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The Myths of Martial Law: Golden Era of the Dark Age

Merell Lystra Recta

“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
– Winston Churchill

Thirty years ago, a president once declared: “My countrymen, as of the 23rd of this month, I signed Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law.”

President Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr., the longest running president of Philippine history, and the dictator who pushed through in controlling the Philippines under his absolute power, can be considered as the most controversial personality in our history yet. Some sources claim that he staged a series of bombings and ambushes as justification for the declaration of Martial Law. Did that proclamation start the golden era of our existence?

No.

Martial Law still remains to be the darkest chapter in Philippine history. Many were wounded. Many were lost. A lot were tortured. The economic standing of our country also dropped. There were thousands of human rights violations. The dawn of Martial Law was hell, but what remains darker until now is the fact that the truth was never fully revealed.

On the 30th commemoration of Martial Law in the Philippines, let us take into account the past and reread our history. We must always seek the truth. What we might consider as the golden era, might not be that golden at all.

The Philippines lost years of development and was considered the “sick man” of Asia.

Although we had attained improvement in our economy during Marcos’ first term, that is not enough to support the claim which considers his presidency as the golden years of the Philippines. Based on data given by the Philippine Statistics Authority, we experienced the biggest decrease of income per person value yet, and it took us 21 years to recover from that loss. In fact, such decrease in our economic standing gave us the title of the “sick man of Asia”—a label associated with massive political corruption, unequal growth, and poverty.

The Philippines suffered under a debt crisis.

In just a span of five years from 1977-1982, our total debt amounted to 16 billion. On average, our external debt rose to 25 percent annually during those years. Even if borrowing money can spur growth, it requires meticulous planning as to how it can improve and promote the economy. The various infrastructures built during Marcos’ regime might have been the source of the rapid increase of our debt in the international market.

The Philippines had a decline in manufacturing and in employment.

A lot might claim that the Marcos era was an age of industrialization. But taking a closer look, it was actually focused in favor of his allies’ interests. His allies were given priority under his rule, which for them might have been their golden age. The decrease in our income growth also led to the stagnation of our manufacturing sector. Just like how a domino affects the other dominoes when it falls, the Filipinos also experienced a high rate of unemployment and underemployment—both of which contributed to a “brain drain,” or the massive increase of Filipinos working outside the country.

Freedom was caged once more.

Aside from economic constraints during Martial Law, the oppression of freedom was evident in the thousands of people who rebelled against the government, in the thousands of lives tortured and killed. Student activists were kept shut. Even the media was controlled by Marcos. Publish something bad against the government, and for sure your life will be ticking its clock. It was during this time that not a foreign conqueror caged our freedom.

Perhaps, we might not bother to care about it anymore. Our constitution even prohibits the occurrence of another declaration of Martial Law. But the segregation of the truth from myths must be emphasized. The golden era, as what some people claim, during Martial Law wasn’t actually golden at all. The surface might be golden as a reference to Marcos’ first term, but the second half was covered with darkness. It was the golden era of the Dark Age.

(with notes from www.rappler.com and http://www.gov.ph)

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