In September 1972, Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law declaration began the country’s darkest period.
More than 10,000 people were thrown in jail without charges, and were tortured, killed, and disappeared without a trace. They are still crying for justice.
More than $10 billion was plundered from the country’s coffers but only half has been recovered three decades after Marcos was chased out of office in 1986.
The plunderers were never punished. They did not stay in jail even for a single hour and continued enjoying their loot.
Martial law was a power grab. Marcos wanted to perpetuate himself in power and the only way to do that was to scrap the November 1973 presidential elections.
Marcos was no longer eligible to run for a third term under the 1935 Constitution, which allowed a president only a four-year term and one re-election. He was first elected in 1965 and was re-elected in 1969.
To legitimize his continued stay in public office, he imposed martial law, abolished Congress, padlocked the press, and changed the Constitution.
In the early 1970s, the Philippines faced threats from a handful of Communist rebels and Muslim guerrillas in the south.
The economy was crumbling under the weight of widespread corruption and rising foreign debts.
Outside the country, the United States was struggling to contain the spread of Communism in Indo-China, worsening the Cold War.
The Middle East was a powder keg as Arab states were determined to wipe out Israel from the map, threatening global oil supplies.
Marcos used international and domestic situations to justify his actions to bring law and order and stabilize the country.
Looking back 51 years ago, the same conditions remained but became much worse.
The war in Ukraine has created a global food and fuel crisis. And there is no end in sight despite efforts by China and the Vatican to end the war.
Pump prices have risen for 11 straight weeks, causing local manufacturers and transport operators to demand increased prices of essential goods and services.
Corruption has worsened with public officials seeking to increase the national budget beyond the government’s capacity to collect revenues and support public spending.
At least 40 percent of the proposed spending bill will be borrowed from the public through bond offerings and from multilateral lending institutions, like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
Instead of tightening the government’s belt, the two highest positions in the land requested more than P5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds, about half of what was proposed in the 2024 national budget.
It seemed Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of the late dictator who imposed martial law half a century ago, would like the country to sink deeper into debt.
After his father left the Philippines wallowing in poverty with an inflation rate of more than 50 percent and a public debt of hundreds of millions of US dollars, the country struggled to recover economically.
It took five administrations from Cory Aquino to her son, Noynoy Aquino, to enjoy a stable economic growth of 6 percent and cut poverty levels to below 20 percent.
Everything went down after Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in 2016 as he focused on a genocidal campaign to eradicate the illegal drug problem in the country.
The coronavirus pandemic worsened the country’s condition as the economy experienced its worst downturn, sliding into recession for the first time after the elder Marcos’s book years.
From a public sector debt of more than P5 trillion, Duterte doubled it when he stepped down in 2022, borrowing an average of P1.3 trillion annually in his six years in office.
Marcos not only continued the increasing public sector debt but doubled its size as his government intends to finance almost half of the 2024 budget by borrowing P2.4 trillion.
What could possibly happen to the Philippines? Marcos Jr is setting the stage for a condition similar to what happened in the 1970s in order to justify an iron-fisted rule to prevent civil unrest due to high prices of goods and supply shortages caused by bad economic policies.
The Marcos government has used “ayuda” as a stop-gap measure to address rising prices.
But its resources are limited, forcing it to borrow heavily. However, some funds could go to corruption as the amount of confidential and intelligence funds is unjustifiably high.
President Marcos Jr and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio must give up their confidential and intelligence funds.
They have no business buying information for security purposes.
They should leave it to the professionals in the military and law enforcement organizations.
At the height of his insensitivity, Marcos Jr watched the F1 Grand Prix race in Singapore for the second time instead of returning home and commiserating with his impoverished constituents.
The Office of the Vice President has no mandate under the Constitution to dip its fingers into security matters.
It is not part of the military chain of command and does not deserve to have a battalion-sized security detail.
In the early 1970s, the country faced an incipient rebellion, a food and fuel crisis, and international crises due to war in Indo-China and instability in the Middle East.
Fast forward to the 2020s, the country has a waning rebellion, a food and fuel crisis, and international crises due to the war in Ukraine and rising tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits.
Could Marcos Jr follow the path of his father?
Aside from mimicking his father’s voice, how he dressed up, and the campaign optics of the dictator, Junior also copied his father’s agricultural policies.
Will he browse his father’s political playbook and impose martial law?