47th anniversary of martial law

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Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the proclamation by which President Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under martial law. Although the proclamation is dated 21 September 1972, it was carried out only in the early hours of the 23rd.

It also seems like a right time to get the martial law historical record right, minus the politics.

The 1935 Constitution authorizes the President to place the entire country, or any part of it, under martial law. This is also allowed under the 1973 Constitution and the 1987 Charter.

Every individual has the inherent right to resort to self-defense. That is a right guaranteed by the State.

Like everyone under its jurisdiction, the State has the right to defend itself. It does so through martial law, and through statutes which outlaw treason, rebellion, sedition and similar acts designed to destabilize the State and undermine the authority of its duly-constituted government.

Since the 1935 Constitution allows martial law, it cannot be unconstitutional per se. Resort to martial law is unconstitutional only if the grounds for it as set forth in the charter itself do not exist.

By 1970, student activism in the country had become very violent, as seen in the attack against President Marcos outside the Legislative Building after his State of the Nation Address before Congress, and in the pillbox grenades and Molotov cocktails used by students in rallies near Malacañang. Student activists chanting “Mabuhay si Mao Tse-Tung,” referring to the communist Chinese leader, were regularly broadcast on the television news.

In August 1971, communist cadres bombed the opposition Liberal Party proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila, in the expectation that the carnage will be blamed on Marcos. Post-Marcos era publications by ex-communists confirm the Red role in the bombing.

Victor Corpuz, a soldier in the faculty of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), led several communist cadres on a daring raid on the PMA armory. The stolen weaponry went to rebel hands.

By early 1972, a large shipment of firearms and munitions donated by communist China to their Filipino comrades was seized in northern Luzon.

Citing the communist threat to the government, Marcos resorted to martial law. His act was sustained by the Supreme Court (SC). Post-Marcos era publications by anti-Marcos personalities later confirmed the communist plan to destabilize and overthrow the government and replace it with a communist state which takes orders from communist China.

Since martial law in 1972 was the first in the history of the post-war Republic, it was a pioneering experiment, and like all experiments, there were bound to be mistakes, as seen in the abuses committed by many soldiers who were drunk with their new power.

The martial law story is not just about Marcos. Although Marcos was commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, martial law was administered by his Defense secretary, Juan Ponce Enrile, and the chief of the Philippine Constabulary, Fidel Ramos. They held immense power, too.

Martial law did not abolish Congress. The 1973 Constitution did. When martial law was proclaimed in September 1972, Congress was not in session. By the time Congress was ready to convene in January 1973, the 1973 Constitution had overtaken Congress.

Not every delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention which drafted the 1973 Constitution was a Marcos ally. The convention president was ex-President Diosdado Macapagal, and many anti-Marcos personalities participated in finishing the draft by the end of 1972. Macapagal personally delivered the final draft to Marcos at Malacañang. They were photographed smiling at each other.
In April 1973, the SC declared the 1973 Constitution in force and effect. Although seven of the 10 justices of the HIgh Court were Marcos appointees, two of the seven voted against the validity of the 1973 charter. That negates any notion that Marcos influenced the SC in its decision.
Finally, the transitory provisions of the 1973 Constitution drafted by Macapagal and company allowed Marcos to continue issuing presidential decrees, which have the force and effect of legislation, for the duration of the transition from the presidential government under the 1935 Constitution to the parliamentary type envisioned in the original text of the 1973 Constitution.
That is the historical record.

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