FFE Magazine

The Martial Law: A Bleak Moment Which Sparked a Great Revolution

President Ferdinand Marcos the day he declared Martial Law

September 21, 1972. This was the day when then President Ferdinand Marcos went on TV and declared Martial Law. A lot of political experts have their own thoughts as to why he actually did it. But for most people, it was because of his insatiable need for money and power. 

Although there are numerous reasons for it, the president had his own justifications for declaring Martial Law. One of his justifications was the emergence of the New People’s Army which was founded a few years back. It was established on the 29th  of March 1969. Jose Maria Sison and his allies wanted a socialist society and to do that, they needed to overthrow the current government. Naturally, for President Marcos, the threat needed to be eliminated. 

Marcos enumerated other reasons such as the supposed attempt on the life of Juan Ponce Enrile who was the Minister of Defense at the time. He also added that the religious clash between Christians and Muslims were becoming too violent already. 

Catalyst of the Martial Law 

There were other ‘catalysts’ which helped Marcos make up his mind about declaring Martial Law. 

Students activism

The First Quarter Storm is described as ‘a period of leftist unrest’ in the country from January to March of 1970. Students, laborers and farmers were part of the protests against Marcos. 

The Plaza Miranda Bombing of August 21, 1971 led to the death of nine people and injured nearly a hundred others. Although some pointed at Marcos being culpable, he blamed the Communist Part of the Philippines (CPP) for it. 

Soon after that, Marcos declared Martial Law. He suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, allowing the military to grab anyone suspicious and put him or her in detention even without court-issued warrants. 

Senator Benigno S. Aquino,with wife Corazon Aquino

Senator Benigno S. Aquino, the president’s staunchest rivals, exposed the “Operation Sagittarius” which was supposed to be the master plan which will allow Marcos to declare Martial Law.

During the Martial Law 

According to the media, which was controlled and manipulated by the government, the Martial Law succeeded in bringing back the peace and order in the country.  

That might have been true, initially, but it was not an accurate picture. Excessive restrictions were hated by the people. The congress was shut down and all those against Marcos were arrested. Besides that, hundreds of human rights violations were done by the military.  

At first, the economy seemed to grow but this, apparently, was because of heavy borrowing from foreign banks. Crony capitalism, excessive spending and mismanagement of funds pummeled the economy. The rich amassed more while the poor continued to suffer. 

A Revolution: The End of Martial Law, The End of Tyranny 

In one of his speeches in the University of the Philippines (U.P.) , the dictator promised to lift Martial Law before the end of January 1981. He did and then ran, for the third time, in the June 1981 presidential elections.  

The future seemed to be very bleak until Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983. This was the stimulus which started a series of events and culminating in the EDSA Revolution. That ended the 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos.  

Anyone who lived through the years of Marcos’ Martial Law will tell could say that it was possibly the darkest time in the history of the country. Now, it is mere history. But hopefully, we Filipinos would continue to see the significance of what was fought for at the time – freedom.



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