Most Baby Boomers will remember that it was 40 years ago on September 21, 1972 when then President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law through Proclamation No. 1081. The infamous declaration covered the entire Republic of the Philippines.
His declaration was really an insult to the intelligence of Filipinos. What he really wanted was to perpetuate himself in power as President of the Philippines. I call it a stupid scenario jointly orchestrated by himself and his former Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile who now serves as Senate President.
Records show that Marcos actually signed the proclamation on September 17 but ‘brilliantly’ post-dated it four days later to September 21, 1972 because of superstitions and belief in numerology. It paved the way for a staged assassination of Juan Ponce Enrile by what was supposed to be communist insurgents. Of course, Enrile escaped without any injuries.
My entire family and I were still domiciled in Cavite City at that time. The city was not too far away from Metropolitan Manila. Thus, television and radio signals were perfect. But, on that particular morning which extended throughout the day, all media communications were blacked out. Not even my home telephone was working. No newspapers made it to the newsstands. Everybody was wondering what happened.
There were military checkpoints everywhere. Multiple identification had to be presented at each checkpoint where fully-armed soldiers demanded car boots to be opened. I had to pass at least 4 before I could reach my office at Bank of America in Makati, Metro Manila. It was then and only then when I found out through word of mouth that Marcos had declared Martial Law.
Earlier that month, Ding Dimayuga, (an officemate) with his wife had left for the United States on a tourist visa. He must have learned what was happening in the Philippines so he decided not to return and successfully sought political asylum in the country where he is now a citizen..
Travel ban was strictly enforced. No one was allowed to leave the country. My father who was then Manager of Pan American World Airways and whose job required frequent travel had to pass rigid requirements from the Presidential Security Command (PSC) whose offices were near Nagtahan Bridge. As a member of his immediate family, my wife and I were entitled to free travel with the airline. For several months, we were unable to use that privilege because of the travel ban.
Malacañang Palace, the official residence of the president was isolated with barbed wire barricades which were installed and guarded by soldiers some kilometers away from all entry points. The barricades covered the College of the Holy Spirit where my sister was a student. I had to obtain a special permit and pass rigid security screening from the PSC to enter the school compound. Of course, I had to walk a few kilometers because my car had to be parked away from Mendiola Bridge.
Marcos became a dictator
There were general orders promulgated by Marcos following his declaration of martial law.
Probably the most unpopular, even among some of his cabinet members was General Order No.1 where he proclaimed that he shall direct the entire government, including all its agencies and instrumentalities, and exercise all powers of his office including his role as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It became the avenue for abuse even by the lowest ranking soldier. One army Lt. Colonel who was at that time based in Cavite Naval Base and who later migrated to Guam, told me: “Might is Right.” We used to attend mass together but I hated him for his belief.
Government seizure of private corporations
During Martial Law, on October 20, 1977 the GSIS acquired 92% of Philippine Airlines shares from majority PAL owner Benigno Toda, returning ownership and control back to the government. Capital was increased from P25 million to P250 million.
“Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 40 which forcibly nationalized the country’s electric generation and transmission. The son and grandson of Don Eugenio Lopez, Meralco owner at the time, were kidnapped by the government to force Don Eugenio to hand over his business empire. The regime arrested his son Eugenio Lopez, Jr. (better known as Geny) on trumped-up charges of conspiring to assassinate the president. With his son held hostage, Don Eugenio was forced to give up his holdings in a group of companies worth several hundred million dollars, but Geny was not released from prison.” (Wikipedia)
Thus, ownership of the company was stripped away from the Lopez family and placed under a shell company called the Meralco Foundation, Inc.
There were many other atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship but that is another story and will be published another day.
— Dino Crescini