TONI Toni Gonzaga is in the limelight again this week, so probably this piece will sound a bit timely even if it is not a commentary on the reason why she is in the news.
I only wish to go back to her September 13 birthday interview with President Bongbong Marcos. The part where she discussed whether President Bongbong’s father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., dictator. The facts borne by history leave no room to doubt that Marcos Sr. was indeed a dictator. But Toni Gonzaga had to throw that softball question, “Was your father a dictator” or something to that effect, so that President Bongbong could provide a carte blanche answer saying, “I know they are wrong, ang diktador hindi nagkokunsulta (a dictator does not consult).”
To support his premise, the president supposedly drew on his experience as one who was a member of the First Family and who had witnessed first-hand, the consultation sessions and meetings his father held with “whole industries,” concluding that there were more consultations done during the elder Marcos’s tenure than any presidency, before or since.
In the first place, it does give one a start to realize that Ferdinand Marcos Jr., president of the Philippines, could not wrap his head around the meaning of a “dictatorship.” Truth be told, it was because his father was a dictator that the 1987 Constitution fixed the term of a Philippine presidency to six years without re-election. For if we allow President Bongbong’s attempt to mothball his father’s record in his stated manner, then we might as well believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a dictator because he does periodic consultations with his oligarchs.
But in this era of widespread disinformation, it is easy to warp history especially since the Marcos family is scheming to purge their tainted reputation from the records. If this is now becoming an institutionalized cover-up, then it is even more imperative that we must not lose sight of the events that precipitated the Marcos dictatorship. The 1973 Constitution was the instrument that spawned the Marcos dictatorship.
In the late 1960s, the clamor to repeal and replace the 1935 Constitution was gaining traction. Among others, some advocates for Philippine industrialization have long fought against the amendment to grant parity rights to American businesses, contending that the provision is onerous as it is iniquitous to local industries.
However, there is also the looming concern especially among the opposition bloc that the charter change initiative might be a vehicle for Marcos to perpetuate himself in power. Thus, a group of elected delegates to the 1971 constitutional convention, among them Napoleon Rama, then editor of the magazine Philippines Free Press, Raul Manglapus, Raul Roco, and Teofisto Guingona Jr., proposed the inclusion of a “Ban Marcos” provision in the Constitution. A clause that is supposed to provide a term limit for Marcos.
Until 1972, Marcos attempted to railroad the Constitution by bribing delegates via Imelda Marcos to endorse the provisions for a Marcos term extension. A Con-Con delegate named Eduardo Quintero exposed the bribery in May 1972 and a scandal ensued. These fateful months also saw a series of bombings that took place in Manila. Four months later, Marcos declared martial law, sending some of the members of the constitutional convention’s opposition bloc to jail, or threatening arrest to delegates opposed to some of the questionable provisions of the Constitution.
With impediments to its passage practically eliminated, the 1973 Constitution was signed and submitted to Marcos. Martial law, however, granted Marcos legislative powers proving that the Marcos presidency was by then effectively a dictatorship. It was a presidential decree that created the “barangay” in 1973 and one of its initial tasks was to constitute themselves into so-called citizen’s assemblies in charge of the Constitutional referendum to be done not by voting but by acclamation. Inevitably, the 1973 Constitution was ratified by the sham process of “viva voce.”
One of the transitory provisions of the Constitution would have been the formation of the legislative branch of government called the Interim National Assembly. As legislative powers remained lodged in the presidency, amendments to the Constitution were made in 1976, among them a change in name of the Interim National Assembly to Interim Batasang Pambansa. Elections of members of the Interim Batasang Pambansa, however, did not take place until 1978 where elected representatives were mostly from the ruling party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.
These political conditions existed under the looming backdrop of martial law which the current president justifies as “the state’s right to defend itself.” But Marcos himself caused the suppression of democracy in this country. It is not counter-intuitive to think, that at the very most, the people needed to take up arms in defense of democracy.
Yes, Toni Gonzaga, what you learned in school that Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared martial law in order to perpetuate himself in power was correct. Marcos Jr.’s contention that this perspective of martial law was written by the “victors” after 1986 was in fact wrong. Books were already written about the atrocities of the Marcos regime even during the height of his power. Primitivo Mijares published The Conjugal Dictatorship in 1976 and it cost him his life.