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Remembering Martial Law

CENSORSHIP. MARTIAL LAW. UNFREEDOM. MARTIAL LAW. PRESS MONOPOLY. MARTIAL LAW.

45 years ago, the tyrant Mr. Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. It was the start of concentration of truth.

Let us remember the Press and the Weekly Sillimanian (tWS) during the early years of Martial Law.

The Weekly Sillimanian
In the evening of Sept. 21st 1972, the Editor-in-Chief ordered his staff to destroy the current issue that had the banner headline, “Martial Law looming?”

Dionisio Baseleres then ordered the burning of whatever materials in their office that might incriminate them as subversives.

That last pre-Martial Law issue’s editorial gave the following warning “…we are in for something disastrous. You have been warned. You already know what to do.”

Two days later, Sept. 23, tWS and the whole Silliman University were caught off guard when Martial Law, in Dionisio’s words, “descended upon us like a pall of gloom.”

Then they changed their headline to “MARTIAL LAW DECLARED!” Set in 72 points, Bodoni bold, all capitals.

However, the issue was never printed–even up to this day.

Early morning of the next day, the members of Philippine Constabulary barged into Dao Cottage, the dormitory for men varsity athletes.

Unable to find Baseleres, they ransacked his personal belongings ostensibly to look for subversive documents.

Succumbing to authority never entered Dionisio’s mind. Penniless and tired of running around, he decided to go home in Tagbilaran City in Bohol.

In order to go home, Dionisio disguised as a laborer at Dumaguete Pier. He managed to go up the gangplank of the boat bound for Tagbilaran undetected by PC soldiers.

A few days when he arrived home, Dionisio’s father received a notice from the military to advice his son to surrender.

Being the “second most wanted man in Negros Oriental,” Dionisio’s parents feared for his safety. But his father thought it was best for him to surrender and clear his name.

When he surrendered, Dionisio was held as a political detainee. He was imprisoned in a “stinky room” together with other college students and some members of the Silliman faculty.

They were even detained in same cells for criminal offenders.

They were interrogated for several days. After a month in detention, Dionisio was released from the stockade upon the intervention of Silliman University officials.

Dionisio was part of the 50, 000 people arrested in the first three years of Martial Law. 3, 257 murders, 35,000 torture cases and 70, 000 incarcerations.

tWS office never opened until three years later.

However, it was never the same again. Under martial law, it never spoke or published ill against the Marcos administration.

Philippine Press
Among the many atrocities during the Martial Law era was the silencing and the complete decapitation of all kinds of mass media outlets across the country.

In a few days of Martial Law, Marcos jailed top Manila journalists- Manila Times publisher Joaquin Roces and his top columnist, Max Soliven; Manila Chronicle publisher Eugenio Lopez and his editor, Amando Doronila; Philippines Free publisher-editor Teodoro M. Locsin and his top staff writer, Napoleon Rama; and Press Foundation of Asia joint executive Juan L. Mercado.

Some radio and TV stations were forcibly closed as well.

Writers and broadcasters who criticized the administration were incarcerated, tortured and even killed, never to be seen again.

No to censorship
Arguably, Martial Law was the darkest period for Philippine Mass Media. A period we wish not to happen again.

tWS hopes and prays for censorship of the press to never happen again.

The Filipinos need it now more than ever.

With the current Philippine setting marred by injustices, fake news and fear, the truth is our most potent weapon.

When the press is dead, so is hope and truth.

Never forget. Never again.

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