We, the undersigned faculty members and staff of the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science join the rest of the nation in commemorating the declaration of Martial Law. It is our duty to recall what others wish to forget and distort, as well as to remain vigilant against new forms of authoritarianism that assail Philippine democracy today.
Fifty years ago, President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. declared martial law. His dictatorial regime brought constitutional democracy to an abrupt halt. Congress was shut down and elections were suspended. The new regime refashioned political institutions into instruments that increased Marcos Sr.’s powers. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended and the military was given broad functions to arrest and detain anyone deemed anti-government or subversive, including academics, students, and journalists. The judiciary’s independence was further compromised as justices and judges lost their security of tenure. Independent media and civil society were constrained if not totally rendered non-existent as government propaganda dominated mass media. The Marcos dictatorship stole our democracy’s most prized possessions: free speech, freedom of assembly, and popular sovereignty. Without public transparency and accountability, the Marcos family and cronies stole from the public coffers in the most egregious case of plunder this country has witnessed, leaving the economy in ruins.
What were the effects? According to Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, 6,672 people were arrested while 444 individuals were forcibly disappeared. There were 1,365 victims of extrajudicial killings or “salvagings”, and 968 killed in massacres. Overall, the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board identified 11,103 legitimate cases of a range of human rights violations under the martial law regime.