by Rigoberto Tiglao
For almost the entire period of martial law, Juan Ponce Enrile (now a senator), served officially as Martial Law administrator and Defense Secretary in charge of all the armed forces’ services during that time.
Fidel V. Ramos, who later became President of the Philippines, was director of both the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Integrated Police (PIP) during the Martial Law days. The two of them commanded the soldiers and police, who allegedly committed horrible human rights abuses during that regime.
But then we elected Ramos as President, and Enrile for five senate terms, didn’t we?
And now President Aquino says we shouldn’t elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for vice-president?
I’ve never heard of death squads directly under Marcos. If Enrile and Ramos weren’t in control of army and police killers and torturers, and even of the feared anti-Communist Gen. Rolando Abadilla, then why didn’t they resign early?
But would you really believe these two strong-willed men didn’t control the organizations under them?
If there were human rights abuses that President BS Aquino 3rd is now blaming Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for, they were undertaken by the armed forces under Enrile and by the PC under Ramos. In fact, I’ve never heard allegations of human rights violations by operatives of the National Intelligence Services Agency, the unit which the alleged Marcos factotum Gen. Fabian Ver headed.
Take my case. The arrest orders against me and my late wife, Raquel, were issued by Ramos, who was, would you believe, PC Chief from 1970 to 1986. It was the PC’s top anti-subversive unit, the 5th Constabulary Security Unit (which also captured Communist chief Jose Sison and most of the Party’s leaders) that arrested us, with one of their tall burly soldiers beating me up.
We were incarcerated for nearly two years, early 1973 to Christmas 1974, in Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio special prisons that were under the supervision of Martial Law administrator Enrile, so I should blame him for the scars of the boils I got on my body because of the malnutrition and unhygienic conditions in those prisons. In the end it was Enrile who officially ordered our release, “in the spirit of reconciliation and Christmas,” to quote the release order.
If human rights violations during Martial Law were as horrible as Aquino claims, then why did her mother Cory appoint Ramos first as her AFP Chief of Staff and then Defense Secretary?
Not only that, she suddenly turned around and fielded Ramos for the 1992 presidential race, and threw government resources behind him, abandoning the veteran anti-Marcos opposition leader Speaker Ramon Mitra, one of the first people along with her husband who were arrested by soldiers of the PC chief, hours after Martial Law was declared.
If the human rights violations during Martial Law were so horrible, Cory either set aside all moral decency and closed her eyes to these, or she was such an opportunist that she decided to use Ramos to defend her from the seven coup attempts against her, and then relied on him to watch her back when she stepped own from power.
Even if Ramos defected – really in the last “five minutes” of the dictatorship – and became an EDSA I hero, she could have just asked him to retire quietly as his way of apologizing for the alleged human rights abuses by his officers and soldiers. But he gave the former Marcos PC chief an entirely new and glorious career, as one of our best Presidents ever.
And if the human rights violations during Martial Law were so horrible, why did President Aquino, who had loyal supporters among the senators, allow Enrile to become Senate president, the second most powerful man in the country?
Honest with history
We need to be honest with our history, and not let it be hijacked by the Yellow Cult, especially by Aquino, who is using it for his political agenda – in the present case, to put down Marcos Jr. who is running as a vice presidential candidate, so the Palace VP bet Leni Robredo, a necro-politician like him, would win.
There were indisputably human rights violations during Martial Law, even the most despicable ones. Many of my close friends were killed by the military or the constabulary in their mid-twenties.
However, I would blame Communist chief Jose Ma. Sison for many of those deaths because he deployed those men who were barely out of their teens to foment unrest and revolt in the countryside, telling them that the masses had been roused to revolution because of Martial Law. They were very poorly armed, and were killed not even by the military but by police and militias who thought they were bandits.
There would always be such human rights violations whenever people in arms are given absolute authority, without the rule of law to check them.
There are sadists in any military organization: even the US armed forces, with all their huge legalistic apparatus and democratic values, couldn’t stop Drone operators from killing civilians in Iraq, and Guantanamo guards – even the females, would you believe? – from torturing their prisoners.
But there are also many soldiers, including the PC operatives who arrested us, in fact, who have been so scared to go into the battlefield, or undertake an arrest operation, that they needed to first get drunk or take drugs – to make them forget their human values.
There has never been any real, objective analysis of human rights violations during Martial Law, and all we’ve really heard is the propaganda of the Yellow Cult that resorts to demonizing the Marcos regime to cover up for its own corruption and inefficiency.
The important question to answer should be obvious, and Ramos and Enrile should tell us what they think happened:
Was there a policy of the Marcos regime to systematically kill the opposition and torture them? Or were the human rights abuses exceptional cases, aberrations, similar to cases of police brutality?
There are historians, for instance, who have concluded that Indonesia’s 31-year old strongman rule under Gen. Suharto implemented a plan to totally exterminate the Indonesian Communists, which got out of hand and resulted in the killing of 500,000 Indonesians, mostly Chinese.
The South Korean strongman, Gen. Park Chung Hee directly supervised the dreaded Korean Central Intelligence Agency, which was responsible for the abduction, torture and killing of opposition activists.
I’m sure Enrile and Ramos can tell us if there was such a policy or not. If indeed, there was such a policy, I don’t think these two would have allowed themselves to be its executioners.
What complicates an objective assessment of human rights violations during Martial Law is this, and most Filipinos aren’t aware of it: There were two internal bloody wars raging during the entire Martial Law period.
The first was the Republic against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which, with Libyan and Malaysian backing, was rallying the Muslims to fight for an independent state.
The second was the war declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the protracted people’s war as the rebel group called it, plagiarizing Mao Ze Dong – when it was established in 1969, before Martial Law. Even the CPP flag emphasized it: The hammer-and-sickle communist logo, with an AK-47 across it.
It wasn’t an empty threat of war. China was set to deliver 10,000 M-14 rifles to the NPA, which they especially manufactured solely for that purpose. The CPP bungled the first two deliveries so much that Mao Ze Dong aborted the plan. Communist chief Jose Sison, as early as 1971, was boasting that Isabela was becoming his Yenan.
The horrors of war
Out of the alleged killings, tortures and disappearances the Yellow Cult claims, how many of those were due to the horrors of war, when combatants lose their humanity because of their fear of death in an explosive mix, with feelings of absolute hatred against the perceived enemy?
Most of those killed and offered as proof of Martial Law’s human rights violations, and shamelessly used in Aquino’s carnival of horrors he calls the “People Power Experiential Museum,” were the first generation of cadres of the Communist Party who tried to sow revolution, unsuccessfully, all over the country.
This is simply because those who took up arms against Martial Law in its early years were either with the Communist Party or the MNLF. The Liberal Party and the Kumbaya-singing peaceniks like the Social Democrats, as well as the religious group-backed organizations such as Kasapi and Lakasdiwa, had turned tail and disappeared, terrified when Martial Law was imposed.
Even the able sons of Marcos’ archenemies – like Benigno S. Aquino 3rd and Manuel Roxas 2nd – chose to live quiet lives abroad. After finishing college in 1981, Aquino joined his father for an American-dream kind of life in Massachusetts.
Roxas studied at the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton, he says), and was looking to a Wall Street career, apparently oblivious of his country. He returned home only in 1993 when Mommy ordered him back when his elder brother died, since he was the only remaining son to continue his family’s political clout. (Too young to be involved? Most of the Communist cadres killed in the first years of Martial Law were in their teens and 20s.)
Only when the dictatorship started weakening in the 1980s did the non-Communist opposition – very few, however – took up arms against the Marcos regime.
Take the case of a former comrade who has been a poster boy for human rights violations during Martial Law. His tale goes: he was just a student activist and a writer in a student-newspaper when the 5th CSU operatives arrested and tortured him.
That’s true, and I sympathize with him, but the tale is only half the truth. That guy was a top Communist cadre, in charge of what was then called the “Explosives Movement” directly operating under the Politburo. That was the group in charge of manufacturing what are now called IEDs – improvised explosive devices.
Again, take my case. I can claim to be a human rights victim, that I was jailed for two years because I was student activist at the Ateneo and a labor organizer in factories in Marikina.
That’s true, but not the whole truth. I was a firebrand Communist, believing in my heart that only through the dictatorship of the proletariat could humanity end man’s exploitation of man. I headed the party’s organization in the metropolis when we were arrested.
We were also organizing the first armed urban guerillas called romantically the Armed City Partisans. While we were pathetic, really kids playing soldier with untested World War II vintage carbines and pistols, those units would later evolve in the 1980s as deadly assassination squads, called the Alex Boncayao Brigade.
I don’t like to be called a “human rights victim,” as that makes me look like a wimp and it is inauthentic. We were revolutionaries of that era, but we lost. If we had won, we would have put Ramos, Enrile and all the Marcoses – as well as the landlords like the Cojuangcos and Aquinos – in prison, or most likely in front of firing squads.
And if there were a proletarian heaven, my departed comrades peeking down at us would be so angry at being used by Aquino in his anti-Marcos propaganda and portrayed as pussies, “Martial Law victims”. They would prefer to be called Revolutionary Martyrs.
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