The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand E. Marcos (Second of a Series)

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For the first part of the series, click here.

The First Quarter Storm

HAVING won reelection mainly on his own efforts and resources, Marcos had no more big political debts to pay. He was on top of the political situation and could now run the country on his own steam and under his own plans and direction.

But the enormity and complexity of the country’s problems were to color his perceptions, alter his plans, and bedeviled his ambitions.

The most dangerous challenge came from the dissident, subversive and radical elements. 

Five years earlier, Jose Maria Sison organized the New People’s Army in preparation for the armed struggle once the revolutionary situation becomes propitious for confrontations. 

Communist Party operatives infiltrated student and youth organizations. They conducted teach-ins and staged-managed rallies and demonstrations which often ended in violent confrontations. 

The youth and students, disillusioned and disdainful of the government, were now mouthing Maoist slogans, denouncing US imperialism and demanding the resignation of Marcos. They were now listening to more militant creeds and singing then anthems of the revolution.

At a demonstration before Congress, the demonstrators threw stones at President Marcos while he was leaving the Legislative Building shortly after he delivered his State of the Nation address in July, 1971.

In another incident, a large group of students and laborers crashed into the iron gates of Malacañang on a commandeered fire truck. The Presidential Security Guard repulsed the demonstrators but in the ensuing melee, four were killed and scores were wounded.

At about this time, the armory of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City was raided by dissident elements, led by Lieutenant Victor Corpus, a renegade army officer.

But the incident which delivered the strongest message that the youth were now polarized against the establishment was when students, led by sons of members of Congress, entered the session hall of the House of Representatives. 

One of them grabbed a microphone from a solon delivering a speech, and delivered his own to the consternation and horror of the gallery and the members of Congress.

Another event that provided Marcos the compelling reason to dig in and to hold on to power, was the bombing of the rally of the candidates of the Liberal Party at Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971. 

A team of, at that time, unknown operatives, threw two grenades at the platform where the candidates were seated, causing the death of 9 innocent people and the serious wounding of most of the senatorial and local candidates of the Liberal Party. 

Among those who suffered almost fatal injuries were Senators Jovito Salonga, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Eddie Ilarde, Ramon Mitra and mayoralty bet Ramon Bagatsing.

Public condemnation and blame for the bloody incident was heaped on the administration. Marcos strongly denied involvement in the incident and made his indignation felt when he suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Years after Marcos was booted out of power, reports on who was responsible for the Plaza Miranda bombing filtered in. 

Senator Salonga and the man who headed the bombing team accused Joma Sison and the leaders of the Communist Party as the people who hatched the despicable mission.

Marcos appealed for calm and sobriety. He called for national unity. 

l on deaf ears..

 While concern over the worsening peace and order situation, leaders of the opposition and various sectors of society were not eager to cooperate with Marcos. They shared with the leftist and radical elements their demand for the resignation of Marcos.

It was also at this time that the Moro National Liberation Front, headed by Nur Misuari, was gaining strength and support from Muslim countries. The regime’s efforts to derail the secessionist movement in Southern Philippines backfired when the Jabiddah caper was exposed.

An equally significant and important event was taking place at this time. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in session on June 1, 1972.

Marcos was determined to play a pivotal and leading role in framing the new constitution. 

He wanted the Concon to draft a parliamentary system of government, confident that he can run for president or prime minister, whichever will the fulcrum of power be, and hold on to his position as head of state.

He called on then Speaker Cornelio Villareal to manage the campaign of former President Pablo Garcia for Concon president which was readily accepted. 

Garcia, however, suffered from a heart attack and died a few days before the Concon started its sessions. Marcos favored another former president, Diosdado Macapagal, to succeed Garcia.

Public sentiment was now strongly critical of the Marcos regime. 

Responsibility for the increasing chaos and anarchy was placed squarely on the incumbent leadership.

But Marcos remained calm and seemingly unperturbed. He knew what he has to do if the situation goes out of hand. He kept his potions close to his chest.

As the sound of distant drums become louder and ominous, the revolutionary situation reaching boiling point, and the subversive elements knocking at the gates of Malacañang, he decided to use the only option left for him to remain in power. 

On September 17, 1972, Marcos signed Proclamation 1081 placing the country under martial law which was officially issued two days later.

In his book, Today’s Revolution: Democracy, written before he proclaimed martial law, he noted how countries subverted and overwhelmed by various forms of conspiracies taught one clear lesson:

“A government, especially of developing states, can tolerate subversion or internal conspiracies for power only up to a certain point. When such a point is reached, the illness of subversion or dissension become so widespread that it paralyzes the will not only of the people but also of the political leadership. It immobilizes even the most normal faculties and facilities of defense and protection of the State.”

“The secret of national survival,” he continued, is to mark the point of no return very well, and for the political; leadership to resolve that this point of deterioration should never be reached.

“This I had done as early as 1969 when I watched the growth of subversion in the country.”

What Marcos conveniently ignored the fact that he was the principal target of the protest movement and mainly responsible for the growth of the CPP-NPA.

He simply staged a coup d’état and seized the government itself before others could get near them. 

It was like disrobing his civilian attire to don a military uniform. As commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he was accountable only to himself since Congress was abolished and the entire bureaucracy was under his thumb and functioning at his whim.

Yet, he admitted:

“I am, to be sure, accountable to history for 21 September 1972 when I signed the proclamation placing the entire Philippines under martial law.

“I say this not to exculpate myself in advance. This is impossible; no man can cheat history.” (To be continued)