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Never forget

Proclamation No. 1081, dated as signed on September 21, 1972 by President Ferdinand E. Marcos, placed the Philippines under Martial Law, throwing the country into what are widely considered the darkest years its post-colonial history.

During those years when unyielding military might ruled the country, organizations such as Amnesty International estimated that about 70,000 people were unjustly imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,420 killed while Marcos the dictator held absolute power.

That absolute power that started with the declaration of Martial Law 49 years ago also allowed Marcos, his family and cronies to plunder the nation’s treasury an estimated $5 to $10 billion, getting him an entry in the Guinness World Records as the greatest robbery of a government.

As we remember the declaration of Martial Law and its impact on our country today, let us remind ourselves why the 1986 Constitution that was written after Marcos was finally ousted after ruling the country for 21 long years took great pains to ensure that future presidents cannot abuse the country in the same way and prevent budding dictators from twisting the law the same way as it was done in 1972 in order to serve selfish interests and perpetuate presidents in power that did not come from the ballot.

There have been attempts to circumvent our constitution but so far, all have thankfully failed. However, as the years go by the notoriously short memory of the Filipino people has allowed the Marcoses to return and even rebrand themselves. Some Filipinos have even allowed themselves to consider giving the reins of the country to shrewd politicos packaging themselves as the “benevolent dictator” that the nation apparently needs.

As we look forward to another election year, the lessons we can glean from September 21, 1972 and the people behind it should become even more relevant. The loss of freedoms, humans right abuses, unchecked power and opportunities for plunder that came with a man’s ability and decision to declare of martial law should never be forgotten so we do not repeat the mistake of putting potential dictators and plunderers back in power after a bit of historical revisionism, whitewashing and rebranding.*

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