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The Delegate and the President: Contrasting Diaries on Martial Law

President Marcos, Secretary Enrile, and generals in the Presidential Study, Malacañan Palace

September 23 marks the 41st anniversary of the proclamation of martial law by President Marcos, although Marcos himself insisted on September 21.

The Philippine Diary Project has two diaries that give contrasting views on martial law. The first is the diary of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the second, the diary of Constitutional Convention delegate Augusto Caesar Espiritu.

The options for Marcos were laid out quite early on. On January 26, 1970, after he was attacked by demonstrators after delivering his State of the Nation Address, Marcos wrote, “We must get the emergency plan polished up.” in his diary entry for January 28, 1970 (just a few weeks after his second inaugural) he summarized his options as follows:

I have several options. One of them is to abort the subversive plan now by the sudden arrest of the plotters. But this would not be accepted by the people. Nor could we get the Huks, their legal cadres and support. Nor the MIM and other subversive [or front] organizations, nor those underground. We could allow the situation to develop naturally then after massive terrorism, wanton killings and an attempt at my assassination and a coup d’etat, then declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus – and arrest all including the legal cadres. Right now I am inclined towards the latter.

By February 1, 1971 he had come up with “democratic revolution” as a term to provide ideological cover for his plans.

February 20, 1972 and February 22, 1970, he was getting military used to developing contingency plans for emergencies.

February 24, 1970, support of Ilocanos was being rallied.

February 28, 1970: Marcos was toying with lists of people to arrest:

We must finalize the list to be arrested if there is massive sabotage or assassination. I assess the plans of the communists to include these activities by the middle of March.

In January, 1971, Marcos claims that his allies were imploring him to impose emergency rule (see January 13, 1971):

The congressmen close to me, Cong. Cojuangco, Frisco San Juan, Ali Dimaporo, Jose Aspiras, Navarro, Lucas Canton, Roque Ablan all proposed for the use of my emergency powers. “We cannot understand why you are so patient. Do not wait until we are completely debilitated and the people is against us. It will be too late. One swift blow and we remove the cancer from our society,” they all said.

I could only answer that it may be sooner than we think…

With the opposition already warning of martial law in full-page ads (see January 20, 1971) he was systematically putting together a coalition to support the eventual proclamation of martial law:

January 27, 1971: intellectuals to provide ideological cover; January 23, 1971 and January 28, 1971: big business and friendly media; January 30, 1971: local government leaders.

By February 1, 1971, he had come up with the term “democratic revolution” to provide ideological cover for his plans.

On May 8, 1972, Marcos again returned to drafting scenarios and arrest lists:

… After the meeting I directed Sec. Ponce Enrile, the Chief of Staff, Gen. Espino, Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Ileto, PC Chief, Gen. Ramos, PA Chief, Gen. Zagala, Air Force Chief, Gen. Rancudo, 1st PC Zone Commander, Gen. Tomas Diaz, IV PC Zone Commander, Gen. Encarnacion, Asst. Chief of Staff, J-2, Col. Paz, to update the contingency plans and the list of target personalities in the event of the use of emergency powers.

I directed Sec. Ponce Enrile to finalize all documentation for the contingency plans, including the orders and implementation.

A couple of days later, on May 12, 1972, he would chuckle about his divide-and-conquer strategy with the opposition.

On June 4, 1972, Marcos seems to have concluded that his options through the Constitutional Convention had reached a dead end:

But from my point of view the Concon has become useless. Anything they will approve now will be rejected by the people in a plebiscite.

August 31, 1972 shows lobbying efforts well underway with Americans (officials and in business).

It is in the fateful month of September, 1972, that the two voices –Marcos writing down his version of history-as-it-happened, and Espiritu, writing of events in the Constitutional Convention and the creeping feeling of things coming to a head– provide a kind of contrasting conversation. Here are their entries, on the dates that both happened to write in their diaries on the same day:

September 5-6

The Ban Marcos Resolution –also known as the Anti Dynasty Resolution– comes up for a vote in the Constitutional Convention. Espiritu recounts the parliamentary tactics of the Marcos bloc in the convention:

In the afternoon, there was a continuation of the speeches in favor of the ban-dynasty resolution…

Later in the afternoon, the “anti” speeches were heard. The period for the opposition began with former Central Bank governor, Miguel Cuaderno, firing the opening salvo.

The pro-Marcos delegates are smart. They have been using people like Cuaderno and former UP president, Vicente Sinco, with all their prestige and known independence, to “deodorize” their position. But because of their advanced age, these venerable delegates did not really wield much influence in the Convention.

Cuaderno said that it would be unfortunate for the Convention to involve itself in the preelection fight between two major political parties. He said that he regarded the proposal to ban the incumbent president as the last attempt of the presidentialists to retain the vestiges of the presidential system in the new Constitution. (Cuaderno is, like Aquilino (Nene) Pimentel, Raul Manglapus, Joe Feria, Sonny Alvarez, Rebeck Espiritu, Godofredo (Goding) Ramos and me, a parliamentarist.)

Cuaderno was followed by former foreign secretary, Felixberto Serrano, who delivered one of his rare speeches in the Convention.

I have been wondering why such an eminent man like Serrano has not been active in the Convention. He has not participated in much of the discussions. Of course, he belongs to the Garcia (Marcos) bloc, but it would still be interesting to hear his views.

Lindy Pangandangan also spoke against the resolution, followed by ageing President Sinco, who has not only been president of the University of the Philippines and dean of the UP College of Law, for one generation, but was also an authority on constitutional law. He was, in fact, the mentor of quite a number of delegates in the Convention.

But he is quite a very old man now. The pro-Marcos group is shamelessly using him. To use a much-quoted term of Nap Rama, he is being used as one of the “deodorizers.”

For his part, on that day, Marcos only writes about reviewing contingency plans and grumbles about his critics; it’s on the next day that Marcos writes about the ConCon vote –he views the proceedings as a loyalty check:

The Concon voted down the ban Marcos resolution by 155 votes against 131. Some of those who pose as friends voted against us. Carlos Ledesma, Angara (Johnny Ponce Enrile’s partner). Tiling Yulo was absent. Ditas Teodoro and Elizabeth Chiongbian voted by teller but these were not recognized.

Macapagal delivered a bitter vicious attack against us. So did Rama. But Sotero Laurel and Cuaderno spoke in our favor.

September 7

On this day, Espiritu has a conversation with ConCon President Diosdado Macapagal, on options for the convention not to get caught up in Marcos’ perceived game plan to extend his stay in office beyond his term; and it is here that what would eventually become the clincher for approving the new Constitution –assuring delegates who voted for it, seats in the new National Assembly– first gets mentioned:

This morning, I had a full hour’s chat with President Macapagal. Majority Floor Leader Edmundo (Munding) Cea and Vice Pres. Abraham (Abe) Sarmiento were with us part of the time. I was telling Macapagal that he had delivered a mesmerizing speech yesterday in favor of the ban-dynasty resolution. In fact I heard it said, by some delegates, that that was his finest hour.

I also suggested to Macapagal that there are perhaps two options for us. The first is to just simply freeze the ball and let the Convention work as slowly as possible so that the plebiscite on the new Constitution may only be done after the expiration of Marcos’ term in 1973. This would really, in effect, ban the incumbent. In fact, Convention secretary, Jose (Pepe) Abueva, has also suggested the same thing.

Another possibility, I said, was to declare a recess until January 1974.

We then talked about the transition government resolution filed by Oscar (Oka) Leviste and Antonio (Tony) Velasco. To my great surprise, Macapagal said what was almost unbelievable to me up to then—that this resolution might pass.

For some delegates, the point is, the ban-dynasty provision has already failed anyway; Marcos would surely win. Therefore, we might just as well postpone the election and hold over the positions of elective officials. The bonus is that we, the delegates, would be there in the first parliament. This is the substance and spirit of the Tony-Oka transition government resolution.

Marcos, on the other hand, continues to obsess over Ninoy Aquino and ends his entry:

This afternoon I spent in finishing all papers needed for a possible proclamation of martial law, just in case it is necessary to do so.

September 8

Espiritu does character sketches of fellow delegates, looking into their motivations and changes in ideological position; Marcos dwells on Ninoy Aquino and closes with ordering yet another review of contingency plans for Manila.

September 9

Espiritu looks into news reports on who, actually, constitutes the Marcos bloc in the convention; Marcos –for the nth time– finishes the paperwork for martial law:

Sec. Ponce Enrile and I finished the material for any possible proclamation of martial law. 6:00-7:30 PM. Then TV-Radio interview by KBS, Rey Pedrahe and Emil Jurado 8-9:00 PM.

September 12

As Marcos focuses on intelligence on the Communists, Espiritu gently pokes fun at fellow delegates who’ve had to disguise their taking orders from Marcos.

September 13

Espiritu continues to discuss the Ban Dynasty resolution, and proposes delegates should also ban themselves from serving in the next government (this becomes ironic, later on, when the new Constitution is approved on the basis of sweeteners, including offering ConCon delegates automatic membership in the new National Assembly):

We agreed that during the discussion on the transitory provision, we should support the move to ban all elective officials, including ourselves. This would show to the world that we are not motivated by personal hatred for President Marcos, but rather that we are for democratizing the political process.

Marcos selects September 21 as the date for martial law:

At the rate the tension and hysteria in [Manila] continues, I may have to declare martial [law] soon. Many people are not leaving their houses.

Threats to bomb and blackmail is rampant. KBS and the Daily Express were told to raise ₱200,000 otherwise there would be a bomb for them. This was conveyed by a certain Policarpio, a KBS labor leader. He probably cooked it up.

So I met with Johnny