Martial Law: Never forget
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2015 - 10:00am

On September 13, 1972, a week before the declaration of martial law and the imposition of Marcosian dictatorship in the Philippines, Senator Ninoy Aquino stood in the halls of the Senate and warned the nation of Operation Sagittarius.

His speech opened with the following paragraphs:

“I have just received information from confidential sources in the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding a top secret military plan, ordered by President Marcos sometime ago, to put Greater Manila, 12 towns of Rizal, and the whole province of Bulacan under PC control – as a prelude, maybe, to clamping martial law.

The plan code named “Operation Plan Sagittarius” has been finalized. It has been prepared by the J-3 Plans and Operations of the Philippines under Colonel Mamerto Bocanegra.”

But the public did not take this warning seriously. The national media were then enjoying, as they are now, freedom of the press. The media owners such as Roces of Manila Times, Locsin of the Philippine Free Press, and Lopez of ABS-CBN could not imagine their media firms being grabbed and closed.

In the same speech Ninoy said:

“I wonder if this plan is intended to shoot down our cherished liberties with the arrow or the dart of a Marcos military rule. Or could this be an arrowhead or the spearhead of a more devilish plot to transform our Republic into a garrison state?

It must be noted...that President Marcos has reportedly promised Congressional leaders, only today, that he would first consult them before he declares martial law. But Mr. Marcos, as everyone knows, already has an established history of acting without consulting – like the time he suspended the writ of habeas corpus last year.

Operation Sagittarius confirms, to my mind, the dread felt by all freedom loving Filipinos over recent events.”

Ninoy’s final paragraph, in that speech:

“If the President [Marcos] is thinking of clamping down martial law... as he warned this morning that he is actually thinking of the possibility, I dare say that there must be another more devious plot. Therefore, I should conclude that Operation Sagittarius is properly named because as the arrow and the dart, it may spearhead what we may actually find as the end of our Republic.”

Ninoy was right. The real agenda was to establish a Marcos dictatorship that would perpetuate a permanent rule by the Marcos family.

On the evening of September 22, 1972, Ninoy was arrested, along with thousands of others, and taken to a military camp.

Five years after the declaration, Ninoy was tried by a military court and sentenced to death. It was a mock trial that Ninoy refused to participate in. He said:

“On that August day in 1973, I told Mr. Marcos’ military tribunal that I would not defend myself, that I fully realized the consequences of my decision, that I had chosen to obey my conscience whatever the tyrant’s verdict. To have done, otherwise, to have traded what is right for my accommodation, I held would have done violence to all I have ever stood for. I reiterate this position today, more firmly than on the day I first made it.”

While in jail, Ninoy was able to smuggle out, page by page, his manuscript that would later be published asTestament From a Prison Cell by Benigno S. Aquino Jr. In his testament, he explains, better than anyone else, why the Republic had fallen into the hands of Marcosian dictatorship. He wrote, in one of his letters:

“And by the same measure, as I make my last hurrah – to borrow the grim gallows humor of the trial counsel- I direct the only plea I am making in this trial to the Filipino people. Having failed to avert our present catastrophe, let us at least learn from it.

First, let us ponder and ponder what has so tragically befallen us. And ask ourselves: Why?

The ‘whys’ are simple, painfully so – in retrospect:

• We failed to value our freedom, forgetting that it was won at heroic sacrifice by martyred forebears and must be defended at every turn, lest it be chipped, nibbled at and finally taken away by a clever and conscienceless tyrant;

• We forgot what the epic men of various races and varied times have handed down to us as mankind’s eternal truth, that freedom is indivisible and the rights denied one man is surely the beginning of the denial of the rights of us all;

• We forgot, so ironically, because it is part of our great inheritance, what Rizal told us, “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves”, and what earlier Liberty’s noble woman, Madame Roland left as a legacy to all free men as she mounted the guillotine: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

The lesson – Liberty’s Truth – is: A people that is not willing to speak out for freedom and to suffer and die for it, does not deserve freedom.

Second, we ought now to draw the signal lesson: that a democracy no matter its imperfections, is still the best government conceived by man and certainly is to be desired over rule, by martial law, rule by a dictatorship, rule by a tyrant.”

In a few days, the Filipino people must collectively remember the dark days of the Marcos martial law. Why? In the words of Ninoy Aquino- We must never forget. Why? In the words of Cory Aquino – Never Again.

Where the Write Things Are’s Classes for Kids and Teens

Write Away! Weekend: Getting started on your comic book on September 26 (1-4pm) with popular cartoonist and writer Manix Abrera at the Canadian American School Alphaland Makati Place.

Young Writers’ Hangout every first Saturday of the month (1:30-3pm) at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.

For registration and fee details contact 0917-6240196 /


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