The other day, I found the following letter on a site somewhere, and decided to post it here, with the hopes that people, young and old, will read it and take it for what it is. Written in 2012, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of President Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law, it presents solid truth regarding so many things about the Philippines. Its people. And the sad state of affairs that have befallen their country these past 3+ decades.
The hardest part though — for many Filipino’s — is can they actually turn off the part in their brain that reminds them of who authored these profound words, simply because of who his father was. And instead, listen to what’s being said?
Let’s hope so.
It’s this time of the year that I am asked the same questions so I’ve decided to post what are answers to those questions I’ve been asked repeatedly year after year as if the things that happened in the past can still change. Anyway, to my friends here in FB, I will oblige you with what I hope is a comprehensive personal recollection and personal point of view of Martial Law from where we stand today.
Firstly: though I may have been a precocious 15 year old, I would be lying if I told you I was consulted on the planning and eventual declaration of Martial Law. I had just turned 15 years of age and was pursuing my studies in the UK when I received a call from our Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Mr. Jaime Zobel, who broke the news to me that Martial Law had been declared. So much for having been consulted on it.
There are people still alive today that played major roles during the Martial Law period, from both the opposition (to Martial Law) and officials of the Martial Law government as well as officers in the military at that time. They, perhaps, would be in a better position to explain Martial Law, from their points of view at least.
As a teenager in the early 70’s, I was aware of the lawlessness that prevailed, the proliferation of fire-arms in the country, the violent street demonstrations, the bombings, and mounting criminality; but the primary reason Martial Law was declared, if my understanding is correct, was the imminent danger posed to the state by the twin insurgencies waged by the armed communists and the secessionists in the south, both receiving external support from their respective benefactor countries.
The problem of the communist insurgency was not exclusive to our country. It was the same in other 3rd world countries and had been proliferating worldwide with the active backing of the USSR and Communist China. Of course, my father was always one to comment on current events and history and the conversations I had with him cumulatively over the years, gave me a more complete, if not complex, picture of the context in which Martial Law was declared.
On a more personal level, I remember people saying how thankful they were for the relative peace and order that followed Martial Law; the positive image of the Philippines worldwide; the emergence of a tourism industry; the cleaner streets; the dismantling of private armies of oppressive local politicians; the containment of price fluctuations of basic commodities through Kadiwa and strict implementation of price ceilings; self sufficiency in rice; world leader in geo-thermal energy, and a semblance of discipline never before seen among the populace, just to name a few.
I mention these to give some balance to the one-sided version that has been spewed out by the few that control media over the last couple of decades as can be seen up to this day. In regard to the economy, one can simply peruse data relevant to those years such as the World Bank figures, which can easily be accessed from the internet (thank God for the internet). In 1973, our GDP growth rate stood at 8.9% that took a dip the following year to below 5% as a result of the oil embargo. Subsequently, it stayed above 5% through all the succeeding years up to 1980 with a high of 8.8% in ’76.
The same WB figures show a negative growth in 1984 in the wake of Senator Aquino’s assassination in August of 1983 and what followed, as they say, is “history.”
According to Global Financial Integrity, “capital flight from the Philippines (includes illicit money that is illegally earned, transferred, or utilized) was US$16 billion in the 1970s, US$36 billion in the 1980s, and US$43 billion in the 1990s which has led to a hollowing out of the economy.”
In addition, from 2000 to 2008, illicit financial outflow from the Philippines registered at US$109Billion, according to the same source. Other recent indicators or “distinctions” such as having become the “most dangerous country, not at war, to live in for a journalist” did not occur during the years of Martial Law, just to put things in perspective. Human rights abuses did not stop after 1986; nevertheless, and I hasten to add, that does not justify the abuses committed under Martial Law but to say that was “government policy” during those years is a reckless statement at best.
Human Rights victims post-Marcos are just as much victims, with sufferings just as real, regardless of who the perpetrators were or under whose administration those abuses and massacres took place, and the guilty should not go unpunished. We must also not forget the soldiers that have been ambushed and killed while doing civic work in remote areas of the country; the gruesome killings of our men in uniform that have been captured and some beheaded; and many other human rights violations inflicted on AFP personnel including summary executions. War is never a pleasant affair.
As I’ve said repeatedly, I will leave to historians — those that are trained in the discipline and are capable of impartial judgment and making impassioned conclusions — to pass a verdict on those years. Most of what we hear today are self-serving statements by politicians, self-aggrandizement narratives, pompous declarations, and political posturing and propaganda.
Finally, it is 2012, almost half a century since Martial Law was declared, and the world we live in is not the same as four decades ago when I was all of 15 years of age. Today, we, as a nation, are besieged with serious problems, the most glaring of which are poverty, hunger, peace and order, unemployment, the drug menace, and climate change; and even our foreign relations, particularly with China, has become wobbly if not precarious.
We cannot change “yesterday” any more than we can foretell what the morrow will bring. However, we can shape our future by what we do today. Blaming others and finding scapegoats are not solutions to poverty, rising prices, criminality, the insurgency, and so on. And too much politics leaves no room for leadership. Sure, there are lessons to be learned from the past and it is obvious that Martial law, and all the succeeding administrations for that matter, was neither “a bed of roses nor a bed of nails,” to paraphrase Bon Jovi’s lyrics. That’s all I will say on the Presidency of my father and those that came after. I will resist indulging in the blame game and continue to look forward. Do I see Martial Law as something to be considered in today’s context? Definitely not; and my actions and public record as a local executive and as a legislator, are consistent with democratic principles, participatory governance, and the strengthening of institutions that provide the framework for checks and balances among the three branches of government. All the government positions I have held in more than 20 years of public service have been gained through the ballot box and I have been consistent in my advocacy of devolving power to our LGU’s. I have never been implicated in anomalies involving corruption nor have I been accused of abuse of power whether that be during my father’s Presidency or after. It simply is not my cup of tea.
But here’s the point: we have got to move on, move forward, and channel our energies in progressive and constructive pursuits, because only then will we see and realize the full potential of our people. If we have faith in ourselves, believe in ourselves, and declare in a unified voice that we can make real progress happen, God willing, it will happen.
Kung maniniwala tayo sa sarili natin na kaya natin, makakayanan natin! Mabuhay po kayo!