Pacete: Notes on martial law in Negros, 2

As I See it

IT IS not clear what the role of United States was when Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972. In one blow, it ended elite conflict in Negros, silenced the leftist opposition, and reassured foreign investors.

Marcos had this to say on martial law ... a revolution to establish a new society under a regime of constitutional authoritarianism that would democratize wealth and discipline the oligarchs (Roberto Benedicto was made “Sugar Czar”), and redress the grievances of the rebellion of the poor.

He added that it would reform the political system through the participatory democracy of citizen assemblies and put an end to the old politics of conflict and the vertical view of society thus making it authentically human - Negros sugarcane planters and political leaders made a comfortable slide to become members and supporters of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.

Marcos vowed to abolish the oligarchy, which he said was a burden to the people. Under the New Society, on behalf of the poor, he declared the whole country a land reform area. The Negros “hacenderos” and “hacendados” trembled. They could not afford to lose the “haciendas” that made them “Don, Donas, Senoritos and Senoritas”.

Traditional politicians both Liberals and Nacionalistas alike, were paralyzed. Senator Jose Locsin of Silay wore black ribbon every day. Governor Alfredo Montelibano Jr. could have been a senator. Many Negrosanons decided to collaborate with the regime to save their balls. The Negrosanons witnessed the election of assembled men in the Batasang Pambansa.

First Lady Imelda Marcos shared power with her president. She was feared by some “Indays” (wives of hacenderos) because before martial law she was just ignored by the Negros ladies during parties. The Negros ladies were wearing “cargadas de oro”. Imelda was just not noticeable. The social world changed.

Imelda, the former aspiring singer and beauty queen became the Governor of Metro Manila, Minister of Human Settlements, ambassadress-at-large, patroness of the arts, and dispenser of favor and position. Marcos installed technocrats in positions previously occupied by career bureaucrats or politicians or their protegees.

Take note. Marcos military solution to the problem of insurgency failed. A government that is perceived to have declared war against its own people will not have their support. In Negros, resistance struggle grew. There was military notoriety for disappearances, illegal detentions, tortures, and summary executions or salvaging of alleged subversives reached nightmarish proportions.

The situation paved the way for NPA: In the mountain, nice people around; in Nasutra, not paying anymore; in the haciendas, not planting anymore; for political enemies of Marcos in America, no permanent address. That was martial law.


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