To Take A Stand

It rained every day from September 1 to 19, 1972, placing Metro Manila and Central Luzon under water. Hundreds of lives were lost and crops worth millions were destroyed. The impact of the devastation on the economy wrought havoc on the already beleaguered Ferdinand Marcos presidency.
Marcos’s second term was to expire the following year and he was barred by the 1935 Constitution from seeking another reelection. The opposition Liberal Party was expected to choose Senator Ninoy Aquino as its standard-bearer in the elections scheduled the following year, with Senator Gerry Roxas as vice-presidential candidate. The surveys at the time forecast an Aquino-Roxas victory in the elections of 1973.
But Marcos was maneuvering to stay in power. He cajoled, pressured, intimidated, and/or bribed delegates to the Constitutional Convention then ongoing to promulgate a new constitution that would enable him to run again.
The destruction of crops had driven prices of commodities by about 25%, giving Marcos a reason to hint that the declaration of a state of emergency was necessary. He was also calling attention to the supposed increasing number of incidents of violence perpetrated by communist elements, to add credibility to his contention that emergency powers be given him.
On September 21, a Thursday, anti-Marcos organizations held a rally at Plaza Miranda to denounce Marcos’s apparent plan to impose martial law. In the afternoon of September 22, at the invitation of the students of the Asian Institute of Management, Ninoy Aquino shared with them his vision of the Philippines after Marcos.
Later that afternoon, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile’s Ford sedan was riddled with bullets while on the way to his house. In the first hour of September 23, martial law was imposed all over the country.
Fast forward to September 2009. It rained from September 1 to 22, flooding most of Metro Manila and Central Luzon. More than a hundred lives were lost and crops worth millions destroyed. The after-effect of the devastation on the economy placed the embattled Gloria Arroyo presidency in dire financial bind and put the highly criticized president in a desperate situation. Her numerous fabulous junkets had drawn heavily from the Emergency Fund and Contingency Fund. There was not much left in those coffers for relief goods for the victims of the great flood.
Arroyo’s term was to end on June 30, 2010. She was barred by the Constitution from running for reelection. The opposition Liberal Party had endorsed the candidacy of Senator Noynoy Aquino for president and Senator Roxas for vice-president. The surveys by late September showed that Noynoy had surged ahead in the presidential derby.
But Arroyo persisted in maneuvering to stay in power. Her minions in the House of Ill Repute resorted to all kinds of schemes to amend the Constitution so that she would be able to run again for president or to emerge as Prime Minister in a parliamentary form of government. She was confident that her scheme would be voted favorably by her many minions in the proposed constituent assembly.
The Mindanao conflict was escalating. Reports from military intelligence units said that terrorists had infiltrated Metro Manila. Then Energy Secretary Reyes warned that there could be failure of elections in 2010 due to nationwide power failure. He suggested that Congress grant President Arroyo emergency powers to allow her to address the energy crisis. Then Senate President Enrile theorized that the AFP Chief of Staff and the PNP Chief Superintendent can install a transition government in the event of failure of elections.
It seemed the citizenry was being conditioned to expect the declaration of a state of emergency or the imposition of martial rule. But on September 21 anti-GMA groups gathered at the Club Filipino to plan out activities to foil Arroyo’s schemes to stay in power.
Fast forward again, this time to September 2018. It has been raining not only in the first two weeks of this month but since August. Work and classes in Metro Manila have been suspended many times due to the torrential rains. Floodwaters in many towns of Bulacan and Pampanga had not yet receded when Typhoon Ompong dumped more rain on Central Luzon.
The worth of the actual damage wrought by the typhoon, considered the strongest anywhere on earth this year, has not yet been determined, but Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol estimates that agricultural damage in Cordillera, Ilocos, and Cagayan Valley can be as much as P7 billion. Rice and corn losses can amount to P3.3 billion and P4.2 billion, respectively.
That sizable loss in rice will aggravate the present shortage of rice, causing a further increase in the price of rice. Higher cost of fuel and consequently higher transport cost have pushed inflation nationwide above 6%.
Early this month, the President said that the “yellow” or the Liberal Party, Senator Antonio Trillanes, and communist rebels are plotting to oust him from office. He said those forces are working against the government by bringing up issues such as the rising prices of goods and rice supply. “Those three, watch out for them. Those behind the oust Duterte movement will go into a high gear in October,” he said.
On September 10, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and other officials announced that the President would address the nation at 3:00 p.m. the following day. No details as to what he was going to tell the Filipino people were given. September 11 being the birthday of Ferdinand Marcos, many braced themselves for the declaration of martial law over the entire land.
After all, last May 23 he declared martial law over the whole of Mindanao after terrorists had seized Marawi City. The declaration covered all of Mindanao because military intelligence had reported that security problems also exist in other parts of Mindanao.
Fortified by the endorsement of the members of Congress of martial law in Mindanao, the President intimated that he was considering declaring martial law in the Visayas also as terrorists can easily slip into Mindanao’s neighboring islands and that martial law can be expanded to the whole country if terrorists are found to be operating in Luzon as well.
The Supreme Court’s decision upholding the validity of the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao region also recognized the power of the President to put the entire Philippines under martial rule on the basis of the terroristic acts in Marawi City. The Court declared that the Constitution grants the President the prerogative whether to put the entire Philippines or any part thereof under martial law as there is no edict that martial law should be confined only in the particular place where the armed public uprising actually transpired.
The Supreme Court having given its blessing to President Duterte’s propensity to put the entire country under martial rule, martial law all over the land has become a distinct probability.
But for some baffling reason, the President’s address to the nation which many expected to be his declaration of martial law nationwide was cancelled. The Filipino people heard instead a scripted dialogue between the President and the presidential legal counsel. The dialogue was so contrived to focus on the sins of Sen. Antonio Trillanes that it had little, if any, impact on the citizens.
The day after the poorly scripted and badly staged tete-a-tete, the President had another chat, this time with US Ambassador Sung Kim. The President said there was nothing earthshaking about the meeting. “I cannot discuss until I get his (Kim) permission. It’s a diplomatic tete-a-tete, but nothing earthshaking but more of confidentiality. But I hate to break the rules,” he said.
Is the United States through Ambassador Sung Kim cautioning President Duterte against imposing martial law over the land? Strange that President Duterte, who had cursed US President Barack Obama during an ASEAN conference in Laos, has to get permission from the US ambassador to discuss what they talked about in his own chamber.
It should be noted that the President had accused the United States, particularly its Central Intelligence Agency, of monitoring his mobile phone conversations, insinuating that the agency could be plotting to kill him. “They will kill me, those (expletive) he said in a speech before Cebu City officials last August 21, anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon was in Langley, Virginia headquarters of the CIA, recently.
On September 21, 1972, President Marcos signed the proclamation of martial law in the entire country. On September 21, 2009 civil society groups organized activities to foil President Arroyo’s plan to declare a state of emergency. It is with anxiety that I await this coming September 21.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.