One of the reasons why President Marcos declared martial law was a working coalition between the Liberal Party and the New People’s Army-Communist Party of the Philippines.
In a social media interview, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile bared the coalition between the communists and the yellow supporters of former President Benigno Aquino that is working to dislodge President Rodrigo Duterte was the same group that prompted former President Ferdinand Marcos to declare martial law.
On the day marking the imposition of martial law in September 1972, the historic rivalry between allies of Marcos and the yellow forces of the Aquino family was revived after Enrile said “there was no truth behind the claims that critics of the former President were killed or arrested during the martial law years.”
The former Senate President also revealed in the interview that the alliance between the Liberal Party (LP) and the communists in 1972 had prompted Marcos to place the entire country under martial law.
Enrile said he learned about the “coalition government” being planned by the two parties from then Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., a leading opposition figure that time and the father of former President Benigno Aquino III.
“One of the reasons why President Marcos declared martial law was a working coalition between the Liberal party and the New People’s Army-Communist Party of the Philippines led by Jose Maria Sison at that point,” Enrile said.
He added the coalition was already in place when Marcos decided to impose military rule.
“The President realized that the country was too fragile and that it has very limited capability to contain the problem,” he said.
Asked if it was a formal agreement, Enrile said, “Yes. I met with Ninoy Aquino in the house of Ramon Silay. Paul Aquino is still alive. He was the one who reported that to me.”
Paul Aquino is the father of Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.
Enrile, who was defense minister in 1972, said martial law was also prompted by the prevailing condition of the country at that time which was the rebellion in Mindanao, onset of drug menace, very strong communist movement, presence of political warlords and high incidence of crimes.
“At that time, we only had 50,000 armed forces, including the Philippine Constabulary. The size of the firearms in the hands of the civilians is much more than the capacity of the armed forces,” he recounted.
“During martial law there were no massacres like what happened in Mendiola during the supposed democratic government of Cory Aquino,” Enrile said.
He also blamed the late former President Corazon Aquino for the country’s lingering problem with communist insurgency.
Former President Benigno Aquino, Corazon’s son, did not take the statements sitting down, saying the veteran lawmaker “is not the expert in terms of governance.”
“He was part of the misrule for such a long time,” Aquino told reporters in an interview at De La Salle University in Manila. “I’m sorry if I would not listen to him,” he added.
Ironically, the host in the online interview of Enrile was the namesake and son of the controversial leader, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos.
In a rare appearance after retiring from his long stint in public service, Enrile recounted the events that happened during the martial law years of the late strongman in a tell-all interview.
The interview which was titled “JPE: A Witness to History,” was posted on the younger Marcos’ Facebook page on the eve of the 45th commemoration of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines.
The 94-year-old Enrile dared those critical of the Marcos regime to name anybody who was killed or jailed for criticizing the government during that time.
Aquino immediately rebutted Enrile, citing a law that provides compensation and reparation for victims of human rights abuses which, he said, in itself belies Enrile’s claim that there was no massacre or arrests of Marcos critics during martial law.
“There are human rights laws, like the Human Rights Compensation bill that pays the victims of human rights abuses during martial law,” said Aquino at the sidelights of the Mass commemorating the 46th Anniversary of Martial Law declaration in the country.
“Though he has aged, Enrile should not use it to change history,” he added. “The truth is the truth, and that’s it,” Aquino said.
Disputes on history
“Name me one that we executed other than suspected drug lord Lim Seng. There was none. Name me one person who was arrested because of political or religious belief. None.
Name me one person who was arrested simply because he criticized President Marcos.
None,” Enrile said in the interview.
Enrile was the elder Marcos’ secretary of justice and defense minister when martial law was declared in 1972.
He added that through martial law, the government “harvested” some 600,000 guns from across the country.
Enrile also said the millennials who were born in the 80s onwards have been vocal against martial law because of the “inaccurate facts” they heard and read.
“What they know is what they’ve read or heard based on inaccurate facts,” Enrile said.
He also laughed off the figure of 70,000 arrested during martial law which was based on tallies of Philippine government and international human rights organizations.
“They say we arrested 70,000 people, which was not true. Maybe if they will include those people who violated the curfew and jaywalkers, maybe they could reach that number,” Enrile said, adding that those who were arrested for their political stand were later on released and suffered only “inconvenience.”
“Jovy Salonga was a member of the Light a Fire Movement. Yes, they were arrested, but they were released. They were just inconvenienced for a while. But they were released later,” he said. “Pepe Diokno, he did not want to be released. I told him, sign anything, just get out of here.”
Victims of the martial law years did not agree with what Enrile revealed in the interview, stressing his claims that no critics were killed or jailed during the country’s darkest times.
Former Commission on Human Rights Chairman Etta Rosales – who herself was arrested, detained and tortured during the martial law years – said in a separate interview that Enrile’s claims were a “big fat lie.”
“That’s a big, fat lie. How can he say those things when people he knew were arrested?” Rosales said.
Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, on the other hand, was quick to name persons who were known critics of then President Marcos – Sen. Lorenzo Tañada, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr, the late Sen. Joker Arroyo and Ernie Rondon as among those arrested for protesting against the 1978 Batasan elections.
“It seems to me Ninoy (Aquino), Ka Pepe (the late statesman Jose Diokno) and Uncle Jovy Salonga (former Sen. Jovito Salonga) and countless others would not have been detained had they not been critical of Marcos,” Saguisag said.
The LP also voiced out its contention on Enrile’s claims, saying that such agreement with communist rebels is nothing but a “lie to justify his desire to perpetuate himself (Marcos) in power.”
“That was the lie peddled by Marcos to justify his desire to perpetuate himself in power to include the staging of the fake ambush of Enrile which he himself admitted to during the onset of the EDSA People Power Revolution,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan, current LP president, said in a statement.
Nene: How about me?
Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said Enrile may have a memory slip in claiming that no “enemy” of Marcos was arrested or jailed.
“He might have forgotten about me. That’s part of aging,” Pimentel said in jest after a briefing about Federalism in Malacañang, reacting to Enrile’s remark that no one was imprisoned because of their opposing beliefs with the Marcos administration.
Pimentel, one of the members of the Constitutional Committee (ConCom) tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to put together a draft Constitution for the proposed shift to a federal system of government, shared what he remembers about living during those years.
“At that time, it was chaotic. As a matter of fact, Malacañang was under siege, there were demonstrations here. But it does not mean that the entire nation should have been placed under martial law. What I mean is that you control the situation from here (Manila),” he said.
Pimentel said he was “picked up” and hauled off to jail with even the arresting officers not knowing what he was being arrested for. These instances Enrile, the former defense minister of the Marcos regime may have forgotten, according to Pimentel.
That’s his opinion
Pimentel was not surprised by Enrile’s pronouncements, saying “Manong Johnny” is entitled to his own opinion and “has always been a defender of martial rule.”
It may also be Enrile’s way of trying to reconnect with the Marcoses, wanting to be a step ahead in the event Bongbong becomes the second Marcos to occupy the Palace.
“I think among other things, he’s cementing his relationship with the Marcoses, to tell them ‘I am with you,’ and hoping, probably, that Bongbong will become President, eventually. Of course, without my vote,” Pimentel expressed.
With the nightmare that was martial law to many Filipinos, Pimentel is keeping his fingers crossed that today’s generation will not be swayed by those “who really have a hidden agenda.”
with Kristina Maralit