A day after the 47th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial law in the Philippines, Malacañang justified its imposition — saying it was needed to instill discipline and quell the communist rebellion.
While acknowledging that Marcos’ martial rule resulted in abuse, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement Sunday that it “instilled discipline among the citizenry at its inception” and reaped “success in dismantling the then spreading communist insurgency in the country.”
According to Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, the New People’s Army — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines — only had 60 members in 1969, but this later grew to 25,200 at the fall of the Marcos regime in 1987.
Panelo said Marcos’ martial rule “created a deep wound to an entire generation” and “continues to haunt those who have traumatic experiences during the one-man rule.”
“It is best to reflect on this day to learn the lessons derived therefrom, using the same to unite us as one people and one country,” said Panelo, who once ran for senator under the Marcos-founded Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.
Panelo went on to say that the framers of the present Constitution acknowledged the need for martial law — “despite the fears and the trauma” — even if they added more safeguards against its abuse.
“Those who perceive that a declaration of martial law is anti-democratic is oblivious of the fact that its application is precisely the very tool to save the exercise of democracy. It is only when it is clothed with abuse by its enforcers that it becomes obnoxious,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has not shied away from his admiration of Marcos and is close allies with his kin. He has allowed Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and backed the political ambitions of the late dictator’s children, having endorsed Imee’s senatorial bid and having called Ferdinand Jr. as a better successor to the presidency.
Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao in May 2017, after ISIS-inspired militants laid siege to the business district of Marawi City. Congress has granted Duterte’s request for the Mindanao martial law’s extension three times.
The 1987 Constitution, drafted after the ouster of Marcos through the People Power uprising, allows the president to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which safeguards against warrantless arrests, or place the entire country or any part of it under martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”
But unlike previous charters, the present Constitution established safeguards against the abuses of martial law. It allows Congress to reject it and lets the Supreme Court review whether there is enough basis for its declaration.
It also imposed a 60-day cap on the imposition of martial law, but Congress can move to extend it.
It also states that the declaration of martial law does not suspend the Constitution, does not replace civil courts and legislative assemblies, and does not let military courts and agencies to have jurisdiction over civilians where civil courts function.
Under the Marcos regime, thousands fell victim to summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations. This is recognized under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act.
The law established the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, which processed more than 75,000 claims for reparations and approved around 11,000. Approved claimants should receive reparations that will be obtained from the recovered ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and his cronies.
The former president’s rule that lasted more than two decades also led the country into a foreign debt crisis. The Marcos government resorted to extensive foreign borrowing from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s to fund a number of projects. From $4.1 billion in 1975, external debt ballooned to $24.4 billion in 1982.