ON THIS day in 1972, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos signed Proclamation 1081 placing the country under martial law, although he would actually announce it on nationwide TV two days later, after thousands of opposition leaders, activists, journalists and others he considered “enemies” had been rounded up and herded into stockades, and the media shut down wholesale.
And so darkness descended upon the land and would remain for 14 long years of plunder and gross human rights violations as Marcos sought to perpetuate his rule with an obvious eye to passing it on to his dynasty.
Why do you think Imee “ang liit-liit ko noon” Marcos was named chair of the Kabataang Barangay and later was elected to the Batasang Pambansa while brother Ferdinand Jr. became vice governor and later, governor, of Ilocos Norte if not to prepare them for inheriting power later on?
But the dictator, as most tyrants are wont to, apparently forgot or did not appreciate enough that the Filipino may be extremely – sometimes excruciatingly so – patient but will not forever tolerate being shackled by tyrants.
The truth actually is that the struggle against the dictatorship began on its first day and never stopped until the people had cast it out in February 1986.
That struggle was waged in the mountains, in the farmlands, in the cities, schools, factories, slums and even middle-class and gated communities. There were disparate initiatives and there was the broader people’s movement.
Of course, not much was known about it at the time since only mouthpieces of the regime were allowed to publish and broadcast while even the foreign press was subject to censorship. But, as they say, the struggle was real even if, as the American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron famously said, “the revolution will not be televised.”
In fact, if anything, the abuses under the Marcos regime only served to inflame the flames of struggle. On Negros, the struggle against the oppressive hacienda system that began even before martial law actually intensified and a number of Negrosanon clergy and religious – notable among them Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and Frank Fernandez, still a ranking rebel leader on the island – were radicalized into seeing armed struggle as the only viable response to tyranny.
Neither could the dictator suppress the truth for long. Eventually, the “mosquito press” and more open opposition publications emerged to unmask the regime’s lies.
Many today seek to rewrite this chapter of our history, proclaiming the dictator “the best president” ever and pointing to the admittedly impressive infrastructure that rose during his rule – the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Heart Center, the San Juanico Bridge – conveniently omitting the fact that all these came via onerous loans from which he and his cronies pocketed substantial cuts and which we continue to pay for to this day.
There are also those who claim that Marcos’ ouster merely opened the doors for the return of the old oligarchy and their rapacious ways.
While true for the most part, it does not diminish the terrors of the dictatorship. The worst part, to me, is that the post-Marcos leaders allowed the rise of another tyrant, a populist who fed on popular discontent, whose record of bloodshed has already far outstripped the dictator’s, and one so demented he would even see Marcos’ heirs reclaim the throne just to spite us.
But, as history and the Filipino have proven, he may try but, in the end, failure is inevitable.
Never Again is more than a slogan. It is a solemn pledge of a people who cherish freedom, not just one man’s opinion.