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EDITORIAL: Brazen Power Grab

In Philippines post World War II events, the issuance of Presidential Proclamation No. 1081 declaring Martial Law is the grandest political swindle. The late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos (FM) denied the Filipino people their right of suffrage supposed to be exercised during the constitutionally mandated presidential elections in 1973, pursuant to the 1935 Constitution, that would have given the electorate a chance to install a new president.

Under the 1935 Constitution, Marcos would have been barred for re-election given that Section 5, Article 7 (Executive Department) provides as follows: “ No person shall serve as President for more than eight consecutive years. The period of such service shall be counted from the date he shall have commenced to act as President. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of the service of the incumbent for the full term for which he was elected ”.

FM won overwhelmingly his first four year term in 1965. He ran for re-election in 1969 and posted a landslide victory. His second term therefore should have expired by 1973. Wily as he was, Marcos proclaimed Martial Law in 1972, well within his second term, so that the stand of some quarters that his having proclaimed Martial Law on September 21, 1972 was valid, given that his second consecutive 4 year term has not yet expired.

However, the brazen acumen of Marcos became pronounced when his term of office was supposed to have expired in 1973. As a cover up, Marcos invoked Article 7, Section 10, Paragraph 2 of the 1935 Constitution and in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines imposed military rule to “maintain law and order throughout the country, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all the laws and decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by him or upon his direction”.

Indeed, Proclamation No. 1081 (Proclaiming a State of Martial Law in the Philippines) was validly issued pursuant to the 1935 Constitution. The situation turned different, however, when Marcos’ legitimate occupancy of the presidency ended sometime in 1973. To circumvent the fundamental law, Marcos cleverly maneuvered in order that his continuous grip of the presidency, in a shameless manner, he cunningly made the people embrace a new Constitution in 1973, by way of false referendum, through the raising of hands by those present during barangay assemblies. He ruled by decrees, dissolved Congress, clamped down media establishments, and turned the Judiciary into a puppet as dramatized by a Chief Justice serving as umbrella boy of Imelda Marcos.

The people were duped in approving a new Constitution, which the late Fr. Joaquin Bernas (former Ateneo de Manila law school dean) questioned in his book entitled “An Idiot’s guide to the 1973 Constitution.”

Marcos was deposed sometime in 1986 through what is now known as the EDSA People Power Revolution. Mathematically therefore he brazenly grabbed power for over 14 years.

No amount of legal gobbledygook and even numerous infrastructures, the construction of which is highly questionable, can justify what may be considered a grand political swindle. Also, these projects were made possible out of loans which until now remain unpaid and already accumulated huge interest.

Furthermore, assuming without admitting that during the era of the conjugal dictatorship many projects had been completed, still the highly scandalous imposition of Martial Law beyond what the 1935 Constitution permitted, can never be morally justified, because the end does not justify the means.

The deceitful grounds cited in imposing Martial Law can never hide the fact that thousands of lives had been lost and many survivors have been deprived the golden moments of their lives. Their professional or entrepreneurial drive had been stunted, courtesy of the oppressive policies enforced during the dictatorship.

The golden era of cronyism with the oligarchs having a heyday via large loans, granted by a regime through the so-called marginal notes should never happen again. A wily dictator should never be worth emulating. Not even by his children.


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