Opinion / Society and Politics

Plotting Martial Law

By Janina Lim|

Wanting an indefinite duration of a stronghold on power, Marcos deems the 1935 charter as an obstacle to the prospects of a third-year term, hence, the necessity for the Constitutional Convention. Hence, the necessity of martial law.

Martial law was undeniably plotted not for national interests but for Marcos’ own gains.

Oplan Sagittarius

It was said that the Oplan Sagittarius, the alleged blueprint of a “multi-faceted” operation, was planned as early as 1965, the year Marcos won the seat of his first term of presidency against President Diosdado Macapagal.

On September 13, 1972, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. delivered a speech divulging Oplan Sagittarius, a “constabulary operation” leaked to him through friends and relatives.

Author of the Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Primitivo Mijares, hints that the copies were carefully handed out to top military officers with the first letter of the surname in correspondent to the first letter of the zodiac name to which the copy would be entitled. Thus, it was plain easy to identify the source from which Ninoy took hold of his information.

The copy Sagittarius, Mijares wrote, belonged to the chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, General Marcos “Mark” Soliman. But the military officers, who though conceded that the ‘contingency’ operation was indeed a facade to keep the martial law plan in concealment, were not aware of this zodiac code and thus exposed them to carelessness in possessing the copies.

On April 18, 1973, Soliman’s body was found sprawled on his bathroom floor believed to have died from a heart attack. But to Mijares, “the truth is that he was shot dead by Metrocom troopers personally dispatched by President Marcos to arrest and detain him at Cramp Crame  for ‘tactical interrogation’ for the leakage of Oplan Sagittarius.”

Soliman was said to be denied of the last honors of a departed general by the armed forces.

Rolex 12, Omega 5

In a statement to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Tomas Diaz, then General Brigade of the first PC zone during the Marcos regime, confirmed that there was a Rolex 12. But before that, there was an Omega 5.

The Rolex 12, consisting of ten military officers and two civilians, was a group believed to be of twelve of Marcos’ closest advisers to whom he consulted regarding Martial Law.  Each member was believed to be given a Rolex watch by Marcos, hence the name of the group.

Diaz said that the round table the Rolex 12 had in July 1972 was to discuss the implementation of what the Omega 5 have gathered around for as early as 1970. Each of the five members of the group were believed to have received an Omega watch.

“Marcos was a very detailed man. He started preparing in 1970,” said Diaz in a phone interview with the Inquirer.

Martial Law for national order

On the night of September 22, 1972, Juan Ponce Enrile is ambushed. The next morning, martial law was implemented

“Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed near Wack-Wack at about 8:00 pm tonight. It was a good thing he was riding in his security car as a protective measure. This makes the martial law proclamation a necessity,” wrote Marcos in his diary entry dated on Sept 22, 1972 at 9:55pm.

It was said that on the night of September 22, 1986, a few days before the Marcoses fled the country, Enrile admitted the ambush to be staged to serve as a compelling threat necessary for the declaration of martial law. However, he denied his rumored admission in one of his memoirs, sardonically asking, “What would I have faked my ambush for? When it happened the military operation to impose martial law was already going on.”

Enrile said that the rumors were “ridiculous and preposterous.”

The First Quarter Storm in January 1970, the Plaza Miranda bombing (the cause of the elimination of the writ of the habeas corpus) in August 1971, the Enrile ambush, and almost all incidents that breached chaos in the society were blamed on the communists, hindering the progress of the country towards the ‘New Society.’

Linggoy Alcuaz, former activist during the Marcos regime, finds dubious the communist threats as Marcos’ reason for martial law.

With most members of the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas already detained in jail, founding chairman of Kabataang Makabayan, Jose Maria Sison, organized the Communist Party of the Philippines which merged with some members of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan as one organization named New People’s Army.

The communists, Alcuaz said, were miniscule in number to be capable of posing national threat.

The international support for Marcos

Derived from the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the 1935 constitution, barred the president from running for a third six-year term. But the law would turn topsy-turvy when Marcos gathered the Constitutional Convention in June 1971, replacing our 1935 charter, our US-government derived democracy to parliamentary in 1973, with a positive international recognition, including that of US President Richard Nixon.

It was the period of the Cold War. The US was invested in its interests in its proliferation and maintenance of its military bases and businesses across the globe. Marcos guaranteed them with protecting US property rights here in the Philippines, going beyond the boundaries of the law and defending the “rights” of foreigners to enter retailing and owning properties.

By giving property rights assurances to the US, Marcos was able to seek transitory financial aid. Despite the economic catastrophe in his administration, the Marcos regime was able to disguise itself in an illusion of lavishness and overflowing gold. The Marcoses only had money because they had the money to show, only to be discovered by the public in the end that the Philippines is plunged in a deep pit of financial arrears.

Right before Marcos was catapulted into presidency in 1962, the Philippines’ international debt was an estimate of 7 billion US$. When the Marcoses fled to the States in 1986, our debt came to more or less 25 billion US$.

In the book Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism, Albert F. Celoza wrote that the International Bank and the International Monetary Fund even “looked forward to funding another of the series of Pacific Basin economic miracles.”

But Marcos international gain was not only for national gain but of course for the purpose of succeeding to a third term. And martial law was a necessary action to the fulfillment of his victory.

As Alcuaz believed, even the Constitutional Convention was not enough for Marcos to win a third term. As former Senator Kit Tatad stated in recollecting the days he was cabinet member, “… who would oppose martial  law—unless you are on the other side?”

The morale of the dragon’s tale

Many of those in my generation applaud Ferdinand Marcos, saying he was the greatest president to ever tread our third-world soil.

I can never agree with them as much as I can never agree with Enrile painting a vibrant picture to the ‘New Society’ brought about by martial law. I can never understand how one can extol magnanimous praises to someone who threatened their freedom of expression—the very first victim of Proclamation 1081— due process, human rights, every right of a citizen of a democracy. Indeed, democracy never guaranteed a better life for us Filipinos. But so did the Marcos regime. So did martial law.

For one, however, Marcos was perhaps the greatest lawyer to have ever been told in the pages of our history books. Imagine someone topping the bar exam, while being detained in jail the whole time he was reviewing for the bar?

Undeniably, Marcos had an exceptionally great mind. He can fool around with the law. But he did not know how to run this country, thinking that his lies can be locked away from public scrutiny and condemnation in the midst of his strongman rule. But the Filipinos were meant to rise again. Or perhaps just fight the avarice of his dictatorship.

Let us never cease understanding the role of the Marcos regime as the dragon in this story, breathing the fires of greed down to this generation. Then perhaps, from the ashes of the corruptive legacies of martial law, we can redeem ourselves.

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