By: Atty. Joseph Gonzales
Most people, especially the victims of President Ferdinand Marcos’ so-called constitutional dictatorship, would remember only the evil things about Martial Law. But, if historians would be fair about it, there were also some positive things about it. The bad things, of course, include the warrantless arrests, the indefinite detention without charges, and the alleged torture, rape and other detestable abuses supposedly committed by military officials and personnel who went out of bounds. Power corrupted and absolute power corrupted absolutely.
Since most of the write-ups today would focus on the bad things that Martial Law did to their lives, businesses and careers, I am going to balance the situation by discussing some positive things about Martial Law. I am not going to revise the historical facts that were well-documented. I will not deny the truth because I too, was a victim, having been arrested as a student leader and detained without charges. But since I am a journalist and a Rotarian, I am going to tell the whole truth. And part of the truth which others prefer not to highlight is the positive side of Martial Law.
What I liked most about those Martial Law years was the discipline of both the rich and the poor. The rich, especially the oligarchs who exploited, oppressed and committed all forms of social injustices against the people, were disciplined through massive social changes and development, including agrarian reform, labor decrees including the Labor Code, and the government’s exercise of eminent domain and police power to break the monopolies by landed estates, by the ruling classes who were committing multiple unfair labor practices against their workers. Marcos decreed many social reforms especially in the form of labor laws and social legislation.
The poor were also disciplined. Curfew was imposed. The young ones did not roam around at nights like what they are doing today. The core of the curriculum was work. Pupils and students were trained to work and not to behave as spoiled brats like many are today. The young and the old were ordered to plant trees, and the government employees were required to render rural service in order to help the green revolution. People were asked to clean their surroundings, to be mindful of the community sanitation. No one was allowed to urinate or defecate anywhere. The people were made to respect the environment.
As between absolute freedom and conscientious discipline, I prefer discipline. As between unrestrained freedom to abuse, freedom to plunder the country, freedom to use and sell drugs, and freedom to ravage the environment, which are all happening today, on the one hand, and discipline, on the other hand, I would always choose discipline. Even God would destroy a new Sodom and a new Gomorrah, and would destroy us by massive floods like He did the time of Noah. This is a licentious, abusive and totally reckless and sinful generation. We need Martial Law to bring back sanity to the land. Or God will destroy us all.