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Why I did not join martial law protesters

My friends asked me to speak in a forum against martial law on the anniversary of its declaration by Marcos After all, I played an important role then when I wrote the Untold Story of Imelda Marcos against her objections, they said. She was considered the most powerful First Lady. Indeed, she was known as the conjugal partner of the Marcos dictatorship. In those times, it was unheard of that one should deliberately pick up a fight with someone powerful. But I did. It was a personal choice in defense of freedom of the press. It had consequences for my children, my husband and myself. There were good as well as bad consequences. I stood my ground that the public lives of government officials must be open to public scrutiny. That decision was justified many years later when she used political power excessively.

My story on the writing of the book is contained in three books – The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos, the Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos and the Verdict (Imelda’s trial in New York). I just got a call from Flipside Digital if I could renew my contract with them as there was demand and need for them in these times. I readily agreed to make it available for those who want a complete story of the books and the role I played during the martial law period. Those who are interested to know more should refer to these books because it would be too long for a column. Both the Untold Story of Imelda Marcos and the Rise and Fall of Imelda Marcos have been sold out in printed form and it would take some time before these could be reprinted.

In my opinion the invitation to join the forum was ill-timed. The real target of these protests against martial law was President Rody Duterte, not Ferdinand Marcos We must make a clear distinction between martial law under Marcos and the strong government with revolutionary powers (strong rule) that Duterte should take up if we are to achieve the constitutional change desired. The distinction will be lost with emotional but ignorant protesters.

There is a difference between martial law and strong rule in the context of Philippine politics today. In my opinion we need strong rule but it need not be a military dictatorship.

The military is in charge under martial law.

In strong rule, the military does not take direct charge of government. It is there to support civilian rule. Singapore is a good example of strong rule without direct intervention of the military. Lee Kuan Yew practiced strong rule successfully. In my opinion the Philippines today would be best served by a combination of parliamentary government with a federal structure like Malaysia has.

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Filipinos tried hard to advocate for constitutional change but its enemies were too powerful. The elite blocked it time and again.

President Duterte won the elections because he exemplified a leader who will bring about this change because he communicated with the masses with his persona and manner of speaking.

The recent protests commemorating the evil deeds during martial law under Marcos is being used against the good intentions of Duterte. To some Noynoy’s presidency was worse than corruption during Marcos because he defied all rules of law to govern the way he wanted. That also is dictatorship of a kind.

The undertow was the growing disparity between the rich and the poor and a disappearing middle class. Democratic elections and government were limited to the oligarchic class and their subalterns best personified by the Lopez family. They owned media which promoted their business interests.

Their example was followed by other oligarchic families and was written about excellently by Alfred McCoy in his book The Anarchy of Families. It must be remembered that it was the Marcos-Lopez partnership that became the template for our politics and society that eventually led to the more vicious Aquino-Lopez partnership.

If Duterte is to achieve change and a new Constitution he needs strong rule. Strong rule has become necessary after the do-nothing presidency of Aquino who was the patsy of American policy toward China.

Democracy is inevitably a clash of interests. In the Philippines the most grievous was the clash of interests between the rich and powerful elite and the masses of the poor.

Duterte communicated and gave nerve to the excluded poor and the dispossessed which drove them to rallies never seen before in recent politics. Filipinos crowded his rallies and saw its climax during his miting de avance on May 7, 2016 in Luneta.

For thinking citizens, it is obvious that no matter how much we want change we will not be able to do it without strong rule. The traditional politicians, the oligarchy and the system they protect will not allow change. They will fight tooth and nail to retain the status quo which gives them their wealth and privileges.

A choice will have to be made soon on whether we keep the status quo or take the steps necessary for parliamentary federalism. We elected Duterte as President/ leader to get it done.

Given the entrenched positions of officials of the Aquino administration, it will be impossible to do so unless President Duterte assumes the extraordinary powers he needs. The most serious stumbling block is Congress and the previous government’s subalterns in the bureaucracy.

Duterte has given his war against drug lords priority because the election of officials is funded by drug lords. We remove the power of drug lords to fund politicians and excise corrupt politicians in Congress at the same time. It is a dangerous combination and needs a strong hand to break up.

Duterte can achieve his mandate with speed with the people and military supporting him.

This is where military help is needed and the 1987 Constitution empowers it to do so.

The 1987 Constitution states in Article II of the principles and state policies in Section 3 that “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”

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