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Looking Back

Prelude to martial law

/ 10:52 PM September 18, 2012

Four decades have passed since the official declaration of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos. For good feng shui Marcos tried to time significant things on dates that had his lucky number “7” or its multiples. Thus, Proclamation 1081, the declaration of martial law, was signed and dated Sept. 21, 1972, but its actual implementation took place two days later, on Sept. 23.

Now is a time to look back on those dark days, and we are fortunate that Marcos actually kept a diary, portions of which have been posted on “The Philippine Diary Project” ( that contains first-person accounts of significant events in Philippine history.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, 1972, Marcos spent the night in the old Goldenberg mansion down the street from Malacañang. The mansion had been restored by Leandro V. Locsin, a future National Artist, and was designated as “Ang Maharlika” or the State Guest House. Marcos referred to this place as “The Big Antique” and it was here, at 10 p.m., that he wrote this diary entry:


“We escaped the loneliness of the palace for this old Antillan house now known as Ang Maharlika, the State Guest House several blocks from the palace. It has been restored beautifully by Imelda and is a symbol of Philippine culture in the last century. Almost all our antique valuables have been transferred here.

“The departure of our children has made the palace a ghostly unbearable place. I took a long nap (4:30-7:30 pm) in the room of Bongbong which has the worst bed [illegible] and the lumpiest mattress. And after an early simple dinner of sardines and pancit, I was able to browse in the library where to my delight I discovered the books I have been wanting to read for some time including: Fitzimmons, The Kennedy Doctrine, Sorensen’s The Kennedy Legacy, The Dirty Wars edited by Donald Johnson (some of the principles and lessons are outmoded), Days of Fire by Samuel Katz (The Secret History of the Irguny Zrai Sanmi and The Making of Israel), Chou-enlai by Kai-Yu, Room 39 by Donald Macfaddan (The role of the British Intelligence in WWII), the History of the World in the 20th Century by Watt, Spencer and Brown.

“I have invited the Liberal Party leaders (at least ten of their hierarchy) to come to the palace on Sept. 19th to be informed of what we have on the negotiations and agreements between the Maoists and the Liberals. The Liberal head, Sen. G[erardo] Roxas, issued a demand for us to point out the Liberal negotiating with the Communists, knowing full well that I refer to Sen. Aquino, his opponent for leadership in the party and wanting to disqualify Aquino by his own action. But the Liberals should not get out that easily. For some of the other leaders have been dealing with the Communists—Mitra, Yap, Felipe, Dy, Pendatun, Lucman, etc.

“Antonio Zumel, news editor of the Bulletin had an explanation of his Trade Asia activities in today’s papers. He adopts an aggressive stance of hurt innocence!

“I received the report on the 7,400 case of dynamite apprehended in the del Pan bridge by the OOSAC under Maj. Cruz, son of Maj. Gen. Pelagio Cruz, the ASAC chief. I ordered the dynamite impounded notwithstanding the claim of [illegible] for it.

“The Air Manila plane was apparently bombed at 4:40 am yesterday by a grenade in a valise with incendiary bombs over Romblon, prepared to ditch because of the right engine being out of commission from the grenade blast but was able to limp up to Roxas City where it landed at about 5:00 am in the dark with nothing but its landing lights to guide it. Capt. Samonte, the captain of the plane did a good job and was lucky.

“I have checked on the plans of the delegations I am sending to the IMF, the UN and other international conferences.”

Then we have something more significant than a list of books Marcos wanted to read and what he had for dinner. This diary entry for Sept. 18, 1972, was written after lunch:


“We finalized the plans for the proclamation of martial law at 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm with the SND, the Chief of Staff, major service commanders, J-2, Gen. Paz, 1st PC Zone Commander, Gen. Diaz and Metrocom commander, Col. Montoya, with Gen. Ver in attendance. They all agreed the earlier we do it the better because the media is waging a propaganda campaign that distorts and twists the facts. So after the bombing of the Concon, we agreed on the 21st without any postponement.

“We finalized the target personalities, the assignments, and the procedures.”

On Sept. 19, 1972, Marcos wrote:

“Released the report of Sec. Ponce Enrile of Sept. 8, 1972 where he reported that Sen. Aquino had met with Jose Maria Sison of the Communist Party and had talked about a link-up of the Liberal Party and the Communist Party. So since I invited Sen. Pres. Puyat, Speaker Villareal I explained to the media which was covering us that when I invited the leaders of the Liberal Party I had wanted a private conference where we could, as Filipinos and for the welfare of our people, agree that neither party (Nacionalista or Liberal) would ‘link-up’ with the Communist Party but their refusal to attend indicated that the Liberals were in on the deal to ‘link-up’ with the Communists through Sen. Aquino.”

Diaries are self-serving and often published after the fact to explain how history was made. The diaries of Ferdinand E. Marcos form a primary source for the historian.

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, feng shui, Ferdinand Marcos, martial law
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