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The Philippines During Martial Law

 

Proclamation of Martial Law: On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the Philippines under Martial Law. The declaration issued under Proclamation 1081 suspended the civil rights and imposed military authority in the country. Marcos defended the declaration stressing the need for extra powers to quell the rising wave of violence allegedly caused by communists. The emergency rule was also intended to eradicate the roots of rebellion and promote a rapid trend for national development. The autocrat assured the country of the legality of Martial Law emphasizing the need for control over civil disobedience that displays lawlessness. Marcos explained citing the provisions from the Philippine Constitution that Martial Law is a strategic approach to legally defend the Constitution and protect the welfare of the Filipino people from the dangerous threats posed by Muslim rebel groups and Christian vigilantes that places national security at risk during the time. Marcos explained that martial law was not a military takeover but was then the only option to resolve the country’s dilemma on rebellion that stages national chaos threatening the peace and order of the country. The emergency rule, according to Marcos’s plan, was to lead the country into what he calls a “New Society”.

Marcos used several events to justify martial law. Threat to the country’s security was intensifying following the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968. Supporters of CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army, also grew in numbers in Tarlac and other parts of the country. The alleged attempt to the life of then Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile gave Marcos a window to declare Martial Law. Marcos announced the emergency rule the day after the shooting incident. Marcos also declared insurgency in the south caused by the clash between Muslims and Christians, which Marcos considered as a threat to national security. The Muslims were defending their ancestral land against the control of Christians who migrated in the area. The minority group organized the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Malaysia and pushed for the autonomy of Mindanao from the national government.

Juan Ponce EnrileThe move was initially supported by most Filipinos and was viewed by some critics as a change that solved the massive corruption in the country. Martial law ceased the clash between the executive and legislative branches of the government and a bureaucracy characterized by special interest. Marcos started to implement reforms on social and political values that hindered effective modernization. To match the accomplishments of its Asian neighbors, Marcos imposed the need for self-sacrifice for the attainment of national welfare. His reforms targeted his rivals within the elite depriving them of their power and patronage but did not affect their supporters (US Library of Congress, Martial Law and the Aftermath).

Thirty-thousand opposition figures including Senator Benigno Aquino, journalists, student and labor activists were detained at military compounds under the President’s command (Proclamation 1081 and Martial Law). The army and the Philippine Constabulary seized weapons and disbanded private armies controlled by prominent politicians and other influential figures (Proclamation 1081 and Martial Law). Marcos took control of the legislature and closed the Philippine Congress (Proclamation 1081 and Martial Law). Numerous media outfits were either closed down or operated under tight control (Proclamation 1081 and Martial Law). Marcos also allegedly funnelled millions of the country’s money by placing some of his trusted supporters in strategic economic positions to channel resources to him. Experts call this the “crony capitalism.”

Former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.The deterioration of the political and economic condition in the Philippines triggered the decline of support on Marcos’ plans. More and more Filipinos took arms to dislodge the regime. Urban poor communities in the country’s capital were organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Council for Community and were soon conducting protest masses and prayer rallies. These efforts including the exposure of numerous human rights violations pushed Marcos to hold an election in 1978 and 1981 in an aim to stabilize the country’s chaotic condition. Marcos, in both events, won the election; however, his extended term as President of the Republic of the Philippines elicited an extensive opposition against his regime. Social unrest reached its height after former Senator Benigno Aquino was murdered. The incident sent thousands of Filipinos to the streets calling for Marcos’ removal from post. Turning again to his electoral strategy, Marcos held a snap election in 1986 but what he hoped will satisfy the masses only increased their determination to end his rule that seated Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino, as President of the Philippines ousting Marcos from Malacañang Palace and ending the twenty-one years of tyrant rule.

 

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