Marcos writes his own story
“History is not through with me yet!” Thus spoke Ferdinand Marcos in a 1987 Playboy interview done during his Honolulu exile.
More than three decades since his death, Marcos remains controversial, his legacy divisive. To complicate matters, Marcos left the first draft of his story in a handwritten diary — a self-referential, self-serving text that must be weighed and validated against other sources before use. The Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986 did not figure in Marcos’ plans. He wasn’t able to cling on to power and life indefinitely.
Diary entries for September 1972 are quite revealing. On Sept. 1, 1972, visiting US senator Daniel Inouye inquired about Marcos’ plans. Which of the following options were viable: term extension, shift to parliamentary form of government, running for reelection, or martial law? No record of the conversation exists in the US Department of State Archives, leaving us with the diaries where Marcos said:
“I do not need martial law to win an election and that in the present situation anybody I supported would come out; that I would not agree to allowing the First Lady to run since it would be unfair to her. We are too old in this game to need martial law to get votes. However, do not misunderstand me. If the communists sow terror in Manila. If they bomb and burn, kill and kidnap; if they use the Vietcong tactics, then I will not hesitate to proclaim martial law.
“What I would prefer would be an extension. But I would accept it only if the political opposition agrees to it. If they do not l will not agree to it. I would then try to be a Prime Minister. But I would first wipe out the communists before the new President or Prime Minister takes over so he has a chance. I need several years to build up my replacement. None of those aspiring now are fit to lead the country. [Benigno] Aquino [Jr.] and [Jose] Diokno are demagogues and are communist-inclined. They would immediately set up a communist regime. [Gerardo] Roxas is a weakling. He would not risk his life to protect our freedoms. [Gil] Puyat is an oligarch. He has too many investments to protect.
“What we need is somebody who is trusted by the Armed Forces, is a liberal thinker, will fight communism and will risk not only his life but everything in this fight. For I cannot believe that Red China can be trusted. She will try to show now she is house-broken but she will help the revolutionaries and communists in the Asian countries. She is going to try and establish an Asian hegemony or a sphere of influence.”
From the options presented him, Marcos checked—all of the above. By then, news of martial law was in the air; the question was, would he or wouldn’t he? On Sept. 5, 1972, Marcos wrote: “Conference with Gen. [Fabian] Ver and others on the contingency plans. I place Gen. [Romeo] Espino and Sec. [Juan] Ponce Enrile’s report in Envelope No. XXXIV-U.” Unfortunately, the enclosures dutifully filed for future reference were separated from the diaries I obtained and collated from four different sources.
By Sept. 7, 1972, Marcos was at work on “contingency plans,” noting that: “The afternoon I spent in finishing all papers needed for a possible proclamation of martial law; just in case it is necessary to do so.” Sept. 8, 1972: “Conferred with Sec. Ponce Enrile and Gen. [Fabian] Ver on the need to prepare for an early attempt of the Maoists to terrorize Manila.”
Sept. 9, 1972: “Sec. Ponce Enrile and I finished the materials for any possible proclamation of martial law 6:00-7:30 PM.” After that, Marcos gave media interviews, watched the Philippine basketball team get defeated by Russia on TV, and capped the evening with a movie in the state dining room. Nobody had an inkling of what was being planned.
In an entry on his 55th birthday celebration on Sept. 11, 1972 is a stray note: “Open suggestions of martial law.” On the evening of the 13th at Bahay Pangarap, Marcos met with Enrile, Gen. Tomas Diaz, Col. Alfredo Montoya, Col. Romeo Gatan, and Danding Cojuangco: “We agreed to set the 21st of this month as the deadline.”
Earlier in the day, Ninoy Aquino delivered an exposé in the Senate—that “OPLAN Sagittarius” would place Manila under the Constabulary as a prelude to martial law. Marcos seemed pleased with reportage on this, hoping the “opposition start a debate that will get the people used to the idea of emergency powers.”
(Conclusion on Friday)
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