By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
Chief Political Consultant, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Contribution to Martial Law @ 40: Paggunita at Panata
Arts & Sciences, U.P. Diliman, September 18, 2012
September 21, the formal date of the proclamation of martial law forty years ago, reminds us of the Marcos fascist dictatorship that the Filipino nation had to suffer for 14 long years until 1986. In our commemoration, we honor the people and all the martyrs and heroes for their resolute and courageous struggle against the dictatorship.
We reflect on the rise and fall of this dictatorship and on the causes and consequences up to the present, in order to know what we as a nation have achieved and how much more we need to do in order to complete the people´s struggle for national freedom and democracy.
Causes of the Rise of the Marcos Fascist Dictatorship
The two biggest causes of the Marcos fascist dictatorship chronologically were firstly the objective conditions and chronic crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and secondly the subjective factor, Marcos´ overweening ambition to perpetuate himself in power.
Marcos calculated that the US imperialists would allow him to stay in power for so long as he served their economic, political, military and cultural interests: and so long as he acted to suppress the patriotic and progressive forces demanding national independence and democracy. Marcos used to his advantage the making of a new constitution in order to do away with the limit of two consecutive four-year terms for the presidency.
From 1969 to 1972, Marcos demonstrated his propensity for violence against the workers, peasants and youth. He viciously attacked the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and carried out a series of massacres in Tarlac (in the barrios of Culatingan, Sta. Rosa, Sta. Lucia, etc). He and his ruling clique perpetrated the Plaza Miranda bombing of August 21, 1971 and yet within a few hours and without any investigation he immediately scapegoated his arch political rival Benigno Aquino and the New People´s Army (NPA) and declared the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971. This suspension of the writ was the dress rehearsal for the premeditated proclamation of martial law in 1972.
The biggest lie in Marcos´ martial law proclamation was the exaggeration that the NPA had an armed strength of 10,000 rifles. There were no more than 400 rifles at that time. But Marcos excelled at conjuring the illusion of communists, separatists and anarchists threatening the ruling system and giving cause to his slogan of “save the republic and build a new society.”
Struggle Against Fascist Dictatorship
From the proclamation of martial law in 1972 onwards, the CPP, NPA, NDF and other revolutionary forces were the most outstanding in fighting the Marcos fascist dictatorship. They grew in strength and advanced in all regions of the country, even as they paid a heavy price for their victories with daily hard work, militant struggle, terrible risks and bitter sacrifices.
They were the most to suffer such criminal acts of the fascist regime as abductions, forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. But they inspired and assured the people that the overwhelming power of the dictatorship was being opposed effectively by the armed struggle in the countryside and the revolutionary urban underground.
Among those who dared to fight the dictatorship and join the NPA were the best and brightest youth and students at the time. These included Edgar Jopson, Gregorio Rosal, Lorena Barros and Maita Gomez, to name a few among the thousands upon thousands of young men and women who took up arms against the dictatorship.
Many of the oppositionists and critics were fearless and fought Marcos. He imprisoned and persecuted those whom he regarded as most dangerous to the stability of his autocratic rule. The Marcos regime was also confronted by the armed Bangsa Moro secessionist movement led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). After Cardinal Sin succeeded Cardinal Santos, the Catholic hierarchy listened to complaints of human rights violations and demanded that justice be rendered.
The US government supported and prolonged the Marcos fascist dictatorship for as long as it served US interests and remained more of an asset than a liability. The retention of US military bases in the Philippines, the enlargement of privileges for US investments and the prerogative of US corporations to hold land and exploit natural resources were reasons for the US to provide economic and military aid to the fascist regime.
Causes of the Fall of the Dictatorship
The Marcos fascist dictatorship became isolated and hated by the people because of the worsening conditions of exploitation and oppression. From the time of the Aquino assassination to the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, the broad masses of the Filipino people rose up in rapidly growing numbers in both urban and rural areas.
The continuing advance of the people´s war led by the CPP was a major cause of and compelling factor for the US decision to get rid of Marcos. As in the earlier overthrow of Duvalier, the US carried put the plan to push Marcos to call for a snap presidential election and then to accuse him of cheating in order to pave the way for his overthrow through a mutiny and paralysis of the reactionary armed forces; and through mass actions.
Immediately after the sham results of the snap presidential election, the CPP ran ahead of all forces in denouncing the results and calling for people´s uprisings, contrary to latter-day claims that the CPP was paralyzed by its boycott policy in the elections. Only subsequently, after several days, did Cory Aquino call for civil disobedience.
The third powerful blow that fell on the head of Marcos came from the Catholic bishops who, in their pastoral letter, denounced the Marcos regime as immoral and illegitimate. Then, the Reform the AFP Movement (RAM) launched its failed coup attempt. But Cardinall Sin called on the people to go to EDSA highway to support the military mutineers and frustrate the anticipated military offensive of Marcos.
During the last few days of the life of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, BAYAN and other forces of the national movement contributed large numbers of people to converge on EDSA. In front of Malacañang Palace, 85 per cent of the thousands upon thousands of people were mobilized by the KMU and LFS. In the provinces, BAYAN was the dominant force in organizing the mass actions.
Consequences Up to the Present
The people´s struggle was strong to overthrow the Marcos fascist dictatorship but not yet the entire semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system. Thus, the brazen fascist dictatorship has been succeeded by a series of regimes representative of the big compradors and landlords and still subservient to US imperialism.
The fall of the dictatorship in 1986 did not result in the national and social liberation of the Filipino people. Therefore, the perseverance of the revolutionary movement remains valid and just against the persistence of the reactionary ruling system under US hegemony.
As the crisis of the world capitalist system and the ruling system worsens, the reactionaries continue to engage in a bitter struggle for power and bureaucratic loot among themselves. As the Filipino people suffer more exploitation and oppression, more poverty and misery, they are driven to intensify and advance their revolutionary struggle for national liberation, democracy, development through national industrialization and genuine land reform, social justice and world peace.###