Martial Law in the 70s and Martial Law as applied today are two different animals. It behooves the implementer and possibly is attuned with the changing considerations of our times. In the 70s, the moving force that compelled strongman Marcos was continuity of his function as chief executive and it goes without saying continuity of his programs both in infrastructure and history. At this time (2018), the moving force is no longer about politics but more on imposing administrative discipline and its perpetuity. Both proponents are lawyers. Marcos did not practice law but for a long period was a legislator. Duterte on the other hand practiced law as State prosecutor and subsequently as local chief executive.
Their concept of Martial Law varies not according to how it would benefit their function and ideas but more on how they intend history should view them. Marcos’ massive infrastructure platform—-, the highways, bridges, buildings showcased his perception of his own significance. Duterte on the other hand intends to be remembered as one political leader who imposed integrity and reduced corruption into tatters. Their means is to use extraordinary power not as a civilian leader but as the Commander-in-Chief. The Armed Forces is there to impose their will even if it means neutralizing the troublesome opposition or those who are violently against their plans.
I have a personal glimpse on both Martial Laws. In 1972, when President Marcos imposed it, I was in 2nd year college. It was eerily quiet since the Legislature and Judiciary were closed down. Local governments were suspended and every government program governed by Military commanders. Behemoth media installations and business establishments were instantly under State management. Everything that moved during that time, it was the Military on top giving directions. Even lowly students like us, must look like military personnel in crew cut even if the fad at that time was long hair. I was recruited into the Sunday Soldier or Military Ranger regiment.
Martial Law as imposed in 2017 in the whole Mindanao was a world different. Well, I am already a resident of Mindanao, enjoying what remains of my pension when President Duterte declared Martial Law on the island. Since I have undergone Martial Law in the 70s, I was expecting a similar projection. It could be the Japanese World War II version or its hybrid relative in the 70s. It never came to be though. Local government is still there. Local legislatures still function as is. Businesses continue to ply their commerce. Life has never been altered in the martial sense. Well, except for some areas where Military hardware is displayed like combat tanks, armored artillery vehicles, Marine Corps trucks. Where these hardware are, people would take notice and get their selfies too!
Martial Law in Mindanao is a civilized military activity. Under the present dispensation, Martial Law is like a shield, a knight in shining armor, on whose shadow and protection the ordinary layman can repose his trust and confidence. Wherever soldiers are posted, there were no reported gross abuses. Yet the soldierly troops’ lives are constantly on the line.
They are there on the lookout for possible confrontation. Criminality is a nemesis and listed as enemy. Terrorism and insurgency are two headed monsters on prowl. Cross border ideology and pocket rebellion are target-boards. Civilian in cross fires have been evacuated and collateral damage minimized during armed encounters.
The Military has achieved full maturation. It has become the bearer of defense, mantle of security and symbol of fairness. There is little shade of politics. They have learned their lessons from the past.
In my senior rank as Penal Superintendent IV in a civilian agency I have an equal salary grade as that of a Brigadier General in the Armed Forces. It was a great feeling, although at this time, I am retired already. How I wish to assume the respect and adulation of a grateful people. But time is gone for me and the present crop of leaders is worth our admiration.
Being part of the Military today is a badge of honor.