It’s been 38 years since former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law (which he announced on national TV on the 23rd, much to the surprise of everyone)! From the Foundation for Worldwide People Power (FWWPP), the makers of “Beyond Conspiracy: 25 Years after the Aquino Assassination,” comes a documentary that was critically-acclaimed for its coverage about one of the darkest episodes in Philippine history when the whole nation suffered under the unmitigated oppression by the Marcos authoritarian rule. Narrated by Mr. Joonie Gamboa.
“Batas Militar” – A Must See For All
The two-hour long video was produced by Foundation for Worldwide People Power (FWWPP) headed by Eugenia Apostol, the founding publisher of The Philippine Daily Inquirer .
The extensive film footage and pictures of actual events that took place from 1972 when Marcos declared martial law, to the EDSA uprising of 1986 that toppled the dictatorship, bring back to life the monumental tyranny and deception, the unprecedented violence and unparalleled greed that no one ever imagined could possibly emanate from one man.
Tens of thousands were arrested and imprisoned without court charges, thousands were tortured and hundreds summarily executed. More than a year ago, ten thousand victims of human rights violations won a class suit in a U.S. court against the Marcos family. The court ruled that they be compensated by the Marcos estate with U.S. $2.25 billion.
Whether one is this far from the country or generations removed decades later, martial law remains a permanent scar in our collective consciousness as a people. The video documentary, 25 years later from martial law’s imposition in 1972, is only one reminder. And it is a chilling grim reminder.
If only for that single accomplishment, the documentary has excellently served its purpose. But it is certainly more than that. It is solidly researched, done with more than 150 important personalities interviewed including President Ramos, Cory Aquino, some generals, Imelda Marcos, other key players and opposition leaders.
Particularly interesting was the focus on the personality and political savvy of Marcos’ arch enemy Ninoy Aquino. He was clearly presented as the leader and icon of the anti-Marcos opposition, the martyr whose assassination triggered the demise of the dictatorship.
Aquino’s tussles with Marcos were well chronicled: his privilege speeches in the Senate exposing the Jabidah massacre and the Oplan Sagittarius; his imprisonment and 40-day hunger strike; his valiant candidacy, while in prison, to the Batasang Pambansa; and his continued anti-Marcos activities in the U.S. All these were important in encouraging open opposition to the regime and hastening its downfall. All these lent color and drama to the unfolding historical events. And they were very effective in politicizing the heretofore-apolitical middle class and that segment of the elite who until then, could live with Marcos in power.
But martial law was certainly more than that. It was more than the life and death struggle between Marcos and his opponents in the traditional political opposition.
The video documentary certainly captured the drama of the era. But it is mostly the drama in stifling the elite opposition, like the Aquinos and the Lopezes. It’s true they were jailed and they lost their properties and their chances to assume a dominant role in the ruling elite. And a number of other elite and middle class personalities were also imprisoned and tortured, some of them summarily killed. But those who suffered the most in terms of prolonged detention, severe torture and salvaging or summary execution, were the leaders and activists of the Left, the armed rebels, the organized workers in the cities and the peasant leaders and the masses in the rural areas.
Ninoy Aquino’s hunger strike was the most famous during martial law. But there were prolonged hunger strikes by political detainees in Camp Bicutan, in Camp Crame, in Camp Aguinaldo, in Camp Olivas, in Cebu and Davao. While Aquino lost weight in his hunger strike, he had the attention of doctors who saw to it that he would not die and cause a terrible embarrassment for Marcos. The video production is a major step in documenting the abuses and the depredations of the Marcos martial law regime and in revealing its unparalleled violence and corruption.