- Posted October 6, 2013 by
Los Angeles, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Never again a despot!
horrible time of my youth"), he wrote in a Facebook discussion about the time of Martial Law in the Philippines. She went on to narrate the tragedy that
befell their family, about the cruelty inflicted on the people by the military, which she witnessed often because their house was located right infront of the
municipal building. There is a deep-seated wound in her heart, she said, and what happened then is still clear in her mind.
Ben Bornia, a former Cebu City cop, also recalled the experience of a friend: "Brad Lucio - B3 Studio owner - in an unholy hour of the night (3 AM) was unexpectedly awakened by the rumbling noise as if his studio was broken-in. He went out (with just short pants on) to investigate. But surprisingly a machinegun-mounted patrol jeep suddenly stopped and approached him in an arrogant manner thus telling him that his presence outside was a violation of curfew restriction of martial law. Before he finished giving reasons he was placed under arrest. He was not even given the chance to change his short pants to a proper attire. He was then brought to Gorordo PC Camp and in the following morning he rendered cleaning services on the surrounding camp area as others did, but still
wearing short pants until he was released and went home. Being his neighbor, I heard the unpleasant news about him. From that time on, and every time we got
together for a drink he would always cry when I started asking him about it."
One day in September 41 years ago Filipinos awoke to the grim reality that a despot-in-the-making had cast in stone what until then were talks about furtive moves to hold on to power. Somehow the series of national agitations and street protests against perceived government misfeasance and excesses –
culminating in a staged assassination attempt of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile – were made the pretext for a declaration of martial law. At that time
President Ferdinand Marcos was nearing the end of his term of office.
Proclamation No. 1081 imposing martial law was announced a day after many of the president's main political opponents were arrested and jailed on Sept. 22,
1972 by the military. By the time the dictator fled the Philippines in 1986, some 30,000 opposition leaders, student and labor activists and other Filipinos were
known to have been tortured, illegally detained or suffered other forms of atrocities in the hands of officials gone berserk with power. Additionally, Marcos had institutionalized bigtime corruption in all branches of the government and cleaned off the public treasury.
At that time this writer lived near the Third PC Zone's Camp Osmena in the heart of Cebu City, a bustling trade center then as now. Suddenly the camp – as well as the nearby Camp Lapulapu of the Philippine Army and another PC Camp Gorordo -- took on the appearance of being in a state of siege: heavily armed
soldiers bristled about as if to confront some imaginary invaders. It mattered not that the city was, and still is, known for its tranquility and order and friendliness.
Personnel of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary maneuvered to convey exaggerated images of importance and flurry. I thought the scene then was an apt caricature of a government about to go over the edge for gross corruption and incompetence. Why, I even saw machinegun-mounted jeeps ala TV’s Rat Patrol as described in Mr. Bornia's narrative above going around the city as if to reinforce the fear among the already intimidated law-abiding residents. If only it was just play acting.
Since then military camps became the scenes of hustle-bustle where citizens of every persuasion were taken in for any kind of perceived fault or threat to the
administration. Enrile formulated the dreaded ASSO (Arrest, Search and Seizure Orders) which, aside from being an effective instrument of harassment to political
activists, became a route of instant affluence among the military hierarchy. Wealthy businessmen, particularly Chinese importers/exporters, were among the favorite targets.
The conditions in distant provinces and other isolated places were much worse. It was because the media usually exists only in metropolitan areas. But even the
country's much vaunted "noisy" press became enfeebled soon after. Among the Dictator Marcos’ surrogates, the constabulary guys were the most dreaded because many had became drunk with power soonest, brazenly abusive and corrupt. Traditionally they had close contact with the community and thus had a ready list of prospective detainees. Complaints, if any, were stifled either by fright or lack of access to higher offices.
Having lived through that traumatic nightmare of our country’s history, the question is asked whether or not we Filipinos have learned anything from the
struggles and hardships of those who fought and suffered to regain our freedom.
And an equally important question: Did any of those principally responsible for looting the country and making the people suffer in several years of tyranny made to account for their misdeeds?
It was a nightmare which I hope will not happen again. Fortunately our people finally aroused from stupor and marshaled enough courage and fury that
enabled them to overthrow the tyrant. The lessons from the EDSA movement may enable Filipinos to confront other threats to the well being of their country such as
the current "pork barrel" scandals. Hopefully we continue to be vigilant and be involved such that prospective despots and corrupt leaderships will never take
roots again. -- Dionesio C. Grava
PHILIPPINE VILLAGE SCENE. The conditions in distant provinces and other isolated places were much worse. Complaints, if any, were stifled either by fright or lack of access to higher offices.