Last week, on the occasion of the 46th anniversary of the day President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081 which placed the entire country under martial law, ex-Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile appeared in a one-on-one discussion with ex-Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. The discussion was disseminated on the social media.
Enrile was the Secretary (later, Minister) of National Defense during most of the Marcos administration and is the chief architect and administrator of martial law. He began his stint as the defense chief in 1970. In November 1971, Enrile made an unsuccessful run for senator.
Despite his defeat, Marcos saved him from oblivion by reappointing him to the defense portfolio in January 1972, a post he kept until the end of the Marcos’ presidency in February 1986. Enrile wielded tremendous power under Marcos.
In February 1986, Enrile and then Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff chose to be disloyal to President Marcos and holed themselves up at Camp Crame. Upon the instigation of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, civilians assembled outside the military camp to protect the mutineers from certain arrest by troops loyal to the commander-in-chief. That massive assembly which lasted for four days eventually became the so-called EDSA People Power Revolt.
After Corazon Cojuangco Aquino seized the presidency in February 1986, she kept Enrile as defense minister for a year. Mrs. Aquino eventually fired Enrile on suspicion that the latter was sympathetic to a segment of the military establishment that wanted to overthrow her administration.
Bongbong Marcos is the namesake and only son of the late president.
As senator, Marcos, Jr. was instrumental in stopping the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which then President Benigno Aquino III tried to railroad into legislation through his Liberal Party (LP). The BBL would have created a Moro sub-state in Mindanao.
Marcos, Jr. ran for vice president in May 2016 and was the leading bet in the whole week after election day. In the end, Leni Robredo of the LP was proclaimed winner. Marcos, Jr. has a pending election protest before the Supreme Court sitting as the presidential electoral tribunal.
In his conversation with Marcos, Jr., Enrile said President Marcos resorted to martial law to neutralize the conspiracy between the LP led by then Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., and the Communist Party of the Philippines led by Jose Ma. Sison, to overthrow the duly-constituted government of the Republic.
Enrile also suggested that the yellow army and the local communists are distorting the historical record.
As expected, Enrile’s statements elicited criticism from many known anti-Marcos personalities. They accused Enrile of historical revisionism and of demeaning the significance of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt.
President Aquino III and ex-Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. added that the 94-year-old Enrile must be experiencing memory lapses because of his age. How senior citizen groups in the country will react to that ageist remark should be interesting.
Noticeable was the common mantra of the noisy oppositionists — “Never again to martial law.”
Now that everything has been said, some sober evaluation is in order.
The mantra, “never again to martial law,” sounds misplaced under the current Constitution, which actually allows the President of the Philippines to resort to martial law under circumstances that warrant it. If martial law is so inherently wicked as the mantra suggests, then why does the current Constitution, which was drafted by a commission composed of appointees of Mrs. Aquino in 1986, retain the power of the President to resort to martial law?
What the anti-Marcos groups have conveniently failed to discuss is that the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt was not exactly an ideal substitute for the Marcos martial law regime. It is argued that the revolt only ushered in an incompetent and morally bankrupt government under Mrs. Aquino.
Many examples may be cited.
Mrs. Aquino abolished the Batasang Pambansa composed of duly-elected assemblymen, a third of which came from the political opposition. Aquino campaigned for those candidates.
She disregarded security of tenure and filled up the non-elected bureaucracy with her own people, including her relatives.
By abolishing the Department of Energy, which was a Marcos creation, Mrs. Aquino created massive power outages throughout the country, thus gaining for the Philippines the infamous monicker, “the brownout capital of the world.” That abolition also triggered the expensive cost of electricity in the country today.
During the political campaign, Mrs. Aquino promised to close the gambling casinos all over the nation. Upon assuming office, however, she expanded the casinos and left its management in the hands of close associates of her relatives.
Despite her claim to restoring press freedom in the Philippines, Mrs. Aquino filed libel charges against two leading journalists of the period — Maximo Soliven and Luis Beltran. No President before her ever sued journalists for libel.
The media detested the brazen involvement of Mrs. Aquino’s relatives in many government transactions so much so that Beltran branded them as “Kamag-Anak, Inc.”
Innocent farmers attending a rally in Mendiola to protest Mrs. Aquino’s version of agrarian reform were killed or beaten by law enforcers. Farmers in the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac demanding reforms suffered the same fate.
Regarding Enrile, his remarks were no longer surprising for many.
As the chief architect and administrator of martial law, Enrile is expected to defend the martial law regime he was part of. On the other hand, those who were put to a disadvantage when martial law was in force are likewise expected to disagree with Enrile’s statements.
The same can be said of Marcos, Jr., being the son of the father.
Both the pro-Marcos and anti-Marcos sides embody the extremes in the assessment of martial law in the Philippines as a historic fact and neither side is expected to yield. It is no wonder that both sides accuse each other of historical revisionism.
What does all that mean? It means there will always be different perspectives of what martial law in the Philippines was all about and those different perspectives will always be topics for heated debate during anniversaries associated with martial law in the country.
So, until the next anniversary …