40 years of crisis and state terrorism

ANG BAYAN, 7 September 2012, editorial
Communist Party of the Philippines
September 09, 2012

PDF available in Pilipino
Forty years have elapsed, but the memory of martial law has not been erased from the Filipino people’s consciousness. The wounds left behind by the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship refuse to heal in the face of the reactionary state’s continuing suppression of the people and their revolutionary resistance. Let us use the 40th anniversary of the formal declaration of martial law on September 21 to remember the brutality of martial rule.

Let us encourage the study of the history of martial law especially among the youth. Most of them do not have any direct experience on the brutality of martial law and the bitter sacrifices of the millions of people who courageously resisted it. Let us define the roots of martial law and the circumstances surrounding its imposition and emphasize our duty to step up our struggle against the continuing use of state terrorism against the people.

Let us encourage the study of the history of martial law especially among the youth. Most of them do not have any direct experience on the brutality of martial law and the bitter sacrifices of the millions of people who courageously resisted it. Let us define the roots of martial law and the circumstances surrounding its imposition and emphasize our duty to step up our struggle against the continuing use of state terrorism against the people.

Then president Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law to preserve the rotten, bankrupt and moribund ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system. Marcos had strong ambitions to remain in power indefinitely. He had the support of US imperialism, the same way that dictatorships in other countries enjoyed US backing.

The use of state terrorism is principally directed at suppressing the armed revolution and the unarmed democratic mass movement of the Filipino people against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Marcos used a mailed fist policy to suppress the people and defend the interests of foreign big capitalists, big compradors and landlords. The imposition of martial law in 1972 was an indication that the reactionary classes could no longer rule in the old way. In the face of the deepening crisis of the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system, the rifts within the reactionary classes further deepened and escalated to violence. Simultaneously, the Filipino people led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) launched the people's democratic revolution and the armed revolution.

Marcos expanded and strengthened the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) severalfold, aside from paramilitaries like the Civilian Home Defense Force. The police was likewise organized as a nationwide entity under the centralized command of the then Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police. All the coercive forces of the state came under Marcos' beck and call and were used to violent suppress the people.

At least 70,000 persons were imprisoned and tortured by Marcos' officers and men under military rule. More than 3,000 were killed, and thousands fell victim to beatings, massacres and involuntary disappearance. Unionizing and organizing, meetings and demonstrations were prohibited. Marcos instilled a climate of fear. He gagged the people and attempted to control their minds by controlling the mass media and education and utilizing various psywar tactics.

Among those incarcerated by Marcos were his reactionary political rivals whom he accused of conspiring with the revolutionary movement. Eventually, most of them kept silent and merely waited for the US to change its stance vis a vis Marcos.

The revolutionary forces of the national-democratic movement were the most steadfast, staunch and courageous in their stand against martial law. They blazed the path of armed struggle and persevered in the underground resistance in the cities. They became the primary targets of the fascist violence of martial law.

The CPP and the revolutionary mass organizations it led were at the core of the undefeatable antifascist movement and the continuing struggle against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. They stoked the fires of resistance amid the darkness of martial law. They inspired the Filipino people to persevere along the path of resisting the US-Marcos dictatorship.

The armed revolution advanced. Thousands of youth, workers and peasants joined the New People's Army (NPA). Many of them made major contributions in opening new guerrilla fronts, advancing agrarian revolution in the countryside and intensifying armed struggle. The NPA was established in 1969 with only 60 Red fighters armed with nine automatic rifles and 26 inferior weapons. In its first three years, the NPA's firepower grew to 400. By the mid-1980s, it had about 5,500 high-powered firearms and the ability to launch tactical offensives nationwide. These dealt the strongest blows against the rule of the US-Marcos dictatorship.

The revolutionary forces persevered in working underground in the cities, especially among the workers, urban poor, youth-students, church people, women and other democratic sectors. By 1976, strikes and other workers' struggles broke through the climate of fear that Marcos instilled. Huge students demonstrations flared in 1977 against tuition fee increases and various other social issues. Protest actions shook the whole of Metro Manila amid Marcos' bogus election.

The momentum of the democratic mass movement in Metro Manila and other city centers, and of armed struggle in the countryside persisted throughout the first half of the 1980s, causing great anxiety to the US. The US was disappointed with the assassination of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. by Marcos' armed minions in 1983. The assassination was met with gigantic demonstrations in 1983-85 led by the national-democratic forces and stepped up tactical offensives nationwide.

Marcos' decision to call for snap elections on February 7, 1986 at the instigation of the US spurred the anti-Marcos reactionaries to take action. The US gave strict orders to Corazon Aquino and her people not to accommodate the forces of the democratic mass movement in her campaign and not to touch the issue of the military bases.

After the polls, the CPP assailed the bogus election and called for an uprising. Corazon Aquino's call for "civil disobedience" and a demonstration along EDSA came only after. The forces mobilized by the national-democratic movement formed the backbone of the four-day demonstration at EDSA from February 22 to 25. They organized demonstrations in major cities nationwide and led workers and students who rallied at Mendiola and at the gates of MalacaƱang until Marcos fled aboard a US military helicopter.

We must hark back to the history of martial law in order to counter the distortions of history. Marcos' political heirs claim that there was no violence under martial law and even portray him as a hero. They justify the use of mailed fist policies and the suppression of the rights of workers to organize unions and to strike in order to attract foreign investments. They hail the infrastructure projects that plunged the Philippines to indebtedness to foreign banks and fattened the pockets of big bureaucrat capitalists led by no less than the Marcos family.

Even the current Aquino regime is into historical distortions. It exaggerates the "heroism" of the anti-Marcos reactionaries in order to belittle the perseverance and sacrifices of the Filipino people and their revolutionary movement in fighting and overthrowing Marcos and martial rule.

Benigno Aquino III keeps on declaring that he and his family were victims of martial law. This is an incontrovertible fact of history. But he has no right to deny the sacrifices of tens of thousands of people who were at the forefront of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. And he definitely does not have the right to justify the current suppression of democratic rights which is no different from the suppression that was done under martial law.

Of what use are Aquino's boasts about his family's sacrifice when his father Benigno Aquino Jr. was imprisoned when, like Marcos, he now denies that there are hundreds of political prisoners languishing in jail under his regime? When the killing, abduction, imprisonment and torture of activists resisting demolitions, struggling for higher wages, fighting the plunder of our natural resources and defending the interests of the toiling masses persist? When the militarization of the countryside, the bombings, shootings, repression and persecution go on unabated?

Many aspects of the US-Marcos dictatorship's military rule continued during the subsequent regimes and persist up to the present. The ruling classes continue to defend the semicolonial and semifeudal system defended by Marcos' martial law. The Filipino people suffer even more exploitation, oppression and poverty as the chronic crisis deepens.

Campaigns of suppression launched by subsequent regimes from Corazon Aquino's to Arroyo's have been growing more brutal: Oplan Lambat Bitag I-IV (1986-1998), Oplan Gordian Knot and Oplan Makabayan (1999-2000), Oplan Bantay Laya I and II (2001-2010) and Oplan Bayanihan (since 2011) under Benigno Aquino III's regime.

Even without a martial law declaration, the state has been intensifying its use of fascist terror. Counterrevolutionary campaigns of suppression have been most vicious in the countryside, where armed struggle is being waged in conjunction with agrarian revolution. In areas where people's resistance is strongest, military power is dominant, and the civilian government a virtual figurehead. The brutal campaigns of suppression have, in recent years, been ironically called "peace and development operations."

LET US review the lessons learned from the struggle against martial law. Let us salute the thousands who sacrificed in struggling against the fascist dictatorship and hail them as heroes who should be emulated by the new generation of youth as they tread the path of revolutionary struggle in the years to come.