How to become a dictator

“One week after the official issuance of Proclamation 1081, the whole legal and extralegal structure to totally control the whole country was almost complete.”

Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile floated the idea of reverting to the Philippines’ 1935 Constitution, which, according to him, has a broader provision for declaring martial rule.

So, we are clear. Martial law is not to be trifled with. It is an awesome power of the president as commander in chief that can be invoked only in times of national emergency.

If we ever learned from the Marcos experience, martial law is susceptible to abuse. This is precisely the reason why the 1987 Constitution put safeguards against concentrating governmental powers in the hands of one man.

In the 1935 Constitution, specifically, Article VII, Section 10, paragraph 2 thereof, martial law may be declared, or habeas corpus suspended, to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or in times of imminent danger.

Once declared, the power of the president is absolute. Congress cannot interfere, and, neither can the Supreme Court meddle in its exercise. And we all know the result – 14 years of dictatorial rule and unbridled abuse of power by Marcos.

The 1973 Constitution had the martial law provision of the 1935 Constitution. But it was later amended on October 16, 1977, January 30, 1980, and April 7, 1981, adopting a parliamentary form of government, making the office of the president less powerful and transferring power to the prime minister.

But we all know who the real wielder of power was—President Marcos.

Marcos started off his one-man authoritarian rule by placing the entire Philippines under martial law with Proclamation 1081.

Formally listed as having been declared on September 21, 1972, Proclamation 1081 was only announced to the public, two days later, i.e. on September 23, 1972.

Thus, citing the 1935 Constitution, Proclamation 1081 provides in its concluding portion “…and, in my capacity as their commander-in-chief, do hereby command the armed forces of the Philippines… to enforce obedience to all the laws and decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by me or upon my direction.”

The following day, (September 22) Marcos issued a flurry of General Orders for implementation by the armed forces.

With General Order 1, Marcos decreed to “direct the operation of the entire Government, including all its agencies and instrumentalities, in my (his) capacity and exercise all the powers and prerogatives appurtenant thereto.”

With General Order 2, Marcs ordered the “arrest or cause the arrest and take into custody and to hold them until otherwise ordered released, such persons as may have committed crimes and offenses in furtherance or on the occasion of or incident to or in connection with the crimes or insurrection or rebellion, as well as persons who have committed crimes against national security and the law of nations, crimes against public order, crimes involving usurpation of authority, title, improper use of name, uniform and insignia, including persons guilty of crimes as public officers, as well as those persons who may have violated any decree or order promulgated by me personally or promulgated upon my direction.”

This was followed by General Order 2-A, ordering the military to arrest targeted individuals including opposition leaders Benigno Aquino, Jr., Jose Diokno, Francisco Rodrigo, and Ramon Mitra Jr., among others.

Around 8,000 individuals were arrested and detained on the same day.

With General Order 3, Marcos ordered all government agencies and instrumentalities as well as the judiciary to continue to function under their present officers and employees and in accordance with existing laws.

However, the judiciary is prohibited from hearing and deciding certain cases including those involving the validity, legality, or constitutionality of Proclamation 1081 dated September 21, 1972, or of any decree, order, or acts issued, promulgated, or performed by the president or by his duly designated representative; those involving crimes against national security and the law of nations; those involving crimes against the fundamental laws of the State; those involving crimes against public order; those crimes involving usurpation of authority, rank, title, and improper use of names, uniforms, and insignia; and, those involving crimes committed by public officers.

A curfew was imposed under General Order 4; GO 5 banned group assemblies, including strikes and picketing in vital industries; and, GO 6 banned the carrying of firearms.

On Sept. 28, 1972, five days after the declaration of Martial Law, Marcos issued Letter of Instruction 1, authorizing the military to take over the assets of major media outlets.

The earliest victims were broadcast giants ABS- CBN and Channel 5 (now ESPN 5), and some radio stations across the country.

Under Letter of Instruction 1, the military was instructed to take over all media outlets and facilities including “privately owned newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media of communications, for propaganda purposes against the government and its duly constituted authorities or for any purpose that tends to undermine the faith and confidence of the people in our Government and aggravate the present national emergency.”

One week after the official issuance of Proclamation 1081, the whole legal and extralegal structure to totally control the whole country was almost complete.

Asia’s first democracy had now become a dictatorship.

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