The infamous Proclamation No. 1081 that placed the entire Philippines under Martial Law, was dated as signed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos on September 21, 1972 but the Filipino people were informed via television at 7:15 p.m. on September 23, 1972 when Marcos announced that he had placed the entire country under Martial Law as of 9 p.m. on September 22, 1972.
Today, as we remember the 48th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law that changed our country’s history, let us pause to reflect on the atrocities Filipinos suffered under military rule, many of which have managed to continue even today.
Martial Law under Marcos is considered to be the darkest years of post-colonial Philippines, with Amnesty International estimating that about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 killed when the dictator was in power.
Moreover, the Marcoses also plundered billions from the national coffers, with estimates running between a staggering $5 billion to $10 billion.
Remembering the declaration of Martial Law that took place 48 years ago and its catastrophic impact on our society gives us reason to reflect on the state of democracy in today’s Philippines, especially with the current leadership seemingly uninterested in shaking accusations that they are following the Marcos playbook.
Although martial law has not been officially declared in today’s Philippines, critics have accused incumbent president Rodrigo Duterte of using the powers of the state to erode institutions, crack down on government dissenters, and curtail press freedom. His administration has also become notorious for alleged abuses under the pretext of a bloody war on drugs where official data showed at least 7,884 Filipinos having been killed in police operations as of August 31, 2020. This figure that has already eclipsed the martial law deaths, does not include the victims of vigilante-style killings which human rights groups estimate to have claimed 27,000 lives since 2016.
As we remember the declaration of Martial Law in the country, let us strive to learn the lessons of history so we do not allow the same mistakes to be repeated and threaten the fragile democracy that we won back in 1986.*