Recent statements made by two principal players of the martial law regime — then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) and then Press Secretary Kit Tatad — had challenged many historical accounts.
JPE’s questionable assertions were made during his book launch last September 28 and subsequent discussions on several television programs. Tatad was quoted on the replay last October 2 of the i-Witness documentary hosted by NewsTV’s Howie Severino, which was a probe of the curtailment of artistic freedom during martial law.
Tatad had claimed that there was no censorship during martial law. However, when you follow the CMFR (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility) timeline of Marcos edicts when martial law was enforced you’ll discover that censorship was imposed immediately after martial law was officially declared (September 21, 1972), a day before martial law was announced on September 23, 1972. This proves just how important it was for the dictatorship to muzzle media and free speech. Dictator Ferdinand Marcos issued Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 1 on September 22, 1972 ordering the Press Secretary (Tatad) and Defense Secretary (Enrile) to take over and control mass media.
If LOI No. 1 wasn’t enough, more modes for controlling mass media were added. The Department of Public Information (DPI) that was under Tatad issued two DPI orders on September 25, 1972 that reinforced LOI No. 1 These were:
1. DPI Order No. 1 stated that all media publications were to be cleared first. The order banned materials that are deemed seditious or promoting disorder.
2. DPI No. 2 prohibited publishers from producing any form of publication for mass dissemination sans the permission from the DPI.
Then on October 28, 1972, Marcos issued Presidential Decree (PD) No. 33 thereby penalizing “the printing, possession, distribution, and circulation of printed materials which are immoral or indecent, or which defy the government or its officers, or which tend to undermine the integrity of the Government or the stability of the State.”
More censorship measures were passed, as follows:
1. PD No. 90, which penalizes rumormongering.
2. PD No. 1737, which empowers the dictator to detain persons to prevent them from committing acts that threaten national security.
3. PD No. 1834 and 1845, which raised the penalties for rebellion, sedition and threats to national security.
4. PD No. 1877, which authorized the incarceration of persons accused of crimes against national security, regardless if charges have not even been filed against them.
Marcos also created a regulating body to enforce media censorship — the Mass Media Council (MMC) — via PD No. 36, dated November 2, 1972.
These are official public records that debunk Tatad’s assertion that there was no censorship during martial law. At a later point, when the country was firmly under martial rule, some of these modes of censorship were window dressed but if you exercised press freedom and exposed the inconvenient truth — you’ll likely be made to account for it.
JPE, on the other hand, was subtler in his attempt to remake history. He was straightforward in saying that he makes no claim to have a monopoly of the truth but that he’s merely expressing what he experienced. Among the many assertions of JPE that should be challenged are the following:
1. That his September 22, 1972 ambush, a pretext for the declaration of martial law, was for real. This contradicts JPE’s voluntary assertion when he and Eddie Ramos announced their February 22, 1986 breakaway from Ferdinand Marcos at Camp Aguinaldo. In that press conference, JPE revealed that his ambush was staged to lay the “final straw” premise to justify the imposition of martial law.
2. That martial law was considered as early as 1969 - even before there were violent demonstrations, the products of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. How could there be real national security threats — communist insurgency, the Moro rebellion, and the student activism — in 1969 that necessitated the imposition of martial law when all these escalated to alarming proportions only in the 1970s?
3. That the US had no participation in the preparation of martial law when it was US policy at the time to transform what are considered vulnerable democracies into dictatorships.
There are enough historical accounts to debunk many of these assertions made by JPE lately. His own recorded voice and video exposed the fake September 22, 1972 ambush. Ninoy Aquino had exposed in his speeches in the US as to how the climate of crime and rebellion was manufactured precisely to justify the imposition of martial law.
The one assertion that puzzles me is why JPE opted not to narrate the US role in the imposition of martial law. This is a very important fact of history that Filipinos must learn lest we be manipulated again to opting for what will hurt us the most. Why is JPE so silent on the US policy of that era when the Americans supported the rise of dictatorships in Asia and Latin America as a desperate measure to prevent the spread of communism?
JPE may be correct that he was tasked to study the martial law option as early as 1969 but it’s clear that his role was purely the legality of its imposition. Obviously, Marcos could not have imposed martial law here if the US had rejected it. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) tried to impose a watered down version of martial law — Presidential Proclamation 1017 - following the February 2006 military standoff in Fort Bonifacio. This was immediately withdrawn when a US official met with her to tell her that the US will not allow it.
We all know how it easy it was for Marcos to give up the presidency when a mere US senator, Paul Laxalt, relayed to him President Ronald Reagan’s advice to cut and cut clean. The US footprint is all over martial law. It’s a high crime against the future generation of Filipinos if this will be concealed. That would make it another bitter history lesson that the future generation will be doomed to repeat.
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
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