Before Ferdinand Marcos transformed into ruthless dictator, he was democratically-elected president from 1965. Initially extremely popular, he was reelected to a full second term in 1969 until 1973. He declared military rule in 1972 and re-engineered the Constitution in 1973 thereby scrapping term limit for Philippine presidents.
Then installed wife Imelda to different political posts and relatives and cronies as heads of numerous government-controlled corporations. Along loyal military generals, cabinet members and trusted aids he was reported to have gifted his friends with multi-billion peso government contracts, among others. In the years following 1972, deteriorating peace and order in Mindanao took center stage coupled with stronger assertion from separatist groups for autonomy. Perhaps opposition Senator Benigno Aquino’s assassination in 1983 was the crack-in-waiting for his growing unpopular regime—culminating in a 1986 EDSA People Power revolution—arguably the world’s first non-violent, bloodless demonstration that toppled a mighty dictator of 20 years.
The Filipino will remain prosperous and resilient, so thought he. Marcos was aspiring for a rigidly ‘disciplined’ society as was Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore of the time. But how should the government impose discipline to a spread of 7,000 islands as opposed to Singapore’s less than 70? Would the clumping of free speech and civil liberties—mechanisms of martial law—silence the very people who put him to power? “Marcos generals” were widely thought to have conspired to further this grip. Newspapers, radio and TV stations critical of his regime were shut down. Human rights abuses were rampant, and intellectuals, academics, students, activists, newsmen and opposition politicians were thrown into prison on charges of crime against the state. Many were assassinated or exiled. Thousands were summarily executed, murdered, vanished and tortured all throughout the country. Thousands remained missing.
I was born in the Philippines in 1978 and have little recollection of the impact of those years. Therefore I feel obliged to revisit that dark chapter of merciless military oppression and denounce its demons. I am tempted to blame the leaders whose responsibility was to mainly protect citizens’ civil liberties—but whose trust they apparently grossly violated.
The secession of my country (to U.S.A.) from the Spanish Empire in 1898 left a lasting American legacy in education and democratic governance. Democracy in my country, though still very young, is more effective as opposed to military rule because it encourages leaders and citizens to work to achieve common ground. Democracy instills responsibility and when used judiciously, it can empower and positively impacts on peace and order. Democratic principles should aim for harmony and should seek to further advance peaceful resolution of civil and international conflicts—where respect of human life should be at the pinnacle. In turn, democratically-elected leaders should listen and strive to not violate their oath of office and execute its noble objective.
In the end I think Mr Marcos failed to grasp the wisdom of these principles or he could have been swayed to ignoring his constituents’ cry altogether. Formerly revered as one of the most intelligent, eloquent and charismatic public servant died possibly in disgrace—far away from home—in Hawaii in 1989.
Note: I don’t own these pictures. Taken from online sources.