There’s so much controversy and talk what has happened in the 1970s and why Martial Law was declared. With the muddle of information involved, sometimes it’s difficult to see the essentials.

When we really think about it, a lot of incidents happened and it’s hard to put them all in a short, single article. It’s hard to describe the totality and extent of such event in a few hundreds of words but we will try to describe Martial Law today briefly in key points.

Ferdinand Marcos was elected as president and took his oath in 1965. Prior to his presidency, he was nominated as a congressman to the house of representatives, and having served three terms he later ran for the senate. He was the Senate President prior to his presidency. He already had a long political career prior to leading the country.

In 1969, he got reelected again as President and entered the 70s as the leader of the country once again. Claiming that the Philippines was in a state of civil unrest, Marcos decided to resort to a measure known as the Martial Law.


Marcos declares Martial Law


Martial Law in brief is a state declared in an area where there is extensive civil unrest or some incidents which we don’t have control of, such as major natural disasters. When this is in place – civil rights, civil laws, habeas corpus and such are suspended. Military rule is even extended to civilians.

In Marcos’ case, he decided that the country was in such chaos that it needed such measure to control the situation.

Marcos then declared Martial law on the 21st of September, 1972 in the form of Proclamation 1081. Marcos imposed curfews, civil laws and rights suspended, and even the media’s broadcasts were watched and regulated. It actually surprised some citizens because the situation of the country that time was not in a state where Martial Law was really needed.

With the majority of the rights taken away, and no freedom to speak your opinion regarding the government, widespread censorship – things could go wrong from here. Martial Law was intended to “put order” into the society but it has just done the opposite.

The Martial Law no longer protected the people, it was supposed to but it did not serve its purpose. Martial Law was the start of a period of abuse, torture, and illegal detention of the people. The government abused what the Martial Law can do. It was a dark time for the Filipinos.

The years were long and tumultuous but the Filipino people didn’t back down without a fight. Lives were lost, sacrifices were made. It was a journey to reclaim freedom and there were Filipinos who were brave enough to go against the tides.

In 1986, a snap election was held and Marcos still wanted to be in position. However, people took action and finally got Marcos out of the presidency after 21 long years. Martial Law and the years under Marcos finally came to an end, thanks to the heroism and sacrifices made by our countrymen.


“Declaration of Martial Law,”

Ellen-Rae Cachola, “The Haunting of Martial Law: Records from the Marcos Regime,”, (September 7, 2017).