Martial law was painted as a dark chapter in Philippine history because the “victors wrote it,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with ALLTV Channel.
A week before the anniversary of the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, Marcos echoed his father, the late former President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., in maintaining that martial law was declared to suppress the armed rebellion from two fronts.
He said military rule was needed to prevent rising disorder caused by the nascent Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and the Muslim separatist movement of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
On another front, Mr. Marcos believes that his chief legal counsel, Juan Ponce Enrile, would not withdraw support from him the way he did with his father in 1986, which led to the EDSA People Power Revolution.
Mr. Marcos recounted past conversations he has had with Enrile, the former Senate President, Defense Secretary, and Justice minister, whom he calls “Tito Johnny,” and how they have reconciled.
Enrile, most known for being martial law administrator, helped oust the older Marcos in 1986. The President named “JPE” as his chief legal counsel in June and described him as “one of the three best lawyers” that he knows in the country, citing his brilliance as the main reason for appointing him.
“I don’t see any reason for him to betray me. The times are just too different for us to be able to say that you know that he would return to what he was before. And also you see, it’s the time of his life now,” Mr. Marcos said of Enrile, now 98 years old.
On martial law, which was declared in 1972 or five decades ago this year, the President said it was declared “because of the two wars we’re fighting on two fronts and that is in the countryside, the CPP-NPA was fomenting revolution.”
“They wanted to bring down the government through violent means so the government had to defend itself. The second front was the secessionist movement down in the south led by MNLF and chairman Nur Misuari at the time, he started that uprising, the secessionist movement, and that eventually turned into violence and essentially war that was even supported,” he told Gonzaga in Malacanang.
“Most people do not realize, the rebels, the communist rebels, how close they came to Manila and how close they came to large urban centers and slowly gained control. That’s why it was necessary to, in my father’s view at that time, declare martial law because there was really war already,” he added.
Mr. Marcos, however, claimed that this side of history was barely taught in schools because it is the winners’ interpretation of them that prevails, particularly that of the “opposition”.
It was the death of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., chief opposition leader, that became a contributing factor in galvanizing opposition to the Marcos Sr. government.
“Because the victors write history, don’t they? It is the victors in a conflict that will write history. The government fell, so the victors wrote this history and that’s what is being taught in schools and that’s what you heard and learned,” the President said.
“Those reasons were expounded at great length during my father’s time but of course it’s polarized, so it became an opposition. The opposition writes history. That’s what happened, that’s what the people learned,” he said.
Mr. Marcos disagreed with critics who described his father as a “dictator” after he declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, citing how his father would always have consultations with several private and civil society groups.
“A dictator would not hold consultations. A dictator would say, ‘This is what you should do whether you like it or not. How many times have I watched caucuses here, have I watched meetings in this hall that in different industries he would really discuss with them,” he said, Mr. Marcos said being called a dictator’s son never really hurt him because these were just “opinions”.
“It would hurt me if they were right. But they’re wrong,” he said.
The President acknowledged human rights abuses under his father’s regime but noted that these abuses happen “like in any war.”
“We recognize the problems that happened, the abuses that occurred like in any war. All of these things are some things that are already part of history,” he said.
The Chief Executive denied being involved in any effort to distort and falsify history to suit his family’s interests.
Mr. Marcos said he is open to “changing” textbooks about martial law, but “only if they’re wrong.”
“Let’s talk about facts, not political opinion. What are the things that actually did happen that we can show, we can prove. You see, we have video, we have photographs, we have records, these actually happened as opposed to ‘You know, it’s what we heard that happened, we heard from intel.’ They became rumors that can’t be proven,” he said.
“We can prove everything that we are saying. How can it be a revision of history and how do you distort history? Perhaps you can distort history by saying these are actual facts but are actually an interpretation or spin,” he added.