Why the hype on the Communist threat?

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Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

To Take A Stand

Why the hype on the Communist threat?

One of the lies told by Juan Ponce Enrile in that pathetic video interview by Bongbong Marcos was that Bongbong’s father imposed martial law to save the country from the Communist threat. Actually, he imposed martial law to retain power beyond 1973 when his second term was to expire.

In 1971, it had become obvious that Marcos’s reelection to a second term had not satisfied his ambitions and that he had decided to extend by any means his stay in office beyond the end of his second term. The suspicion gained credence when Marcos began to bribe and manipulate the delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention to approve the shift from a presidential, two-chamber legislature form of government to a parliamentary one. Such a system allowed Marcos, as leader of the majority party, to continue to rule as prime minister.

But not certain that the people would ratify his desired constitution, Marcos began to talk more frequently about the growing threat of Communist insurgency. He also hinted that disgruntled elements of the military had linked up with leftist organizations with the objective of toppling his government. Many professional military officers were grousing over the appointment to choice assignments of political protégés and the accelerated promotion of well-connected junior officers like Irwin Ver.

When a spate of violent incidents occurred in scattered areas in the metropolitan area, Marcos quickly attributed them to the rebel forces, justifying his earlier warnings, and hinting at the necessity of his using emergency powers that the 1935 Constitution provided. The September torrential rains in 1972 inundated most of Central Luzon, the breadbasket of the country, driving up the prices of basic commodities. The consequent impact of the devastation on the economy aggravated severely the political stock of the already unpopular Marcos.

So, in the first hour of September 23, 1972, he imposed martial law.

But journalist and historian Stanley Karnow wrote in his book on US-Philippine relations, In Our Image, that the alleged Communist incidents had been concocted by Marcos himself. Here are excerpts from the chapter “Conjugal Autocracy”:

“Actually, he (US Ambassador Henry Byroade) had known for at least a year that Marcos was jockeying to cling to power after his term expired in 1973. Marcos had been maneuvering to promulgate a new constitution that would enable him to run again. Meanwhile he was hyping up a Communist threat as a pretext to retain power. He had disclosed his objective to Byroade: Marcos alone could cope with the Communist situation.

“Byroade had been informed by his CIA station chief, who had impeccable sources, that many of the alleged Communist incidents had in fact been concocted by Marcos as an excuse to crack down on his political rivals, most notably Ninoy Aquino, the probable candidate for the presidency in 1973.”

In 2006, it had become obvious that Gloria Arroyo’s dubious election to a term up to 2010 had not satisfied her ambitions and that she had decided to extend her stay in office by any means beyond the end of her second term. She formed a constitutional consultative body, in contravention to law, and designated to it people who were known advocates of a parliamentary system and sycophants who would do her every bidding. As expected, the consultative body came up with a draft constitution tailored according to her designs. In a parliamentary system, there would be no time limit to the rule of the prime minister, and no Senate to obstruct the program of the prime minister.

Around that time elements of the New People’s Army conducted lightning raids on military posts in the provinces. Then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez claimed he had seen intelligence reports that rebellious junior military officers planned to launch a coup and that communist rebels might be part of their attempt. He said that rebel soldiers were working with the New People’s Army.

Then National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales disclosed that there was an assassination plot against the President which according to him could be carried out by the opposition, the rebel military officers, or communist elements. The AFP leadership had also acknowledged that there was an “orchestrated” plot to unseat President Arroyo.

A military analyst warned that an increasingly politicized military was headed for a crisis following the appointment of generals suspected of having had a hand in the cheating in the elections of 2004, in disregard of the recommendation of the board of generals.

Continuous rains flooded most of Central Luzon and of Isabela, raising the price of commodities coming from those areas. The rise in the price of oil in the world market, the dwindling remittances of dollars of OFWs, and the imposition of an additional two and half percent of VAT had a severe effect on the purchasing power of the masses, provoking street protests and disrupting peace and order.

President Arroyo considered declaring martial law but according to documents released by WikiLeaks, then US Chargé d’Affaires Paul Jones had told Arroyo that Washington did not believe that circumstances prevailing in the Philippines at the time justified extreme measures. Another set of documents from WikiLeaks also revealed that visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Eric John had warned Arroyo that “the invocation of emergency measures could trigger a review of US defense-related and other assistance to the Philippines.”

Arroyo’s Communist scare tactic to justify her use of emergency powers in 2006 was foiled by the US State Department.

President Rodrigo Duterte does not seem deterred by Arroyo’s failure to declare an “emergency situation” in the entire country using the old Communist threat ploy. He is using the same Communist bogey to justify what many believe to be his determination to declare martial law all over the land, especially now that more and more people are calling him out for the alarming rise in the number of extrajudicial killings, the soaring prices of basic goods and services, and his brazen persecution of his detractors.

In late September Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, revealed that Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison had hatched a plan to oust the President.

On Oct. 3, Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, revealed that 18 colleges and universities have been infiltrated by the Communist Party of the Philippines. He said that in line with the Red October plot to oust President Duterte, the CPP would be executing five plans, namely, “Supermarket,” “Casino,” “Tabasco,” “Bulldozer” and “Hades.”

According to him, under Supermarket, communist rebels will attack stations of the Philippine National Police and military detachments on the ground. Casino is aimed at military intelligence units. But last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Red October plot has been neutralized. “It’s no longer existent. It fizzled out because we uncovered and exposed it,” he said. I wonder if Uncle Sam had stayed Tatay Digong from declaring martial law.

A real threat to the country is the Islamic State. We need defense-related software and hardware assistance to keep the IS off our shores. Uncle Sam extended that assistance during the IS siege of Marawi City. Tatay Digong has to maintain good relations with Uncle Sam. To accomplish that he must dispel all thoughts of declaring martial law nationwide.


Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan!, a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.