Looking Back

Martial law through the eyes of Ferdinand Marcos


Research requires a critical attitude. Whether the source is a 16th-century manuscript, a physical book, or Google, the researcher must cross-check with other sources and validate the information at hand. I remind my students that there is a lot to be found on the Internet besides porn, and that not all things that come to the top of a Google search are to be trusted without verification. Why do some people find it difficult to research when the first step is to simply punch in a keyword and potential answers to a question flood in within seconds?

Entries from the diaries of Ferdinand Marcos are to be found online in philippinediaryproject.wordpress.com, and if you have time you can browse through other first-hand accounts of Philippine history from the hands of: Antonio de las Alas, Apolinario Mabini, Edgardo J. Angara, Francis Burton Harrison, Salvador H. Laurel, Teodoro M. Locsin, and many more. There are also the sleek websites of the Malacañang Museum and the Official Gazette, managed by young people in the Presidential Communications Office that bring history closer to a wired generation.

It is fascinating to see martial law unfold through Marcos’ eyes. After Ninoy Aquino exposed “Oplan Sagittarius” on the floor of the Senate in 1972, people went to Malacañang to confirm the rumors and Marcos denied any plan for martial law. But in his diary entry written in the wee hours of Sept, 22, 1972, he described the previous day, Sept. 21, as follows:

“Delayed by the hurried visit of Joe Aspiras and Nating Barbers who came from the Northern bloc of congressmen and senators who want to know if there is going to be martial law in 48 hours as predicted by Ninoy Aquino. Of course Imelda and I denied it. But Johnny Ponce Enrile, Gen. Paz, Gen. Nanadiego, Kit Tatad and I with Piciong Tagmani doing the typing finished all the papers (the proclamation and the orders) today at 8:00 pm.

“[US] Amb. Byroade came to see me at 11:15 pm and was apparently interested to know whether there would be martial law. He seemed to favor it when I explained it is intended to primarily reform our society and eliminate the communist threat. But he suggested that a proclamation before the American elections may be used by MacGovern, the Democratic presidential candidate, as proof of the failure of the foreign policy of the present president.”

At 9:55 p.m. on Sept. 22, 1972, Marcos wrote: “Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed near Wack-Wack at about 8:00 pm tonight. It was a good thing he was riding in his security car as a protective measure. This makes the martial law proclamation a necessity.” In the heady days of Edsa 1986, Enrile was quoted as saying that this “ambush” was actually staged to give Marcos a compelling reason to declare martial law. That night, as the nation slept, martial law crept over the land.

The next day, Sept. 23, Marcos wrote in his diary:

“Things moved according to plan although out of the total 200 target personalities in the plan only 52 have been arrested, including the three senators, Aquino, Diokno and Mitra and Chino Roces and Teddy Locsin. At 7:15 pm I finally appeared on a nationwide TV and Radio broadcast to announce the proclamation of martial law, the general orders and instruction. I was supposed to broadcast at 12:00 p.m. but technical difficulties prevented it. We had closed all TV stations. We have to clear KBS which broadcast it live. VOP and PBS broadcast it by radio nationwide.”

By Sept. 25, almost everything was in place. Among many things, Marcos records his instructions to the military and a consultation with two justices of the Supreme Court on the legality of martial law:

“Met Justices Fred Ruiz Castro and Salvador Esguerra on a consulta. I told them frankly that I needed their help and counsel because we must keep all the actuations within constitutional limits. Justice Castro asked permission to ask a blunt question, ‘Is this a coup d’etat?’ and I told him that it is not but it is the exercise of an extraordinary power by the president for a situation anticipated by the constitution. Justice Esguerra said immediately that he feels that it is a legitimate exercise of martial law. And apparently reading my mind, he said, in the Merriman case, Justice Tanney had issued a writ of habeas corpus for a man who was detained on orders of President Lincoln. And President Lincoln just disregarded the judicial order. And Justice Tanney said, ‘What can we do, we are confronted by a superior authority?’ I then concluded that there must be no conflict between the two separate departments of Justice and Executive for it would be embarrassing to both. I believe that they are both of this persuasion.

“The public reaction throughout the Philippines is a welcome to martial law because of the smooth, peaceful reestablishment of peace and order and the hope of a reformed society. In fact most everyone now says this should have been done earlier. I attach the report of Boni Isip about the same result of a survey conducted by Liberal Party Leader Gerry Roxas. It is indeed gratifying that everyone now finds or discovers I am some kind of a hero! There is nothing as successful as success!”

Now that all the primary sources on the period are creeping out of the woodwork can we hope for a lucid and objective history of the Marcos years?

* * *

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Other Stories:

No related posts found!

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=37148

Tags: Ambeth R. Ocampo , Ferdinand Marcos , martial law , writ of habeas corpus

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • 4 Etihad passengers not yet located
  • DAR to complete installation of Luisita land reform beneficiaries in May
  • Ex-COA chief and co-accused in Arroyo plunder case nabbed
  • Kris Aquino’s ex- close in security named new Air Force chief
  • The ‘link diagram’ that killed ex-Bataan police officer
  • Sports

  • NLEX holds off Jumbo Plastic for a playoff berth
  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Lifestyle

  • Summer Mayhem: The ultimate beach experience
  • A haven for steak lovers
  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Tiff with HK over Luneta hostage fiasco finally over
  • DOLE sees more Filipinos hired by South Koreans
  • Filipinos second-shortest in Southeast Asia
  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Marketplace