Martial law in the Philippines
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Martial law in the Philippines (Filipino: Batas Militar sa Pilipinas) refers to several intermittent periods in Philippine history wherein the Philippine head of state (such as the President) places an area under the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its predecessor bodies. Martial law is declared either when there is near-violent civil unrest or in cases of major natural disasters, however most countries use a different legal construct like "state of emergency".
Typically, the imposition of martial law accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, civil rights, habeas corpus, and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunals (court-martial).
Hostilities that began the Philippine Revolution of 1896 started on the evening of 21 August 1896, when hundreds of rebels attacked the Civil Guard garrison in Pasig, just as hundreds of other rebels personally led by Andrés Bonifacio were massing in San Juan del Monte, which they attacked hours later on the 30th. Bonifacio planned to capture El Polvorin, the San Jose del Monte powder magazine along with El Depósito, a water station supplying Manila. The defending Spaniards were outnumbered, but fought the rebels until reinforcements arrived. Once reinforced, the Spaniards drove Bonifacio's forces back with heavy casualties. Elsewhere rebels attacked Mandaluyong, Sampaloc, Santa Ana, Pandacan, Pateros, Marikina, and Caloocan, as well as Makati and Taguig. Balintawak in Caloocan saw intense fighting. Rebel troops tended to gravitate towards fighting in San Juan del Monte and Sampaloc. South of Manila, a thousand-strong rebel force attacked a small force of civil guards. In Pandacan Katipuneros attacked the parish church, making the parish priest run for his life.
After their defeat in San Juan del Monte, Bonifacio's troops regrouped near Marikina, San Mateo and Montalban, where they proceeded to attack these areas. They captured these areas but were driven back by Spanish counterattacks, and Bonifacio eventually ordered a retreat to Balara. On the way, Bonifacio was nearly killed shielding Emilio Jacinto from a Spanish bullet that grazed his collar. Despite his reverses, Bonifacio was not completely defeated and was still considered a threat.
North of Manila, the towns of San Francisco de Malabon, Noveleta and Kawit in Cavite rose in rebellion. In Nueva Ecija rebels in San Isidro led by Ivan Pilien attacked the Spanish garrison on September 2–4; they were repulsed.
By 30 August, the revolt had spread to eight provinces, prompting the Spanish Governor-General Ramón Blanco, 1st Marquis of Peña Plata, to declare a "state of war" in these provinces and place them under martial law. These provinces were Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas, and Nueva Ecija. These would later be represented in the eight rays of the Sun in the Philippine flag. Despite such declaration, which provided a 48-hour period in giving amnesty to rebels except their leaders, Blanco adopted a cool, conciliatory stance, seeking to improve Spain’s image in the face of world opinion.
After the outbreak of Spanish–American War, Emilio Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines from his exile in Hong Kong on 19 May 1898, with 13 of his staff. He was encouraged to return by the Americans, who saw in him as an opportunity in their war against Spain. After five days, on May 23, Aguinaldo issued a proclamation in which he assumed command of all Philippine military forces and established a dictatorial government with himself as the supreme commander.
On 12 June, at Aguinaldo's ancestral home in Cavite, Philippine independence was proclaimed and The Act of Declaration of Philippine Independence was read. The act had been prepared and written in Spanish by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, who also read its proclamation. On 18 June, Aguinaldo issued a decree formally establishing his dictatorial government. On 23 June another decree signed by Aguinaldo was issued, replacing the Dictatorial Government with a Revolutionary Government, with himself as President.
President José P. Laurel of the wartime Second Philippine Republic placed the Philippines under martial law in 1944 through Proclamation No. 29, dated September 21. Martial law came into effect on September 22, 1944. Proclamation No. 30 was issued the next day, declaring the existence of a state of war between the Philippines and the US and Great Britain. This took effect on September 23, 1944.
Around 1970, student activism had intensified and many student activists joined communist movements. Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth, or 'KM') a political organization founded by José María Sison intended to be a nationwide extension of the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines, carried out study sessions on Marxism–Leninism and intensified the deployment of urban activists in rural areas to prepare for People's war. The line between leftist activists and communists became increasingly blurred, as a significant number of KM advanced activists joined the party of the Communist Party also founded by Sison. Earlier, during the campaign period for the 1969 elections, students called promoted a mock campaign called the Dante-for-President movement, likely referring to New People's Army founder Bernabe 'Kumander Dante' Buscayno. KM members protested in front of Congress, throwing a coffin, a stuffed alligator, and stones at Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos after his State of the Nation Address. On the presidential palace, activists rammed the gate with a fire truck and once the gate broke and gave way, the activists charged into the Palace grounds tossing rocks, pillboxes, Molotov cocktails. In front of the US embassy, protesters vandalized, arsoned and damaged the embassy lobby resulting to a strong protest from the U.S. Ambassador. The KM protests ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 in number per weekly mass action. In the aftermath of the January 1970 riots, at least two activists were confirmed dead and several were injured by the police. 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 death of the activists was seized by the López-controlled Manila Times and Manila Chronicle, blaming Marcos and added fire to the weekly protests. Students declared a week-long boycott of classes and instead met to organize protest rallies.
In Marcos' diary, he wrote that the whole crisis has been utilized by communism to create a revolutionary situation. He lamented that the powerful Lopez family, which controlled Manila Times and Manila Chronicle, blamed him for the riots thus raising the ire of demonstrators. He mentioned that he was informed by his mother of a planned assassination paid for by the powerful oligarch, Eugenio Lopez Sr (Iñing Lopez). He narrated how he dissuaded his supporters from the Northern Philippines in infiltrating the demonstration in Manila and inflicting harm on the protesters, and how he showed to the UP professors that the Collegian was carrying the communist party articles and that he was disappointed in the faculty of his alma matter for becoming a spawning ground of communism. He also added that he asked Ernesto Rufino, Vicente Rufino and Carlos Palanca to withdraw advertisements from the Manila Times which was openly supporting revolution and the communist cause, and they agreed to do so.
Rumors of coup d’etat were also brewing. A report of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that shortly after the Philippine presidential election, 1969, a group composed mostly of retired colonels and generals organized a revolutionary junta with the aim of first discrediting President Marcos and then killing him. The group was headed by Eleuterio Adevoso, an official of the opposition Liberal party. As described in a document given to the committee by Philippine Government official, key figures in the plot were Vice President Fernando Lopez and Sergio Osmena Jr., whom Marcos defeated in the 1969 election. Marcos even went to the U.S. embassy to dispel rumors that the U.S. embassy is supporting a coup d’etat which the opposition liberal party was spreading. While the report obtained by the NY Times speculated saying that story could be used by Marcos to justify Martial Law, as early as December 1969 in a message from the U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador said that most of the talk about revolution and even assassination has been coming from the defeated opposition, of which Adevoso (of the Liberal Party) is a leading activist. He also said that the information he has on the assassination plans are 'hard' or well-sourced and he has to make sure that it reached President Marcos.
In light of the crisis, Marcos wrote an entry in his diary in January 1970: "I have several options. One of them is to abort the subversive plan now by the sudden arrest of the plotters. But this would not be accepted by the people. Nor could we get the Huks (Communists), their legal cadres and support. Nor the MIM (Maoist International Movement) and other subversive [or front] organizations, nor those underground. We could allow the situation to develop naturally then after massive terrorism, wanton killings and an attempt at my assassination and a coup d’etat, then declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus – and arrest all including the legal cadres. Right now I am inclined towards the latter."
At the height of armed communist insurgency in the Philippines, Philippine Military Academy instructor Lt. Victor Corpuz led New People's Army rebels in a raid on the PMA armory, capturing rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, a bazooka and thousands of rounds of ammunition in 1970. In 1972, China, which was then actively supporting and arming communist insurgencies in Asia as part of Mao Zedong's People's War Doctrine, transported 1,200 M-14 and AK-47 rifles for the NPA to speed up NPA's campaign to defeat the government. Prior to the 1975, the Philippine government maintained a close relationship with the Kuomintang-ruled Chinese government which fled to Taiwan (Republic of China), despite the Chinese Communist Victory in 1949, and saw Communist China (People's Republic of China) as a security threat due to China's financial and military support of Communist rebels in the country. In a speech in February 2017 at the Methodist Protestants’ Cosmopolitan Church in Manila, Enrile said: “The most significant event that made President Marcos decide to declare martial law was the MV Karagatan incident in July 1972. It was the turning point. The MV Karagatan involved the infiltration of high powered rifles, ammunition, 40-millimeter rocket launchers, rocket projectiles, communications equipment, and other assorted war materials by the CPP-NPA-NDF on the Pacific side of Isabela in Cagayan Valley. The CPP-NPA-NDF attempted a second effort – their MV Andrea project – but they failed. The MV Andrea sank in the West Philippine Sea on its way to the country.” Those who opposed President Marcos, including The Conjugal Dictatorship author Primitivo Mijares, the Liberal Party, as well as the Lópezes’ Manila Chronicle, called the MV Karagatan incident as "show' or “a hoax”.
In a privilege speech before Senate, Benigno Aquino, Jr. warned the public of the possible establishment of a “garrison state” by President Ferdinand Marcos. President Marcos imposed martial law on the nation from 1972 to 1981 to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of a communist takeover following a series of bombings in Manila. However, Aquino himself rubbed elbows with leaders of Communist Party of the Philippines — first with founder Jose Maria Sison, and later with Rodolfo Salas, CPP chair at the height of Martial Law. In an interview with Ateneo De Manila University Professor Lisandro Claudio, Salas said not only did he bring wounded New People's Army (NPA) soldiers to Aquino’s houses, but he received guns and cash from Aquino himself. He also said Aquino had a significant contribution to the expansion of NPA in the country. In another communication to the State Department dated September 21, the US Embassy sheds further light on what Ninoy told the American officials. On September 12, Ninoy had a “lengthy luncheon conversation" with two embassy officers about the “growing strength of Communist dissidence in the Philippines." In this luncheon, the senator “readily admitted his past ties with the several Communist factions in the Philippines." He claimed that maintaining links with Huk rebels was a “fact of life" for a Tarlac politician. In the Philippine parliamentary election, 1978, the first parliamentary election during Martial Law, Ninoy fielded in his Lakas ng Bayan party Alex Boncayao, who was associated with Filipino communist death squad Alex Boncayao Brigade. All of the party's 21 candidates, including Ninoy, lost in the election.
On 21 August 1971, while the opposition (Liberal Party) was having their miting de avance in Plaza Miranda, 2 fragmentation grenades exploded. It took 9 lives and left more than 100 people seriously wounded. Some Liberal Party candidates were seriously injured including Jovito Salonga, who nearly died and was visually impaired. Suspicion of responsibility for the blast initially fell upon Marcos, whom the Liberals blamed for the bombing; however, in later years, prominent personalities associated with the event have laid the blame on the Communist Party of the Philippines under José María Sison. In his autobiography, Salonga states his belief that Sison and the CPP were responsible. Based on interviews of The Washington Post with former Communist Party of the Philippines Officials, it was revealed that "the (Communist) party leadership planned -- and three operatives carried out -- the attack in an attempt to provoke government repression and push the country to the brink of revolution... (Communist Party Leader) Sison had calculated that Marcos could be provoked into cracking down on his opponents, thereby driving thousands of political activists into the underground, the former party officials said. Recruits were urgently needed, they said, to make use of a large influx of weapons and financial aid that China had already agreed to provide."
A month of "terrorist bombings" of public facilities in Manila and Quezon City culminated on 22 September with a staged assassination attempt on Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Six hours after the alleged assassination attempt against Enrile and citing more than 15 bombing incidences, chaos and lawlessness, Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081, declaring and imposing martial law in the entire country. By declaring martial law, Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus and also the 1935 Constitution, dissolved Congress and padlocked the doors to the Batasang Pambansa, and assuming both legislative and executive powers. Proclamation No. 1081 was dated 21 September 1972 but it was actually signed on 17 September. The formal announcement or promulgation of the proclamation was made only at seven-thirty in the evening of 23 September, evidencing the plan to declare martial law even before the supposed ambush against Enrile. He had also commanded his military collaborators to start arresting his political opponents and close down all media and retail (fashion, food, religious, sports) establishments about twenty-two hours before the announcement.
The Proclamation read in part
|“||My countrymen, as of the twenty-first of this month, I signed Proclamation № 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law...||”|
The declaration of Martial Law was criticized as a planned precursor to extending Marcos' term in office, which under the 1935 Constitution is limited to two terms of four years each or a maximum of eight years Rigoberto Tiglao, former press secretary and a former communist incarcerated during the martial law, countered by arguing that the liberal and communist parties provoked martial law imposition.
Martial law was ratified by 90.77% of the voters during the Philippine Martial Law referendum, 1973 though the referendum was marred with controversy. Primitivo Mijares, a Marcos detractor and author of the book Conjugal dictatorship, alleged that there could not have been any valid referendum held from January 10 to 15, 1973 claiming the 35,000 citizen's assemblies never met and that voting was by show of hands. The 1935 Constitution was replaced with the 1972 Constitution after the new constitution was ratified by 95% of the voters in the Philippine constitutional plebiscite, 1973. The Supreme Court affirmed the ratification of the 1972 Constitution in the case of Javellana vs. Executive Secretary, where the majority of the justices noted that while the 1972 Constitution was improperly ratified because it did not follow the procedure in the 1935 Constitution, there was no stopping the reality that the 1972 Constitution was already in effect. This decision became the cornerstone of subsequent decisions whenever the validity of the 1973 Constitution was questioned.
Under martial law the regime was able to reduce violent urban crime, collect unregistered firearms, and suppress communist insurgency in some areas; however, it but became unpopular as excesses and human rights abuses inflicted by the military on leftist activists, communist, and others rebels emerged. Liliosa Hilao was the first murder victim under Martial Law. There were over 70,000 filed cases of human rights abuses today from this period. Torture methods employed by the army on their victims were extremely inhumane, which included beating, rape, electrocution, animal treatment, and mutilation among others. Many private establishments particularly media companies critical of the government were closed, and the arrest of activists were made through the Philippine Constabulary; many of the abuses were attributed to the latter, which was then headed by future president Fidel Ramos. In total, there were 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 individual tortures, and 70,000 were incarcerated. Of the 3,257 killed, some 2,520, or 77 percent of all victims, were salvaged—that is, tortured, mutilated, and dumped on a roadside for public display. It is also reported that 737 Filipinos disappeared between 1975 and 1985. The Civilian Home Defense Force, a precursor of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), was organized by President Marcos to battle with the communist and Islamic insurgency problem, has particularly been accused of notoriously inflicting human right violations on leftists, the NPA, Muslim insurgents, and rebels against the Marcos government.
After martial law was declared, critics of the government were arrested, led by then Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Ramon Diokno, and Manila journalists—Manila Times publisher Chino Roces and columnist, Max Soliven; Manila Chronicle publisher Eugenio Lopez Jr. and his editor Amando Doronila; Philippines Free publisher-editor Teddy Boy Locsin and his staff writer, Napoleon Rama; and Press Foundation of Asia joint executive Juan L. Mercado. Many of those who were arrested were later freed without charges, but Benigno Aquino Jr. was charged and convicted guilty along with his two co-accused, NPA leaders Bernabe Buscayno (Commander Dante) and Lt. Victor Corpuz, guilty for illegal possession of fire arms, subversion, and murder, and was sentenced them to death by firing squad by a Military Court. The death sentence was never carried out by the Marcos government.
There was some controversy whether the ambush on Enrile used as one of the justifications to declare Martial Law was staged. However, Enrile himself denied that it was staged in his memoir and defended the declaration of martial law:
|“||Did I stage and fake my ambush to justify the declaration of martial law? I said, “No! I did not!”... There was no need for me to do that to justify the declaration of martial law. There was no need for other facts to justify the imposition of martial law. Proclamation No. 1081 of 21 September 1972 recited fully and faithfully all the facts that President Marcos needed and used to justify the declaration of martial law in the country. I drafted and prepared the documents that President Marcos used to declare martial law. I checked the facts contained in those documents. I had no doubt of their authenticity, veracity, and sufficiency to support and justify the declaration of martial law. Those facts were more than enough to justify the declaration of martial law.||”|
|— Juan Ponce Enrile, 2012|
One of Marcos’ top technocrats, the University of the Philippines economics professor and former NEDA Director-General Dr. Gerardo Sicat, an MIT Ph.D. graduate, portrayed some of Martial Law's effects on his biographical book, "Cesar Virata: Life and Times Through Four Decades of Philippine Economic History", as follows:
“Economic reforms suddenly became possible under martial law. The powerful opponents of reform were silenced and the organized opposition was also quilted. In the past, it took enormous wrangling and preliminary stage-managing of political forces before a piece of economic reform legislation could even pass through Congress. Now it was possible to have the needed changes undertaken through presidential decree. Marcos wanted to deliver major changes in an economic policy that the government had tried to propose earlier.”
The enormous shift in the mood of the nation showed from within the government after martial law was imposed. The testimonies of officials of private chambers of commerce and of private businessmen dictated enormous support for what was happening. At least, the objectives of the development were now being achieved…”
However, there are those who criticize Sicat and his book as it allegedly pretends to be an academic work by listing 25 academic-journal articles in its bibliography. The Manila Times author Rigoberto Tiglao asserts that,
“However, 14 of these are by Sicat himself, and he obviously either rejects or is unaware of the numerous academic writings on Marcos history, especially those written by his colleagues at the School of Economics that contradict his assertions.”
A paper published in The Philippine Review of Business and Economics December 1973 and presented to the Security Analyst Association of Japan noted that the improvement in the economy was mirrored in other angles:
- Stock market during the first half of 1973 turned in its best performance to date. Volume increased by 500%, and market indeces posted an average gain of 150%.
- The inflow of foreign funds was markedly higher - $35 million went into the stock market and it was the first time that foreign funds have gone into local market.
- Tourism growth more than doubled to 23% from 11% in the past 5 years.
According to The World Bank, the Philippine's GDP quadrupled from $8 billion in 1972 to $32.45 billion in 1980. Indeed, according to the U.S. based Heritage Foundation, the Philippines enjoyed its best economic development since 1945 between 1972 and 1979. Nevertheless, despite growth in the country’s gross national product, workers’ real income dropped because of inflation brought about by high oil prices, few farmers benefited from land reform, and the sugar industry was in confusion particularly when global sugar prices fell. The economy grew amidst very high inflation levels as a result of two severe global oil shocks following the 1973 oil crisis and 1979 energy crisis - oil price was $3 / barrel in 1973 and $39.5 in 1979, or a growth of 1200%. According to the US National Bureau of Economic Research, by the end of 1979, debt was manageable, with debt to Debt-GNP ratio about the same as South Korea. The US National Bureau of Economic Research also adds that low wage costs were the primary engine behind the rapid expansion of manufactured exports during the 1970s. At the same time the failure of real wages to increase (largely because of inflation driven by high oil prices) and the sluggish growth of manufacturing employment were reflected in increasing income inequality and absolute poverty in the Philippines and high recorded rates of economic growth did not translate into improvements in the lot of the Filipino masses. By late 1970's to 1980, a perfect storm of extremely high global interest rates, global economic recession, and high oil price began to emerge, hitting all indebted countries in Latin America, Europe, and the Philippines was not exempted. A paper presented to the Philippine Central Bank argued that a weak manufacturing sector was caused in part by the record levels of interest rates by the Central Bank governor Jose B Fernandez, who (could have little choice, as some would argue) followed U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to fight inflation following record oil prices resulting from the Iran-Iraq War and to prevent capital from moving out. This resulted into a strong peso and high debt-service cost that penalized the manufacturing sector. Some economists argued that deliberately weakening the peso, while boosting already a very high inflation driven by high oil prices, would have made the manufacturing sector stronger. After a period of economic growth and notwithstanding the global economic weakness, very high global interest rates, and record oil prices towards the end of the martial law period, the Philippine GDP reached US$32.45 billion and debt stood at US$17.2 billion by the end 1980. Despite criticisms of growth not benefiting the masses, GDP on a per capita basis more than tripled from $211.4 in 1972 to $684.7 in 1980. 
The government subsequently captured NPA leaders Bernabe Buscayno in 1976 and Jose Maria Sison in 1977. The Washington Post in an interview with former Philippine Communist Party Officials, revealed that, "they (local communist party officials) wound up languishing in China for 10 years as unwilling "guests" of the (Chinese) government, feuding bitterly among themselves and with the party leadership in the Philippines".
Martial law was lifted by President Marcos on January 17, 1981, and he continued to rule the country until 1986 when he went to exile after the People Power Revolution.
On December 4, 2009, through Proclamation No. 1959, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo officially placed Maguindanao province under a state of martial law, thereby suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the step was taken in order to avert the escalation of "lawless" violence in the province and pave the way for the swift arrest of the suspects in the massacre. Following the declaration, authorities carried out a raid on a warehouse owned by Andal Ampatuan Jr. The raid resulted in the confiscation of more than 330,000 rounds of 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition, a Humvee, and an improvised armored vehicle. Twenty militiamen were arrested on the premises. Captain James Nicolas of Special Forces was able to retrieve more high powered firearms and ammo after the incident. The state of martial law in Maguindanao was lifted on December 13, 2009.
Amid the escalation of conflicts in Mindanao and recent clashes in Marawi City related to the Maute Group, incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte placed Mindanao and its nearby islands under martial law at 10:00 p.m. (UTC+8) on May 23, 2017. This was announced during a briefing held in Moscow, where President Duterte was on an official visit, and will be in effect for 60 days. Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the declaration was possible given the "existence of rebellion," while Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano explained that the step was taken with of "the safety, the lives and property of people of Mindanao" in mind. Implementation is to be pursuant to the 1987 Constitution, which provides for a maximum 60 day-state of martial law without Congress approval for extension, the continuation of government functions, and the safeguard of individual freedoms. However, President Duterte insisted that it will not be any different from martial law under President Marcos.
While the declaration does not currently affect citizens and government units in Luzon or the Visayas, President Duterte suggested that he might extend martial law to the entire country if needed to "protect the people."
- Proclamation № 1081
- Philippine Martial Law referendum, 1973
- List of films about Martial Law in the Philippines
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Martial law in the Philippines.|
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