Why Filipinos need martial law at times
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 20, 2019 - 12:00am

When people are recklessly undisciplined, totally lazy, absolutely lacking in initiative and persistently refuse to work hard, there is a need for discipline. And oftentimes, only a dictator can instill an uncompromising, firm and no-nonsense system of discipline. But, we hasten to interject a caveat, a special kind of dictator, a dictator with a conscience and a heart.

Tomorrow is the 47th anniversary of President Marcos' declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1972. I was among the student leaders who were arrested without warrant, and detained with no charges. But we were stout-hearted young idealists who loved our country and considered it our honor to be jailed because we fought against the Martial Law dictator. Many of our compatriots have gone missing and until now there is no news about what really happened to them. Many of us were tortured; others were reportedly sexually abused, insulted, maligned and brainwashed inside the detention centers. But a good number of them became senators, cabinet members and successful leaders when the Martial Law dictator was ousted by the peoples' revolution in 1986.

Later, the dictator who had me jailed appointed me as Labor Arbiter and sent me to many countries to study labor laws in Geneva, in Turin, Italy, in Australia, in Kuwait and in Japan. His government challenged me to transform my idealism into actual service to the people, to the masses of workers in Negros who were exploited by big landed estates, to help the workers in the port areas who were not paid minimum wages, who were not provided with safety and health protection, and who could be fired at will, sans security of tenure and with no respect. His government allowed me to work for the marginalized sectors in society and thus made me realized that somehow, there are some good points to attribute to Martial Law.

In the beginning, Martial Law was very effective. There was curfew for the young people and even for the old. They were thus compelled to go home and be with their families before sleeping time. There were clean streets and pedestrians conscientiously avoided jaywalking, which was then punished by either jail time or community services or both. There was no traffic mess unlike today. The prostitutes and pimps did not loiter the streets, they engaged in more discreet and not vulgar manner. The people behaved well, rumor-mongering was considered punishable by imprisonment. But then, towards the end, there were some abuses by the military and the police, when the president became sick with ''lupus''. He was no longer in control.

Today, the surroundings are dirty and smell very bad. Men urinate and defecate anywhere and people spit in any place, spreading viruses and microbes. The garbage and wastes are all around and all kinds of fly, rodents and cockroaches roam around carrying diseases. The rivers and esteros are stinking with human wastes and all forms of pollutions. The seashores are dirty and the oceans are poisoned by mining magnates who have no trace of love of country, but are driven by profit and greed. There is no respect for authority and laws, and pimps and prostitutes dominate the streets, along with pickpockets, hold-uppers, robbers, con-artists and thieves.

People mindlessly throw away garbage and then blame the government for the mess we are all in. Traffic is a national malady, and the country looks very bad, smells very bad and has acquired a very bad reputation. I do not mind if Martial Law is imposed to discipline most of the lost people. But this time, Martial Law is controlled by Congress, and the president cannot abuse it. If only to save our country and to have a better, cleaner and more peaceful and orderly one, I would approve Martial Law for at least one year. I would welcome a benevolent dictator who can clean up this mess called the Philippines.


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