EDITORIAL - Lessons from martial law
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - September 21, 2014 - 12:00am

Ferdinand Marcos was barred by the Constitution from seeking a third term. In September 1972, three years into his second and final term, he found a way to stay longer in power: following a staged ambush on his defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos said the nation was in a state of emergency that warranted the imposition of martial law.

That declaration, announced 42 years ago today, marked the dawn of a “New Society” that was initially embraced by those who thought the nation needed more discipline for progress, as the slogan trumpeted.  Long hair and mini skirts disappeared together with porn movies. A notorious drug dealer was executed – although some quarters dispute this – and all sorts of troublemakers were disciplined by the state.

The “troublemakers,” however, included political enemies of the dictator. It didn’t take long for Filipinos to learn the hard way that absolute power indeed corrupts absolutely. The years that followed were marked by systematic human rights violations, and a level of corruption at the top levels of government that required coining a new term: kleptocracy.

The martial law abuses culminated on Aug. 21, 1983, when Marcos’ archrival, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., returned from exile and was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Ninoy Aquino was widely seen as a threat to the continued stay in power of Marcos and his wife Imelda.

When people power ended the dictatorship, the framers of a new Constitution introduced provisions that would make it difficult to impose martial law again and allow a president to perpetuate himself in power.  Among the provisions is the one limiting the president to a single six-year term. Corazon Aquino respected the provision and reminded her successors to do the same, saying one term is enough.

It was called the Freedom Constitution – a reaction to the nation’s suffering under one-man rule. Martial law holds lessons that remain relevant to this day, especially for the only son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino.

 

BENIGNO AQUINO JR. CORAZON AQUINO FERDINAND MARCOS FREEDOM CONSTITUTION IN SEPTEMBER JUAN PONCE ENRILE MANILA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT NEW SOCIETY NINOY AND CORY AQUINO NINOY AQUINO
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