The Legacy of Ferdinand Marcos: The Truth About The Martial Law Years

Winston Churchill once said that the history was written by the victors, and the present is being fabricated by the media. That is not always the case in the Information Age, people began to doubt on what they watch on T.V. Many people, even those who didn't live to experience the Martial Law Era admire former President and his achievements because of gaining knowledge about the previously contained information about his rule that are not present in the textbooks. The tyrannical image of Former President Marcos crafted by international and local mainstream media is slowly being replaced by his image as a public servant. Now that he's finally buried at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani earlier this day, let's revisit the Martial Law Era.

The local mainstream media blamed Ferdinand Marcos for the human rights abuses during his regime,rampant poverty and the recent economical backwardness of the Philippines. They rarely mention the achievements during his rule and the reason why Martial Law was declared. Ferdinand Marcos feared a communist takeover and a Philippine counterpart of the Vietnam War. When he declared Martial Law the Vietnam War is in its height; Linebacker Bombing campaigns pulverized the Vietnamese countryside. He expressed his hatred for communism in his Diary Entry of February 1, 1970

Marcos is also blamed for the violence perpetrated by the officers from PNP, Philippine Constabulary,and the military. He is often accused of declaring Martial Law to stay in power indefinitely and to freely plunder the country's resources. Despite being labeled as a corrupt president, he expressed his sentiments against the other ruling elite in his entry named Today’s Revolution: Democracy.

The concentration of a community’s wealth in the  hands of a small minority must result in an oligarchic society. When this society exists side  by  side  with  a  democratic  political  authority,  as  in  the  case  of  the  Philippines,  the  consequence is an oligarchic order, or an “oligarchic democracy”…. In our case, every citizen  enjoys political rights, which, however, are not effectively exercised because of economic  and social inequalities. … Now we realize that this condition can also promote a political  culture which equates freedom with self‐aggrandizement, and the politics of participation, so essential in a democracy, with the pursuit of this privilege. …. Corruption at the top is  matched by social corruption below. The oligarchic elite manipulate the political authority  and intimidate the political leaders; the masses, in turn, perpetuate a populist, personalist,  and individualist kind of politics.

Ferdinand Marcos, since the start of his first term expressed interest in reforming society and to transform Philippines from an agricultural society into and industrial one. Reforms in the government was swift during the Martial Law period.Ferdinand Marcos transformed Philippines into a modern nation state. But the claims that Philippines is only next to Japan in terms of economic wealth is an overstatement, nonetheless from 1973- 1979, the country’s GNP grew at an average of 6 per cent annually.

According to Gerardo Sicat, one of Marcos' technocrats:

Much of the overhaul of the executive office happened after Marcos had imposed martial  law when the political obstacles toward reorganization were removed. He had prepared for this  major part of his agenda while working with Congress when he became President. A special  government reorganization commission was set up and Congress went to work on most of the  changes that were needed through public hearings. After years of efforts, however, the working  plans were many but political will was absent from Congress. When he declared martial law, he  took the initiative of reorganizing the executive branch on the basis of these plans. Execution  was swift.

Unfortunately, the plans to industrialize Philippines was not successful. In 1979, Ferdinand Marcos announced his 11 MIPs or Major Industrial Projects that could've aided the Philippine economy to catch up with the development of the neighboring countries. The turbulent geopolitical events especially the People Power Revolution halted the industrial development of the Philippines and after his rule, the plans to industrialize Philippines was not given priority. The heart of industrialization was supposedly the Bataan Nuclear Powerplant unfortunately Former Pres. Corazon Aquino refused to open it. Recently, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte expressed interests to revive the projects of Ferdinand Marcos like the Biyayang Dagat and Masagana 99.

In politics as in war, the victors write the history. Marcos lost his voice in defeat, in exile,  and in death. The significant things that he accomplished had been swept aside by the tide of  revenge and recriminations. History written from the viewpoint of the victors reinforced in the  public mind the bad and the difficulties under his regime. The passage of time further bolstered  that prevailing wind and fostered the essential amnesia that national rejuvenation had seemed  to require. 
-Gerardo Sicat

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