The Philippine crisis is reaching another acute stage 45 years after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. The country barely survived it then. But this time the affliction could very well be terminal.
Today as in 1972, authoritarian rule, whether through another declaration of martial law or the formation of a “revolutionary government,” is being falsely proffered as the solution to imaginary attempts to remove President Rodrigo Duterte from power (even the military has declared that there is no such plot), and even as a means of addressing the country’s many problems.
The Marcos terror regime may have been overthrown 31 years ago, the institutions of liberal democracy restored, and a new Constitution drafted. But the threat of dictatorship has never really passed.
The conditions that made the making of a tyrannical regime possible in 1972 are still in evidence. Among them are a lawless and self-aggrandizing political class afflicted with the authoritarian virus; an unreformed police and military establishment that is similarly impaired; and those sectors of the population impatient with the inefficiencies of what passes for democratic governance and who imagine one-man rule to be the cure-all for the country’s ills.