Is it true that life under Marcos’ Martial Law was peaceful?

The Marcos dictatorship is undeniably one of the darkest chapters of the Philippine history, it was a time when freedom of speech was curtailed, democracy was non-existent and peace became a privilege for some. Amnesty International recorded 34, 000 tortures, 3, 240 deaths and 70, 000 prisoners from 1972 to 1981. From the beginning of the dictatorship and to the end, it was never peaceful.

Peace on the surface, chaos inside

For someone who is privileged enough they could claim that the dictatorship was peaceful if only you stayed quiet. However, this is a privilege especially for those who are not living in extremely poor conditions. The right to freedom of speech, organization and protest is a way for the people to voice out in order for them to improve their standards of living. However, during Martial Law those rights were taken away, the toiling masses that demands change were subjected to imprisonment, torture and murder. 

Idealistic students who are thirsty for change, and progress were tagged as communists, imprisoned, tortured to death, and murdered. Reformist politicians were not spared as well although tolerated by the Marcos regime. The media who serve as the watchdogs of a society were quickly stifled by the regime as all periodicals from the mainstream to the campus journos were padlocked, and shut down.

These conditions served as an impetus for the toiling masses to seek for an alternative in order to improve their standards of living. And due to the repressive, and authoritarian nature of the regime, some decided to remain in the belly of the demon in the underground movement to amplify the anti – Marcos sentiment but with the contrast threat of being caught by Constabulary. But many were forced to rebel, and to take up arms against the Marcos regime.

Revolutionary opposition

In Mindanao, the Moro National Liberation Front was mobilized which was formed by Muslim students and politicians to create the Bangsa Moro Republik (Moro National Republic), composed of Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan. This sparked a war that lasted from 1973 to 1977. Over the course of the war between the MNLF and the Marcos regime, 13, 000 people were killed. 

On the other hand, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army grew stronger when Martial Law was declared. This is despite Martial Law’s supposed goal which is to quell communist uprising, the CPP – NPA only grew stronger with an estimated guerilla force of 15,000 at the countryside and one million mass base in urban cities. This fast growth of the communist rebel group in the countryside is because of the human rights abuses due to high military presence, meanwhile it appears as a revolutionary alternative especially to the peasants, and the workers who are living in extremely poor conditions. 

The conflict between the CPP and the Marcos regime resulted in a war which cost thousands of innocent lives, and huge casualties from both sides, a war that is still happening even to this very day. And as the Marcos regime weakened, the CPP grew stronger.

The end of Martial Law

As years goes by, the Marcos regime continue to weaken as the country was plunged into further chaos. Corruption, impunity, and the growing resistance in both the urban cities and at the countryside further weakened the regime. 

Meanwhile, inside the ranks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines dissatisfaction grows, and PMA’ers officials who are resentful to their ROTC subordinates who were given higher positions by the dictator who formed Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) led by Juan Ponce Enrile are plotting a coup. 

The goal is to kill General Fabian Ver, and arresting the Marcos family inside the Malacanang to install a revolutionary government led by military officials.  The coup was botched due to the fact Marcos was aware of the said coup, which forced the coup leaders to retreat to Camp Aguinaldo.

Cardinal Sin then rallied millions of Filipino masses through Radio Veritas to flock to the capital to support the coup who were about to be wiped out by Marcos loyalist troops. 

This event served as an opportunity for both the reformists, and the revolutionaries with the death of Ninoy Aquino, the arrest of the key leaders of the Communist Party and the growing dissent inside the ranks of the military. 

Cory Aquino took advantage of this who was at that time in Cebu in a campaign trail,  to return to Manila and “lead” the People Power uprising to oust Marcos and install a new government which only restored power for the other side of the ruling class.

This also served as an opportunity for the CPP who mobilize millions of their mass base to oust the dictator in order for their leaders to be set free as promised by the reformists.

Chaos and disorder under Duterte

During the presidential campaign, Rodrigo Duterte had been vocal about his platform to eradicate drugs in the country. As soon as he took office, his infamous War on Drugs began. Killings by the police and unknown armed individuals continued in the context of the government’s anti-drug campaign. The Philippine National Police (PNP) acknowledged that 6,500 individuals have been slain since July 2016. However, human rights groups stated, as per government records, that there are more than 20,000 death counts. Many of these cases were classified as homicide under investigations.

The Duterte administration has also perpetuated killings amongst basic sectors, over 274 peasants have been slain. The freedom of the press has always been a target, media organizations say that at least 16 journalists have been killed in work-related attacks under the Duterte administration since 2016.

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