Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #35 The Bogus Anniversary

I’ve already covered much of Marcos, the man, in Issue #33. The days September 21 (still commonly commemorated as the anniversary of martial law) to September 23 (the real anniversary) call for reflection. I had an interesting variety of interactions yesterday: one, an academic lecture in which I was a reactor with a contrary point of view to the lecturer’s, the other, a discussion on TV on the Marcoses, martial law and the rehabilitation and restoration schemes of the Marcoses.

Wonderful editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday and rather gratifying, personally:

The bogus anniversary | Inquirer

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:09 AM September 21, 2021

The anniversary of the declaration of martial law is on September 23 (not September 21).’’

That’s the opening line of the Official Gazette, the official journal of the Republic of the Philippines, in its account of the 1972 declaration of martial law by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Anyone wanting to have the authoritative word on the issue need only to read this official record of the events surrounding the darkest period in the country’s life, which corrects the lies perpetrated by Marcos to suit his own version of history.

Inquirer columnist and historian Manuel “Manolo’’ Quezon III, former undersecretary at the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office — the agency that maintained the Official Gazette during the term of President Benigno Aquino III — has painstakingly pointed out that marking the martial law anniversary on this day is not only erroneous, but also helps perpetuate Marcos’ plan to fake history for his benefit.

“The moment you commemorate martial law on Sept. 21, Marcos wins,’’ Quezon wrote in his column on this day in 2018. In 2019, he added: “By altering the date, Marcos helped erase not only Sept. 21 as the last day of freedom, but also how that freedom was lost between Sept. 22 and 23. A piece of backdated paper became the instrument for national amnesia.”

By all accounts, Marcos chose Sept. 21, 1972 as the official date for Proclamation №1081, which placed the country under martial law, because of his belief in 7 as his lucky number. Since 21 was divisible by 7, Sept. 21 was deemed the more auspicious date compared to Sept. 23.

But the proclamation itself was done on Sept. 23. Per the Official Gazette’s timeline of events, democracy was still functioning in the Philippines on Sept. 21. Opposition Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. was still able to deliver a privilege speech in the Senate, the Senate and the House were still in session until Sept. 23, and a protest march of the Concerned Christians for Civil Liberties was attended by 30,000 civic, religious, labor, student, and activist groups in Plaza Miranda.

On that day, wrote Quezon, the northern bloc of congressmen went to the Palace to ask Marcos if martial law would be declared in 48 hours. The US ambassador also visited Marcos to ask the same thing.

On the evening of Sept. 22, the fake ambush on the convoy of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile was staged to justify martial law, with Marcos writing in his diary that this “makes the martial law proclamation a necessity.’’ (Enrile confessed to the sham ambush during the Edsa People Power Revolution in 1986.)

Marcos then appeared on television on Sept. 23 at 7:15 p.m. to announce that he had placed the country under martial law as of 9 p.m. of Sept. 22, by virtue of Proclamation 1081 which he said he signed on Sept. 21. Later, he would tell different sources different dates for the actual signing of the document.

In the first hours of martial law, up to 400 opposition leaders and journalists were rounded up and arrested. People woke up that day to find that television and mass media had been shut down, flights cancelled, and incoming overseas calls banned.

Marcos built up the “cult of September 21” to memorialize the date of the foundation of his New Society, said the Official Gazette, by further proclaiming it as a national thanksgiving day. “The propaganda effort was so successful that up to the present, many Filipinos — particularly those who did not live through the events of September 23, 1972 — labor under the misapprehension that martial law was proclaimed on September 21, 1972. It was not.’’

To know what happened — or did not happen — on this day 49 years ago is to reject the revisionism that Marcos engineered right from the start, and which operates with impunity even more so today. To remember is to denounce the return to power of the dictator’s family through their minions who have propped them up — beginning with the burial of the dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani as political payback by the incumbent President, to other high-ranking officials using their office to support the losing vice presidential bid of a Marcos scion.

To remember is also to reject the attempts of those in power now to use the dictator’s playbook by clamping down on critical voices, trampling on the independence of democratic institutions, violating due process and human rights in the conduct of a drug war, attempting a coverup of what appears to be the shocking pillage of public funds by presidential cronies, and not least, maneuvering to hold on to power as the curtain closes down on the current regime.

We remember the bogus anniversary of Sept. 21, 1972 that was foisted on the country, and the dark days and deadly nights that began two days later, so that we as a nation will not forget how a leader bastardized his oath, plundered the country, and betrayed his people. We remember, so we can recommit to that vow: Never again.

Counterpoint: the case for September 22.

More like, Sept 22 #MartialLaw —

Signed on the 21st, ordered implemented on the 22nd, announced on the 23rd. Marcos would celebrate it on the 21st and we continue to mark it as the September day when Martial Law was declared, even as Manolo Quezon in “Declaration of Martial Law” insists on the 23rd as the correct date:

… the actual date for Martial Law was not the numerologically-auspicious (for Marcos) 21st, but rather, the moment that Martial Law was put into full effect, which was after the nationwide address of Ferdinand Marcos as far as the nation was concerned: September 23, 1972. By then, personalities considered threats to Marcos (Senators Benigno S. Aquino Jr., Jose Diokno, Francisco Rodrigo and Ramon Mitra Jr., and members of the media such as Joaquin Roces, Teodoro Locsin Sr., Maximo Soliven and Amando Doronila) had already been rounded up, starting with the arrest of Senator Aquino at midnight on September 22, and going into the early morning hours of September 23, when 100 of the 400 personalities targeted for arrest were already detained in Camp Crame by 4 a.m. [Undated. Official Gazette.]

But Ninoy Aquino, who was arrested close to midnight of the 22nd, noted it as the day Marcos went totalitarian.

NINOY. On September 22, 1972, Mr. Marcos established a totalitarian regime. On that fateful day, he proclaimed himself dictator. He issued General Order №1 in which he proclaims that: “I shall govern the nation and direct the operation of the entire government, including all its agencies and instrumentalities, and shall exercise all the powers and prerogatives appurtenant and incident to my position as … Commander-in-Chief of all Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

He placed his acts beyond the reach of the courts. In General Order №3, issued that September 22, 1972, Mr. Marcos decreed that “the Judiciary shall continue to function in accordance with its present organization and personnel, and shall try and decide in accordance with existing laws all criminal and civil cases, except the following: Those involving the validity, legality or constitutionality of any decree, order, or acts issued, promulgated or performed by me or by my duly designated representative purusant to Proclamation 1081, dated September 21, 1972.”

On the same September 22, 1972, Mr. Marcos killed press freedom in the Philippines. In his Martial Law Letter of Instruction №1, he ordered the secretaries of information and national defense “to take over and control or cause the taking over of all such newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media of communications, wherever they are, for the duration of the present national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by me or by my duly designated representative.”

This tore away — in one stroke of the Marcos pen — the constitutional shield that safeguarded press freedom.

Freedom of the press, as we knew it — the people’s right to know, the very bedrock of democracy — died with that martial law LOI #1. The independent Manila Times and its sister publications, echo chambers of the people’s sentiments since the early American colonial rule, and the weekly magazine Philippines Free Press, always fearless and historically an unpleasant thorn in the side of those who governed, were closed by the martial law Brown Shirts at midnight September 22, the first day of the Marcos martial rule.

Also on September 22, 1972, Mr. Marcos dealt the common people’s freedom a series of mortal blows. Organized labor was singled out for the most devastating blow. He outlawed strikes, the only potent weapon in the puny arsenal of the workingman, and, as for the rest of the populace, he decreed as “strictly prohibited” any and all rallies, any and all demonstrations, any and all “other forms of group action” — under pain, for violators, of arrest and incarceration “for the duration of the national emergency” in General Order №5. [Testimony from a Prison Cell. 1984. pp 43–48]

The writer and editor Gregorio C. Brillantes in “Brief History of Martial Law” is also quite certain about the 22nd.

It was not September 21, but September 22, 1972, that signaled the actual start of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law regime. To be exact, 9:11 p.m. on that day 17 years ago … and the exact hour of the commencement of that infamy, are provided us by I.M. Escolastico, our friend and press brod of long standing (though he prefers to take things sitting down). … Ticong cites as his primary source or authority for the martial law data no less than the extraordinary author of Proclamation 1081: Ferdinand Edralin (Ferdie, Andy, Apo, Tuta, Hitler) Marcos, who in 1980 or eight years after the event found the gall, cost, and ghost to write, in Notes on the New Society, now mercifully out of print, that “the instrument ‘Proclaiming a State of Martial Law in the Philippines’ had been signed on the 21st of September and transmitted to the Defense Authorities for implementation … clearance for which was given at 9:00 p.m., 22nd of September, after the ambush of Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile at 8:10 p.m. at Wack Wack Subdivision, Mandaluyong, Rizal.” [Esquire Magazine. Sept 21 2017. ]

And so is journalist Sol Jose Vanzi in “Little known events of dark September, 1972 come to light.”

On the evening of September 22, 1972, I watched the discreet unloading from military trucks of armed men in uniform at major intersections in Metro Manila. An unusually large number of police patrol cars roamed the streets. Overhead, helicopters were circling the city.

I knew Philippine military choppers were not certified for night flight. It was too dark so see any markings that would identify the aircraft. I sensed something big was happening, something that political observers had been talking about for years but never really expected to see: martial law had been imposed.

To confirm my suspicions, I phoned the Manila Times switchboard and got a curt military-sounding male; the same thing happened when I tried the office of Vic Maliwanag, Manila Bureau Chief of United Press International, then the world’s leading news agency.

All TV stations were off the air, save for KBS (Benedicto-owned Kanlaon Broadcasting System) which was showing cartoons. Privately-owned radio stations were likewise silent; government radio stations Voice of the Philippines and PBS were playing nothing but old songs. [Manila Bulletin. Sept 21 2020. ]

Birthdays and anniversaries are all about the beginning, not the “full effect” of some stage of implementation. It doesn’t matter that Marcos disclosed the declaration of martial law only a day later, on the 23rd. It doesn’t matter when, what date, a birth is announced. What matters, what is marked and remembered, is the beginning, the birthday itself, the starting point. By most accounts this was an hour or so after JPE was ambushed kunó by communists kunó the evening of September 22 1972. #NeverAgain

The era from two different angles

Last night on Christian Esguerra’s show, Neri Colmenares and I discussed September 23 as the real date of martial law, and Neri gave chilling testimony of his torture as a student activist. We also discussed Marcosian revisionism and their dreams of a restoration.

Eariler in the day, I was the reactor to Dr. Benjamin Vallejo’s lecture on Marcos, the New Society, and Science. My portion can be found at 48:00 onwards. An interesting exchange of ideas. Needless to say my views differed from my friend, the presenter’s.

Papers: Picture of days leading to Martial Law

What happened: September 21–24 in newspapers. Pictures of newspaper front pages from Richard Wilhelm Beltran Ragodon. Why Marcos wanted you to forget what was actually happening.

September 21, 1972:

With events from the day before. The Times was critical of, the Daily Express supportive of, Marcos.

From Communication Media in the Philippines: 1521–1986 by Florangel Rosario-Braid and Ramon R. Tuazon:

Aside from being allied with business complexes, some of these newspapers had control and interest in other media particularly ra- dio and television. Manila Chronicle then owned about thirty radio stations and television channels, Manila Times had at least four radio stations and two television stations,

An interesting dissertation by Artemio Guillermo says this of this paper:

Taliba, which means “Sentinel,” is a Tagalog daily newspaper which traces its beginnings to pre-World War II days. In competition with English-language newspapers (which, oddly enjoyed greater prestige and invariably had bigger circulation), Taliba and two other Tagalog newspapers were put out by editors and writers who were essentially literary men. Up to 1966 Taliba had a circulation of only 19,000 and 21,000 daily and an income from advertising which was consistently declining. As 1966 drew to a close [the executive editor] was given the responsibility of making a study of Taliba’s prospects and finding out what might be done to rehabilitate it.

In 1967, with the full and enthusiastic cooperation of management, Taliba’s staff began an experiment which eventually resulted in the emergence of a new Tagalog paper — new in its physical appearance, new in its development of the news and new in its language. The experiment threw the gates of communication wide open and brought in an amazingly substantial body of readers, which apparently all these years had lain quiescent. For years it had read no newspapers, since no newspaper that spoke its language was published. During 1969 Taliba’s two daily editions grew to a combined average of 161,000, with a peak of 200,000.

September 22, 1972:

What actually took place on September 21. It wasn’t martial law.

September 23, 1972: The last issues of papers that were closed down.

An interesting excerpt from The Philippine press under martial law by John A. Lent:

A group of journalists were at Manila Airport at about 3 a.m. on 23 September, 1972, awaiting a flight south, when they noticed that planes from the night before had not departed and that the news-stands were devoid of newspapers. Telephoning contacts in the city, they discovered that Marcos had declared martial law during the night.

Meanwhile authorities went to the home of Joaquin Roces, venerable publisher of the Manila Times group of newspapers, at 2.30 a.m. that morning with specific orders to arrest Roces immediately. The troops ordered him to come out or they would shoot down his door. The publisher was not home, but when contacted by his wife, voluntarily turned himself in to the police.

News director Ronnie Nathanielsz, according to a UPI dispatch, was waiting anxiously for 2 a.m. to inform his DZHP radio audience that Senator Benigno Aquino had been arrested by government troops. But he never did go on the air. Troops in camouflage uniforms entered his studio just before 2 a.m., ‘ politely told everyone to go home and sealed the doors with masking tape’.

That same morning, soldiers arrived at the Eagle Broadcasting studios, owned by the Iglesia ng Kristo church, to serve a copy of the presidential decree declaring martial law on them. The station’s guards resisted and opened fire, killing about nine soldiers. The military returned with additional arms and killed nearly a dozen Eagle guards before serving the decree. This incident was not reported in any of the media, foreign or domestic.

Such were the ways in which media personnel learned of the blow the Marcos government had inflicted on the Philippine press

September 24, 1972: Reporting the imposition of martial law the day before.

Again, from The Philippine press under martial law by John A. Lent::

Citing the media as a prime enemy and target, Marcos wasted very little time. Without warning, police walked into newspaper offices and broadcasting studios, ordered staff members to leave and posted announcements stating: ‘ This building is closed and sealed and placed under military control.’ They were operating under a letter of instruction from the President to the press secretary and national defence secretary. In that letter, dated 22 September, 1972, the President ordered that all media of communication be taken over for the duration of the national emergency. Such drastic action was rationalised by one military official as necessary to prevent subversives from being warned about operations to pick them up. Thus by daybreak on 23 September he had wiped out the entire news media of the Philippines in a fashion reminiscent of the Japanese occupation of the 1940s. All he exempted was his own Daily Express, his KBS radio station and a few others of his supporters.

Later on 23 September, when the media sanctioned by Marcos were allowed to resume, it was only to enable the President to inform the people — a t last-of his martial law decision. He did this at 7.17 p.m. on 23 September, over a special national radio-TV network. Actually, Marcos was due to speak to the nation at noon; when he failed to do so, his time was allocated to a cartoon, using American voices, which depicted a character carrying a big stick. Whether intentionally or not, this television cartoon spoke realistically of what was on the way in the Philippines.

During the first 48 hours of martial law, the one television station, the English-language Daily Express and three radio stations operating in the country played up the full texts of the decrees, presidential speeches, general orders and information on ‘ a unique day in history’, when no crimes were officially reported. The three radio stations devoted their programming to horseracing, Marcos speeches or continuous music. By 26 September, four or five radio stations were permitted to operate, this out of a pre-martial law total of well over 200. Additionally, the Philippines Herald was granted approval to publish during the initial week, but a strike that had been called the night before martial law prevented it from ever making a reappearance. Furthermore it was also affected by martial law stipulations that the media should not be adjuncts of other business houses, for the Herald was owned by the large Soriano business empire.

Postscript, also from The Philippine press under martial law by John A. Lent:

On 26 September, an announcement by executive secretary Alejandro Melchor sealed the fate of a number of papers. Melchor said some papers would never resume, claiming Manila had too many dailies (fifteen in pre-martial law Manila). ‘ I don’t know of any American city with that many newspapers,” he said. Marcos, in a New York Times interview of 27 September, said the publishing rights of six dailies would be withheld indefinitely. His reason was different from Melchor’s but quite familiar by that time: the press and radio had been infiltrated by communist propagandists ‘ and have been guilty of distortions, tendentious reporting, speculation and criticism that have damaged society and weakened resistance to Communism’. Two weeks later, Marcos denied what appeared then (and increasingly so since) to be his only reason for suspending the papers, saying they were ‘ locked up not because they were critical of me but because they participated in a conspiracy, a conspiracy of the Communist Party’. At other times, when the government was receiving criticism for its unpopular actions against the press, Marcos officials relented enough to say these were only temporary measures. Immediately following the introduction of martial law, a Department of Public Information was established, replacing the Presidential Press Office. This new department of the executive branch, which was also one of the most important, was designated to merge all the public information offices of the various branches of government. Named as Secretary of Public Information was 33-year-old Francisco Tatad, a former diplomatic correspondent and columnist of the Manila Daily Bulletin, well known for his earlier hardhitting writing and liberal leanings. His Undersecretary, Lorenzo Cruz, was also a professional journalist turned government official.

On 25 September the new Department issued its first two decrees. The first decree laid down guidelines for the conduct of the news media and instituted a formidable array of government controls and censorship devices. As for the second decree, this dealt with the operation of printing presses, informing printing firms they could not print any matter for mass dissemination without prior approval of the Department and that they could not print any of the prohibited items mentioned in the first decree.

Thank you!

A new Patreon, Sam! Join me on Patreon!

Patreon is empowering a new generation of creators. Support and engage with artists and creators as they live out their passions!

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.