Martial Law and Violence: Products of our Heritage

It’s been 44 years since the declaration of Martial Law, and though it has long been removed, we feel as if it is still in effect. Killings, abductions and other abuses continue to happen. But even worse is that people turn a blind eye to some other problems that are contributing to this, leading to my conclusion that blaming everything on Martial Law is a distraction from these issues. I make the point that our violent culture is part of our Filipino Heritage.


One of the points I make in this article is that while Martial Law indeed saw a significant dip in the country’s fortunes, it was never the start of what was wrong with the Philippines. It was more a result, a product of the very same culture that produces the dysfunctions of society today. For example, killings did not start during this era, as they have been carried out ever since warlords took over. Before the Escalante and Culatingan Massacres attributed to Marcos, and other massacres like the Mendiola and Lupao ones, there was the Maliwalu Massacre in 1951. There was also the case of Rafael Lacson of Negros, who had his opponent Moises Padilla killed in 1951. Killings by warlords continue unabated. The current warlords are the drug lords, but you can say this has been going on for decades.

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Of Killings and More Killings

So the question: why haven’t they stopped? Killings occur in many provinces that never get reported, martial law or none. Is it because of Martial Law making killings a “rule?” No.

The problems of today are the same problems that started post-World War 2. The warlords were among these. And those problems have intensified today. Along with the warlords who might kill anyone who even just annoys them (these obviously inspired the killings during Martial Law), we have regulatory capture that keeps prices prohibitively high and keep job openings from flourishing, so Filipinos have to go abroad to earn sufficient wages for supporting their families. Squatters that won’t be cleared because they provide votes. High crime rates, including the laglag-bala racket that victimizes our very cash cows. New problems came to augment the old. Because of this, many older people say Martial Law was a better time!

Anyone who says the country’s problems are only because of Martial Law and not because that other people can be massively corrupt are the Martial Law Crybabies, which includes the moochers mentioned above as well. They are actually defending the status quo and protecting the current vested interests from accountability. In addition, they are denying the more obvious problem: that our culture, our heritage, is to blame.

And when you think of Martial Law reparations being given to terrorists who actually wanted to take over the country, that should make one’s skin crawl. Only the true victims deserve the reparations, those who were captured and tortured, and families of those unjustly murdered, even if they did nothing wrong. But there are actual insurgents or terrorists who perpetrated bombings or killings. They raped and killed innocents, as much as the government did then. They are pretenders who have taken advantage of and free-rode on the claims for reparations (also, don’t forget, corruption existed in the Presidential Commission on Good Government, so it’s likely these guys made off with some cash). If they get such payments, then that’s impunity at work!

Why They’re Back

So, about the question on why are the Marcoses back? The Marcoses returned in 1991 because Cory Aquino allowed them to, likely with the hope of catching them in court. So the Marcoses went to the courts. But it seems none of the local courts were able to successfully convict them. Only a U.S. court was able to hold them liable for contempt, but not for charges related to corruption. This might be why Comelec cleared the Marcos son to run this 2016 (I mentioned this because anti-Marcos activists somehow did not bark up Comelec for letting him run). In addition, there are other people liable for Martial Law abuses, but many of them remained unscathed. As an academic opined, this happened because Aquino was actually never interested in putting the Marcoses away, but was concerned only with her political survival. With how things turned out, it’s as if the Aquinos were helping the Marcoses.

Why have the Marcoses regained popularity today? There are people who have always been loyal to them. If there are “millenials” who seem to think Martial Law was a golden era, remember that there are older people who tell them that. But there are a few things to think about. One, the achievements of Marcos look more attractive today than those of both Aquino administrations. Instead of looking at the buildings and other things, perhaps one worth mentioning is the 13th month pay law, which we are still benefiting from today. Contrast that to Aquino, who thumbed down several measures that are pro-employee, including the pay hike for nurses and SSS payout hike. Marcos looks more attractive to the ordinary workers – who form a much bigger number of our population.

Another is this interview by the late Conrado Balweg, an NPA leader during the 1980s. He later surrendered to the government and helped established the Cordillera Autonomous Region in the 1990s before his murder in 1999. In the following interview before his death, he claims insurgents took more lives than the government did in Martial Law times, and that the insurgency even strengthened during Cory Aquino’s time. Again, this makes Marcos look better, and disputes the claim that Marcos had more abuses during Martial Law.

It’s also been mentioned before that laws created as a reaction to Martial Law themselves led to some problems. As James Robinson said, they weakened institutions and put more control in the hands of the vested interests. Oh, and about Marcos years as a “golden age,” I agree that we should look at the article by New York Times writer Floyd Whaley (I wonder if the anti-Marcos people today thought of barking up his tree). Maybe he got the idea from an Inquirer article that quotes the Marcos years as the golden age of fashion. Marcos Jr. Himself never said it.

So people worried about a Marcos return to power decided to vote Leni Robredo. Problem is, is she really free of corruption as people assume? Time will tell.

Martial Law Slacktivism

The Martial Law era was never a “golden age,” but neither does it make other times golden ages. It certainly should not be used as an excuse to deliberately ignore the other problems today. When we see laglag-bala, some might say, “ignore that! Martial Law is worse!” When we call out pork barrel being stolen, again, “ignore that! Martial Law is worse!” When someone point, “Aquino vetoed a lot of good policies,” the retort could be, “Martial Law will veto your life!” When I say, “Filipinos are arrogant when spouting ‘Pinoy Pride,’” crybabies will say, “No! Marcoses are gone! We must be proud!” Or if I say, “Filipinos must stop their misbehavior in other countries,” the reply, “No! Only Marcos misbehaved! We Filipinos are OK!”

Anti-Marcos activists will say jailing any or all of the Marcoses today is a great thing. I find it a mere symbolic gain; not a significant gain. Because some of the activists will say, “OK, Marcoses are in jail, it’s all OK! There’s no more corruption!” But of course, that can never be true. There are other corrupt people aside from the Marcoses. If activists will discourage you from going after other corrupt officials, and tell you to just be satisfied with Marcos (as what I wrote about Arroyo before), then it’s obvious that they’re not activists; they’re shills.

Perhaps that’s the issue: despite Martial Law being lifted, some Filipinos can’t just accept that corruption and murders can still happen even without the Marcoses. They can’t accept that there are other “villains” aside from the Marcoses. So they just deny it. “It just simply can’t be true! Heroes and villains must be clear cut in real life as in the movies!” But there you go. Real life is not the movies.

The worst thing probably thought of by anti-Marcos people is that, as long as someone is anti-Marcos, he’s OK, he’s good. Never mind that he may be stealing funds through pork barrel, or that he had innocents killed when he was in the insurgency. As long as they’re anti-Marcos, they’re OK, they’re great, they’re awesome! Then when someone calls out the shortcomings of these people, saying a corrupt person can also ride the anti-Marcos bandwagon, they are suddenly accused with, “you are pro-Marcos!” There you go, one of the things that actually blocks change in the country.

What if Martial Law Never Happened?

There’s the question of what if Marcos and Martial Law never happened. Some will say, “we will be a great country then!” I doubt. Corruption and red tape would still be around, and stuff like pork barrel would still be invented. Squatters would still be around; they have been around since post-World War 2. Inequality would still be around. We’d still have massive traffic. Marginalization of the far-off provinces would still happen. Killings like the Maguindanao massacre would still happen. Impunity? It would still be a fixture in society even if Marcos never happened; it only needed to grow slowly thanks to our “pagbigyan mo na” culture. We would still be susceptible to the 80s, 1997 and 2008 financial crises. Hoaxes like the Tallano gold story and Filipinos chocolate scandal would still happen. Even without Martial Law, there are things that can bring us down. We would still fail to be a “great” country.

Marcos’ opponents were mainly the communists of the time. You think we’d be better under them? Recall the purges during the time of Stalin and Mao, the famine of China under Mao and the recent purges the CPP-NPA have been doing within its ranks. Imagine them doing it all over the country. Back to Balweg’s video, if you’re seen it all, you know what he said about communist leaders: they never had the people’s interests in mind. All they wanted was to rule over the country.

Perhaps a few things would change, such as some people still being alive today; but others would be dead. The control of oligarchy and the business lobby would still be around today. We would still feel the hardship of life, brought about by our rabid consumer culture and our flaws.

But our own traditional culture is also to blame. Let’s take a lesson from Carl Bankston III, who I linked to above: “The heritage that created Marcos is still around today.” So don’t wonder that people like Ampatuan and the late Jaguar were around. Bankston used the right word there: heritage. That heritage, something we embrace as part of our own Filipino culture, enables such people to remain powerful today.

I apply the same thing to President Rodrigo Duterte: even if he didn’t win as president, we’d still see a lot of murders and killings. Detractors of Duterte are claiming he is bringing back Martial Law with the murders that have been lately happening. But really, is he really behind them? That same underlying current of violence and impunity in our culture will persist no matter who’s president.

Just look at ordinary life examples. Perhaps you’ve heard of something like what my family’s former helper (sadly, she had already passed away too) from Cebu told us. Her older brother was poisoned by someone who mistook him for the lover of a girl the poisoner desires. So the brother died, and the poisoner went into hiding. I could not find out anymore if that poisoner was ever caught. If he was never caught, no surprise. But look at that: a Filipno poisons someone because he desires that someone’s girlfriend. Life is cheap in the Philippines. I also heard a story of a certain warlord-politician who desired someone’s wife, so he had that someone killed and he took the wife in as a mistress. That may be a tabloid-type story, but who knows, it’s likely not farfetched as it seems. And it shows: rich or poor, politician or not, they can kill and get away with it if they want to.

Filipinos still have faults and problems they have to fix. These faults and problems are part of our heritage. This heritage causes Filipinos deep down inside to desire dominance over each other. As Benign0 wrote, with Martial Law long gone, we have to look beyond it and see the problems that are facing us right now. These problems point to things that we as Filipinos should stop doing. We have flaws that pull us down, and we must fix them. Unfortunately, many “advocates” are still trying to deny these flaws, trying to convince us that our flaws are part of our identity, and make us support the politicians (themselves the also created by what created Marcos) who help build up this fake feeling of pride. We have to stop listening to them and start listening to real common sense. We should get out of this mentality of blaming only Martial Law for our problems, because the more we do so, the more we become the ones bringing back Martial Law.

Unless we learn to question our “heritage” and realize that we can change it, we will remain the murderous society we are now. Murderous in that not only are lives taken, but even the quality of life for those still alive.

34 Replies to “Martial Law and Violence: Products of our Heritage”

  1. Filipinos never blamed themselves for their screw ups. They would blame others even if they themselves made a mistake…truly our culture needs a complete restructuring.

    1. @Ben Ben. Filipino pride and selfishness are a lot worse enemies than illegal drugs, and have been destroying the country for as long as anyone alive can remember, that even President Duterte cannot ever declare war on and hope to win.

      1. That’s why I said that Filipino culture needs restructuring. The country will never rise unless the people themselves won’t adapt to real change.

        1. @Ben Ben. I agree with you 100 percent. Filipino pride and selfishness are, by far, more dangerous than illegal drugs, and the ones they should be waging a war on instead.

    2. true and the only thing to do that is to give good education & information to the Filipinos. And dang, I wish if President Duterte was also a teacher besides finished a law degree & became a prosecutor so that he could teach our people on how we should became a better Filipino citizen by changing our character, attitudes & cultures & get rid the old & unethical ones.

    1. @popoyb. Filipinos do need to stop the killing of their own people; it doesn’t solve anything except create a karmic legacy of destruction that will haunt the conscience of the whole society for a very long time.

  2. Leni Robredo , did not win the Vice Presidency. The HOCUS PCOS machine, and the COMELEC, thru Aquino’s order made her win the Vice Presidency. She is a False Vice President, like the False Witness of De Lima.

    There are people , who have a PHOBIA of Martial Law. There are people, who blame Martial Law for all the ills of the country. Maybe, they will also blame Martial Law, for the Lag Lag Bala, in the Manila International Airport. They will also blame Martial Law for the Shabu Drug proliferation…

    If they want to seek the truth about Martial Law. Why not these people sue, Enrile. Drag him to court, to ask, how many people, he murdered…how many people he tortured…how many women, he raped…how many people, he made to disappear …Enrile is still alive…and he must pay for his crimes, because he was Marcos’ administrator of Martial Law.

    They should also sue, Fidel Ramos, who was the PC Chief, during that time. The Chief Jailer of Marcos, during Martial Law.

    They have to ask him in court; how many people, he murdered; how many people, he tortured; and how many people, he made to disappear ! Ramos is still alive , and they should drag him to court.

    These two people are as guilty as Marcos , Sr., of the “evils” done during Martial Law days !

    Shouting about the Evils of Martial Law, is like howling at the Moon ! YellowTards are senseless people !

  3. If martial law never happened, there wouldn’t be a Marcos loyalists and a Yellow brigade clawing and tearing each other apart every chance they get. There would be less vilification because no side will have the monopoly to attack one side for being a dictator at some point in time. There would be less disunity because no side will have the exclusive right to offend and accuse the other side of abuse and excesses, while on the other hand, no side will be force to continue to defend, explain or justify why it opted to go and prefer to have the country under military rule.

    If martial law never happened, Ninoy Aquino would not have been killed on the hot tarmac of our international airport and Ferdinand Marcos would not have been sent in exile and passed away in a foreign land. Had there been no martial law the two frat brothers, both astute politicians separated by politics and personal differences, would have met their fate in a more serene, dignified and glorious end. If martial law did not happen, Imelda would not have the time to learn to wing her way within the bureaucracy and learn the tricks of the trade that made her realize that it is not really lonely at the top. Cory Aquino, too, would never have learned on the fly how to run a government that practically gave Noynoy the idea that he, too, can do the same.

    If martial law never happened, it would mean that Marcos had to step down from power after his second term and his successor, possibly Ninoy, will continue the process of changing our leaders, so on and so forth.

    If martial law never happened we would have never get to learn the lesson of history that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Finally, had we not experienced martial law we would have no idea how bad it is for the country and our people and we could have swallowed it hook, line and sinker in the first six months of this administration. ????

    1. Much speculation here too. Well, we’ll never know how it is without martial law, but I’ll stick to my guns. Without martial law, it won’t be any better. We’ll still be sunk low by the other things I mentioned. Martial law is not the only evil in this country, and saying so would be naive.

        1. @Karlz. I disagree. If Martial Law didn’t happen, Filipinos will just continue being what they’ve always been: a divided people teeming with false pride and individualism.

  4. Forgot to say this, I suppose one point of contention is who bombed Plaza Miranda. I’m with those who say the communists did it. There’s lots of evidence for that.

    1. The Plaza Miranda bombing where the opposition party (Liberal) having their miting de advance happened while Marcos was still in office. What should be the natural course of event was for the gov’t. to capture, name and charge the suspect/s of the crime. But it didn’t happen. Neither Ninoy Aquino nor Jose Maria Sison (Joma, uncle of Sen. Leila De Lima), two prominent names that was floated after the bombing, was charged of the crime.

      Since no one was held accountable, conspiracy theorists had a heyday up to this day as to who really have done it. Usually, the gov’t. would have been in a position to unearth the truth or even fabricate it just so it can save its own skin. However, in both instances, there was zero output from the Marcos administration.

      Since nobody was prosecuted we go to the next question: who actually benefitted from the crime? Obviously not Ninoy because the declaration of martial law signaled the end of his political ambition. He was one of those arrested and imprisoned soon after the declaration of military rule. It’s not Joma either because he was eventually detained on charges of subversion and conspiracy to commit rebellion. In other words, for either/both of the two to be the author/s of the Plaza Miranda bombing was like signing his/their own death sentence.

      If nobody in the opposition benefitted, who did?

      1. Weren’t Ninoy Aquino, Bernabe Buscayno and Victor Corpuz declared guilty of that in 1977? So you can’t say “to capture, name and charge the suspect/s of the crime” didn’t happen. It did. But it was denied by “human rights,” which really was international pressure. Also, so many former communists aside from Corpuz have admitted that there was a plot, and there was even an account by someone who said he failed to throw a grenade during that same day at Plaza Miranda. So I say, communists did it. As for Sison, let’s say a denial can be a lie.

        1. As far as I know, Plaza Miranda was never adjudicated in court. Those names you mentioned were accused of rebellion and other political crimes. To this day, no concrete proof as to who really and actually did it.

        2. And as far as I know, that trial with three woudl have already included the Plaza Miranda bombing. It’s part of the rebellions and political crimes after all.

          Also, if I say communists did the bombing, it doesn’t mean Marcos’ reaction of declaring Martial Law was necessarily right. It could have been handled another way. Yet at the time, Martial Law was approved of by civil society at the time.

        3. Yet at the time, Martial Law was approved of by civil society at the time.
          No such thing. Marcos don’t need the approval of the civil society. In fact, Proclamation No. 1081 which imposed martial law was dated 21 September 1972, but it was actually signed on 17 September. To imply now that an approval was granted for the declaration of martial law is just distorting facts.

      2. The Liberal Party gained 6 of the 8 senatorial seats in that election.

        Seems they have successfully engineered their political agenda by manipulating that ever famous and notorious Filipino “sympathy” or locally known as “awa” in their bid for power in those days.

  5. Martial is the Escape Goat of the Aquinos and their Feudal Oligarch cahoots, to continue their enslavement of the Filipino people…

    Cory Aquino produced and approved a Constitution, that favors the Feudal Oligarchs, like her family.
    Cory Aquino protected her Hacienda Luisita, and removed the Land Reform Program.

    There is now the, Shabu Drug Proliferation, because the Aquinos’ allowed , the Chinese Triad Mafia crime syndicate to operate in our country.

    Hacienda Luisita massacre, Mendiola massacre, Luneta Chinese
    tourist massacre, Mamapasano massacre, Drug Shabu related murders, De Lima’s complicity with the Shabu Drug Trade, Lag lag Bala extortion scam, done by Aquino and Abaya, in the Manila International Airport, DAP, PDAF, etc…

    These are the results of the Aquino era…There are no records that these evils, happened during Martial Law…I have talked with Filipino old-timers in the U.S. They told me, these Aquino’s evils are worse than Martial Law !

    We are no pro Marcos, Pro Aquino, Pro Yellows, etc…we are Pro Filipinos…we don’t have loyalties to any political group. We are loyal to the good for our country !

  6. Forget martial law for a while and continue playing the hypothetical game. Let us say we remove the Marcoses and the Aquinos in the picture. You guys think we would be better off? Me, thinks yes.

    1. I say, no. There’s always someone out there who can take their place and still make our country hell. There are so many warlords engaged in a race on who’s going to take over the whole country first. Maybe we’ll have Dictator Ampatuan up there.

      1. You mean there would still be a Marcos who can take his place if he didn’t exist in the first place? Same with Ninoy? Umm, not. I don’t think Fabian Ver will exist without a Marcos. I don’t think Enrile and Ramos will be defense chief and vice-chief of staff if there is no Marcos. And Imelda? As far as I can remember, no Filipino, before Marcos, has ever attempted to emulate him nor tinker and completely discard the constitution just so he/she can preside with impunity and free from opposition. And since Marcos downfall, nobody has attempted to look at the Constitution and ponder if he/she can manipulate it for his/her benefit and get away with it.

        An Ampatuan would never be possible without a model like Marcos. Any would-be dictator now or in the future will have no other model except Marcos. Without Marcos and Aquino in our political landscape, there wouldn’t have been this unfortunate rough streak in our country’s political life. Just look at what happened from Cory to Noynoy (mother and son, which is really one for the books). Did anyone from Ramos to Gloria attempted to do a Marcos?

        Had Marcos and Aquino not exist our political life will just be like what it is at present: topsy turvy with a fiesta atmosphere because that’s what we are. We love life, color, fun, politics and controversy. Ah, yes, back-stabbing too! : )

        1. All those, murders, backstabbing, fiesta atmosphere, impunity, they will still be around even without Marcos or Aquino. They just need time to develop, and they will.

    2. I think I’d do you one better – and even wind it up a little more further than Marcos’ timeline (and had the Americans not groomed someone like Magsaysay to take over the helm of the country in the 50s and the Huks were not “defeated” so to speak).

      Maybe we have had somebody really bad like Pol Pot or even worse than him – and the commies had gained steam and run roughshod all over the country. We would be like Cuba with America keeping their token bases at Subic and Clark.

  7. ‘…..our violent culture is part of our Filipino Heritage.’
    Really? I did not realize that we have a culture of violence in our heritage. I though we’re peaceful, docile and accommodating people.

    For me, that was a misleading assertion and misrepresentation of our heritage. I would submit that certain groups, societies or even individuals may inculcate a culture of violence in their ranks such as, criminal gangs, fraternities, even police or military organizations, among others. However, I’m not in agreement in the suggestion that violent culture is part of our heritage. We are not violent people. People who were identified as having hospitable traits, respect for others, strong family ties and religious, generous and helpful, strong work ethics, etc. cannot be people of violent heritage.

    Criminal acts of violence and destruction, be it political or personal, are not in itself a manifestation of violent culture in our heritage. If so, all cultures in the world will be as “guilty as us” because they, too, have violent culture in their society. Unless a scientific proof showing that we are indeed a people whose heritage is prop up by violent culture, I have to dismiss such outlandish insinuation.

    1. I would suggest being slow to make such a dismissal. If my former helper’s account is true, there are likely a lot of undocumented killings aside from what’s happening now and what has been happening in other post-martial law eras. Such a dismissal could be tantamount to denying the truth that is out there. And yes, perhaps the killings shouldn’t be seen as part of our heritage but… given our history and current events together, it’s happened too often to not be noticed. And on the side, that is what I analyze as the subconcious wish of Filipinos in society, impunity over killing someone.

      Again, it’s proof that we are a primitive society pretending to be a modern one. We should stop this pretentiousness.

      If you’re bothered by the used of the word and idea of “heritage,” you might want to lodge something with Carl Bankston III, professor of Tulane University and former member of the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Bataan. He used it first.

      1. @ChinoF. “Again, it’s proof that we are a primitive society pretending to be a modern one. We should stop this pretentiousness.”

        That’s what “Aeta” used to say. “Filipinos are primitive by nature and pretend to be modern”. I guess “Aeta” had a point all along.

    1. I don’t remember who said it and the exact wording, but this saying had made a big impact on my life even as child:

      “You will never know where you’re heading if you have no idea where you came from.”

  8. Ur right sir…as in reading this, i am not really convince, the blame is always on marcos..u always said it was him, it was their family….but why, still cannot drag Marcos family into jail well in fact they are not in their reign anymore….why? It is because, all accusations are just made to ruin someone’s credibility….one sided ung story….i really cannot believe this because i myself, encountered an old lady(happens to be our landlady) when i was in makati trying to ask here, is martial law that time really that bad? She answered me a big No! Life during martial law was their peaceful time….only those “bayaran, mga pasaway etc. Ang nag sasuffer….

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