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Looking Back

Marcos, Jesuits, and martial law

/ 10:26 PM September 26, 2013

We are always wary of people who claim to have a hotline to God. In the age before the cell phone, a time when we had rotary rather than pulse or tone phones, an academic from the University of the Philippines rose during a forum on Filipino spirituality and showed the audience a piece of paper with a crudely drawn telephone dial.

With this she spoke to God because she had His private number, a direct line! God.

In those days, mediums and seers went into a trance and spoke in a child’s voice (the Santo Niño!), or a woman’s voice (the Virgin Mary!), or a man’s voice (Jose Rizal! Andres Bonifacio)! There was the “Bionic Boy” who claimed to have been legally adopted by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. He could make overseas calls with a toy phone! When I write the footnotes to martial law, people will presume I have been influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “magic realism.” Well, history can really be stranger than fiction.

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Marcos undertook an abbreviated form of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola during Holy Week 1972. In Mirador, the Jesuit retreat house in Baguio, Marcos grappled with the idea of martial law and asked God for a sign. On March 28, 1972, he scribbled:

“I came in at about 8.20 for the meditation which started at 8.15 am. Late because I had to settle several matters before I could go on retreat, one of which was the wish of the children to go back to Manila inasmuch as they had nothing to do since none of their crowd had as yet come up… Imelda was upset by the restlessness of the children.

“Somehow, this and other problems that have arisen in the past month have made my retreat more urgent. I have to think out the plans that I have drawn up. This includes: the report on increased subversion, the arson, the acts of terrorism in the Metropolitan area, the continued shipment of arms for the subversives, their recruitment and training and the renewed activities of the front organizations. And we have had to review the eventual use of the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and even the proclamation of martial law.

“So I talk to God in my retreat, asking for guidance, knowing that he sees me as I am—a man with strengths and weaknesses. I keep no secret from him as he has watched me in my nakedness.

“More than the reading and the thinking it is this quiet and continuous conversation with God that I attain.

“I have just come from the chapel where I prayed fervently that He may be with me always.”

The next day, March 29, 1972, Marcos listed:

“1. Decision to make: Subversions, the media. 2. List down the countries with which we have an unfavorable trade balance. Organize the exporters to make special efforts to export to them. Start out with Australia. 3. Assign special salas or courts for cases of anti-graft, corruption, malversation, dishonesty of government officials.

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4. M[anila] I[international] A[irport]. Kearns visit, April 4-6. Include new International Airport. 5. Post Office-Appt. Tanabe.

“My own Spiritual Exercise. I asked the Lord for a sign. And he has given it. In the meditation this morning the following thoughts were brought out.

“My job is too heavy. But your will not mine be done.

“The permissiveness of society must be balanced by authoritativeness. The two poles must be given weight and equal importance.

“Then in the Exercise—is it for the glory of God that there be authoritativeness? Yes for we return order where there is chaos.

“Fr. Ferriols spoke of recognizing the Relative of the Absolute and the Absolute in the Relative. As well as need for competence.

“Spiritual Exercises on the Specific Problem of Martial Law. There are certain themes that one must be sensitive to. Thus relativity. Food is good. But meat not always good. Thus, if one has had an appendectomy, meat is not good. This is the relative value of meat. Nor is cyanide to be taken at all. This is the absolute value of certain things to be taken. So I conclude that freedom is not always good. There may be periods in a country’s life when it is like meat. For the time being it must be curtailed or denied.

“And the permissiveness of our society has spawned the many evils that will wreck our Republic. It must now be balanced with authoritativeness and that is martial law. However, I put as a condition the occurrence of massive terrorism which would alarm the people as well as the authorities.

“And the discussion on authoritativeness to balance permissiveness comes incidentally in answer to some inquiry as to the problem of parents over teenaged children. The Father spoke of the problem of the Ateneo, where in the 1960s, the authoritativeness of the decade was balanced by the Ateneo with permissiveness by the Ateneo administration. And now the K[abataang] M[akabayan]s who profess attention and ‘nagwawala’ nothing is evil or immoral. This has resulted in disorder in the mission to train and give competence in chemistry, economics, engineering, etc. which even the KMs with their avowed desire for a new society would need.

“So Father [Jose] Cruz, our former retreat master, has instituted authoritativeness which has made him unpopular but may have saved the Ateneo.

“But that this should be talked about when not in the subject of the meditation. This is the sign that I have asked of God.”

Did God give Marcos a sign for the imposition of martial law, or was it a wrong number? History should give us an answer.

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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