All this talk of martial law’s nonsense, said former President Fidel V. Ramos the other day. Except that he said it in the barracks language favored by the military. He said it’s “all bulls–t,” or cow dung.
Although many Filipinos think martial law’’ already here, Ramos focused on the harm the talk is supposedly causing the country. He then added that he doesn’t think Filipinos will accept martial law. What’s more, the Constitution protects the nation from a declaration similar to Ferdinand Marcos’ Proclamation 1081, which put the country under martial law on September 21, 1972.
Ramos was referring to Section 18 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution which limits the power of the Philippine President to declare martial law by subjecting it to review by Congress and the Supreme Court, and specifies the validity of any declaration to 60 days. That provision also forbids shutting down the media, Congress, the Supreme Court and other government institutions.
But Ramos has been out of the country so much talking to foreigners he probably doesn’t know that few informed Filipinos nowadays think that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (whose job he saved last July 8 ) will have even the basic decency to declare martial law.
The closest Arroyo will come to any formal declaration is to a state of emergency proclamation that will use the economic crisis as an excuse. It will pretend to be focused on saving the cottage cheese industry– or something similarly innocuous– while giving her and her crew enough power to arrest half the population.
Why the subterfuge? A formal declaration of martial law will not sit well with the media, the opposition, some of Arroyo’s own allies, foreign interest groups, and even the business community. A review by Congress and the Supreme Court would also be too inconvenient for the Arroyo ring, such a review being likely to prove it wrong.
Who says martial law has to be declared? Arroyo and company can very well implement it without telling anyone, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing over the last two years.
Since 2003, for example, they’ve unleashed the military in the countryside to murder political opponents and activists, and ignored the killing of those pesky journalists.
Lately they’ve brutalized demonstrators right in the capital in violation of the Bill of Rights of the very Constitution Ramos was citing. They’ve also prevented everyone from clerk to department secretary from testifying on anything in Congress through Executive Order 464, while their cohorts in Congress rush the approval of an incredibly badly-written “Anti-Terrorism” bill that’s certain to shock grammar teachers and terrorize everyone else except the real terrorists in the Arroyo regime itself.
Ramos was not quite right either in saying that Filipinos will not accept martial law. No survey has really been taken on the subject. Pulse Asia did do a survey in July on whether there was a need for martial law, and found that 67 percent of Filipinos said no, while 19 percent believed it should be declared. The respondents in that survey did not say they would not accept martial law; only that they didn’t think it was necessary at the time.
But that may be beside the point. As Ramos himself knows, it takes only a well-orchestrated bombing spree and other forms of state terrorism to change people’s minds.
While Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, and privy to Ferdinand Marcos’ plans to declare martial law in 1972, Ramos surely remembers the series of bombings that rocked Manila that year. The bombings culminated in the “ambush” of the car of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile– when he was conveniently not in it.
In a rare moment of honesty during EDSA 1 in 1986, Enrile revealed that the bombings and the ambush on his car had been staged by the Marcos regime itself to justify martial law. By that time, 14 years of terror had passed, hundreds of people had been murdered, many had disappeared, and thousands tortured by the dictatorship Enrile and Ramos had helped make possible. The economy was also in ruins, and the military and police politicized by years of sharing in the Marcos plunder of the treasury and the allure of power.
The damage to the country and its people had been done, thanks to the Marcos terror machine, which, by terrorizing the country with bombings and other forms of violence Marcos claimed only he could stop, made the people agree to Marcos’ and company’s assault on their own rights.
Thirty-three years later the country’s once more witnessing practically the same campaign of fear to convince the people to once again approve of their own repression.
It was the NPA in 1972 who were supposed to have done the bombings and ambushed Enrile. This time it’s the terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf and Jemah Islamiya who’re supposed to be plotting the coming carnage– and the police are so certain about it they can tell the media how many JI and ASG operatives have been deployed in how many cells in the capital, while evading the question of why they don’t arrest them if they know who they are and where they are.
Either Ramos has been traveling so much he’s in some kind of perpetual jet lag, or he’s being coy about Arroyo’s plans. And wasn’t Ramos, by the way, himself part of the conspiracy against the Filipino people called martial law in 1972? And didn’t he, while President, secretly contemplate the same thing to keep himself in power between 1992 and 1998?
While Corazon Aquino’s Defense Secretary, wasn’t he also responsible for the total war policy that led to the making of a million internal refugees who fled the indiscriminate military bombing and strafing of entire villages? And wasn’t the Ramos bureaucracy so choked with military appointees you couldn’t do business in a government office without tripping on one?
All this makes Ramos’ opinions on the Arroyo regime’s de jure plans while its authoritarianism is already de facto hardly of any consequence to anyone except his foreign friends. Among the Filipino people his credibility stinks like cow dung on a hot day in May.