It was the first time since World War II when the people of the Philippines suffered harsh jackboot oppression and wanton plunder. President Ferdinand Marcos at the end of his term in 1972 and fearing a loss of power and influence declared nationwide martial law and abolished the congress and vowed to continue in office. The sovereign rights of the people under the constitution protecting their lives, liberty and property were swept away and Marcos declared himself an absolute ruler with legislative powers to rule by decree. Tyranny had arrived.
Thousands of opposition leaders, party members, journalists and outspoken critics of the corruption of Marcos’s previous years in office were rounded up and executed or jailed. Others fled abroad and many young idealists and freedom-loving youth fled to the mountains and forests. There they formed a resistance movement called the New People’s Army based on communist ideology. It continues as a force to this day. Many innocent young people were summarily executed.
I remember in Sta. Rita Parish, Olongapo City, a young boy, 16 years old, a drug suspect who had escaped from the local jail was found by police hiding in a hillside shack. They called him to surrender, in front of the neighbors he came out and was ordered to kneel down and the police shot him in the head. It was a horrific execution of an innocent boy. Like the murders of youth today in the war-on-drugs, no evidence is needed, just the bullet to the head or a dagger plunged into the heart by killer police, serial killers, and psychopaths high on drugs and crazed with power and impunity and highly paid for their body count. That’s how it was then and is now.
The brutal Marcos regime, responsible for as many as an estimated 20,000 murders, backed up by the Philippine National Police and Army and Police Constabulary led by General Fidel Ramos plundered the nation. Marcos and his family are allegedly responsible for billions of dollars and tons of gold plundered from the national treasury and private businesses and stashed abroad only a fraction of which has been recovered to this day.
Private businesses of the opposition and critics were confiscated and the owners killed or driven into exile and their properties taken over by Marcos cronies from which he received a percentage. Death squads spread over the nation, bodies were found on the roadside, tortured and killed. Militias went wild and vented a reign of terror on church people, priests and pastors and church workers were killed and the slogan of the campaign to persecute the church was “Be a patriot and kill a priest.” It was a time of state terror and treason. Priests were framed up with the murders of a mayor in Negros, the famous Negros Nine, three priests and six church workers put on trial for a crime they did not commit.
Marcos also had a war-on-drugs. He cracked down on pushers and distributers and jailed thousands of young drug users and dependents. He executed in public on live television an accused Chinese drug dealer, no evidence or proof was needed to establish his guilt. That caused worldwide sensation. The oppression and jailing, torture and killing of critics without trial was a brutal legacy that brought much suffering to the Filipino people. It is being imitated today.
Sex tourism was allowed to proliferate under the regime and foreign pedophiles were everywhere a source of foreign revenue that Marcos was desperate for to prop up a faltering economy. There was the case of Rosario Baluyot, a young girl sexually abused by a foreigner, a suspected US serviceman and she died a horrific painful death in the inadequate and discrepant Olongapo General Hospital. A broken part of a sex toy was found in her body causing severe infection from which there was no cure.
A pansy tourist was found, arrested, charged and found guilty just to cover for the US Naval Base at Subic Bay beside Olongapo City. His conviction defected from the US Navy accusations of the rampant sex abuse of poor Filipino women and children in the only industry in the city, “sex for sale.”
When a child sex ring, composed of US Navy men abusing children as young as nine years old was uncovered by Preda social workers the regime tried to close down the child care center and deport the founder. This was the legacy too of martial law, a spreading sex industry turning the Filipino women and children into prostitutes for foreign customers. There was a total dependency on US military might to supply the martial law police and army with weapons used to suppress the Filipino people. It was soon after the People Power Revolution drove Marcos from power that the Preda campaign to remove the bases and convert the infrastructure into an economic zone became a coalition of the willing and was a resounding success.
This legacy of Marcos remains today despite every effort by his rich family members to try to clean up his image with a burial in the cemetery for heroes, the declaration by President Duterte of a holiday to celebrate the birthday of Marcos and the failed effort of his son Bongbong Marcos to get elected as vice president as partner with Rodrigo Duterte.
Today those who idolize Marcos are repeating history and his March of Madness and imitating the worst killing spree and atrocities of his martial law regime, which is now before our eyes. We have martial law today in Mindanao and perhaps all over the nation soon. The voice of reason crying out for justice and an end to the killing must grow louder and persistent until peace and justice come to be.