Friday, September 21, 2018

Did A Marcos Lie Today? (1)

"Of Course Imelda and I Denied It"

For Marcos loyalists and apologists, it was perfectly logical that Marcos would let in only a handful of trusted people into his plans to declare martial law. It was a necessary lie; part of springing the trap against the enemies of the Marcoses. Yet for the Filipinos, this was how the cloak was drawn before the conjugal dictatorship mercilessly stabbed the people in the back. 

Marcos played his martial law cards close to his chest. Yet not too close so as not to allow his main backer, the United States (US), a peek.

As the course of events will show, Marcos did not declare martial law to save the republic or to bring about a “new society.” It was all about his lust for power and on how he and his family and their ilk used this power to enrich themselves.

Just the Two of Us

If the martial law administrator Juan Ponce Enrile would be believed, the just re-elected president Ferdinand Marcos started planning for martial law in early December 1969 (Enrile 2012, 275-77). It started with Marcos asking Enrile to “study his powers under the commander-in-chief provisions of the [1935] Constitution” since Marcos “was foreseeing an escalation of violence and disorder in the country.” Marcos instructed Enrile that he may ask others to help him but they should conduct the study “discreetly and confidentially.” Enrile enlisted the help of two 1954 magna cum laude graduates from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, Efren Plana and Minerva Gonzaga-Reyes.

In late January 1970 Enrile submitted to Marcos a compendium bearing the result of the study. A week later, Marcos instructed Enrile “to prepare the documents to install martial law in the country.” Enrile claimed that, working alone (save for Simplicio Taguiam, Marcos’s private and confidential secretary who did the typing), it took him six months to complete what would eventually become Proclamation 1081.

As the First Quarter Storm raged in 1970, Marcos intimated to the US that he may resort to martial law.

Henry Kissinger, then US President Richard Nixon’s assistant for national security affairs, in a memorandum to the US president dated 7 February 1970, quoted US ambassador to the Philippines Henry Byroade’s conversation with Marcos. Byroade reported “a rambling conversation with a very distraught and unnerved President Marcos.” Kissinger mentioned that Marcos “wanted Byroade’s ‘active help’; Marcos said he might have to impose martial law, and wanted to know if Byroade would ‘stand behind him’.”

In response, “Byroade reacted cautiously to keep us from being drawn into this situation. He tried discreetly to suggest the need for social programs and land reform, and to head off drastic actions such as martial law.” In a marginal note, Nixon wrote that he “doubts this line’s effectiveness” (emphasis in the original).

You’re My Baby

Almost a year later, as related in a 15 January 1971 memorandum of conversation involving Nixon, Byroade, and John H. Holdridge, a member of Nixon’s National Security Council, Marcos now asked the White House, and not just Byroade, if the US would oppose or support his martial law plan.
Ambassador Byroade . . . at the end of his predeparture conversation with Marcos, Marcos had warned him that he might find it necessary to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and establish martial law in the city of Manila—unprecedented steps which had not been taken by any Philippine President since the late ‘40s during the Hukbalahap movement. What Marcos wanted to know was: in the event that he found it necessary to declare martial law in Manila, would the United States back him up, or would it work against him? Ambassador Byroade noted that he had promised Marcos he would bring back the President’s personal reply.

The President [Nixon] declared that he would “absolutely” back Marcos up, and “to the hilt” so long as what he was doing was to preserve the system against those who would destroy it in the name of liberty. The President [Nixon] indicated that he had telephoned Trudeau of Canada to express this same position. We would not support anyone who was trying to set himself up as a military dictator, but we would do everything we could to back a man who was trying to make the system work and to preserve order. Of course, we understood that Marcos would not be entirely motivated by national interests, but this was something which we had come to expect from Asian leaders. The important thing was to keep the Philippines from going down the tube, since we had a major interest in the success or failure of the Philippine system. Whatever happens, the Philippines was our baby.
In late May 1972, Byroade had another conversation with Marcos that he reported to the US State Department. And again, Macros “talked of the ‘great upsurge of communist insurgency threat in the country,’ adding that ‘he might have to reinstate martial law. He asked again if we would support him or at least not oppose him.’ To this, Byroade said that he ‘mumbled that our position on that had not changed, but added the hope that he would not find such a move necessary as I thought it would clearly at this time tear the nation apart into opposing factions.’” (In using “reinstate” Byroade may have erred in his report. Unless, of course, he and Marcos were referring to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus that Marcos did in response to the 21 August 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing.)

But as September 1972 neared, Marcos became coy. In a lengthy 15 September 1972 telegram to the US State Department, Byroade related that a day before he sent the telegram he asked Marcos “if he were about to surprise us with a declaration of martial law.”
He said no, not under present circumstances. He said he would not hesitate at all in doing so if the terrorist stepped up their activities further, and to a new stage. He said that if a part of Manila were burned, a top official of his Government, or foreign ambassador, assassinated or kidnapped, then he would act very promptly. He said that he questioned Communist capability to move things to such a stage just now . . .

Suspicious Minds

Yet in public, Marcos was saying the exact opposite of what he told Byroade. In the Notes on the New Society of the Philippines—ostensibly by Marcos but actually written by writer-bureaucrat Adrian Cristobal (see Reyes 2018)—first published in 1973, “Marcos” said,
So, on the long night of Sunday, 17 September 1972, it became quite clear to me that the rightist conspiracy and the communist rebellion had almost succeeded in rendering the government impotent to meet any crisis, that in fact this unholy combination, if given just the shortest time, would pronounce the death sentence on the Republic.

At the end of that September vigil, during which I exhausted all possibilities in my mind, I found my duty—and the responsibility for the nation’s destiny—forced on me by historical circumstances (“Marcos” 1973, 34)
It was a game played by the suspicious with the duplicitous. And Byroade was clear-eyed on how it was done: “My own attitude is that, if Marcos can keep his fingers crossed behind his back while making agreements with us, so can we.”

According to journalists Raymond Bonner (1987) and Stanley Karnow (1989), the American ambassador through a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) mole in Marcos’s inner circle, obtained a copy of the martial law proclamation on 19 September 1972. This was just a day after Marcos claimed in his diary that they had finalized the plans for the proclamation of martial law.

The following day, 20 September 1972, Byroade met with Marcos. In a 21 September 1972 telegram to the US State Department, Byroade said, “Marcos . . . had made no decision to move towards martial law, and he had never considered anything beyond that, such as military rule. He did admit, however, that planning for martial law was at an advanced state.” At the end of the telegram Byroade admitted that he was unsure if he “succeeded in at least postponing new developments.”

What partly informed Marcos’s hesitation was the fact that Congress was then in session.
President Marcos was waiting for Congress to adjourn sine die . . . on Friday, September 22, 1972. It was for that reason that he had not acted on the declaration of martial law. President Marcos wanted Congress to adjourn first before he would proclaim martial law in the country. He wanted to avoid any resistance from Congress once he declared martial law in the country. (Enrile 2012, 377)
But Congress did not adjourn. And Marcos was right in his sense that there could be resistance. But it was a puny one.
[A] few days after the declaration of martial law, a bipartisan caucus of congressmen and senators was held in the cell of Benigno Aquino, Jr., who had already been arrested and detained in Camp Crame. The caucus deliberated on convening a special session of Congress to declare Presidential Decree 1081, null and void. Aquino’s cell was, of course, bugged; the following day, soldiers secured the legislative building and dismantle the offices, carting away equipment, tables, and chairs. The legislative building was turned into the National Museum. (Daroy 1988, 24)
The inquisitive press was what alarmed Enrile that he eventually advised Marcos that they should put in effect what they have long planned. The press was getting more dogged in pursuing the story of a possible martial law declaration after then Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. made his expose about Oplan Sagittarius on 15 September 1972, a plan for martial law which was leaked to him by sources from the Armed Forces. In fact Aquino first brought the information to the US embassy on 12 September 1972 before making it public. US Ambassador Byroade did not believe Aquino (Karnow 1989, 359).

I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight

Since the start of 1972, talks of martial law abounded in the chattering class of Manila. It finally descended and exacted its vengeance on Marcos’s enemies in the evening of 22 September until the early morning of 23 September. With his critics in jail and the press silenced, Marcos addressed the nation on radio and tv in the early evening of 23 September.
My countrymen, as of the 21st of this month, I signed Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire Philippines under martial law. This proclamation was to be implemented upon my clearance and clearance was granted 9 o’clock in the evening of the 22nd, last night.
He let Francisco “Kit” Tatad, his press secretary read the martial law proclamation.

But when exactly did Marcos sign Proclamation 1081?

Enrile, in his memoir, seems to have a definitive answer.
Maj. Roland Pattugalan arrived in my office a little before six o’clock in the afternoon [22 September 1972] . . . He brought with him three large sealed brown envelopes and delivered them to me. I opened the enveloped in his presence.

The first envelope contained Proclamation No. 1081. This document proclaimed martial law throughout the country. The second envelope contained seven General Orders. The third envelope contained seven Letters of Instructions. All the documents had the signature of President Marcos and carried the seal of his office. (Enrile 2012, 378)
But as is ever true with Enrile, he is a master in giving lies a patina of truth. What he wrote in his memoir contradicts what Marcos wrote in his diary on the same date.
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. His first car which he usually uses was the one riddled by bullets from a car parked in ambush.
He is now at his DND office. I have advised him to stay there.
And I have doubled the security of Imelda in the Nayon Pilipino where she is giving dinner to the UPI and AP as well as other wire services.
This makes the martial law proclamation a necessity.
Why was Marcos saying that the proclamation was then a necessity, that it must be done—not that it was done—when Enrile claims that before his supposed ambush, he had already set in motion Marcos’s martial law plans?

For Enrile, self-serving as ever, it was to allow him to walk back his confession during the February 1986 EDSA Revolution that his ambush was faked.
Why would I have faked my ambush for? When it happened, the military operation to impose martial law was already going on. I had already delivered Proclamation No. 1081 and all the General Orders and Letters of Instructions to the military leaders. I had already ordered them to proceed with the military operation that carried out the orders of President Marcos to place the entire country under martial law . . . . I honestly did not know why Marcos suddenly decided to cite my ambush in justifying the declaration of martial law when he made his public statement on September 23. There was absolutely no need for it. (Enrile 2012, 380–81)
The latest event mentioned in Proclamation 1081 is the 18 September 1972 Quezon City Hall bombing. If Enrile’s ambush on September 22 really was pivotal to the declaration of martial law, as is often claimed, then one would think that Marcos would have mentioned it in his proclamation. Though if it truly was important, it is odd that it was not mentioned at all in Marcos’s radio-tv address on 23 September.

All For Show

But highlighting the ambush makes sense if one would recall what Marcos told the American ambassador more than a week before martial law was declared. Marcos told Byroade that he would declare martial law if “a top official of his Government, or foreign ambassador, [was] assassinated or kidnapped, then he would act very promptly.”

In the CIA’s daily brief for Nixon on 23 September 1972 there was almost a hint of admiration for what Marcos had done, that “Marcos carefully orchestrated the move well in advance.”

What is clear, despite the contradictions among these accounts and texts, is that Marcos was ready to declare martial law before 21 September 1972, and outright lied about it in public.

One can argue that Marcos and his inner circle did so because imposing and implementing martial law was a national security concern; they did not want the people they eventually apprehended beginning 22 September 1972 to hide or flee, or for violence to escalate. But was such subterfuge truly necessary? Did not the military already have the power to arrest suspected subversives during that time even without a martial law decree, as they did when they rounded up dozens of student activists in Manila on 17 September 1972 (Villa 1972; De Vera 1972)? Did not everyone concerned (such as Ninoy Aquino) believe that Marcos was going to declare martial law in any case, but did not hide or flee anyway?

What did Marcos accomplish by making it appear that martial law was not contemplated, but was actually being thoroughly readied behind the scenes, later revealing that he had been planning to declare martial law at least as early as September 17? Did Marcos want to make it appear that he was a master strategist? Was the delayed announcement to the public actually related to optics more than anything else?

If that was the intent, then at least Marcos succeeded on one person: Ambassador Byroade. “This man Marcos is a chess player, par excellence,” Byroade conceded after his rope-a-dope with Marcos on the imposition of martial law.

But forty-six years after the fact, what we have is a cautionary tale of brilliance gone wrong, of diplomatic maneuvers seemingly in pursuit of national interests, of order and progress, only to be revealed as brazen efforts to kowtow to a dictator and deprive a generation of a future that they could have deserved.



Bonner, Raymond. 1987. Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy. New York: Times Books. 

Daroy, Petronilo Bn. 1988. “On the Eve of Dictatorship and Revolution.” In Dictatorship and Revolution: Roots of People’s Power, edited by Aurora Javate-de Dios, Petronilo Bn. Daroy, and Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, 1-25. Manila: Conspectus.

De Vera, Jose. 1972. “51 Held in AFP Mass Arrests.” Manila Bulletin, September 18, 1, 22.

Enrile, Juan Ponce. 2012. Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir. Edited by Nelson A. Navarro. Quezon City: ABS-CBN Publishing, Inc.

Karnow, Stanley. 1989. In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. New York: Random House.

“Marcos, Ferdinand.” 1973. Notes on the New Society of the Philippines. N.p.: The author.

Reyes, Miguel Paolo P. 2018. “Producing Ferdinand E. Marcos, the Scholarly Author.” Philippine Studies 66, 2: 173–218.

Villa, Rodrigo L. Jr. 1972. “Troopers Arrest 48 in Raids.” Manila Times, September 18, 1, 13.