September 21, 1972: If the elite were deprived of their wealth, the poor were deprived of their lives

Human rights victims commemorate the 39th year of Martial Law. Call for Justice and just compensation. BICOLTODAY.COM FILE PHOTO
Human rights victims commemorate the 39th year of Martial Law. Call for Justice and just compensation. Photo by

Marginal Note
Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr./

The date shall live in the pages of the Philippine history as inglorious and oppressive. It speaks the minds of a brutal leader wanting to silence the whisper of abuses creeping like vines that only a sharpest of tools can cut.

Thus Martial Law was declared by strongman Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, cutting the umbilical cord of freedom of the Filipino people for twenty long years.

For most of the programs after the proclamation of Presidential Decree 1081 are but palliatives to cover the niggard performance of the government. Armed with the arsenal of repression, it silenced the opposition, bankrupted family businesses, stifled the media, harass the citizenry and branded the populace as leftist.

Millions suffered, a handful prospered, cronies sprouted, forming media empires as what Roberto Benedicto did, coconut monopoly went to Eduardo Cojuangco, depriving the cash-croppers and farmers the level prices of their produced, making them casualties when world prices drop. They suffered malnutrition and preventable disease for they are but slaves of the sugar and coconut barons. Land Oil Resources of Jose de Venecia partook the spoils of the national treasury. Cronyism becomes a byword that the Central Bank bankrupted the economy by issuing letter of credits to companies as guarantees though less in capitalization. But this is not the sinking point of the nation, it was the human rights abuses perpetuated by the abusive military then. The tide of violence erupted, perpetrated by the men in uniform, many disappeared without a trace until now.

Thirty nine years after, today, many are still the nursing the wounds of the dictatorship.

The human rights group Karapatan together with Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) and other human rights group feel that martial rule though not promulgated is still operating in the country today. Their assessments are borne out of their sufferings during the reign of terror. Theirs are sad stories to tell. The members can enumerate the sufferings of a family, the tortures, brutal tactics, humiliations, disappearances and the hardest part was the non-rebuke of the government of the United States, the bastion of democracy and champion of human rights to the excesses of the martial law years of ex-dictator Marcos. International watchdogs were silents with the never seen before scale of corruption by Marcos family and their cronies. The Filipino people was not only rob of its freedom but it suffered a generation of hate and abandonment. Fooling further the poor, Marcos issued Proclamation No. 24 giving land to the landless but the law has lots of loopholes that its effect were not felt by the landless poor.

At first the business community rejoiced for a new business climate opened but soon realized that it was only meant for the cronies. Various Presidential Decrees which were never published was used to subvert private interest, the non-political armed forces becomes a tool of repression, thus the growth of leftist insurgency and the secessionist movement in Mindanao are welcome development for it was an excuse to peruse excessive power by the regime. The military loyalty is to the dictator not to their country for most of the top post belongs to the boys of Ilocos, the region of the strongman. Saddling the country was the position given to Imelda Marcos as Human Settlement Minister that even co-equal ministers dare not cross her desire. She ruled far worse than Ferdinand for she spend peoples money in a splurge never seen to past first ladies of the country. The economic policies were designed to cripple his cronies competitors, leaving nothing to chance that the high yielding business and empires then are now in the hands of the cronies. Marcos family their partner of course.

Today, politicians of old who kowtow with dictator Marcos are in high positions of influence, take Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who admitted after the February 1986 EDSA revolt that his ambush is but a drama, it was the last match stick to light the proclamation of martial law. Now, Imelda Marcos is a member of congress, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected senator, Imee Marcos was then the National Sanggunian Kabataan President, is now the Governor of Ilocos Norte, Jose De Venecia started his Land Oil Resources in close association with the Marcos martial law regime, served as house speaker, Senator Panfilo Lacson was a member of the dreaded Metrocom, who will forget General Fabian Ver and his two sons who holds the rank of colonels in the heydays of oppression? They are but few of the well-known personalities who amassed power and economic might. Jose Y. Campos bank deposit was traced to be part of the Marcos loot. Benjamin ‘Kokoy’ Romualdez, brother of Imelda was made ambassador to the United States, earning fat commission on trade facts favoring a crony while Benjo, another sibling, aimed the mining concerns thus raping mother earth. Who will forget the ambitions of Lucio Tan whose part of his wealth was questioned and sequestered by the government. Alfonso Yuchiencho media empire was close. Many others have the same fate.

How about the disappearances of college students, farmers, social organizers, labor activist, even the religious was not spared. We are all victims of Marcos martial rule. The nationalization of industries particularly Philippine Airlines gave Imelda Marcos freedom to use it at her whims, traveling with the wives of the generals on foreign trips to forestall any coup attempts. Unknowingly, the general wives are hostages on vacation.

How about the champions of democracy, the likes of Jovito Salonga, Benigno Aquino, Wigberto Tañada Sr., Lorenzo Diokno, Francisco Sumulong, the Ziga’s of Albay, Evelio Javier of Antique, Teofisto Guingona, Eugenio Lopez and many others, they broke the chain of oppression earning them harassment and jail terms.

Remember the military tribunals who have a 100 percent conviction rate, not a single dismissal was recorded in the tribunals book. Take a look of then Chief Justice Enrique Fernando, shielding Imelda Marcos with an umbrella, a cowardly act of the judiciary that tells everyone of their subservience to the dictatorship of Marcos. Think about the notorious Camp Bagong Diwa, home of the political prisoners, Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija, its vast ground becomes the gravesite of the missing social activist. The isolation of political prisoners in military camps are worst human right abuses, depriving the families the links needed to boost their existence. Petitioning the courts for habeas corpus are acted indifferently to please the dictator.

In the cinema, those years were blackened by the proliferation of sex films, the likes of Lino Brocka are nowhere to be found. It permeates the industry to give semblance to freedom of expression. While we languished in our shanties, the Marcoses and their cronies toured Swiss banks to stash their looted wealth creating layer after layer of bogus accounts. Astute that he was, Marcos, upended the extension of the military bases of America in the country using it as a leverage to increase foreign aid which he corrupted in every imaginable way. Thus the policy of human rights by dear America during Jimmy Carter’s term are couch in the nicest diplomatic language.

Forget not the electoral process back then, block voting was use to weaken the opposition, remember Leonardo Perez, the notorious Comelec chair who count in multiplier the votes of Marcos and his political allies, but uses the negative numbers in counting the opposition votes? The masquerade of Imelda Marcos parading pianist Van Cliburn to the new elite of the New Society, her invitation to George Hamilton, the hollywood actor seen dancing with her in Malacañang, how about the tryst of Ferdinand Marcos to Dovie Beams and the bevies of local cinema beauties rumored to share bed with him. Both remained unperturbed for they have what it takes to play the merry-go-round.

On January 17, 1981, Marcos lifted Martial Law but his forces of repression continues to hound the land. Mockery of justice, the military transformed itself to harsher tactics in silencing critics, this time, hundreds of disappearances and killing are modus of repressions. Death squads prowl the hinterlands, in urban centers, it never stop even now. The abuses continue, it is still repressive today than 39 years ago for the repressive decrees are still operable.


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