Let us cast away the ghost of the evil past

Let us cast away the ghost of the evil past

OM’s Statement on the Imposition of Martial Law Forty-eight Years Ago


Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 45:9)

  1. The horrendous proclamation of martial law in 1972 by President Marcos that put the whole Philippines under his authoritarian rule deserves supposedly no place for any civil observance or celebration in this country. Martial law inflicted a deep wound on our national life and left a disastrous legacy of governance among our people. Providing it a space in our collective memory as a people would tend to dignify the horrors it caused to the nation and cherish its excesses that scarred our Filipino soul and being. But remember we must however on the malevolence of this reign in order for us today, and future generations of Filipinos, not to forget the darkest chapter of our history and to avoid repeating our bitter past and finding ourselves being victims again by military and state fascism that martial law reared. To refresh our memories on the evil that was martial law is to build the template of deliberate consciousness among our people to resist the comeback to political power of those who benefitted from the abuses of martial law and allow them to rewrite our history so as to temper and moderate its ill-effects to our sense of nationhood.

  2. On September 21, 1972, exactly forty-eight years ago today, President Marcos stealthily signed Presidential Decree 1081 that contained formal proclamation of martial law; its public announcement however was done two days after, on September 23, 1972, to surprise the political opposition and other Marcos critics from evading arrests. The so-called proclamation started the advent of almost two decades of dictatorial reign of Marcos and his cohorts. Though martial law was lifted through Proclamation No. 2045 on January 17, 1981, President Marcos continued to hold the rein of the government and controlled all its branches and apparatuses and the state security forces through his 1972 tampered Constitution and the various structures and decrees that essentially retained his dictatorial powers until his ouster on February 25, 1986 being the subsequent result of the peaceful uprising of the Filipino people now known as the EDSA People Power Revolution.

  3. In contrast to its guise to save the republic and reform the society, martial law instead perpetuated constitutional authoritarianism and one-man dictatorial rule that in an unimaginable proportion promoted cruelty and brutality; unbridled greed, plunder and corruption; repression and curtailment of rights and freedom; militarization in the urban and countryside; illegal arrests and mass detentions; torture and summary executions; persecution of political enemies; political patronage and dynasties; economic control and sabotage; cronyism and oligarchy; subservience to foreign dictates; cooptation of social institutions; and many other more to cite. Martial law pushed the country deep-down to abject poverty, social injustice and underdevelopment, and tied the country to international debt, to economic intrusion of transnational corporations, to export-dependent and labor-intensive economy. It wasted thousands of human lives, broken countless families, and destroyed dreams of hundreds of young Filipinos, all who had crossed the paths of Marcos and his minions in the military by their criticism and opposition to his government policies and his dictatorial ways. He wasted government funds to finance a war against the revolutionary movement which only grew because of his excesses and failure to institute genuine social reforms.

  4. The dictator Marcos ran his government as if the country was his own fiefdom. Marcos and his cronies in the business and military sectors were like the cruel kings and princes in Prophet Ezekiel’s time who plotted violence and oppression of any kind against their own people, they were like them whose interests were to perpetuate injustice and suffering to the nation.

  5. Today, we find the resurgence of these ways in the current regime and the way it dispenses its governance among our people. And this should be a cause to worry, act on, and resist. Not only that President Duterte has unashamedly declared in public his fascination to idolize and follow the footsteps of the dead, deposed dictator, he literally placed Mindanao under martial law for quite a period; treated and bribed the military and police to serve as his own armed forces; exercised control over the legislative and judiciary branches of our government; waged repression against his critics and the violations of their liberties, rights and dignity; shrunk further our democracy by curtailing press freedom and instituting draconian laws like the Anti-Terrorism Law to stifle legal public dissent. His wars against drugs, terrorism and corruption that only victimize the poor and the nationalist and progressive leaders of militant organizations through extra-judicial killings reminisce the brute crackdown that Marcos did against his opposition and give salvaging another name.

  6. Today, despite no formal declaration of martial law, the whole nation feels its creeping effect as measures upon measures are imposed to restrict people’s rights and freedom and to persecute his critics and opposition, especially in these days of the pandemic where people’s movements are restricted. Despite no formal declaration of martial law, there is an open, explicit martial rule as Duterte’s government is filled with appointees who are former military and police generals. Even the crisis committee that led the fight against coronavirus disease is comprised of military and police people rather than scientists, medical and health experts. The triumvirate of the war-hawks in Lorenzana, Ano and Esperon continue to prevail Duterte’s government to walk in the path of war against his own people rather than take the option of reviving the peace talks to address social problems that spawned insurgency in our country for over half a century now. The formation of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), which presently carries the campaign to harass, malign, vilify and red tag militant lawmakers, opposition leaders, social activists, churches and their ordained and lay workers, brings to life the dreaded National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) of Marcos years’ which witch-hunted and neutralized suspected enemies of the state. Today, NTF-ELCAC heightens its efforts to maliciously associate the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and certain religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) with the intent to silence their prophetic witness and obfuscate their Christian mission. Rather than waste government resources in these malicious campaigns, the state security officers of this land should have bent their attention to the growing intrusion of our national sovereignty farther out in our islands at the Philippine West and right in our military camps where Chinese telecommunications systems are reportedly put in place.

  7. President Duterte is clearly walking on the path of his idol, and, in his rising tyrannical rule, desires to copy-cat the dictator Marcos. And similar to martial law years, President Duterte and his militarized cabinet and minions in the legislative and judiciary, and with his new breed of cronies and oligarchs, act like the kings and princes of Prophet Ezekiel’s time whose agenda are self-perpetuation in power and the promotion of violence and oppression among our people to further exacerbate the injustice that Filipinos suffer.

  8. Today, there is no reason to remember the horrors of the imposition of martial law in our country except to recall the evils it has inflicted on our society, so that in no way and in no other time, martial law materializes again in our midst. We believe that, as Filipino people in general, and as IFI in particular, it is our bounden duty to ensure that never again martial law shall reign in our land. We have gone to the torments of that hellish period in our history, we believe it is now time to keep justice and peace to prevail as we struggle for it even in these times of repression and martial rule. We have to take this resort and there is no other option for us as people, as nation, as IFI, except to heighten this cause of justice and peace.

  9. September 21 happens to be the Feast Day of St. Matthew the Evangelist and Apostle. As an evangelist he wrote the gospel of truth; he proclaimed the kingdom of justice and peace. As an apostle, he went out to his own people to live out his discipleship to the Lord Jesus that indeed his own people might follow and take the example of the Lord Jesus who inaugurated God’s kingdom of justice, peace, freedom, love, mercy and righteousness and who proclaimed the good news to the poor, the release of the prisoners, the recovery of sight for the blind, and the liberation of the oppressed (Luke 4:18)

  10. Today, as we abhor the intrinsic evil and social sins of martial law and resolve to fortify our opposition against its resurrection through any means by intensifying our organizing efforts, by undertaking continued discernment and educational activities, by expanding the networks of resistance among all quarters and sectors in our society, by pushing forward the justice movement and peace agenda of our people, and by honoring thousands of courageous men and women of the Filipino people who paid with their lives their opposition to martial law and dictatorship, let us, above all, deepen our faith and commitment to our Lord Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace and Lord of Justice, and persist to joyfully persevere in our faithful discipleship and bold witness charged to us in baptism. In upholding him as our Lord and Saviour, we embrace light to dispel darkness, we espouse justice and peace, we advocate for people’s rights and human dignity, we cast away the ghost of the past.


O LORD, keep us out of the hands of the wicked tyrants. Protect us from those who are violent and oppressive, for they are plotting against us your people. (Psalm 140:4, Paraphrased)


Obispo Maximo

21 September 2020
Manila, Philippines

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