Recognize the preludes to martial law? | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Recognize the preludes to martial law?

National papers reported on Dec. 27, 1970, that President Ferdinand Marcos was expected to arrive that noon in Cotabato to “act as mediator” between warring “Muslim and Tiruray tribesmen,” typical 1970s writing. We don’t ascribe “Muslim” anymore to describe a people—demonym, the word that refers to the natives and language of a particular place, does not include religion. And the “Tiruray” have since explained to us that the correct phonetics for their self-ascribed name is Teduray. There are no tribes as well in the Philippines.

The Marcos family sailed from Manila early morning of Christmas Day aboard the presidential yacht “BRP 777” to proceed to Mindanao. We now know, of course, that the mediator was no mediator at all. Marcos had later ordered state-sponsored killings against the Moro by arming non-Moro settlers. One of its bloodthirsty leaders who styled himself as Teduray was no such thing—Feliciano Luces who went by the nom de guerre Kumander Toothpick was actually a Visayan settler and was later hailed by Marcos as a “hero” in a privileged Malacañang visit.


Less than a month later, on Jan. 20, 1971, newspaper headlines screamed: “FM Allays Fears of Martial Law.” Marcos had told newspersons: “The matter should not cause any furor. I said it once, and I am saying it again, clearly … There is no intention to declare martial law.” He had merely warned to impose this measure if “one or a combination of conditions occurred,” one of which was widespread terrorism. He was correct, but we now know that Marcos himself, with the aid of a constabulary henchman, manipulated “widespread terrorism” in Mindanao.

“This is ridiculous,” Marcos said. “Who would want to declare martial law?”


Congress was to open on Jan. 25 and student demonstrations had loomed on the horizon. Marcos ordered the armed forces to be held in reserve and ready for trouble, “should agitators succeed in fomenting disorder and violence.”

In a Philippine Press Institute seminar attended by 22 metropolitan newspaper editors and reporters, the Jesuit historian Horacio dela Costa warned that the imposition of martial law would not be justified. The Constitutional Convention, he said, was going on and it “must open under conditions that will permit it, in freedom, to at least initiate the radical structural changes in our government and society which will permit rapid progress towards both social justice and socio-economic development.”

The day before Congress opened, headlines heralded: “FM Acts to Counter Sabotage, Terrorism.” Two bombing incidents had preceded the opening. Reports seem to indicate, he said, “that communists perpetrated the act, as evidenced by leaflets left behind by the malefactors.” Talk about planting “evidence.” Manila police however stated there was “no evidence to link the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the New People’s Army, to the bombings.”

In his State of the Nation Address, Marcos highlighted his speech with his drive to fight oligarchies that he called “the economic royalists” of the nation, driven only by the pursuit of gain and encroaching on political power, in “a system that permits the rule by the few for the few.”

Pundits observed that there was in fact an “undeclared martial law.” Marcos motored from the Palace to Congress surrounded by “a ring of steel—army, PC and policemen as protective cover.” Jovito Salonga wrote describing that day: “Yesterday, the biggest news that hit the nation, after many days of tension and anxiety, is that nothing—absolutely nothing—happened. No revolution. No disorder. No assassination.”

Three days after opening Congress, Marcos announced that the communists were now using “sex, pornography and drugs, among other techniques,” to destroy the moral fiber of the youth. He however, failed to cite examples. And he wasn’t on fentanyl.

We may soon live under familiar refrains. We only need to remind ourselves: Independence and dignity are never surrendered over planted evidence, manipulated “terrorism” and hyperbolic social strife.

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TAGS: “Muslim and Tiruray tribesmen”, Christmas Day, Cotabato, Feliciano Luces, Ferdinand Marcos, History, Jovito Salonga, Kumander Toothpick, martial law, Moro settlers, paskong pinoy, Teduray
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