IT HAS BEEN 51 years since the late president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law in the Philippines. And today, as the country is facing seemingly insurmountable political upheaval, it raises one question: Have the people of the nation truly have learned its lessons from the past?  

With that, it’s time to not only know, but to also understand the important facts that truly happened during the Marcos regime to acknowledge this historical event in Philippine history. 

September 21 to 23, 1972 

Photo courtesy of Gulf News

On September 21, 1973, the country was placed under Martial Law by the late dictator through Proclamation No. 1081, without making any such public declaration to the public. On the succeeding day, September 22, numerous politicians, especially from the opposition, were arrested and rounded up by military men, including the late senator Beningo “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who was Marcos Sr.’s main rival and critic at the time. By September 23, this is the time when Martial law was imposed through the announcement of then-press secretary Francisco “Kit” Tatad, with the late dictator himself announcing it on television.  

Number of victims 

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When it comes to the victims of Martial Law, according to Amnesty International, there were around 107,000 people whose human rights were violated; 70,000 arbitrary arrests were made by the soldiers of the administration, no longer needing any warrant of arrest at all; 34,000 lives were tortured under his regime; and 3,240 were killed by the hands of the police and army. Thus, there is the creation of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which seeks to use the alleged ill-gotten wealth from the Marcos dynasty to serve as reparation for the thousands of victims of Martial Law. 

The Marcos “loot

Since Marcos Sr. ruled by decree at this time, he was accused of squandering the people’s wealth and was alledged to placed government funds in their personal bank accounts, all while leaving the country in gigantic debt. According to the Supreme Court decision in July 2003, Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth was at around $683 million. During his time, the foreign debt of the Philippines was approximately pegged at $28.26 billion. With regard to this, just recently, former First Lady and congresswoman Imelda Marcos, was allowed to post bail last November 2018 and have the rest of her cases, involving P1 billion in alleged ill-gotten wealth, dismissed by the Supreme Court just this year.  

PH Economic decline 

Photo courtesy of IBON Foundation

There was no doubt that the rise in prices of goods were also devastating during this time. According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the consumer price index (CPI) from 1978 to 1986 found that prices increased. In this case, a P100 value in 1978 was worth more than P300 in 1986. The country’s economy is what we can say as the worst slump due to Marcos’s creation which was also stated by Prof. Emmanuel de Dios, an economic professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2017. 

In addition to this, Filipino farmers earned P42 daily in 1972. When Marcos Sr. was ousted in 1986, farmers earned P30. Through this, farmers experienced a devastating change as their wages went as low as nearly half of the pre-Marcos values in 1974 as stated by the Martial Law Museum, a project by Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). 

A muzzled press 

Photo courtesy of the Martial Law Memorial Museum 

As the highest authority, Marcos Sr. controlled the media, and only sympathetic entities were allowed to operate during the Martial Law. Led by his close friend, Roberto Benedicto, The Banahaw Broadcasting Operation (BBC) took over the Lopez family-owned ABS-CBN. The National Media Production Center (NMPC) also took over Channel 4, which became the government’s official station. The Kanlaon Broadcasting Systems (KBS) controlled provincial stations to operate as platforms for the government’s peace and order campaigns. Marcos also shut down two church-operated radio stations in Mindanao and prominent church publications, Signs of the Times and The Communicator.  

As Marcos controlled mass media, activists formed an underground media, establishing community papers and Filipino writers writing for the “mosquito press” in the 1980s. Catholics were the most prominent critics of Marcos at this time.  

As we delve into the stark realities of Martial Law, it becomes evident that the scars it left on our nation’s history are profound. Yet, amid the shadows of a turbulent past, we find the resilience of the Filipino spirit shining through. The stories of those who endured, the activists who persevered, and the journalists who defied censorship serve as a testament to the unyielding pursuit of truth and justice. These lessons from our history are not just a reminder of the darkness we faced, but also a beacon of hope, igniting the flame of vigilance and commitment to democracy for future generations. Never again should we experience such a plight. 


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