Editorial: Dictator he was

Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan
Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan

The amended 1935 Constitution was the highest law in the Philippines when Ferdinand Marcos Sr. won the presidency in 1965. The Commonwealth-era basic law mandates a presidential term of four years but not more than eight consecutive years.

Marcos sought a second term in 1969, and he got reelected. He was the first and last president to win a second full term, as the post-People Power political system enshrined in the 1987 Constitution does not allow a sitting president to seek reelection, limiting the chief executive to a single six-year term.

Social unrest erupted during Marcos’ second term, with political historians pointing out the 1969 currency crisis as the sparkplug of Filipinos’ discontent. The major economic headache stemmed from the Marcos administration’s heavy spending as the president was seeking reelection, thus creating a balance of payments crisis.

The economic crisis that was married to other social woes, including corruption in the Marcos administration and the Philippine government’s support of the US intervention in the Vietnam War, bore the First Quarter Storm or FQS that was mostly led by student leaders and activists.

FQS started in January 1970, just less than two months into Marcos’ second term. It ended two months later. The civil unrest is well documented in Filipino writer Jose “Pete” Lacaba’s journalism opus, “Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage: The First Quarter Storm and Other Related Events.”

Two years later, Marcos made a move that plunged the country into his tight grip.

As his second term was about to end, the president issued on Sept. 21, 1972 Proclamation No. 1081 effectively placing the archipelago under martial law, which lasted for over a decade until he was deposed by the largely peaceful People Power Revolution in February 1986.

Marcos blamed the threats posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the secessionist Muslim Independent Movement that was ignited by the purported 1968 Jabidah massacre. Opposition political leaders, among whom was Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., criticized the declaration, saying it was Marcos’ way of consolidating his power and extending his term beyond what was allowed in the 1935 Constitution.

True enough, Marcos stayed in Malacañang for two decades, abolished the bicameral Congress and wielded lawmaking powers. These maneuvers can only be done by a dictator.

Three decades after the fall of Marcos’ dictatorship, his son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is now the current president. In a recent television interview, Bongbong denied his father was a dictator, saying his father consulted several people. “A dictator does not consult. A dictator just says, ‘This is what you should do, whether you like it or not,’” he said.

Bongbong must be told that those people consulted by his father were his cronies or the “yes men.” Even rogue personalities in world history like Nazi Germany’s Hitler, Soviet Union’s Stalin and China’s Mao have consultants who, in most likelihood, did not say “no” to their leaders’ “bright ideas.”

No one can force President Bongbong to believe his father was a dictator; however, he must be told time and time again the sins of his father and his family. Lies cannot prevail over the universal truth about his father’s regime.

The other sin that his father committed is depriving the Philippines of people who could have been presidents if martial law had not been declared.

Two or three people could have led the country had Bongbong’s father finished his second term and not held on to power for over a decade longer.


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