Human Face

Clamor for ‘Batas Militar’ DVD

The almost 20-year-old documentary “Batas Militar” that was shown on ABS-CBN’s ANC cable channel the week of the 30th anniversary of People Power seemed like new for many people.

Suddenly people were clamoring for it in DVD format that they can keep, show or distribute to those who know little about the atrocities of the martial law regime under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The original documentary that was for sale in bookstores many years ago was in VHS format. I still have mine.


Suddenly they were concerned that the generation after them does not seem to know enough, for them to care enough. Suddenly they were fearful that the dark days of yore might be upon us again. Suddenly, for some who had long buried the terrors of the past, bloody memories have come back to haunt them in the night. Suddenly they wanted to go out there and slay, once and for all if they could, the remnants of those terrible years. Suddenly…

If I remember right “Batas Militar” was shown year after year after it was produced by the Foundation for Worldwide People Power founded by Inquirer founding chair Eugenia D. Apostol. It premiered on Sept. 21, 1997, the 25th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. I remember its launching at the Villa San Miguel, the official home of then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, how I shed tears while viewing the 10-minute trailer that showed dead bodies being tossed onto trucks with Mozart’s “Ave verum corpus” rising in the background. Even Cardinal Sin shed a tear. When the thundering chorus stopped and the images faded away there were few dry eyes in the audience.


“Batas Militar” was said to be “the most extensive and expensive documentary produced in the Philippines” at that time. As its creators said, it could well set the standards of excellence in the making of documentaries in the country. A lot of hard work went into its production. “Batas Militar” shows rare photos, film clips and video footage chronicling the early Marcos years, the riots in the 1970s, Marcos propaganda, the Plaza Miranda bombing, the First Quarter Storm, the 1971 Constitutional Convention. And oh, those great street upheavals.

The documentary is presented in a youthful, contemporary fashion but with solid and rich historical substance. Some scenes were reenacted and recorded on 16-mm film to aid our remembering and drive us back to the past. But for those who had suffered, no film could capture the intensity of the terror and the pain that gutted their lives. Especially when Imelda Marcos makes an appearance and proclaims to all: No one was executed during the 14-year martial law era. (Gag!)

More than 50 interviews were done. Among those featured are the architects of martial rule as well as their victims—Fidel Ramos, Corazon Aquino, Ninoy Aquino who was assassinated, Imelda Marcos, Fabian Ver, former rebel leader Bernabe “Kumander Dante” Buscayno, Satur Ocampo, the Rolex 12, Sister Mariani Dimaranan, businessman Eugenio Lopez.

Plus a bunch of little people like myself. I was interviewed on the “alternative press” and what we women writers did at that time. Thank heavens, the final cut showed me for maybe only 30 seconds, in relation to the death of Kalinga chief Macli-ing Dulag and the struggle against the Chico dam. I got a sense of the bigness of the project when a van full of people and equipment descended on my house for a shoot. I was happy to do anything for them, lent them my moldy Betamax tapes on that horrible era. (And they promised to clean them up and transfer them to VHS —that was before DVD. I hope they eventually did.)

The team behind “Batas Militar” deserves glowing credits for bringing us back to that dark era so that we may learn—Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala (executive producer), Veronica Alcaneses (co-executive producer), Lito Tiongson and Pete Lacaba (writers), Jaime Fabregas (musical director), Joonee Gamboa (narrator), Mike Alcazaren (director for OBB and creative consultant), Jon Red (director for film reenactments and field production), Jeannette Ifurung (postproduction director), Carol Garcia (producer for sound effects), Beng Oebanda (production manager) and Glen Cruz (assistant to the director). The research team was led by Fe Zamora, with Jam Bonoan, Karen Lacson, Zonia Timbol and Melanie Arroyo.

Now about the clamor for the DVD version. Because there is none, “Batas Militar” is keeping bootleggers-for-a-cause busy. It’s in YouTube, by the way. I learned that it would take millions to make DVD copies because there are licensing rights to contend with. ABS-CBN had to pay millions to extend their licensing rights (on video footage and music used) that had expired many years so, and for only two recent airings at that. The producers were not able to get new clearance for the Beatles and Monkees songs that were used, so these were replaced by license-free music that were not as effective or with no music at all.

Many people are clamoring for DVD copies. Who will take the tab for the official DVD version?



Now at the Palma Hall lobby of the University of the Philippines Diliman is the exhibit “Nakaw na Yaman, Ibalik sa Bayan!” that showcases information on how the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) is doing its part in recovering the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth. The exhibit, which is presented by PCGG, Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, and UP Department of History, will run till end of this week but could be extended.


If you prefer Lenten prayers for the campaign season, join “Think, Pray, Vote:  90 days of prayer for the Philippines National Elections 2016” on Facebook. Visit


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TAGS: `batas militar’, Edsa People Power Revolution, Ferdinand Marcos, martial law
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