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Martial law: The historical narrative

It was AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez who noted that then President Marcos was justified in declaring martial law in 1972. Citing the historical record, Galvez said that the country was on the verge of disintegration and chaos in the run up to that fateful September. There was the growing Communist insurgency supported by China and other like regimes. The secessionist movement in the South fueled by Malaysian interests. An economic downturn magnified no end by the profligacy of the privileged class. Deepening divisions among members of the political elite giving rise to warlords and private militias and the worsening crime situation across the archipelago. 

The State decided to cut off those who stood in the way of stabilizing the situation and preventing the country’s Balkanization. In a very real sense, the country was at war.

To Galvez, this historical confluence of events in the midst of the Cold War prompted Marcos to make use of the extraordinary constitutional option of putting the entire Philippines under martial law to save the Republic. Of course, this narrative runs counter to that promoted by those who were against such an imposition in the first place: the old oligarchy who had to part with their privileged status, the political elite who had to surrender their standing and private armies to the martial law government, members and fighters of the CPP/NPA/NDF and their supporters; the secessionists and a subset of the intelligentsia and their foreign partners.

But a majority of our people at that time, whether out of fear or belief, as well as the US and its Western allies, welcomed martial law and saw it as a necessary initiative to arrest the chaos and decline enveloping the country. Unfortunately, abuses committed by the security forces and even by those waging armed struggle against the state soon became the centerpiece of the martial law narrative and took wings after 1986. That is now being revisited especially by those like Galvez and the military establishment who fought hard to bring the peace and ensure the country’s territorial integrity.

And so, 46 years after the declaration of martial law, there is growing public interest in revisiting the past and hear out the entire story, so to speak, not get confined to the narrative of those who detested its implementation in the first place. As Brigadier General Antonio Parlade Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations emphasized a “complete historical narrative will show that the declaration was justified.”

Said Parlade: “The narrative of martial law always starts in 1972 during the declaration itself..But no one is talking about the circumstances, the events before martial law...Instead of pointing all accusing fingers at the former President, the public should pin the blame on the ‘monsters’ New Peoples’Army [NPA] and the Moro National Liberation Front [MNLF] both of which waged war on the duly elected authority.”

The two monsters escalated their destabilization efforts, combining their armed uprising and bombings across the archipelago with protest marches, strikes and other legal maneuvers, culminating in the bombing of the  Liberal Party’s “Miting de Avance “ in 1971, which was blamed on Marcos but was found out later on as a CPP/NPA operation in league with opposition leaders. By the time, the daily spectacle of killings and violence and protest actions became so widespread and brought the country to its knees. It had to be stopped before the situation got out of control.

“I am just stating facts,” Parlade continued, “which should have been part of history prior to martial law which the media never wanted to talk about. It’s time people should know. That’s necessary for the nation to heal itself and move on.”

Again, there will be a strong rebuttal to Parlade’s views. It is inconceivable to bring the anti-martial law/anti-Marcos  groups to even consider inquiring into the issues which have surfaced questioning their version of martial rule. In fact, Parlade has been called all sort of things including being a revisionist. But Parlade has stood his ground and he deserves our accolades. But to go back.

“It’s not revisionism,” Parlade said. It is completing the historical narrative—the stories which came out after 1986. That is the Edsa story. That is incomplete and in many instances unavailing. He even claims that then Senator Ninoy Aquino in one public engagement admitted that given the circumstances in 1972, he himself would have declared martial law.

But even as he justified the imposition of martial law in 1972, Parlade acknowledged the abuses committed by the security forces and the backsliding at all levels which occurred after. But it is the notion of the AFP and the security forces being themselves the monster in the eyes of the public second only to then President Marcos as perpetrated by those who entered the scene as conquering “heroes” in 1986 which grates. It is a continuing black eye which the military establishment wishes cleared and put in proper perspective.

“The AFP was very much a victim of martial law also,” Parlade said. “We don’t deny the abuses. Those who were part of that dark history have all retired. Some have died. Others have suffered for their misdeeds. So let’s stop blaming the AFP.” 

Indeed, it is time the historical narrative is completed. Let the light shine on that chapter of the nation’s history. Let the real lessons be learned and let the biases and prejudices unlearned so we can move on.

Topics: Jonathan Dela Cruz , Martial law , AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez , CPP , NPA , NDF
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