First Quarter Storm
The First Quarter Storm (Filipino: Sigwa ng Unang Kuwatro) was a period of leftist unrest in the Philippines, composed of a series of heavy demonstrations, protests, and marches against the government from January to March 1970, or the first quarter of 1970. Student activists played a large role in these demonstrations, expressing their condemnation of the country's economic crisis and rampant imperialism. These violent protests, along with the subsequent protests they inspired, were collectively a major factor that led to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.
- 1 Timeline
- 1.1 Prior January 26
- 1.2 January 26: Demonstration upon the opening of the Seventh Congress
- 1.3 January 30: Battle of Mendiola
- 1.4 February 12
- 1.5 February 18: Rampage at the U.S. Embassy
- 1.6 February 26: Demonstration at Sunken Gardens and the US Embassy
- 1.7 March 3: The People's March
- 1.8 March 17: Tear Gas Incident at Mendiola
- 1.9 After March 17
- 2 Aftermath
- 3 See also
- 4 References
Prior January 26
The nation was experiencing a crisis as the government was falling into debt, inflation was uncontrolled and the value of the peso continued to drop. The slight increase of the minimum wage was countered by continuous price price increases and unemployment. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. remarked that the nation was turning into a 'garrison state' and President Marcos himself described the country as a 'social volcano.'
Kabataang Makabayan (KM) is a political organization founded by Jose Maria Sison on November 30, 1964, intended to be a nationwide “extension” of the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP), which is also an organization of student activists founded by Sison in 1959 that moved towards “academic freedom in the University against the combined machinations of the state and the church.” The KM advocated for unity against and liberation from American imperialism, which "made the suffering of [the] people more complex and more severe." Their first demonstration, which took place at the U.S. Embassy on January 25, 1965, was held to this effect. The KM had since been active in various rallies and demonstrations such as those condemning the Laurel-Langley agreement, Parity Amendments, Mutual Defense treaty, the state visit of South Vietnam Premier Cao Ky in 1966, the state visit of President Marcos to the U.S., the Oct. 24, 1966 Manila Summit conference, the killings of Filipinos in American bases, and the visit of President Nixon—events which they believe contribute to the feudalistic nature of the country.
The rally held against the Manila Summit Conference on October 24 to 25, 1966 was among those that ended in violence. The media and government officials reminded the public to be polite to the country's visitors and display 'traditional Filipino hospitality,' expecting the KM to stage a demonstration. Furthermore, the Manila mayor's office announced that permits to demonstrate against the Manila Summit will not be issued. On the day before the beginning of the summit, as summiteers began to arrive, a group of students waved around name-calling placards, defending that they were not demonstrating, just picketing. They were taken by police and informed that they would be charged with demonstrating without a permit. On October 24, KM held a demonstration in front of Manila Hotel to protest against American involvement in Vietnam which resulted in a violent dispersal. One student had died, several were injured, and seven were arrested, charged with breach of the peace.
Sison was in December of the same year to Ateneo de Manila University to talk about the events of the October 24 movement. Sison highlighted the parallels between the state at current time and the state during the 1896 Philippine Revolution against Spain:
If the brilliant students - Dr. Jose Rizal, Emilio Jacinto and Gregorio del Pilar - had merely concentrated on stale academic studies, and pursued successful professional careers and married well - in the accomplished style of Señor Pasta in El Filibusterismo - they would be worthless now to this nation, as worthless [...]. Our elders who take pride on their sheer age and their sense of caution should learn from the [...] revolutionary and nationalist youth movement of 1896 and of today. The elders [...] should not now assume the function of censors and the black judges who condemned [...] patriots of the old democratic revolution as subversive heretics.
In general, during 1968, there have been many local student riots and demonstrations trying to address internal issues, "ranging from stinking toilets to increased tuition fees." “At the Araneta University, for example, according to Cesar Bercades, president of its student council, the demonstrations there resulted in the damage of school property amounting to P56,920.34 and the dismissal of eight students from the university and all schools.”
During the campaign period for the 1969 elections, students called for a boycott of pools and promoted a mock campaign called the "Dante for President" movement, likely referring to Bernabe 'Kumander Dante' Buscayno, the founder of the New People's Army. In this election, Ferdinand Marcos was voted into his second term as President. As 1970 began, there were already rumors that he was already eyeing a third term and that major political parties were already preparing for the coming Constitutional convention elections.
A few days before the rally on January 26, Manuel F. Martinez, former Dawn (the weekly student newspaper of the University of the East) editor commented:
Now is the time for all trouble makers to come to the aid of the country. For the only chance for exploiters to triumph is for revolutionaries to do nothing [...] We must make trouble in the constitutional convention, trouble for vested interest, trouble for the profligate rich, trouble for the denizens of this detestable establishment and abominable status quo [...] The convention must be scuttled or wrecked if it is dominated by the very same interests against which stands the very spirit of change inherent in convening a constitutional convention. For conceived in greed, born in mischief and nurtured in iniquity, the spirit of wanton capitalism has never failed to bend human institutions to the service of injustice and sin.
To clarify, he explained that the word 'trouble' was used not in its literal sense, but rather that the youth should get involved in the coming convention, which they have been striving to do. Student demonstrators, in an effort to be more involved, made a manifesto for the constitutional convention, containing the following provisions:
- the non-partisan election of delegates to the national convention
- the non-partisan composition of poll inspectors and provincial board of canvassers
- public officials who will run as candidates should be made to resign or forfeit their seats upon filing of candidacy
- the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) must regulate the election propaganda and expense of the candidates
- the delegates to the convention must be made ineligible to run for any public office in the elections immediately after the convention
- the age requirement of delegates should be lowered from 25 to 21 years old.
January 26: Demonstration upon the opening of the Seventh Congress
The demonstration was held by the National of Students of the Philippines (NUSP, ), led by their president Edgar Jopson from Ateneo de Manila University, upon the opening of the Seventh Congress, around the time that President Marcos was giving his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA). NUSP had secured the necessary permit and announced the rally in a press conference a few days earlier, naming it the 'January 26 Movement' and proclaiming its purpose, which is to press for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention. January 26 was the culmination of a series of peaceful demonstrations on Monday and Friday. People from other 'radical' organizations came to the demonstration, showing no interest in constitutional convention, but rather for the pursuit of revolution. Placards carried out were made of large calendars distributed by the administration during the campaign, touched up to show the President as Hitler or the First Couple as Bonnie and Clyde. Cardboard emblems of a coffin, a crocodile, and an effigy of the President were displayed around the flagpole.
President Marcos, in his SONA entitled "National Discipline: The Key to Our Future," had called for a change in the status quo, mirroring the sentiments expressed by the student demonstrators. Upon exiting the building at around five o'clock in the afternoon, the cardboard coffin and crocodile were hurled towards him, the effigy was set on fire, and protesters began to chant. The police then charged into the crowd of demonstrators, scattering them away and allowing for the President and his companions to safely leave the area. Some were taken by the police and retreated into the legislative building. Other demonstrators (mostly those from 'radical' groups) regrouped, linked arms, marched forward, and chanted: "Makibaka! Huwag matakot!" (Fight! Have no fear!)
For the next few hours, rallyists and police continued to combat along Burgos Drive. In the heat of the riot, Senator Emmanuel Pelaez intervened for the student demonstrators, rescuing a demonstrator being pursued and requesting the police to withdraw. However, the riot squads did not retreat. The senator was then cheered on by the demonstrators for this gesture and carried him above their shoulders, thus he was exposed to the flying stones from the policemen. At around nine in the evening, the riots still continued and warning shots were fired into the air. The riot died down at around 10 p.m., with most of the demonstrators regrouping elsewhere to ensure the release of their companions who have been arrested earlier.
In the aftermath of the rally, at least two were confirmed dead and several were injured. The mayor of Manila at the time, Antonio Villegas, commended the Manila Police District for their "exemplary behavior and courage" and protecting the First Couple long after they have left. The event, however, was met with contempt because of the "unprecedented display of sadism." Students declared a week-long boycott of classes and instead met to organize protest rallies. The Wednesday that followed, Congress created a joint committee to investigate the "root causes of demonstrations in general." The next day, faculty from the University of the Philippines led by the UP president S.P. Lopez, marched to Malacañang. They were invited into the President's study, where Marcos reprimanded them, challenging any communist in the group to debate on the merits of democracy and communism.
January 30: Battle of Mendiola
Four days after the SONA, to condemn state fascism and police brutality, protesters comprised mostly of students marched back to the Congress. The anti-fascism rally lasted until 5pm. As one of the leaders was saying the closing remarks with a microphone, shouts of “Malacañang! Malacañang!” were heard mainly from the side of the students from Philippine College of Commerce and University of the Philippines. This led to many people getting pushed by a wave of protesters as they sang protest songs and chanted “Makibaka, huwag matakot!” They began to move towards Ayala Bridge, with the Philippine flag raised, and decided to march directly to Malacañang and protest in front of Marcos’ doorsteps, hearing gunfire as they slowly closed by the Palace. Some of the more militant rallyists were charging the metal fence that separates them from the Palace.
While this was happening, different student leaders were already in Malacañang having a meeting with Ferdinand Marcos to make the following demands: “the holding of a nonpartisan constitutional convention; the commitment that Marcos, a two-term president, would not suddenly change the rules forbidding a president from seeking a third term; the resignation of the Manila Police District top brass; and the disbandment of paramilitary units in Central Luzon." Since half past three in the afternoon, Portia Ilagan of Philippine Normal College, Edgar Jopson, other student leaders, and other members of the NUSP were allowed to be present in an audience with Marcos to urge the president to have a nonpartisan constitutional convention and to avoid running for the presidency for the third time.
Marcos said that he was not interested in a third term and Jopson demanded that he put that down in writing, which led to Marcos lash out at him by calling him as merely the son of a grocer. The President did not agree to their terms and their meeting ended at around 6pm. As they headed to the front door of Malacañang Palace, they heard the sounds of glass breaking and pillboxes exploding. As the students’ dialogue with the president was happening inside the Palace, the students outside the Palace were confronted with their own difficulties. Due to a loud call from someone outside the Palace to turn the lights on, the Palace did just that to accommodate the request, which led to a rock crashing to one of the lamps. Thinking that this was a rock thrown from inside the Palace and aimed at the students outside, the students threw rocks at the Palace in return.
Protesters claimed that Malacañang guards started the violence by throwing pellets at them from inside, which led them to take over a fire truck and smashed it into Malacañang’s Gate 4. Once the gate broke and gave way, bold protestors charged into the Palace grounds tossing rocks, pillboxes, Molotov cocktails. The Presidential Guard Battalion then came out in full force with their guns. The protestors drew back but not before inflaming the fire truck and a government car.
Protesters ran towards Arguelles Street to evade the explosions in front of the Palace. Student protesters were steadily driven out of J.P. Laurel and farther down Mendiola, where they built a barricade to stop the riot police and armed soldiers from the Palace. As students from nearby dormitories joined them, protesters grew in numbers. Everything was improvised and they did not have any organized plan. The protestors fought the armed forces and defended themselves with sticks and pillboxes. Eventually, the troops succeeded in separating the protestors, putting an end to the rally. Many were severely injured, and since police forces retaliated with live bullets, it led to bloodshed. Bullets were shot at the protesters, killing four students. The armed forces were claimed to attack unarmed students. It was a seesaw battle between the youth and the military. Students and military alternatively held Mendiola Bridge, until nine o'clock in the evening, when finally it finally fell to the military. While troops were able to disperse the militants, they failed to clear the streets of M. Aguila, Legarda, and Claro M. Recto and in Quiapo from other rallyists. Doors were opened to these rallyists, and through gestures from people at second-floor windows, they were warned about the presence of armed forces in the streets.
The January 30, 1970 rally received mixed reactions overseas. Eastern Sun, a newspaper from Singapore, wrote an editorial on the January 30 riots. This article mentioned that President Marcos was right for 'taking the hard line' in dealing with the demonstrators.demonstrators. Although the charge that these demonstrations were part of a Communist Chinese inspired insurrection were seen as exaggerated, they found the exaggeration to be necessary to emphasize this point. Independent Chinese newspaper in Hong Kong, however, found the idea that these students were in the January 30 riot to take over the government is excessive. While the article does not deny the possibility of the involvement of some communists in the violence, "to say that they were trying to occupy the presidential Palace in an armed uprising to set a Chinese-Communist type of ruling power was more than an exaggeration."
February 12 was when the largest rally in Plaza Miranda took place. The scheduled rally was nearly called off when the leaders of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) initially agreed to have a discussion with the President on the night of this date, but instead pushed through, thinking that a dialogue may be pointless. The rally pushed through with ten to fifty thousand people, where for hours they were found on trees in the church patio, sitting on the streets, standing on the roofs of low buildings, and standing in other areas to the plaza to listen to speakers outside the Quiapo Church. These speakers discussed and opposed the concepts of imperialism, feudalism, and fascism.
February 18: Rampage at the U.S. Embassy
Five thousand militant activists gathered at Plaza Miranda. This demonstration, which lasted until the evening, started what is now called a "people's congress." The words "Makibaka! Huwag matakot!" reverberated in the scene as they chanted and broke off from the crowd and marched toward the U.S. Embassy. The militants trashed the U.S. Embassy as a form of denunciation of U.S. imperialism. They accused the U.S. for being fascist and for supporting Marcos. The militants used rocks and pillboxes, destroying the Embassy lobby hours before the police arrived.
The next day, the American ambassador sent a note to the government protesting the "wanton vandalism" that took place the night before, and the Philippine government replied with a note of apology within three hours.
February 26: Demonstration at Sunken Gardens and the US Embassy
The MDP militants rallied at Plaza Miranda despite not being granted a permit to rally. The radicals insisted for the right to assembly, that with or without a permit the rally would go on. The Manila police and Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command (METROCOM) attacked the rallying even before they have settled at the plaza, causing the militants to disperse. The activists reassembled at the Sunken Garden, and after a few speeches continued to march to the U.S. Embassy. They stoned the Embassy and fought against the cops when they arrived. The activists fled and regrouped hours later on Mendiola to reenact the protest of January 30. The cops retaliated by breaking into the Philippine College of Commerce, hitting the students and professors, and ransacking the offices and classrooms.
March 3: The People's March
The MDP, resolved to pursue their cause, arranged a "people's march" on March 3. According to reports, this march ended in one-sided battles between gun-toting police riot squads and stone-hurling demonstrators, seems to give people an endless amount of reasons to hold mass gatherings of students, farmers, and laborers. The jeepneys then were on strike, paralyzing the transport system of the city for three days, as the drivers' against tong-collecting traffic policemen. Even though the people taking part in the march needed to walk from one assembly point to another, the organizations participating multiplied. The march passed by Tondo, Plaza Lawton, and the U.S. Embassy, where they again had another struggle with the police, who were more aggressive that time, chasing the activists all over the city. As Lacaba reports in this narrative, a boy names Enrique Sta. Maria was caught and tortured to death by the police.
March 17: Tear Gas Incident at Mendiola
The militants continued assembling to further their cause. On March 17, they held what was then referred to as the second people's march. This was longer than the previous and was focused on fighting poverty. The route of the march was along the ghettoes of the poor. They started in the morning, stopping at Plaza Moriones, where a mockery of a tribunal sentencing of the enemies of the people happened. They continued marching towards the U.S. Embassy in the evening. The cops were already positioned at the Embassy when the marchers arrived, but the activists wanted to avoid a confrontation with the police and proceeded to Mendiola, where they made bonfires in the middle of the road. The cops went to the scene and released tear gas, "making Mendiola quiet again."
After March 17
On the evening of June 12, 1970, media reported that the 72nd anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence would be celebrated differently from previous years. It was reported that there would not be a grand, colorful parade, in line with the Marcos administration's policy of fiscal restraint, but instead there would be a simple, public "military show" by the Philippine Military Academy, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Blue Diamonds of the Philippine Air Force at eight o'clock in the morning. Furthermore, rather than tedious speeches in the middle of the day, the President would read a loyalty pledge to the Republic and the flag at seven o'clock in the morning, a time when demonstrators against the current regime could be avoided.
Discussions on Violence
Demonstrations as 'portents of things to come'
When the news of the January 30 riots broke out, spectators, especially parents of the students participating in the demonstration, were appalled by the military behavior in these riots, questioning the need for armed military men at Mendiola. Participating groups of the said riots claimed that the violence was sparked by Malacañang guards, who threw pellets at the protesters from the inside, thus provoking demonstrators to retaliate and to ram a fire truck into the Malacañang No. 4 gate. These incidents of violence were heightened to bloodshed by the arrival of METROCOM and the Philippine Constabulary as some groups, such as Kabataang Makabayan, claim that the armed forces attacked the students, who were virtually unarmed.
This brought into question the necessity of arms in instilling the change that these students were demanding. Dr. Nemesio Prudente, an educator and an ardent defender of students, predicted then that the January 26 and 30 riots were 'mere portents of what is yet to come if the leadership does not meet the demands of our students,' - demands which are clean, honest competent leadership, reforms, social justice, elimination of poverty, quality and inexpensive education for all, and the right to participate in decision making. He commented on the violence, saying that it will continue until there is no proper understanding and open communication between government leaders and student groups.
These encounters exhibited the then growing prevalence of student activism, parallel to demonstrations in other countries wherein students played a large role such as the toppling of the Sukarno regime in Indonesia and the collapse of the Soviet Union through the Prague Spring.
Kabataang Makabayan's stand on violence
Since KM was founded under the aspiration of resuming and completing the Philippine Revolution of 1896, now fighting "a new type of colonialism," it sought to inspire nationalism once more in a time wherein it was considered as a dangerous concept. The organization's positive aspirations, however, are overlooked by due to the negative image of communism, brought about by the news of communist insurgents in other parts of the world and individual actions of KM members themselves, including the dissident movement in Negros, the capture of Leoncio Co and other youths in their alleged involvement in a Stalin university in Tarlak, and the rumored activism of founder Jose Maria Sison, alias Commander Guerrero, in the Huk movement in Central Luzon. As said by Astorga-Garcia:
The KM aims to break this monopoly of power by allying with workers, peasants, progressive intellectuals, professionals and the nationalist bourgeoisie in an effort to arouse and mobilize the masses towards the attainment of national freedom and democracy. This outlook, more than anything else, explains the persistent anti-American imperialist and anti-landlord tone in the programme, pronouncements and protest mass actions of the KM. This explains why it is for the scrapping of the parity, the abrogation of the Laurel-Langley, bases treaty, military assistance treaty, mutual defense treaty—in short, the elimination of RP-US ‘special relations.’ The KM stand on these and other important national issues have always been pursued by its members with a militance no other youth organization has equalled. That is why the military has long ago started a hate-KM campaign that has been equally militant, although oftentimes ridiculous and silly. Whenever violence erupts in a demonstration participated in by the KM, the military authorities are quick in pinpointing the KM as the instigator of violence.
However, the group justifies this violence by considering it as an objective reality while maintaining their position that, while KM has taken part in numerous demonstrations that had led to violence, the riots have been incited by the police and not their members. The KM was more concerned with the "politicalization of the masses," and if they wanted to stage an armed revolution, they would have come bearing arms to rallies. 
Veterans' March for Democracy
The Veterans Federation of the Philippines arranged a "March for Democracy" where the veterans strode around Intramuros, Rizal Park, Luneta grandstand, and then to the Sunken Garden, where speeches and a pledging ceremony were held. Col. Simeon Medalla, head of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, explains that the rally was not Marcos-inspired, contrary to allegations sprung from rumors of American officials or allies being seen at the rally and the fact that the President himself was the most decorated veteran of the previous war. Their purpose, rather, was to "preserve the ideals and principles for which the people fought during the war," a statement inscribed on the large banner carried during the march. When the veterans' march was cast in a negative light by media the following morning, Medalla remarked in jest, "Was it because there was no violence in our rally?" On that note, Ben Florentino, head of the United Disabled Veterans Association of the Philippines, commented that if the 'young radical activists' had experienced the hardships of war as they had, then they would not be advocating violence.
Florentino and Medalla further stressed that veterans were the first group to stage demonstrations for the sake of demanding legitimate reforms from the government. They also felt the need to call for reforms but believed that these should be achieved peacefully and undergoing democratic processes. COMELEC Chairman Jamie N. Ferrer attributed the student demonstrations to the rampant corruption in the political system, while Civil Service Commissioner Abelardo Subido attributed them to the lack of dialogue between the youth and their elders, calling on parents to tell their children "what we need is a change through peaceful means to achieve economic independence."  Although many veterans were gladdened by the spark of student activism, they denounced the emergence of some sectors seeking to harness student power for their own ends.
Significance to Martial Law
President Ferdinand Marcos saw the January 30 protest and siege in Malacañang not only as a personal assault but also as an assault to the presidency itself. He thought of the protests as an insurrection, and only a part of a plot to overthrow the government by force.
Juan Ponce Enrile, who was then Secretary of Justice, recalled in his memoir that at the time of the January 30 Malacañang attack, President Marcos nearly announced Martial Law. President Marcos suspected that a coup was being arranged against him as none of his generals are present, and he immediately evacuated Imelda and their children to a navy ship in Manila Bay.
In an editorial published in Philippine Panorama, Fred Reyes remarked that these bloody demonstrations may be the signs of an upcoming revolution, shying away from 'traditional Filipino values' such as bahala na, pakikisama, and utang na loob that have long hindered radical change. He also stressed that while it seems to be clear to all that change was needed, no one seemed to know what change was needed. He also noted the slight difference in tone regarding communism, as people seemed to be more understanding of their cause. He had also noted that despite the government's accusations, no communists were produced from the riot groups.
The First Quarter Storm was followed by a year of demonstrations, varying from picketing, long marches, live theater, people's tribunal, and parliament of the streets. These demonstrations contributed to the image of a communist insurgency, which was used as justification for the declaration of Martial Law.
|Attempts at regime change in the Philippines (1970–2007)|
|First Quarter Storm (1970)|
|People Power (1986)|
|Honasan's Second (1989)|
|Second EDSA (2001)|
|May 1 riots (2001)|
|Oakwood mutiny (2003)|
|State of emergency (2006)|
|Manila Peninsula rebellion (2007)|
- German student movement, late 1960s communist student movement
- May 1968, general strike in 1968 France
- Tlatelolco massacre, violent student protests in 1968 Mexico just before the Summer Olympics held in Mexico City
- List of conflicts related to the Cold War
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