Tyrant or thief? Print
Friday, 22 September 2017 14:00



Yesterday, Metro-Manilans observed a “Day of Protest” against injustice and intolerance, timing it with the 45th anniversary of the imposition of tyrannical rule by Ferdinand E. Marcos. Before September 21, 1972, the streets of Manila were littered with students protesting against everything. The economy was in shambles, the price of rice was high, mendicants proliferated, homeless children in swaddling clothes were sleeping in every available pavement (even until now). A great disappointment – despair even – descended upon the seat of power with the ascendance of Marxism and Maoism in school campuses.

Mr. Marcos had to circle the wagons to protect the country from falling apart. He wouldn’t allow the palace to be smashed by the communists, the dissenting press and political opponents. Amidst disorder and violent revolt, he declared Martial Law that opened a significant path for him to rule and command the attention of the entire people.

With Presidential Proclamation 1081 came liberal legislative reforms, stronger labor laws, social, health and agrarian reforms that transformed the country into a nation of robust commerce and industry. With his slogan “sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan,” Marcos knew the pugnacity and price that a nation had to pay in the name of a Martial Law revolution.

Mr. Marcos would not have been president had he not been pirated by the Nacionalista Party in 1964 and sworn in as member by Jose Laurel, Jr., the former speaker of the House of Representatives. Speaking to his people, Laurel exclaimed: “Look, my friends, I have captured the general of the enemy (Liberal Party)…” Thus, Marcos became a carpetbagger, just like Emmanuel Pelaez before him who shifted parties at his political convenience.

Pelaez, who was elected vice president, was a victim of criticism for party-hopping to serve not the nation’s interest but his own. The word “balimbing” was curved out for politicians like him. He even tried to establish a third force with LP maverick Senator Raul Manglapus who eventually formed a third party along with another Blue Eagle, Manuel Manahan.

In the NP convention, only two aspirants were left to contest the presidential nomination: Marcos and Pelaez. Marcos had the votes. Pelaez had the qualifications to become president. A friend of Manning’s wrote: “He was a leader of profound conviction. He was by his own right a famous congressman, an outstanding senator, a dignified former vice president, and one of the most innovative foreign affairs secretaries of this country. He fought to the limits of his capacities…” He lost to Marcos on two critical aspects: money and propaganda. Marcos was well-financed by the diehard NPs and long-term donors.

Hell-bent on protecting the democratic government against the attacks of the opposition and, as he saw it, the gullible press that ignited the anarchists who went on a rampage of vandalism and terror – storming the gates of Malacañang, Marcos chose to control the persistent violent events and declared Martial Law.

His allies, oligarchs, and cronies chorused: “How many calamities would have occurred if he had not seized that initiative so necessary to reinforce sanity and order in a tottering society? A million lives would be a conservative estimate.”

Still the question lingers and the impression on the minds of the youth abounds: “Was Marcos a tyrant or just plain thief?”