MANILA, APRIL 04, 2016 – Ferdinand Marcos claimed he declared Martial Law to save the country from the threat of a Communist takeover and impose peace and order on a troubled land. There was no public backlash because Marcos convinced Filipinos the nation was in peril, democracy wasn’t working, the country was falling apart and a strongman was needed.
It was a lie. There was no credible threat. Marcos imposed military rule in order to grab power. The result of Martial Law’s declaration was a 14-year dictatorship marked by atrocity and plunder.
In her book Marcos Martial Law Never Again, investigative journalist and award-winning political blogger Raissa Robles guides the reader through a brief history of the torture and atrocities committed by Marcos’ New Society. Current estimates place the count of victims at 3,700 murdered, 40,000 tortured and up to 100,000 illegally detained. The victims did not receive the benefit of any legal procedure, they were simply rounded up without any warrants and locked up for as long as it suited the regime. They were simply labelled “subversives” and “public order violators”. Often, no charges were ever filed against them. They were the victims of the military and police – the very institutions that were supposed to protect the people.
The dictatorship was the most violent and murderous administration in the history of post-World War II Philippines, establishing a tradition of military and police violence and impunity that hasn’t totally disappeared to this day. Filipinos lost basic freedoms, democratic institutions and saw their economy plundered by the Marcoses and their cronies. The military and police were given a free hand to torture.
Robles’ book, which will be launched 3 PM this Monday, April 4 at the UP Diliman Balay Kalinaw, uses official records, reports, books, eyewitness accounts and interviews with survivors and military officers to situate the regime’s crimes within a brief historical narrative that relates how and why Marcos declared Martial Law and what happened afterward
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Among the things Robles’ book reveals:
- Marcos, a fake war hero, inflated the Communist threat to suit his purposes, and himself helped foster the impression of instability. Ironically it wasn’t the communists who infiltrated government or destabilized the country, it was Marcos himself. He packed the military and judiciary with favorites who were beholden to him and set out to weaken democracy. He inflated the size and organization of the Communist People’s Party (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), which was then a tiny organization.
- Marcos’ loyal minion and security chief, Fabian Ver, was linked to some of the bombings in Manila that preceded Martial Law’s declaration. In addition, Marcos ordered the faked ambush of his defense secretary, Juan Ponce Enrile, and used that as a direct pretext for proclaiming military rule.
- In 1982 Jaime Cardinal Sin summed up the basic principles of the Marcos dictatorship when he said that Marcos “identifies national security with his own security.” The Cardinal also said the dictator’s definition of “subversion” was “when we say something against (Marcos) we are already subversive.”
- The dictatorship saw the military resort to torture so frequently, the methods acquired nicknames such as “Meralco”, “Nawasa”, “wet submarine”, “dry submarine”, “San Juanico Bridge”, “ashtray” and “pompyang.”
- Martial Law was characterized by tortures, extrajudicial murders and a string of massacres, among them the Escalante Massacre on September 20, 1985 in Negros Occidental which killed 20 and the Las Navas massacre on September 15, 1981 in Northern Samar when 45 inhabitants of a village – men, women and children – were gunned down by paramilitary soldiers. An eight-year- old eyewitness told the BBC how armed men forced the mothers and children out of their homes and into a forest clearing then shot them. The 1983 BBC documentary showed Marela Yanay narrating that after the shooting stopped: “My little brother’s body was cut in half. I felt my head. it was all bloody…my mother’s brains were all over my hair.” The book tells how Juan Ponce Enrile, then the Defense Secretary, ordered an investigation of the Las Navas massacre. It was a particularly sensitive case since some surviving villagers claimed they had earlier seen some of the perpetrators protecting San Jose Timber Corporation, a logging company that Enrile later said he owned.
- Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos told Robles that suspects of human rights violations, whether retired or still in active service, must be brought to court.
- Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison told Robles about historture and the bloody purges inside the communist movement blaming these on the “rascals” within the movement.
The book, which was edited by award-winning journalist Alan Robles, and designed by highly acclaimed book designer Felix Mago Miguel, is published by the Filipinos for a Better Philippines.
Twenty three various personalities were interviewed for this book. Retired Colonel Eduardo Matillano, who was once tried by a military court for torture and acquitted, explained in a lengthy interview why torture happened, especially electrocution. He stressed he was acquitted over the torture of Tondo community leader Trinidad Herrera, whom he said belonged to the “hardened Left”.
Robles’ book will be sold in two editions: The collector’s edition is a full-color coffee table book, hardbound and with a dust jacket, that will retail for PHP2,500. The student edition is a black and white volume, with a colored soft cover, exactly the same dimensions as the collector’s edition. It will retail for PHP300.
Raissa Robles runs the popular blog raissarobles.com, a political journalism website that exposed details of former Chief Justice Roberto Corona’s bank and property holdings; Vice President Binay’s vast property in Batangas; and Senator Grace Poe’s American citizenship status.