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Shannon Doyle - Blog Post 2: Never Again

Shannon Doyle - Blog Post 2: Never Again

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On September 21, 1972, the president of the country at the time, Ferdinand E. Marcos imposed martial law on the Philippines. Prior to this, Marcos was democratically elected in 1956 and 1969. After declaring martial law in 1972, halfway through his second term, he ruled the Philippines for over two decades. Marcos used the assassination of a government official and fears of a communist insurgency as a pretext for the declaration of military rule. In reality, civil unrest over many social issues began to be prominent in the country in the early 1970s. The declaration of martial law in 1972, Proclamation No. 1081, effectively resulted in the suspension of civil liberties and extreme human rights violations were committed during this time. Martial law remained in effect until January 17, 1981. Under martial law Marcos made a series of general proclamations restricting the rights and freedoms of Filipinos.

General Order 1: Marcos ordered that he would govern the entire government, including all agencies and instrumentalities, and exercise all powers of office, and appointed himself as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

General Order 2: Marcos made a list of individuals that he passed onto the Secretary of National Defence and ordered them to be arrested and held in custody until released by him or by his orders.

General Order 3: Marcos ordered that government offices, government owned corporations, and those in positions of government continue to function with the present officers and employees unless otherwise dictated by Marcos. 

General Order 4: Marcos imposed a daily curfew from 12 am to 4 am throughout the Philippines.  

General Order 5: Marcos proclaimed that all rallies, demonstrations, strikes and group actions in manufacturing and export companies, schools, universities and hospitals are prohibited. 

General Order 6: Marcos enforced that no person shall possess or carry a firearm outside of their house or inside. 

For almost ten years, the country suffered from poverty, corruption, and massive human rights abuses. There were many young activists at the time that protested martial law. In response to this, thousands of people were arrested, detained and tortured, with many spending long periods of time in detention camps. In November 1975, Amnesty International sent a mission to the Philippines to investigate, document, and report on the human rights situation, with a focus on those in detention. Marcos himself estimated that approximately 30,000 citizens had been arrested in the weeks following the declaration of martial law and by November 1975 he suggested that 50,000 had been arrested. In May 1975 it was estimated that 6000 people were currently in detention, although some claim that the actual number was larger than this. Amnesty International specifically focused on those detained without the right to a fair trial and on their current human rights situation. The report highlights numerous human rights abuses and indicates that seventy percent of those Amnesty International interviewed were brutally tortured, “The delegates’ unavoidable conclusion was that torture was used freely and with extreme cruelty, often over long periods. In particular, torture was used systematically against those who had no means of appeal to influential fiends or established institutions” (Amnesty International, 1975, p.10). The report suggest that those who evaded torture knew someone influential, or were foreigners, or women. The detailed accounts of torture in the report were stark and managed to capture a narrative filled with imagery of that time in history.  

It has been really interesting to see the lasting impact of martial law on the Philippines. People I work with, people I have made friends with, and people I only know in passing all have some personal story or some connection to the period of martial law in the Philippines. From the generation that was in their twenties, thirties, and forties when it occurred, the students, young people of the time and adults of the time, these stories involve social movements, arrest, detention, torture, missing people, and murder. From the generation that were children at the time - stories of whispers, secret houseguests, underground movements, and oblivion to the environment they were living in. 

My co-worker, who was in her twenties in the mid-1970s remembers the state-imposed curfews before she got involved in an underground movement. When she did get involved, she speaks of joining large-scale protests, secret meetings, running from the military, and living in a time that was both terrifying and exciting. Today, there is a strong sentiment in the Philippines that comes from this period and it is apparent through civil society and even young people today. Activism is alive and civil society organizations continue to be widespread and extremely lively in the Philippines today, and this is no doubt an implication of the country's past.