Having served a strongman dictator, the late president Ferdinand Marcos, former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Francisco Tatad do not see incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte doing another martial law rule in the country.

Enrile and Tatad were former defense and information Ministers, respectively, during the Marcos’ martial law regime in the country. Both are now retired from politics.

On the other hand, President Duterte has openly expressed his admiration to the late president Marcos who he described demonstrated “brilliant leadership” of the country during his close to 20 years of rule.

Following the Sept. 2 terrorist bombing that killed 15 people and injured 60 others at a night market in Davao City, President Duterte declared the entire country under a state of lawlessness. Fears were raised that President Duterte is eyeing the re-imposition of martial law in the country as a next move.

Enrile, who is regarded as the real architect of the martial law apparatus of Marcos, laughed off such fears as nothing but a figment of imagination. Tatad, who read Proclamation 1081 declaring martial law all over the country on Sept. 21, 1972, shared Enrile’s amusement to such scenario of President Duterte doing a Marcos.

Enrile and Tatad were one in saying the country’s 1987 Constitution has effectively defanged the powers of the President to declare martial law.

With strongman-rule image of President Duterte, Enrile finds funny the claims by sworn enemies of the incumbent administration to stir fears of martial law after state of lawlessness.

“What seems to be is not the reality,” Enrile said and chuckled at his own quip.

Tatad could not agree more at Enrile’s attempt to sound enigmatic as senior elder statesman. Much younger than his former collegue at the Senate, the 67-year old Tatad cited the need to provide light and guidance on a fair account of Philippine history as presented to generations of Filipino people.

The late president Marcos ruled for almost two decades that were marked by widespread human rights abuses by the police and military authorities, not to mention amassing of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their so-called crony businessmen.

Ex-Senators Enrile and Tatad were among the featured guests at Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday when we also discussed about the renewed national debate on the burial of the late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City.

The debate was ignited anew after President Duterte gave the official go-signal to allow Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani which by its name is reserved for war heroes, that include ex-presidents of the country. The Marcos family originally set the burial rites this coming Sept. 18, Sunday.

However, anti-Marcos groups filed petitions against it before the Supreme Court (SC). Acting on the petition, the SC issued a temporary injunction last month pending resolution of the issue. While still conducting oral arguments against the Marcos burial, the High Court issued another status quo ante order effective until Oct. 18.

In effect, the SC status quo ante order means the waxed remains of the late president would stay at its present site in refrigerated crypt in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Among the petitioners included the group SELDA, or Samahan ng nga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detention at Aresto, an organization of former political prisoners convicted and jailed for common crimes during the martial law regime.

Our equally articulate guests at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay led by SELDA national coordinator Aglipayan Fr. Dionito Cabillas and ex-labor leader Danilo Mallari, a human rights (HR) compensation claimant among the HR victims during martial law faced off with Enrile and Tatad.

Mallari narrated in detail how he suffered during the Marcos regime as a 37-year-old labor leader who was among those tortured and detained by the military for their alleged seditious activities. Mallari, now 67 years old, has a pending compensation claims for HR victims he filed in Philippine court in 2001.

Todate, Mallari rued, he has yet to receive a single centavo from the Congress-created HR Victims’ Claims Board headed by the country’s first woman Police General now retired, Lina Sarmiento. Fr. Cabillas, for his part, reiterated SELDA’s stand that the ends of justice for HR victims will not be written off by any compensation from the State. But if Marcos will be buried at the Libingan, Fr. Cabillas pointed out, it would be injustice again for the martial law HR victims.

Naturally, this elicited vehement arguments from both Enrile and Tatad in defense of the late president. The two Marcos ex-ministers chorused the fact that it is the State that pays for the compensation on alleged HR abuses. Therefore, they argued, it was not Marcos but the alleged HR abuses committed were in the performance of the duties of the State to protect the nation from lawless elements during the martial law regime.

Enrile and Tatad reminded Filipinos at the time Marcos issued Proclamation 1081 there was clear and present danger posed by communist insurgents and other heavily armed groups operating all over the country wanting to take over control of the government.

On a lighter note, Fr.mCabillas immediately told us during our breakfast forum that the Aglipayan Church considers Enrile as a member of their flock. The 92-year-old Senator is only too happy to confirm that he was indeed baptized at age five years old in Aglipayan rites at their Church that still stands in Cagayan. But Enrile said he was rechristened in Catholic rites after his adoption.

Other than presiding his own coffee shop talks, what’s keeping Enrile busy these days after his last stint at the Senate? “I’m raising crabs,” Enrile disclosed. He wisecracked he is not promoting the “crab mentality” industry, or pulling down others like crabs do to each other.

Even as they are both already on their twilight years, so to speak, Enrile and Tatad pledged to continue their public service in correcting falsehoods peddled 44 years after martial law was imposed in the country. The two ex-Marcos ministers are speaking for the much-maligned martial law regime be given at least its side of the story for more fair accounts of the country’s history.