Pacete: Notes on Martial Law in Negros

As I see it

ON SEPTEMBER 21, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law (Proclamation 1081). Reason? Marcos wanted to save the Republic from nationwide crime and violence. Congress was abolished and Marcos created the semi-parliament Batasang Pambansa.

I was a graduating college student and president of the College Supreme Student Council of Colegio San Agustin- Bacolod. All student councils in Bacolod stopped to function. Some presidents disappeared or simply hibernated. Colegio de San Agustin did not. My council operated under the mantle of cultural freedom. I bitterly paid for it when one day I landed at the provincial headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary for a not-so-friendly interrogation.

I survived the ordeal. My council officers extended their moral support. Our dean of studies, Fr. Nicanor Lana (a Spaniard who became a naturalized Filipino), did good lawyering for me and Col. Marino Filart (PC provincial commander) was convinced that CSA-B student leaders were just exercising their campus leadership.

What was Negros society before Martial Law? The Negros "socialites" in colleges were famous. They were always featured in fashion shows and charity balls. There were no professional models yet. The daughters of the "hacendados" (big hacienda owners) who were "colegialas" modeled their own clothes in gala fashion shows. Debuts and "en grande" wedding became "de rigueur" even among the middle class.

The re-election spending of Marcos in 1970 hurt the sugar industry of Negros. Marcos had to agree to a 60 percent devaluation as a condition for World Bank/International Monetary Fund credit. WB/IMF pushed for more liberalization of the Philippine economy. This deepened not only the rivalry within the "buena familias." There was resentment against the seemingly calloused sugar barons.

With the Laurel-Langley Agreement due to expire in 1974, there was growing uncertainty about the status of US investments in the Philippines. The Sugar Producers Cooperative Marketing Association (based in Bacolod) under President German Unson of Silay started to worry about their US quota. SPCMA was buying fertilizer from Japan using the Mambag-id Dock in Silay. This could also be affected by the looming crisis.

In September 1972, a year before Marcos was required by law to step down from office, he declared Martial Law. Reasons could be both funny and horrible: Imminent danger of subversion of the state by Communist forces. The student leaders of Negros met this with skepticism. We asked, "How could this be? The CCP-NPA was barely four years old at that time and largely confined to Isabela in Luzon."

The cunning Marcos directed the terroristic acts: bombing of Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda, fake ambush of Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. He abolished Congress, fired the judiciary, closed down all media, arrested his critics and political rivals, imposed curfews, prohibited strikes, outlawed rumor-mongering, and centralized police forces. (To be continued)


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