Martial law had its purpose

"Too bad we only remember a few things."



Forty-seven years ago, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. The proclamation closed down all media networks.

On this day, the chief of security of Channel 9 called me at home to say “Sir, na-martial law na tayo. You better come because Channel 9 has been padlocked.”

I rushed to the network, located along Roxas Boulevard. I was then manager of public affairs.

When I reached the network, I was told to await further instructions.

At half past five the following morning, I decided to go home. But I felt like having coffee so I stopped by Hotel Intercontinental. That in itself is another story.

I reached my house only to receive a call that I was being summoned to the office again because the President wanted to have a nationwide address justifying martial law.

Later, when we reached Malacañang, Press Secretary Francisco Tatad said he would first introduce the president. He was so nervous he was scratching his legs. I could not forget that moment.

In that broadcast, Marcos said his proclamation of martial law was backed by the 1935 Constitution which says he could do so when public safety demands it.

He cited the rebellion by the communist movement, already taking over media, the academe, labor and even parliament.

The communist rebellion, Marcos said, was worsened by the separatist movement in Mindanao.

Later, the Supreme Court upheld the proclamation of martial law.

There were arrests of opposition leaders, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jose Diokno and other members of the opposition. Media arrests also worsened the situation.

Still, nobody can deny that the first two years of martial law brought about relative peace and stability in the country. That is, until some cronies and supporters of Marcos started abusing their privilege.

What many people remember about martial law are the disappearances and killings. We forget that martial law broke the backbone of the communist movement and put a stop to the Muslim separatist movement. It drove Nur Misuari into exile.

What is unfortunate is that every time we mention martial law, all we remember are the atrocities.

We forget that under Marcos, we had our first Light Rail Transit system, and expressways in the North and South. We forget many other positive things from that era.

To me, that is the tragedy of martial law.

Thus, when we mark the anniversary of the so-called People Power Revolution, where half a million people gathered on Edsa to celebrate Marcos’ exile, we are not reflecting what really happened. Half a million people hardly represented the will of some 80 million Filipinos then. It was not a revolution, just a fluke! It was a mere change in regime, nothing more.

* * *

I don’t know if Malacañang realizes it, but the denial of the President’s statement on a mayor of Cebu caused even greater confusion. President Duterte said the Cebu mayor was on his list of narco-politicians, that he had had him ambushed, and that he was surprised he was still alive.

Now the Palace says that the President did not say anything about the ambush, just the fact that he is surprised that the mayor was still alive.

It’s almost always like that when Mr. Duterte utters something that gets him into trouble. It strikes deep into the President’s credibility.

* * *

I don’t know what President Duterte is up to, but he should have named somebody else instead of Gerald Quitaleg Bantag as chief of the Bureau of Corrections.

The man is a former Parañaque City jail warden facing homicide cases for hurling a grenade during a confrontation with inmates. True, he is not yet convicted, but why appoint a controversial person in the first place?

Is the President being true to his word that he would appoint a killer to the BuCor?

* * *

Some 11,900 Customs brokers are protesting the President’s move to remove them from doing business at the bureau.

I cannot think of any law that would outlaw brokers doing business with Customs.

Duterte was apparently exasperated by reports that some brokers have become fixers and are involved in smuggling imports and contraband, like illegal drugs.

But without brokers, who will deal with Customs and go through the rigmarole?

Customs brokerage is a legal profession. They have a job to do. The President should instead get rid of fixers posing as brokers.

Topics: Emil Jurado , Martial law , President Ferdinand Marcos
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