MARTIAL Law. At midnight on Sept. 21, 1972, Proclamation No. 1081 was issued by President Ferdinand Marcos, closing all media outlets—print, radio and television. Well-known critics of Marcos and the administration were also rounded up.
Later in the morning of Sept. 22, I was told by my boss, Roberto Benedicto, to go to Malacañang because Marcos was ready to announce the justification of Martial Law. With Channel 9’s television crew, and with Babe Romualdez as the anchor, we prepared for the President’s announcement. Then Press Secretary Kit Tatad would introduce it.
Marcos justified Martial Law under the 1935 Constitution when an invasion or rebellion threatened the security of the state. He said that the state was faced with two cases of rebellion, one from the communist force that was already at Balara, beside the University of the Philippines, and another one, the separatist/independence movement in Mindanao by Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front.
The Supreme Court later on ruled that Proclamation 1081 was needed in the face of a real and imminent rebellion from two fronts, given that at that time, there were only 48,000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. I must say that Proclamation 1081 was well planned because there was no effective resistance except for the siege of the Iglesia ni Kristo compound in Quezon City.
After a day or two, I got word that I was named by Marcos as one of the three members of the Media Advisory Council that would implement PD 1081 in media. I was president of the Manila Overseas Press Club at that time. This meant that the MAC would be in charge of censoring media. The council was headed then by Tibo Mijares of the Daily Express owned by Benedicto, the only publication that continued to be published despite Martial Law. The other member, Ray Pedroche, was in charge of radio and television.
Knowing how the foreign press works, I told the council that we should stop censorship of foreign media since that would lead to a lot of speculation and condemnation of Marcos and Martial Law. Soon enough, Mijares told us that “with the approval of the President, this or that media outlet would be reopened. He became a one-man MAC with the authority of President Marcos.”
I resigned because the MAC had become a money-raising tool for some people.
Back as public affairs manager of KBS (Kanlaon Broadcasting System) operating Channel 2, Mabuhay Broadcasting GTV-4 (government television station), RPN-Channel 9 and IBC-Channel 13, I thought of an idea on how to get radio and television out of the ambit of Martial Law. Channel 7 was also operating then but under Bob Stewart, with limited programs and foreign films. ABS-CBN and the Manila Times Channel 5 were closed.
I called representatives of radio and television to a meeting at the office of the late Emil Tuazon and Andrei Khan, and with the permission of then-Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, the administrator of Martial Law, we organized the KBP or the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas to be a self-policing body. I was its first president.
Sure, there were abuses, atrocities and human rights violations during Martial Law. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. There were also instances of plunder by people in power, especially by the well-known cronies. But Martial Law also had its brighter side.
The communist insurgency backbone was broken; the separatist/independence movement was also broken with the self-exile to Egypt by Misuari; the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao came into being after the Tripoli Peace Agreement was signed; massive infrastructure was started with the North Luzon Expressway and South Luzon Expressway, the Marcos Highway to Baguio, the Philippine Japanese Highway to Mindanao, and the construction of LRT 1.
Lest I am accused of minimizing the abuses committed during Martial Law, I am not. I’m just citing facts. At least, during Martial Law, policemen and soldiers did not shoot and kill innocent civilians who were only asking for rice because they were starving. During the incumbency of Cory Aquino, it was Mendiola Massacre and the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Now, under BS Aquino, it’s the Kidapawan Massacre.
When Ninoy Aquino was assassinated at the international airport tarmac, the economy was on the verge of collapse. That compelled then-Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin to create what was known as the Binondo Central Bank where some eight well-known Chinese foreign exchange traders were forced to trade as Ongpin saw fit. Ongpin said they would be arrested and put in stockade if they didn’t follow orders. He also dictated, day to day, the rate of the peso vis-a-vis the dollar. Ongpin brought the exchange rate from P28 to P11.
I am particularly proud of Ongpin’s achievement since he was the one that saved the economy from collapse. He was my student at Ateneo High School.
Some Marcos-haters who were not yet born or were just babies at that time do not know that it was Imelda who sent the late Ninoy Aquino to Houston, Texas to have an urgent heart operation, and even continued to subsidize the Aquino family in Boston where the Aquino family was in exile.
People of this generation also do not realize that it was Imelda who brought forth the renaissance in Philippine arts and culture. It was she who oversaw the construction of five-star hotels in Makati and Manila, as well as the Philippine International Convention Center, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Trade and Film Center, and the World Trade Center.
The Marcos years also did some good for the country. And I believe that history will judge the Marcos years fairly despite some sectors, including BS Aquino, trying to spook people about having Senator Bongbong Marcos as vice president. They say that Martial Law would be resurrected. My gulay, I suggest BS Aquino look at the 1987 Constitution which his late mother had framed. He would see that Martial Law is now a near-impossible scenario.
Besides, wasn’t BS Aquino’s late grandfather, Benigno S. Aquino Sr., in charge of the dreaded “Makapili” during the Japanese Occupation rule for over three years? The “Makapili” were instrumental in the killing of alleged guerrilla fighters and their relatives. They were portrayed with bayongs over their heads, pointing to the Japanese whom to kill.
BS Aquino’s late grandfather was charged with treason when liberation came. He was sent to prison but soon, all Japanese collaborators were given amnesty.
Filipinos did not take this episode of history against Ninoy, Cory Aquino and even PNoy. Now, BS Aquino is resurrecting Martial Law against Bongbong, who is running only as vice president. BS Aquino is truly a hypocrite.
Speaking of the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, I recall his exposé in the Senate that Marcos had some 400 Jabidah Muslims killed in Corregidor. That led foreign media to go all out against Marcos, saying that he was a fake hero of World War II. I am still wondering if that exposé had basis in fact.
I do not want to write about the so-called People Power Revolution of 1986 when Enrile-Ramos-Honasan and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement caused the exile of Marcos. This chapter has been written and even distorted in so many ways. For one thing, it was not truly a People Power Revolution because only the middle class of society, nuns, priests, and students were there. It was only in Metro Manila.
Thanks to Marcos, he went to exile instead of following the request of the late Chief of Staff Fabian Ver to bomb the breakaway group. Marcos did not want blood on his hands. But I honestly believe that even without the people who went to Edsa to support the breakaway group, the coup could have succeeded anyway, having the support of 85 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
Unfortunately, Edsa 1 benefitted only the Aquinos, not the nation as a whole. The people are still confronting the problems that Edsa 1 sought to eradicate—poverty, graft and corruption, government incompetence, its lack of compassion and sensitivity to the people’s needs. Worst of all, the hypocrisy!
The last episode of this series will dwell on the post-Edsa 1 presidents—Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and now BS Aquino.