Despite their failure to subvert the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1971, the local communists retained their obsession with overthrowing Marcos and installing a communist state in the Philippines, one subservient to Peking (the old name of today’s Beijing). By the end of 1971, the name of Commander Dante (Bernabe Buscayno in real life) was dutifully invoked by the local armed communist cadres who were collectively called the New People’s Army (NPA).
July 1972 was a turning point for the communists. A sea vessel called the MV Karagatan anchored off Digoyo Point in Palanan, Isabela was accosted by the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Brigade. The ship carried firearms and ammunition obtained from Peking and meant for distribution to the CPP-NPA cadres. This incident infuriated Marcos, who lost no time in announcing it to the news media.
Word spread that Marcos was considering resorting to martial law to curb the threat to national security. Red leaders, however, downplayed the threat.
They were in for a big surprise.
On Sept. 23, 1972, President Marcos announced on national television that two days earlier, he issued Proclamation No. 1081 by which he placed the entire country under martial law. Marcos emphasized that martial law was not a military takeover, but a measure to save the Republic from the communist insurgency threatening it.
With martial law in force, soldiers from the Philippine Constabulary then headed by General Fidel Ramos arrested suspected enemies of the state, including leaders and key figures in the local communist movement. Overnight, the violent anti-government rallies organized by the reds in the national capital ceased to exist.
The ensuing peace and order during the first six months of martial law made many citizens appreciate the new political situation. Motorists obeyed traffic regulations, and pedestrians crossed only at pedestrian lanes. A nationwide curfew forced philandering husbands to come home earlier than usual. The televised execution by musketry of Lim Seng, a convicted drug lord, put an abrupt end to the drug menace.
This radical change in the national situation proved to be unsettling for the communists. Almost overnight, the reds lost their appeal to attract followers and became irrelevant. Only the die-hard cadres remained committed to the rebel movement. Those who evaded arrest moved around incognito, or fled to the mountains.
The martial law dragnet eventually led to the arrest and incarceration of Sison, Corpus, Buscayno and other red leaders. Their capture further damaged the local communist movement.
Since the communist insurgency in the Philippines in mid-1972 was an extraordinary menace, it required an extraordinary solution. President Marcos found the solution in martial law, and utilized that solution. It was a bold, unprecedented move a weak president would not have resorted to.
In fine, if the Philippines had been led by a weak president back then, the country would have inevitably fallen to the communists, like what happened to South Vietnam in 1975.
There may have been abuses committed by the military establishment during martial law, but that does not erase the fact that martial law aborted the communists’ plan to create a communist state in the Philippines.
This is the main reason why the communists hate Marcos.
Further adding to the hatred the communists have for President Marcos is the decision of the latter to open diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Communist China a few years after the proclamation of martial law. This move inevitably forced Peking to see Marcos in a more favorable light, and discouraged troublemakers in Peking’s communist politburo from openly supporting their comrades in the Philippines. At that time, Peking needed international support for its one-China policy and it could not afford rattling its new ties wih Manila.
That’s another reason why the reds hate Marcos.
In addressing the problem of communist insurgency in the country, Marcos did not confine himself to a military solution. He also waved the olive branch and gave amnesty to rebels who were willing to renounce their rebellion and rejoin the mainstream of Philippine society. Many of them returned to their old jobs in the academe, and in noted private establishments.
That’s another reason why the communists dislike Marcos.
The assassination of Ninoy Aquino at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport in August 1983 was exploited by the communists. By blaming Marcos for the death of Ninoy, the reds hoped to revive the anti-Marcos sentiment they peddled to the people, before the proclamation of martial law ended their dream of a communist regime in the Philippines.
Their plan backfired when Marcos created the Agrava Fact-Finding Board to investigate the Aquino assassination. The creation of the Agrava Board was not much of a concession in view of the military’s claim that a communist gunman killed Ninoy, but it was enough to once again delay the local communist timetable for subverting the government.
By 1984, the local communist movement was running out of strategies in its campaign to project itself as the only alternative of the Filipino people to a government under President Marcos. One-third of the seats in the Batasang Pambansa were held by the political opposition party UNIDO headed by Salvador “Doy” Laurel, but the UNIDO was staunchly anti-communist. Moreover, the communists’ boycott of the May 1984 parliamentary elections effectively excluded them from the political mainstream.
A final chance at avoiding political oblivion for the communists came during the so-called “People Power” revolt in February 1986. President Marcos could have allowed the use of force to disperse the crowds gathered at EDSA in Quezon City, but he refused to do so. To avoid needless bloodshed, Marcos relinquished power peacefully. Had Marcos chosen to fight it out, a civil war could have ensued, one which the communists could have used for seizing power once and for all.
Up to the end, Marcos foiled the communists.
That’s one more reason why they hate Marcos.