The TRUTH about Martial Law: Young Filipinos no longer believe that it was all bad!


The war for minds surrounding the 2016 elections now seems to be centred on how the last 30 years of “freedom” that was “won” in 1986 stacks up against the 20-year Martial Law regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos. You can see it in how much “lest we forget” messages that aim to “educate” the Filipino youth about the “evils” of Martial Law now flood both new and traditional media timelines and headlines.

Recently, the Ateneo de Manila faculty issued a statatement that was signed by “more than 400 faculty members and formators” condemning the “historical revisionism” surrounding the Martial Law years allegedly being perpetrated by vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos…

“We vow as teachers and formators to continue to tell the stories of the brutality and corruption of the Marcos family, regime, and closest allies,” the statement reads. “For as long as we remember and share these stories, we believe that future generations of Filipinos will learn the lessons of the years of struggle leading to the overthrow of the dictatorship during those historic days of the People Power Revolution in 1986.”

Ateneans strike a pose with former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
Ateneans strike a pose with former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
Unfortunately for anti-Marcos “activists” like the Ateneo faculty, in this instance, the Philippines’ youth have long turned a jaded eye towards the tired old notion that all the Philippines’ failings can be traced back to the Marcos regime. Indeed, quite amusingly, the Ateneo found itself in the middle of a media circus after its students were caught on camera taking selfies with former First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Much of the Philippines’ vast voter base is made up of young people — many of whom were not even born during the height of anti-Marcos rhetoric in the years immediately following the 1986 ‘people power revolution’ that ousted the late President Marcos. Instead, they came of age in a period marked by widespread failure under the watch of a direct heir of the “heroes” of that revolution — current Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III — to make good on the promise of a better Philippines following the fall of the “Evil One”.

Where we are now, as such, comes as no surprise. One cannot blame Filipinos today for scrutinising the whole Marcos-Bad-Yellow-Good narrative through a more critical lens. One specific aspect of this old narrative has to do with who these so-called “Martial Law victims” really are. Anti-Marcos activists would have us believe that Marcos chaired a murderous and even genocidal regime that was bent on torturing and gunning down heretics Taliban-style. In short, anti-Marcos “activists” assert that most of Marcos’s so-called “victims” were all hapless innocents randomly picked up from the streets after having uttered the slightest plea to differ on even the most minor aspect of the Marcosian dogma we are told existed at the time.

In a Facebook post, De La Salle University professor Antonio Contreras begs to the contrary and opts to check himself out of the prevailing groupthink that has come to regard the Martial Law years as “a monolithic narrative of terror and suffering”…

To blame the complex system of pain and suffering to one man, and one tainted surname, would be too simplistic. Doing so is simply falling into the game of political opportunists who would like to turn a significant period of our history as simply a duel between two oligarchic dynasties.

More specifically, Contreras asserts that, for the most part, the victims of these alleged atrocities are not as innocent as they are made out to be but were combatants of their chosen ideologies (many of which espoused a violent destruction of the state). They were, Contreras writes, “casualties” of their “ideological choices”.

Manila Times columnist Bobi Tiglao too wrote that it is time that the alleged victims of Martial Law atrocities themselves be honest about what really happened. Tiglao himself was imprisoned under the Marcos regime but wrote…

There were indisputably human rights violations during Martial Law, even the most despicable ones. Many of my close friends were killed by the military or the constabulary in their mid-twenties. However, I would blame Communist chief Jose Ma. Sison for many of those deaths because he deployed those men who were barely out of their teens to foment unrest and revolt in the countryside, telling them that the masses had been roused to revolution because of Martial Law. They were very poorly armed, and were killed not even by the military but by police and militias who thought they were bandits.

Still alive: Then Philippine Constabulary chief Gen. Fidel Ramos led the dreaded 'anti-subversion' unit of the Martial Law regime.
Still alive: Then Philippine Constabulary chief Gen. Fidel Ramos led the dreaded ‘anti-subversion’ unit of the Martial Law regime.
Even more interesting, the chief executors of Martial Law atrocities — then Philippine Constabulary chief Gen.Fidel Ramos and then Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile — remain alive and are even revered as elder statesmen today. Tiglao points out that they were more directly associated with his horrible experiences under Martial Law than Bongbong Marcos ever could be…

The arrest orders against me and my late wife, Raquel, were issued by Ramos, who was, would you believe, PC Chief from 1970 to 1986. It was the PC’s top anti-subversive unit, the 5th Constabulary Security Unit (which also captured Communist chief Jose Sison and most of the Party’s leaders) that arrested us, with one of their tall burly soldiers beating me up.

We were incarcerated for nearly two years, early 1973 to Christmas 1974, in Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio special prisons that were under the supervision of Martial Law administrator Enrile, so I should blame him for the scars of the boils I got on my body because of the malnutrition and unhygienic conditions in those prisons.

Still alive: Then Minister of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile was the architect of Martial Law.
Still alive: Then Minister of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile was the architect of Martial Law.
Why then is Senator Bongbong Marcos the singular object of vilification and hate being issued by so-called “activists” calling for “justice” while the chief henchmen who not only were adults at the time but were leaders of the Martial Law machine walk free?

Perhaps Filipinos should start listening to people who were actually there rather than to has-been celebrities like Jim Paredes and Leah Navarro who lorded it over Manila’s burgis society in the 1970s and were as oblivious to the “atrocities” they now harp about as old farts today as the next conyo kid was back then.

Tiglao, on the other hand, actually was there and has spoken. When will others speak out and confirm to us that the Yellow Mob of President BS Aquino and his ilk have been outright lying to Filipinos all this time? Mr Ramos and Mr Enrile, what say you?

Filipinos, for their part, need to learn how to think and not just parrot old idiotic slogans. If they want a true democracy, they must earn the right to exercise their freedom by applying themselves to democratic practice in a mature and intelligent manner. In the process of aspiring to that ideal, they should start getting rid of old discredited ideas and move on.