If once-upon-a-time dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos is to be believed, it was the United States who wanted martial law in the Philippines in 1972.
Now, likely you will think that the suggestion is absolutely preposterous and that Marcos — who is known to lie — was merely covering his tracks with that assertion.
However, in the light of established US track record in supporting dictatorships and the recent US intervention in Mindanao which could severely reshape our geographic setup as a country, it would be good to view the declaration of martial law in a larger perspective, one that rises above the popular belief that Marcos simply wanted to extend his term beyond its expiration in 1973.
Not to gainsay its truly democratic system of government, its enviable justice system, its contributions to science, communications, literature and development worldwide and its people’s great humanitarian bounty for assisting many needy nations — there is no denying that there is this dark, Machiavellian side of US history that has made many nations very wary and suspicious of US foreign policy. This is the US inclination to create and support dictatorships in the pursuit of its geopolitical agenda.
Per the eminent Professor Emmanuel Q. Yap, founder of the People’s Patriotic Movement (PPM) and perhaps the most knowledgeable resource person on true Philippine contemporary history and what really happened here during the East-West Cold War, Marcos made the assertion that the former dictator simply complied with US wishes in implementing martial law during a meeting in 1972 at Malacañang Palace with former House Speaker Jose “Pepito” Laurel Jr.
Shortly after martial law was declared, Speaker Laurel asked Prof. Manoling Yap to accompany him to the said Palace meeting with Marcos. Marcos was known to be very close to the Laurels. Marcos felt that he owed his Supreme Court murder charge acquittal to the then Supreme Court Chief Justice (and later Japanese Occupation Philippine President) Jose Laurel Sr.
It was also Speaker Pepito Laurel who brought Marcos into the Nacionalista Party (NP) and paved the way for his nomination as NP Official Candidate for the 1965 Presidential Election which Marcos won over incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal.
In that Palace meeting, Laurel asked Marcos: “Brod, why did you have to declare martial law?” According to Manoling Yap, Marcos replied: “Brod, kung hindi ako nag-declare ng martial law, ako ang papatayin ng mga Amerikano. (Brod, if I didn’t declare martial law, the Americans will kill me).”
According to Prof. Yap, no Filipino in 1972 knew how to conceptualize, plan and implement martial law and that the blueprint for this dark chapter of our history was drafted for Marcos by the US in South Korea and was personally hand carried here from South Korea by a Marcos cabinet member who was very close to the US.
Now, even if I too had the privilege to be present in that Malacañang Palace meeting, I would not have believed Marcos at the time. I would have seen the declaration of martial law in the same way that most people saw it — Marcos’s last card to retain power after 1973 when his second term would have expired.
But I am older now and I’d like to think — much wiser. And not only that, we also have the benefit today of knowing and appreciating other facts that have since surfaced to shed light on US actions during the 1960s all the way to the end of the Cold War and beyond.
Let me be clear on this issue — I do not believe that what Marcos told former Speaker Pepito Laurel was the whole truth. Simply put, it takes two to tango. I do believe that the US wanted to install a dictator here just as Marcos himself wanted to be that dictator.
So I suppose now you’ll ask: Just why would the US, which prides itself as a shining light of democracy in the world, want to install a dictatorship in the Philippines — its then showcase of US-style democracy in Asia?
Why — it is because of the then great American fear of the Domino Theory happening in Asia after the US lost South Vietnam to the Communists.
The Domino Theory is the great US fear of the spread of Communism — that the fall of one State in a region could trigger the fall of other States into Communist hands. The Domino Theory is not only confined to Asia. The fear is also experienced in the Americas, in Central and South America.
In Asia, Communism expanded from China to North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In the Americas, it took its roots in Cuba when Fidel Castro ousted US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista and then was poised to export the ideology to Central and South America with Che Guevara as point man.
For a supposed ‘shining light of democracy’ in the world, it is unbelievable how many dictators — many of them murdering tyrants — the US has supported. It is also no coincidence that many of these dictatorships were during the 1960s and 1970s which was the height of the Cold War.
To rattle off some of these US-supported dictators, there were Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti, Pinochet of Chile, Somoza of Nicaragua, Videla of Argentina, Sadat and Mubarak of Egypt, Stroessner of Paraguay, the Shah of Iran, Banzer of Bolivia, Noriega of Panama, Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Branco of Brazil, Armas of Guatemala, Batista of Cuba, Park of South Korea, Suharto of Indonesia and not the least of all — Marcos of the Philippines.
This practice of supporting dictators is best summed up by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who said: “He may be a son-of-a-bitch but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”
There is a truism in politics that is very similar to the economic law of supply and demand. This political truism states that as a country becomes poor, it tends to veer Left and when it becomes richer — it tends to veer Right.
It is easy to see that most of the countries where the US supported dictators were poor or have large segments of their population living below the poverty line. It was natural at the time (few would buy Communism now) for these countries to become attracted to the siren song of Communism or at the very least favor a system of government with a Socialist slant (though not necessarily Communist).
Nowadays, there is no longer such an ideological fight between the US and China (and Russia). Both China and Russia are now enjoying capitalist booms although China continues to be governed via the single party Communist system.
However, the US preference for dictators is not just confined to the fight against Communism. The US will create and support any dictator who can serve its geopolitical agenda.
The US and China, both superpowers, are now locked in a desperate race for the last remaining sources of energy. And we Filipinos are right in the middle of that eventual superpower confrontation as the Spratlys and the South China Sea are being targeted by both superpowers for its vast reserves of oil and gas.