Forty-four years ago, President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the entire Republic of the Philippines under martial law. He used the powers provided to him by the 1935 constitution to place the country under his control and suspend both chambers of Congress. Subsequently, through the ratification of the 1973 constitution, his rule over the country was cloaked in legality. These are the facts beyond debate.
Also true is the fact that from the moment of its declaration until his ouster in February 25, 1986 the brutal authoritarian machinery he created with this declaration unleashed an era of unprecedented plunder, abuse, and murder on the Filipino people. Critics of President Marcos’ abuses were jailed and tortured. The Press and media, which served as the fourth estate, was silenced and forced to parrot official propaganda emanating from the Presidential palace.
The number of those killed at 3,257, those tortured at 35,000 and those incarcerated at 70,000. The scale of theft is also jarring. Billions of dollars in public money was stolen from the Filipino people and billions more inherited by the Filipino people in the form of international loans which financed grandiose projects of megalomania but did little to alleviate the hardships of millions of Filipinos.
These are not in dispute. They have been recorded by numerous researchers, historians and academics. They have been corroborated by thousands of testimonies from the dictatorship’s victims. Our very own laws and jurisprudence also attests to the level of plunder and abuse committed by the former president and his family together with their cronies.
Despite these facts, there are still many who cling to the nostalgia of the dictatorship. We cannot blame those who hold on to these false beliefs especially when our battle to fight poverty and corruption has yet to be won. Nevertheless, those who willfully and actively fabricate stories and pass it off as history should not be countenanced. It is a challenge for us who benefit from the struggles of those who fought the dictatorship to continue their legacy and make their vision of a more prosperous and fair country a reality.
The story of Martial Law should not just be a story of one man’s insatiable quest for power but also of the bravery and sacrifices of those who stood in his way. It is the story of a nation which fought to end tyranny and to create a better and nobler democracy in its ashes. Such a democracy may still be far off but our journey has been made easier because of the selflessness of those who fought the dictatorship. Those are the facts.