The journals and recollections are coming out: On the 22nd, in the late hours of the evening and early morning, opposition leaders were hearing knocks on their door and were being invited to the military camps. The arrest in the form of an invite would soon be an operative process in those years.
The infamous broadcast still exists. Online it can be accessed and from there we are free to memorize Marcos on that day he announced Proclamation 1081. The broadcast started at 7:15 in the evening, or thereabouts. It was the 23rd of September, a day he marked when he mentioned the day he declared Martial Law: “Yesterday on September 22, 1972.” Marcos would also say he signed the proclamation on the 21st of September, 1972. Other pundits point to September 17 of the same year as the official beginning of that rule.
Compared to the many speeches he would deliver in the decades he ruled the republic, Marcos did not speak strongly that night. His shoulders hunched, he was tentative in some aspects, almost brooding in some. Is it because the broadcast is old?
Who can forget this man? Was he the man we feared for decades?
The announcement is complex, and fraught with references to law and the constitution. He is declaring martial law “in accordance with the powers vested in the President under the constitution of the Philippines.” Note how he did not say “vested in me.”
Who remembers this assurance: “The proclamation of martial law is not a military takeover.”
Who believed him? Many believed him. Some still believe up to this day in the benevolence of the Marcos rule.
Marcos goes on: “To those guilty of treason, insurrection, rebellion, it [referring to Martial Law] may pose a grave danger.” He proceeds to the caveat, the beloved lie that some individuals who lived under martial rule cling to: “But for the ordinary citizenry—almost all of you—whose primary concern is mainly to be left alone to pursue your lawful activity, this (his hand with his forefinger pointed down) is the guarantee of that freedom that you seek” (transcription and italics mine). If you listen closely, the dictator at this point loses the long “e” and pronounces the word “seek” as “sick.”
Does anyone recall how a young Francisco “Kit” Tatad read the proclamation at 3 in the afternoon of September 23, 1972? Tatad is a Bicolano from Catanduanes.
The Official Gazette, already a written document, would bear witness to more dates contradicting other dates. Compelling, however, is the imposed memory of September 21 as the important date supported not by truth but divination. It is said that the dictator favored the number “7” and “21” was divisible by “7.”
Numerology or not, the many dates allowed the arrest of opposition leaders. By the morning of the 23rd, senators of the republic like Benigno S. Aquino Jr. and Jose Diokno, and members of the media, such as Joaquin Roces and Armando Doronila, were all in Camp Crame. The camp was one of the many dreaded sites of interrogation in the martial law days. Bicutan was another place where those who were held “disappeared.”
As the tales of tyrants tell us, divination, usurpation and abuse of power are threads weaving fate and strategies. And Marcos is believed to subscribe to destiny. Iginuhit ng Tadhana (Inscribed by Destiny) was the title of that film that helped popularize Marcos when it was released in 1965. With Marcos, there was an aspect of destiny that could be controlled, if not in the retelling then in the documenting.
Who remembers the “Day of the Thanksgiving?” In 1973, Marcos issued Proclamation 1181 declaring September 21 “Thanksgiving Day.” The same date was observed for the establishment of the New Society or “Bagong Lipunan.” Generations of Filipinos therefore had to express their gratitude to the country for many years of oppression under Marcos every 21st of September.
The Bagong Lipunan dominated the sloganeering of the Marcos dictatorship. It appeared as part of the name of a political party—the KBL or Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. When government agencies were asked to conduct free medical missions, a ploy to seduce the electorate, the program was bandied as Kalusugan sa Bagong Lipunan (KBL again).
Who remembers the aftermath of the martial law declaration? Domestic and international flights were cancelled. Some recall how even those who had dual citizenship but carried a Philippine passport were not allowed to travel out of the country. There were also those who, caught by the proclamation while abroad, sought asylum somewhere. The military closed down all mass media offices. It was the day free information died.
Was it Daily Express with its Expressweek Magazine that was retained?
Who remembers those decrees? Under General Order 1, s. 1972, a decree issued by Marcos caused the transfer of all powers to the President. Marcos was to rule by decree.
In February 1981, Pope John Paul II came to the Philippines. It is believed that to this pastoral visit could be ascribed the formal lifting of Martial Law. Through Proclamation 2045, Marcos would end the said rule. No one knew if that act did impress the Pontiff, and to what end. The Philippines would remain a police state till Marcos was booted out in 1986.
We remember how the Pope refused to stay in the Coconut Palace, one of the many examples of Imelda’s vaunted “edifice complex.”
We cannot forget though that, in ending that broadcast on September 23, 1972, the dictator in his gentle voice declared: “I have prayed to God for guidance. Let us all continue to pray to him.”
Presently, legal luminaries assure us the 1987 Constitution safeguards our institutions from a repeat of Martial Law regime. Who remembers this? Who shall forget all this?
Image credits: Jimbo Albano