Martial law could have made Marcos a great leader
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-09-21
Dated September 21, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued PD (Presidential Decree) 1081 which imposed martial law all over the Philippines. The popular belief is that Marcos imposed martial law in order to remain in power as his second and last term as president would have ended on December 30, 1973.

There is no doubt that Marcos felt the urge to remain in power. However, Marcos could not have imposed martial law if the United States of America did not give its blessings. The imposition of martial law here was a situation which the US wanted and was consistent with what they have been doing in Asia, Central and South America during that period. One has to appreciate the geopolitical milieu of 1972 in order to understand that dark chapter of US foreign policy.

In 1972, the US already knew that they had lost the Vietnam War and they were already seeking an exit mechanism. It was a desperate period for the US and the sum of all American fears focused on the Domino Theory — the fall of US ally States to the Communists. In Indochina, Laos and Cambodia also fell to the Communists. The Communists were also threats in Indonesia and thePhilippines. From its base in Cuba, the Communists were poised to expand in Central and South America.

Weak States in Asia, Central and South America, with a high poverty index and characterized by the lack of social justice, proved to be very fertile ground for the growth of Communism. Thus, contrary to its projected image as the champion and promoter of democracy - the US resorted to installing dictatorships in countries which were considered prone to veering Left.

In Indonesia, Suharto filled that role. In the Philippines, Marcos was the willing accomplice. In Indonesia, Suharto promised the New Order. In the Philippines, Marcos promised the New Society.

The Marcos dictatorship proved to be a dark chapter in Philippine history which was characterized by repression, crony capitalism, monopolies, plunder and human rights abuses. Instead of preventing the spread of Communism — the Marcos dictatorship became the biggest recruiter of the Left.

Many countries and nations became victims of the Cold War between the Western Allies led by the US and the Leftist Allies led by Russia — then known as the USSR. Ninoy Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos were two of the greatest Filipino politicians of that era and God knows what wonders could have been accomplished if the two of them had been able to cooperate for the sake of people and country. Instead, both Ninoy Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos became victims of US machinations during the Cold War. 

What is the more regrettable aspect of our martial law experience — is it the bad things that happened or the good things that could have been done?

Today, we’re still suffering from the negative effects of our martial law experience. Like toothpaste that was squeezed out of the tube, martial law politicized our military thereby setting a precedent for future adventurism. From being the second best economy in Asia when Marcos became president in 1965, we found ourselves listed as among the weakest economies in Asia by the time Marcos was ousted. Martial law plunder expanded the imagination of crooked public officials and established the norm for using the law to protect the lawless.

One of the reasons why many Filipinos were willing to give Marcos the benefit of the doubt when he imposed martial law was the attraction of the concept of The New Society.

When Marcos enforced discipline on the streets and the communities and then proceeded to dismantle private armies and the oligarchy — many Filipinos believed that it was the better alternative to the Communist revolution. The early martial law years were also marked by the rise of world prices for Philippine exported commodities. Our economy boomed in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

Despite the bad things that his dictatorship had done, we must credit Marcos for being a nationalist and for possessing a good vision for the country. Marcos had opened Philippine relations with the Socialist countries. He wisely instituted the use of Filipino as medium of instruction. He embarked on an ambitious manufacturing program, even attempted a Filipino automobile manufacturing program. We had an export boom. Marcos implemented land reform. Filipinos enjoyed rice sufficiency under Marcos.

One of the best things Marcos did was to actively promote a Filipino sense of national identity. What became counterproductive to this effort was the propaganda component which attempted to project Marcos as the center of the Filipino universe in the same manner that Mao Zedong projected himself in China.

The oligarchy is the single biggest stumbling block to attaining real democracy in our country. We cannot democratize the national wealth when the top 3 percent of our society corners about 85 percent of the national wealth. The oligarchs control the economy, the levers of political power and can manipulate the laws to favor their exclusive club. This is the very foundation of the exploitation which is rampant in our country.

Marcos could have attained the historic victory against the oligarchy with martial law. What he did was to eliminate the old oligarchs and installed a new set of oligarchs — his own.

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