, for all its intentions in weeding out corruption and promotion of accountable and transparent governance, has no clear program in regards to safeguarding and promotion of human rights. Despite the much publicized and media hyped efforts in capturing Jovito Palparan, “The Butcher” remains free as of today. Worse, no offending military and police personnel had been convicted for their crimes against the people.

It is also quite ironic that the current President, despite being the son of the most prominent political prisoner, Ninoy Aquino, has the gall of outrightly denying the existence of political prisoners. It is somehow, explains why there are no clear agenda for his regime in regards to the advancement of human rights.

40 years had passed indeed. But justice has yet to be given to those people who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of democracy and societal transformation, from the Marcos era until today. Their sacrifices will not be in vain.

The spectre of Martial Law remains, because the system which gave life to it remains. As long as the imperialist dominated, elitist neo-colonial and semi-feudal system continues its existence, wanton disregard of human rights and democratic freedoms will continue. As long as the oppressive few rules over the oppressed majority, like a ghost of the past, it shall go on and transcend.

Remembering Martial Law is not only for the simplistic purpose of commemoration, but to serve as an eye-opener, to serve as a realization for the youth to stand out and struggle for genuine democracy and national emancipation.

Martial Law Proclamation 40th Anniversary – September 21, 2012


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