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Marcos and Martial Law (Last of Five Parts)

From the Desk


For more than five years, President Marcos was able to exercise lawmaking functions in the form of Presidential Decrees, Letters of Instructions, General Orders, Executive Orders, Proclamations, and other executive issuances which, as the transitory provision stipulated, remained part of the law of the land. The Batasang Bayan, created by Presidential Decree No. 955, convened on September 21, 1976, and composed of appointive members from the cabinet, local governments, and special sectors, was merely an advisory body and did not enjoy lawmaking functions. The prerogative to adopt or reject their proposals still remained with President Marcos.

It was only in 1978 with the convening of the Interim Batasang Pambansa, a legislative body whose functions are similar to the Interim National Assembly provided for in the 1973 Constitution with the exception of those mandated in Article VIII, Section 14(1), that President Marcos finally shared his legislative functions with a body composed of lawmakers elected by the thirteen regions throughout the country. And even then, he still retained legislative powers as authorized by the people in Amendments 5 and 6 of the Constitution, approved in the plebiscite of October 16 and 17, 1976.

The assassination of Sen. Aquino at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport upon his arrival after a three-year exile in the United States on August 21, 1983 polarized the nation and emboldened those who were previously silent to agitate for reforms and call for the ouster of President Marcos. In the elections for the members of the Regular Batasang Pambansa held a few months after the tragedy, the opposition captured fifty-nine seats, with Sanchez capturing one of the seats for the district of Pasig-Marikina.

The deteriorating peace and order situation, coupled with the rapid decline of the economy, were taken as signs that President Marcos was quickly losing his grip on power despite winning a fresh mandate in the elections of 1981. By 1985, the situation had become so grim that the president was left with no other recourse but to call for snap elections to prove to the nation and to the world that he was still in control and that he still enjoyed the support of the people. Former senator Arturo Tolentino was drafted as the president’s running mate; the opposition, in turn, fielded Corazon Aquino, Senator Aquino’s widow, as its standard bearer, along with former senator Salvador Laurel as her vice-presidential candidate. Ex-senator Eva Estrada Kalaw also joined the race as a vice-presidential candidate under the opposition.

As expected, the incumbent president employed all the means at his disposal to win the election. The use of guns, goons, and gold in the days before and after the snap elections was unprecedented. Even the tabulation at the Philippine International Convention Center was manipulated, forcing some of the computer technicians to walk out of the proceedings. And, true to form, the Batasang Pambansa, dominated by allies of the president, and despite all the reported irregularities surrounding the polls, formally proclaimed President Marcos and his running mate as the winner of the snap elections, while chanting “Marcos pa rin!”

The events that unfolded afterwards manifested the determination of the Filipinos to regain the liberties they have lost with the oppressive rule of President Marcos. With the defection of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff General Fidel V. Ramos, the stage was set for a revolution. To protect the two and their supporters, civilians, responding to the appeal of Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, encamped outside Camps Aguinaldo and Crame along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, preventing troops loyal to President Marcos from attacking the two camps. On the fourth day of the revolution, Corazon C. Aquino was installed as president on February 25, 1986. President Marcos, who was likewise installed as president in ceremonies held on the same day, quickly evacuated Malacañang for fear that he, his family, and supporters will be lynched by the mob that was marching towards the Palace, and was transported to the United States, ending his 21-year regime.

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