Sweep away all the monsters of martial law
Fifty years since Ferdinand Marcos Sr declared martial law and established his fascist dictatorship, the people continue to be savaged by the monsters engendered by the brutal and corrupt terrorist state. Beyond the resolve “never again,” efforts to look back at and draw lessons from the history of martial law should also strengthen the determination to continue the fight to eradicate these monsters.
The biggest monster which emerged under martial law is no other than the Marcos family itself which now rules the country in the person of Marcos Jr. Marcos and his cronies grew from mid-sized bureaucratic capitalists to giants. Imelda Marcos, wife of Marcos Sr, once proudly declared that they owned everything in the Philippines. There was no business that operated or infrastructure project built which the Marcos did not actually own or mulcted. The Marcoses made money from the economy and people’s livelihood.
For more than a decade, the Marcoses amassed an estimated 10-15 billion dollars. Much of it is stashed away in foreign banks, or in the form of diamonds, mansions, overseas real estate and other expensive items. The Marcoses lived in shameless luxury while the vast masses of the people were burdened with hard work and poverty.
Despite their ouster in 1986, a large portion of the Marcos stolen wealth remained in their hands. They have used these monies since returning to the Philippines to buy political loyalties, flood the country with historical lies, and restore itself to power. This funded the political alliance with the Dutertes to rig the results of the previous election and install Marcos Jr in power. Having Marcos Jr sit on the Malacañang throne is their biggest benefit to the father’s 14-year dictatorship.
The most vicious of the martial law monsters is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (now the Philippine National Police or PNP). Under martial law, they served as Marcos’ minions and weapons for sowing fascist terrorism against the people. Marcos satiated officers of the AFP and PC-INP whose ranks he expanded from just above 50,000 in 1972 to more than 200,000 before being ousted. The AFP’s budget rose by four times in the early years of martial law. Under the Marcos dictatorship, the military is the law, and anyone who resisted is suppressed with utter viciousness.
Marcos Sr used his monopoly on power to suppress all opponents, including rival groups of ruling classes. The dictator ended the old power sharing among the ruling classes, shuttered Congress and oversaw the military courts that executed his judgments.
The military reigned. More than 70,000 were imprisoned, 34,000 tortured, 3,240 killed, and more than 1,300 disappeared. Many more victims remain undocumented, most of whom were workers and peasants who sought to defend their interests and welfare. There were massacres left and right especially in the countryside where Marcos’ fascist troops reigned on the pretext of suppressing the armed revolution. The US government extended full support to Marcos in exchange for guaranteed operations of US military bases. This is similar to US support for dictators in other countries in Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.
Not one of the military officers were made to account for the crimes of the AFP and PC-INP. When Marcos Sr was ousted, many were like chameleons who became officers in the bureaucracy or business, using their power connections. On the prodding of the US—the number one war monger and weapons seller in the country—the AFP and PC-INP were made to undergo an image makeover to turn them into advocates of human rights and peace, directly opposite to their essence as violent instruments of repression against the people.
Despite the makeover attempt, the AFP and PC-INP remain the giant monsters of Marcos Sr’s martial law. The overthrow of the dictatorship did not see the dismantling of the fascist machinery of the AFP and PC-INP. In fact, it continued to grow and become more vicious. Under the same old counterinsurgency and the new “counter-terrorism,” cases of killings, abductions, illegal arrests, molestation and rape, incarceration and military torture continue to rise. It consumes more and more funds taking away resources for more productive investment or expansion of social services. The AFP-PNP’s power and interference in state and society further expanded under the National Task Force (NTF)-Elcac.
Above all, Marcos Sr’s martial law generated a monster crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system that devoured the lives of the broad masses of toiling people. Using absolute powers, Marcos Sr paved the way for all-out plunder resulting in widespread denudation, poisoning of rivers, environmental destruction and grabbing land of farmers and minority peoples.
Under martial law, Marcos Sr implemented the policy dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB) in exchange for loans with high interests. Workers’ salaries were kept at low levels to attract foreign capitalists. Marcos Sr carried out a fake land reform program, imposed levies on coconut farmers, pulled down the price of domestic sugar to maximize export profits and implemented the Masagana 99 program, all of which buried millions of farmers in debt and pulled their livelihood in deep crisis.
Export processing zones were established which further tied the country to the international assemblyline of multinational corporations. The backward, agrarian and non-industrial character of the Philippine economy deepened further. The problem of widespread unemployment was addressed with the export of cheap labor which subjected Filipinos to gross forms of exploitation and slavery overseas. The peso’s value against the dollar slid. The country was buried in mountains of foreign debt which Marcos Sr used for infrastructure programs all tainted with corruption.
When the Marcoses were ousted in 1986, the Philippines was known as the “sick man” of Asia, lying in the deathed of the economic crisis. The people strongly clamored to renounce IMF-WB policies and reliance on foreign debt; this was reflected in the 1987 constitution which included provisions for protecting local investors and developing the economy.
But instead of correcting Marcos Sr’s twisted policies that led to economic crisis, these were continued and made further worse. The neoliberal economic policies from the late 1970s were further expanded with the push of the IMF-WB. Local production remained import-dependent and export- oriented. Nothing was done to establish the basic industries and develop agriculture.
Water and electricity services were privatized, the oil industry deregulated, and funds for education, health and other social services were cut. Government assets were sold under contracts tainted with corruption. Tariffs were removed from imported commodities resulting in widespread losses, closure of businesses, and worsening poverty of peasants. Overseas migration of Filipino workers, including nurses and other professionals, was pushed more vigorously.
After three decades, policies started under Marcos Sr’s martial law resulted in chronic trade deficits, the destruction of the local productive forces, collapse of agriculture, food crisis and increased dependence on imports and foreign remittances. Amid the economic crisis, bureaucrat capitalists have become more and more insatiable in plundering public funds, which, in turn, lead to deepening rifts among the ruling class cliques.
The three monsters engendered by Marcos Sr’s martial law—the Marcos dynasty corruption, fascist terrorism of the AFP, and imperialist-dictated neoliberal policies—continue to cause widespread suffering among the Filipino people. As the Filipino people look back on martial law, their collective strength and resistance should be sharply directed to fight and eradicate these monsters. The struggle should be further strengthened and intensified to end the basic problems of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism and achieve the aspiration for genuine national freedom and democracy.