Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter -#ML50 Series

Manuel L. Quezon III
21 min readSep 29, 2022

esterday my 3-part series on #ML50 ended, proposing aspects we have overlooked or tended to gloss over: 1. that it took longer (up to 1976) to entrench the dictatorship; 2. that he had many more accomplices; 3. that it was an essentially anti-modern effort.


You can access a comprehensive martial law timeline, a comparison of two diaries, and the diaries themselves of Ferdinand E. Marcos and Constitutional Convention Delegate Augusto Caesar Espiritu, in The Philippine Diary Project.

I’ve also put together what I believe to be the most comprehensive playlist of its kind, composed of freely-available newsreels, footage, and documentaries from 1965–1986. I think this will be invaluable for researchers, historians, and journalists:

#ML50 through

The history of Martial Law, the prelude and aftermath to its formal existence from 1972–1981, can become more accessible by viewing newsreel footage from the era. This includes reports by independent media, as well as state propaganda. Together, these videos provide a never-before-experienced immersive review of the end of the Third Republic, the dictatorship (the New Society and the New Republic), and People Power which created the Fifth Republic.

#ML50: Means, Motive, Opportunity

Revisiting ML: Means, motive, opportunity (1) | Inquirer

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

04:35 AM September 14, 2022

(First of three parts)

Valuable, valiant efforts are being made to ensure the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law is marked not with celebration, but with sober reflection. On Sept. 23, the UP Third World Studies Center will be launching as an accompaniment to a book they’re publishing. Historians Patricio Abinales and Leia Castañeda Anastacio have edited an anthology to be published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, quite possibly within the same time frame. In my own, I am trying to complete uploading the 1972–1973 diary entries of President Marcos Sr. Reading his entries in tandem with the 1972–1973 Constitutional Convention diary of delegate Augusto Caesar Espiritu, and Dante Vizmanos gives the reader a front-row seat into the thinking of Right, Center, and Left in that era.

There is, of course, a standard narrative for Marcos loyalists: that the president imposed martial law after a combined communist-oligarch plot to subvert the Republic brought the country to the brink of anarchy from the First Quarter Storm onwards. The countervailing narrative was that after bringing the country to the brink of fiscal collapse to ensure his reelection in 1969, Marcos Sr. then engineered a coup to replace democratic government with a dictatorship. One he disguised as “constitutional authoritarianism” to make himself president-for-life before his term expired in 1973.

What tips the balance in favor of one of these interpretations is not that a dictatorship was established, or that it used state violence to defend the state, but rather, the ultimate goal both served: familial control over the state, which inevitably meant that corruption became the defining characteristic of the dictatorship. It was this corruption that, in the end, edged aside all the other supposed objectives of, or justifications for, the regime, and which sapped the vitality of the regime so that it proved incapable of understanding, much less countering, the public outrage that built up in response to its abuses, and so, toppled it.

In general, the plotting to impose martial law is dated to 1969, the reelection of Marcos Sr. But it would be well to remember that he had a two-pronged approach. On one hand, he pursued the possibility of a change in the system through the constitutional convention convened in 1971, allowing him to become prime minister; on the other, he pursued staying in power through other means: using martial law as a cover for a self-coup. Of these, what materialized first — the first means, given his motive, and his looking for opportunity — was self-perpetuation by means of a convention.

Here, I believe the first consideration is that the time frame must move back to at least 1967, because of (up to now) a unique political development. In that year, for the first time, a plebiscite proposal was rejected by the electorate when they voted “No” to Congress’ proposals to expand the number of seats in the House of Representatives and to allow members of Congress to sit as constitutional convention delegates without losing their seats (allowing them to run in the convention election scheduled for November 1970). The failure of the proposal meant that the forthcoming convention would be anybody’s ball game, but leaning toward an incumbent president, acting as an interested party, being able to influence the composition of the convention more than if established congressional figures could also sit as delegates. It provided an opportunity for Marcos Sr. to nudge amendments toward a shift to the parliamentary system to enable him to escape constitutional term limits.

Did the convention fail, as a Plan A, or was it always a Plan B, requiring martial law as a Plan A for the convention — and its output — to finally be whipped into shape? Which is how things turned out. Or did the convention as Plan A falter, when tensions caused by Marcos Sr. going-for-broke to secure reelection, fractured the economy, leading to social tensions that whetted the appetite of the Left and Right for political brinkmanship?

Here, the Original Sin becomes Marcos Sr. creating the circumstances that suddenly raised the ante for everyone: himself, the traditional political players, and the new radicals, all of whom, recent scholarship by people like Joseph Scalice has shown, were to one degree or another, all allied with each other at one point or another, during the time. In other words, all sides are both perpetrators and victims in a case of national assisted suicide.

This raises a question deserving investigation: was there an awareness before, or only after, brinkmanship — incendiary political rhetoric, terrorism — started defining our politics, that there existed a characteristic of our society shared by Right, Left, or Center: the belief that society should, and can, be remade practically overnight if only some sort of superhuman will can be summoned and through it, change imposed on a society and its members.

Because then all sides have a shared motive: the replacement of the existing democratic system with another, with at least two (Marcos and the radical Left), it seems, fixated on some sort of dictatorship being that system (though at least some in the Middle viewed dictatorship as necessary, too: just not by Marcos Sr.). Where they diverge is the means: the radicals explored terrorism; Marcos Sr. explored a coup; the middle, perhaps more muddle-headed, was willing to also go where terrorism might lead, if only to ensure an election in 1973 that might pull back society from the brink, in time — without Marcos Sr.

But when would the right opportunity present itself?

Revisiting ML: Means, motive, opportunity (2) | Inquirer

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:30 AM September 21, 2022

(Second of three parts)

If we assume the Philippines was an outlier not only in its part of the world — both Singapore and Malaysia were essentially parliamentary one-party states, armed with draconian British colonial-era laws; Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and South Vietnam were military dictatorships; and South Korea was transitioning from a junta to a one-man dictatorship — but in the wider developing world, and if we consider, furthermore, it was even more of an outlier in the formerly colonial world in single-party rule having fractured at independence, resulting in an accidental, and all the more artificial, because of it, two-party system, then the picture that emerges of Philippine politics as President Marcos Sr. embarked on being only the second president elected to a second term is of a system desperate to dismantle itself. The only question was who would get to do the honors and get bragging rights.

The colonial era had given the Philippines two things, broadly speaking: a one-party government (not unique; it was the trend among independence movements who had to consolidate to resist the colonial strategy of divide-and-conquer) and one that thrived on public opinion relatively freely expressed (unlike the British and the French in their colonies, Americans were more tolerant, even assiduous, toward relatively free speech). While Right and Left knew the power was incompatible with free speech, they shared, with the Middle (slender as it actually was), an acceptance of the necessity of harnessing it. The Left at home could, like the Left elsewhere, count on the young alienated by the smug conservatism of the wartime generation; Marcos, like others, could count on the fear and loathing of the wartime generation who were now parents, of their hippie offspring,

Dwight Eisenhower once said “plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” He also said “… the very definition of ‘emergency’ is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.” Even if one argues that Marcos and his foes had more in common in terms of shared contempt and hostility, for the existing system, where he significantly differed from his foes and rivals in the Left and Right was that he proved less doctrinaire than them. For his peers in the political class, they ultimately failed in being fixated on a short-term goal, which was simply that of preventing Marcos or a proxy like his wife, from being any kind of candidate in 1973. The Left, for its part, was fixated on creating the conditions for a Maoist takeover of power.

What would happen was the creation of various opportunities: for the Middle-Right, a “Ban Marcos Resolution” in the constitutional convention, to prevent a Marcos prime ministership or an Imelda in 1973 presidential run; for the Left, a terrorist attack at Plaza Miranda to escalate the confrontation among political factions. Marcos, in the end, proved more adept at turning an ever-changing set of circumstances (here, Plaza Miranda being a communist attack and not a Marcos scheme becomes crucial) into a consistent means of cementing the support he’d identified as crucial for his own objectives: unrest in the streets drove anxious parents, businessmen, prelates, and others, to wanting order to be imposed.

This meant that although for decades, Marcos lost the battle for public opinion over Plaza Miranda (only fairly recently was the possibility even considered that it wasn’t instigated by Marcos), he won the battle for the support of enough of the middle, upper, and professional classes, for him to embark on the first part of what would turn out to be a much more protracted campaign to establish not just one-man but a one-family rule. For Plaza Miranda, and Marcos’ response to it (suspending the writ of habeas corpus) presented him with a kind of poisoned victory: the Supreme Court in 1971 upheld his proclamation, but also reversed previous rulings from 1905 and 1949 that had stated the courts could not review the acts of the executive; now, the Court dangerously (for Marcos) declared it had the right to inquire into the factual basis, and thus rule on the validity, of the suspension of the writ: a ruling that could justify a review of martial law in the future.

We know Marcos learned from this and turned a potential stumbling block into a more focused effort to divide the institutions arrayed against him. For the political class, his martial law coup came with a sweetener aimed at both the constitutional convention and Congress: if delegates approved his tailor-fit constitution draft, those delegates would become assemblymen; as for senators and congressmen, if they permitted the 1935 Constitution to be replaced, they would become automatic assemblymen, too, with the added perk of being freed of national elections and, indeed, a powerful presidency, after that.

This meant he could conserve his gunpowder for three, more intractable, targets: the media, who would really have to be muzzled by force (knowing a substantial subset were genuinely in his corner: people like Teodoro Valencia belonged to the wartime generation outraged by hippiedom), actual radicals who could be enticed to join or hunted down if they refused, and the judiciary, who in the end could be convinced to legitimize the coup because they themselves belonged to the fearful wartime generation or could be made to see the light by being threatened with the abolition of the court itself.

The problem is time has blurred our perspective, making us conflate what was a longer, more drawn-out, gambit, not least because of how successful the Marcos propaganda was. Martial law was announced on Sept. 23, 1972; his new tailor-made constitution came into force in 1973. But we have forgotten that the dictatorship wasn’t fully achieved — until 1976.

Revisiting ML: Means, motive, opportunity (3) | Inquirer

By: Manuel L. Quezon III@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:30 AM September 28, 2022

(Last of three parts)

In the same manner that those who actually lived through the proclamation of martial law — who, unless they were arrested as Sept. 22 turned into 23, learned martial law had been imposed when Marcos announced it on the night of Sept. 23 — got brainwashed by constant government repetition, into believing it was imposed on Sept. 21, when, on that date, the Senate still held sessions and a large protest had taken place in Plaza Miranda! — posterity has come to believe that martial law was essentially accomplished in one night, the night Marcos sent the army to lock up those he feared could organize and lead resistance to his ambitions.

To be sure, he decapitated the political opposition and muzzled the media. But control was still far from absolute, not least because many weren’t convinced absolute control was his. In December 1972, as he announced a plebiscite to approve the constitution he practically wrote himself, gathered in the Palace to applaud the announcement were the Speaker of the House, Cornelio Villareal; the Senate President, Gil Puyat; and, perhaps most surprising of all to our post-martial law eyes, the Vice President, Fernando Lopez. Most of the post-1986 literature assures us the vice presidency was abolished the moment martial law was imposed.

Yet here he was, with then Speaker and then Senate president, as guests by virtue of their rank and position, in the Palace, in December 1972, three months after martial law had been proclaimed. And what they were applauding was the forthcoming abolition of their posts — because they believed they would soon be having new posts to fill. To be sure, Marcos might be doing the unthinkable — not only ruling by force, but ruling by decree — but the majority of the political class and the lawyers could argue it was a temporary measure since Congress was in recess, and a new constitution was forthcoming.

That constitution in the end, would be “approved” by violating the conditions demanded by the one it replaced (a free plebiscite by secret ballot), with the Supreme Court, threatened with abolition if it didn’t say so, announcing it was a done deal no one could do anything about. Only then did Marcos padlock Congress. Which hardly any legislators minded because they expected to be in the new parliament. And only after this January 1973 plebiscite did another take place, in July: allowing Marcos to go beyond his term, which expired in December of that year. It also — surprise! — postponed the convening of the Interim National Assembly or new parliament. In 1975, another plebiscite further postponed the convening of the parliament in which the delegates and legislators had been promised seats. Finally, in 1976, the Interim National Assembly was amended out of existence without ever having been convened, leaving everyone who’d gone along with Marcos’ 1972–1973 schemes without having enjoyed the fruits of their collaboration.

Which, incidentally, is the fundamental reason the “long” martial law has been forgotten, in favor of the idea there was a swift coup nearly instantly successful in its implementation: It conveniently allowed the very, very many, in so many institutions, who collaborated to make the process possible not merely overnight, but over the span of years, to escape being memorialized for their participation in a project that took many years and many stages to actually accomplish.

Those who could, because they did, claim they opposed Marcos before, and during, this long self-coup were very few indeed. And more often than not, bitterly remembered how few they had been. But politics is addition, and as Marcos’ long-term project unraveled in as many years as it had taken him to cobble together his dictatorship, so, too, did the popularity of martial law prove an inconvenient truth for a public being asked to vomit out Marcos (so let’s say that martial law was popular at least among some sectors; for it has also been asserted that Marcos had to pursue the patently unlawful “citizen’s assemblies” by creating the barangay to supplant the existing barrios, because in a genuine plebiscite, the 1973 Constitution would have been rejected by voters) and that defections in the political class was more likely, if that class wasn’t asked to acknowledge it has connived with him; far better, and easier, for born-again liberal democrats to thunder and shrill they’d been terrorized and duped by Marcos, and not in league with him. If the radicals, as scholars like Scalice now argue, could absolve themselves of their initial complicity with Marcos, why, business, academe, the Church, and the politicians could absolve themselves, too. And did.

Which leaves the last confusion that remains. Over time, the realization that national amnesia was inflicted by the Great Dictator when it comes to the actual martial law anniversary has grown (the only real debate left is which is now more truthful and appropriate: Sept. 22, when the first victims were rounded up, or Sept. 23, when the nation found it was now prisoner). Perhaps a starker reckoning of how many more were complicit in the dictatorial project can begin. This also includes accepting that democrats and radicals are equally susceptible to the delusion societies can be refashioned overnight, as rightists.

But it will be longer still, before we can also accept, that the core of the dictatorial project was utterly hollow and deceived even its true believers. For it was fundamentally antimodern. It had nothing more evolved as its goal than the creation of a hereditary monarchy; it gilded itself with modern-sounding terms still stickily apparent in institutions that still bear the mark of the dictator: anything with “development” in its name, for example.

If there can be said to a streak of authoritarianism that manifested itself in the various chapters of our institutional development, then that authoritarianism cleaved at the point of martial law. For what predated it could and did aspire to be modern; but what was attempted in 1972 was not, and could never be.

A presentation

Cebu Press Freedom Week 2022: Always revise — Manuel L. Quezon

My talk for Cebu’s Press Freedom Week. It was livestreamed here: #ML50

My talk’s entitled “Always revise,” which I think, as hopefully we’ll see, is a good and necessary thing.

This is a week heavy with memory, particularly this year, as we remember 50 years since martial law was proclaimed. But what we actually remember, or are called to remember, is itself interesting for what it reveals.

As a kind of exercise, let’s look at the past with fresh eyes –as if it hasn’t happened, but is, instead, unfolding right now, for us as students or teachers of journalism, or actual journalists.

We’ll follow two people as they recount their experiences as it happened: a President, Ferdinand E. Marcos, and a ConCon delegate, Augusto Caesar Espiritu. Their diaries give their interpretation of events.

September 21, 1972 is a Thursday, as reporters today will tell you, it’s the end of session days for Congress; back then, it was due to go on recess until it reconvened after the New Year. But the leadership realized they still had committee work to do.

The headlines of the papers tells us what’s current and the buzz for the day. As for Congress, they decide to postpone adjournment until Saturday, to allow committee meetings that night and next.

For his part, Marcos is busy behind the scenes, reassuring worried allies, and lobbying for American support. He notes he finished the paperwork for martial law that night, at 8PM.

That afternoon, a big rally takes place –at Plaza Miranda. 30,000 reportedly attend. It’s covered by the media.

The US Ambassador gets wind of martial law being planned, meets Marcos, and tells Washington he’s convinced Marcos to postpone it for the time being.

September 22, 1972 is a Friday. The papers report that the Senate decided to junk Aquino’s call for an investigation into his exposé of an Oplan Sagittarius. Three key associates, departing for abroad, are assured by Marcos there won’t be martial law. But that evening? ‘Ambush”!

But prior to that it’s a tense-day full of the previous days’ news, from exposé and counter-claims, to rallies and warnings.

Up to the point of news of the “ambush,” life is still “normal.” The chronology, to this day, remains confusing but suggests it was a time of adjustment and ad-hoc decision-making based on changing circumstances. After the “ambush,” it seems, things begin to move fast.

The point of no return is reached, by FM’s own account, before 10PM, September 22, 1972.

There is an Order of Battle to be checked off, a list of target institutions and personalities. There is paperwork to methodically release.

Here, the date has shifted from late at night, September 22, to early in the morning, September 23.

Timing of course can’t be exact; few will methodically note exact times but we have a general sense of what was happening within a timeframe of a few hours. The broader public is unaware of what is going on aside from the ever-active rumor mill until 7:15PM.

Here, let’s pause. Zooming out, we see a four-day story unfolding. It’s culmination, for the country, is on September 23.

But at the time what was clear was martial law became an indisputable fact on September 23 for the country, which is why for the media allowed to operate, they reported it on Sunday, September 24, 1972.

But of course it wasn’t all done by then. Returning to events: Marcos still had to see if his gamble would succeed. He still had to strong-arm institutions. But by Sept. 25, he could start crowing of his success.

At the heart of what would come next –nothing less than the substitution of memory of actual events, with an implanted, manufactured memory– was a shrewd understanding of Filipino psychology.

It’s only by engaging in revisionism –in reviewing, re-seeing, re-studying– by going back and not taking the word of people for it, can we see the depth and breadth of what was accomplished. A national substitution of memory reinforces the dictator’s narrative.

But a review of the sources will help reveal that substitution. So please visit:…/a-timeline-of…/


Check out:…/the-delegate-and…/

See:…/declaration-of…/… and…/infographic-day…/

Which brings us to our reality, now during #ML50. The dominant narrative wasn’t born yesterday.

It was born of decades of using every opportunity and every emerging technology, to bypass the generations alive during martial law and make their experience and opinions irrelevant.

We are experiencing the outcome of three decades of building a narrative so self-contained, it is bulletproof.

It is based on a truism so often repeated, we forget just how cunning it was –which you can only appreciate by actually revisiting what was actually said.

The breathtaking cynicism of the statement is actually magnified if you revisit what was actually said –and is actually practiced.

So let a person with integrity tell us what’s what. Alan Robles has repeatedly said there’s a fundamental difference between revisionism –which can be necessary and good… but that the real enemy is denialism, with what it entails.

Once you zero in on denialism, you can begin to fight it; you can dissect it as a strategy, you can dismantle it as an infrastructure of deceit.

You can break denialism down into its component parts. But here, a caveat on my part…

Inevitably, denialism involves not just misusing, but actively ignoring facts. The antidote can seem to be embracing the facts and insisting on them. This is important, to be sure. But more is needed.

Here, this passage to me, suggests to writers –reporters, editorial writers, columnists– what’s needed. To tell a story. Factually, but vividly and well; where the central characters are those who adhere to high and not low standards. Only then can denialism be edged aside.

And that was my talk, an invitation to revisit what happened, review and reconsider what that tells us, and re-engage the public. Thank you!

September 28th redux

A good read.

A night of four presidents | The Manila


By Michael “Xiao” Chua

September 27, 2022

I ALWAYS say that the death of a president is an inevitable time to compare them with the others. I saw this during the death of the very popular Corazon Aquino in 2009 and just recently with the death of the hard-working Fidel V. Ramos.

But nowhere was this more evident than 23 years ago on Sept. 28, 1989, when one president learned about the death of another as she prepared to go to another one’s celebration.

It was the 79th birthday of President Diosdado Macapagal (president from Dec. 30, 1961 to Dec. 30, 1965) at the Philippine International Convention Center Banquet Hall. The program was titled “A Salute to a Good President.” Dadong’s re-election defeat in the hands of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. (Dec. 30, 1965 to Feb. 25, 1986) and the latter’s proclamation of martial law, which he opposed by writing the book Democracy in the Philippines, may have caused his being underrated and under-appreciated for many years.

President Cory Aquino (Feb. 25, 1986 to June 30, 1992) was preparing a speech for this occasion: “Today we honor a good man. I might have said that we are honoring ‘a great President,’ but this is a lesser achievement than to be what Diosdado Macapagal was and remains to this day, a great and good man.

“He was a good man even as President, and that is a very difficult thing to be…. President Macapagal did not enrich himself in office. He left as he had come to power, with only his powerful mind and his unimpeachable integrity….

“President Macapagal left this nation alone to realize its full economic potential…. By the end of his term, the richest and most promising country in Asia, save for Japan.”

In one part of the speech, she compared him with Marcos: “Today, we honor a man who was his exact opposite…. When Macapagal left office, we had virtually no foreign debt. When Marcos was driven out of office, he left us in ruins.”

She continued on Dadong: “Was he a great president? We have established, he was a good man. And to be good in the presidency is to be greater than one can hope to be anywhere else. Was he good to be great? Perhaps he was too good to be notorious. But in his honesty in the midst of temptation and in his humility at the height of power, he was as great as it is possible to be in a small and struggling nation.

“Does our size exclude the possibility of individual greatness? Does a flower cease to be marvelous because it is small? Is courage diminished because it is shown only by one?

“Our country is small but one can be great in it. Diosdado Macapagal, the poor boy from Lubao, has shown us how. It is our great pleasure and honor to pay this tribute to him….”

And then, Cory received a phone call from Buddy Gomez, the consul general in Honolulu, Hawaii, informing her of the announcement by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (future president, who began his term June 30 this year) that his father, the former president and dictator, had died at the St. Francis Medical Center.

When Cory arrived at the celebration, she asked Dadong if she could digress a bit, “because after all, today is his day and he was very obliging, and said I could. “

And so, during her speech, she read a small portion of the statement on Marcos’ death that she had released earlier that day: “Speaking for the nation I represent, I can say that this man touched the lives of every Filipino who was his contemporary as no other Filipino leader did before him. His rule changed our country beyond recognition. In what way he changed it, I leave to others and to history to describe.”

Despite being critical of her nemesis, she said, “… No one should trench on the dignity of this painful moment in the life of a family. I personally console deeply with the family he leaves behind with all sincerity. For I and my children know the pain of such a loss. I would like to appeal to all of us to pray for the repose of the soul of the late President and also to pray for our country.”

A part of the statement she did not include in the speech says, “I hope history judges him more kindly than we can, being so close to his time.” Such a class act.

Ambassador Alfonso Yuchengco handed Dadong a note that night, “You are not only a good man but one of the best Presidents we ever had.”

Dadong, in his response to the tributes, said, “So I am now prepared to return to our divine Creator.” He died on April 21, 1997. Cory died on Aug. 1, 2009. For more than 20 years now, three of the four presidents we’ve had were a child of either Macapagal, Aquino or Marcos.

Thank you

Your support by subscribing to this newsletter and being a patron through Patreon, really helps a lot. Thank you!

Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer is creating Historical and political thinking, writing, and broadcasting. |
Become a patron of Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer today: Get access to exclusive content and experiences on the world’s largest membership platform for artists and creators.



Manuel L. Quezon III

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