Philippines Martial Law

By | June 10, 2021

Martial law and (armed) resistance

In September 1972, Marcos declared martial law nationwide in order to guarantee domestic “order and security” and not to let the country topple over into another “domino” in view of the looming US debacle in Vietnam. In doing so, his regime secured considerable power to eliminate political adversaries, harass unions and the free media, and strike hard against anything that opposed his claim to rule. The result was a militarization of the state and society. The military alone was increased from 62,000 to approximately 285,000 men from 1972 to the mid-1980’s. The Integrated National Police / Philippine Constabulary (forerunner of today’s Philippine National Police) was also expanded and numerous paramilitary vigilante groups were established.

The Oplan Katatagan (Stability Operation Plan), which was drafted by the military at the same time, aimed primarily at smashing the infrastructure and logistics of the “communist subversion” and “Muslim secessionist efforts” in the south of the country. According to estimates by the Philippine Red Cross, between 1972 and the mid-1980’s 5.7 million people, one tenth of the population, were victims of displacement. Most affected were the urban poor, slum dwellers, farmers, ethnic minorities and Muslims in the south. At that time the NPA was the fastest growing guerrilla in the world and numbered nearly 30,000 combatants. As part of the left-wing alliance of the National Democratic Front (NDFP) formed underground in 1973, NPA units operated in 62 of a total of 73 provinces – in some places with battalion strength.

Philippines Martial Law

Aquino Murder – Crisis Management – “People Power”

According to dentistrymyth, the assassination of the most famous opposition politician Benigno Aquino Jr. at Manila airport (August 21, 1983) was not the cause, but it was the decisive trigger of a rapidly worsening social, political and economic crisis of the regime. It shouldn’t recover from that. Until its final fall in February 1986, not a day went by without protests and strikes – a movement that went down in history as the »Parliament of the Street«. Sharp social polarization and a severe economic crisis turned into a process of progressive delegitimization and isolation of Marcos and his followers. In addition to the radical left, the metropolitan middle classes also mobilized and worked towards the overthrow of the regime.

Alerted by such events, since the fall of 1983 everyone of name and reputation in Washington traveled to the Philippines to study the extent of the unrest on the spot. The State Department finally presented a comprehensive assessment of the situation in November 1984. This served US President Ronald Reagan as the basis for his National Security Directive, which he signed in January 1985. It included measures to avert the risk of radicalization in the Philippines “destabilizing the entire region.” In Sibylline terms, this document said: “Marcos is part of the problem, but necessarily also part of its solution.”

In plain language: Marcos was only tactically tenable. Of strategic interest – in the sense of an “orderly succession plan” – was an alliance of less corrupt, more efficient military and politicians from the moderate bourgeois spectrum. While Washington distanced itself from the longtime “voice of its master” and the longtime protégé was urged to hold early presidential elections in May and October 1985 by the CIA chief William Casey, who traveled to Manila, and Reagan’s special envoy, Senator Paul Laxalt, respectively other choice than to bow to this octroi. At the end of November 1985, in interviews with US television stations, he announced February 7, 1986 as the date for such elections.from February 22nd to 25th 1986 – protested on the streets of the metropolis until Marcos and his family and closest companions were flown out of the country.

The widow of the murdered Aquino moved into the presidential palace as a beaming victor. Carried on waves of euphoria, a »rosary« or » people power revolution triumphed in Manila«, From which, paradoxically, two long-standing corset bars of the ancien régime benefited: The chief of the Philippine Constabulary and deputy chief of staff, Lieutenant General Fidel V. Ramos, and Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. Long before the term “turning neck” became acceptable, Ramos and Enrile were its prototypical incarnations. Literally five minutes to twelve they had given up their allegiance to their president and taken the lead in a military revolt that weighed in on Aquino. Ms. Aquino paid her thanks by first becoming Chief of Staff, then Minister of Defense, and finally succeeding her in 1992.

“Turn necks” and political figures standing up

Enrile, in turn, initially remained Minister of Defense, although he later distanced himself from the new president and would have liked to have pushed her away. Which didn’t detract from his career. Since then, he has been a businessman, congressman and a powerful figure in the Senate, from which the 92-year-old did not finally leave until the end of June 2016. For the last six years he has served in the Senate with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of the dictator couple, who narrowly missed the leap into vice-presidency in the presidential election in May.

The Marcos widow, Imelda Romuáldez Marcos, born in 1929, was able to return to Manila from exile in Hawaii in 1991. Here she began her second career in politics and show business. In 1995 she was elected to Congress as a member of her home province of Leyte and ran unsuccessfully in the 1992 and 1998 presidential elections. Since the end of June 2010, Ms. Marcos has been re-elected as Congresswoman. Since then she has represented the second district in Ilocos Norte, her husband’s home province, in the House of Commons. A position previously held by her daughter Imee, who has been governor of Ilocos Norte since June 30, 2010. Asked by a team of reporters from the BBC in early 1996 whether she was still the third richest woman in the world at around six billion US dollars. the bustling Imelda said verbatim: “I don’t know whether I’ll be the first or the last. The Marcoses did not take anything from the country, they gave everything. (…) I am a beggar; I don’t even know where I’ll get my next meal from. ”