Batas Militar was a comprehensive documentary on Martial Law. It clearly showed how the former President Marcos moved his way up to presidency and later on to dictatorship. I came to understand more how he did it. I was actually impressed by his intelligence and how he managed to deceive the Filipinos and even the Americans. Impressed I may be, I could not help but be mad at him for he brought a lot of misery and problem to the country. No class was spared from his iron hands. Those who leaned onto him benefited from his actions, but still there were only a handful of them.
In 1972 Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law with Proclamation 1081. He did it, he said, to save the Republic and to create what he called a “New Society.” A whole generation of Filipinos now exists which only has the faintest recollection — if at all — of the Marcos dictatorship.
By definition, Martial Law is the temporary superimposition of military government over civil government. This military-run government is put into place in the event of war or serious national emergencies.
During such times, the military and its accompanying superiors take over the executive, legislative and judicial functions normally delegated to the civil government by virtue of its constitution. As a result, the writ habeas corpus, or the right of an individual in custody to be brought to court to resolve whether such imprisonment is lawful, may be suspended for an indefinite period. This postponement of individual rights denies the person due process of law.
Many reasons can be brought forward to explain why a government can bring forth such a Draconian system on its population. These are cases when civil conflict, such as this case of civil war, threatens to unravel a diplomatic and productive society. In such cases, maybe the imposition of Martial Law can be justified.
The implementation of Martial Law brought much struggle to the media practitioners at that time. His cronies and relatives taking over the media companies was prevalent. The Marcos government never really wanted to let the public to know what his actions were. Everything broadcasted in the newspapers; radio and television were just a front to hide the truth. That was why he allowed his cronies and relatives to seize these media companies so that no one could put out negative publicity about him.
It was during these hard times that the patriotic spirit of the Filipinos rekindled; many brave souls faced the darkness and denounced the abuses being performed on the Filipino people under the guise of Martial Law.
It was really a tough and trying time for the press. Press freedom was not the norm. As it was presented in the film, many press people were captured, tortured, and even many were killed. Many feared for their lives. They no longer tried to oppose the Marcos regime. However, there were some journalists who were brave enough to put out whatever they knew about Marcos. These people became Marcos’ enemies. Even in their going underground, they never forgot their responsibilities and duties to the country. They wrote about what the public needed to know even if with fear that their lives could soon be put to an end. What they did was actually an eye-opener for most of the Filipinos. The Philippines came to understand and realize that Marcos wasn’t what he seemed to be. Because of these brave media people in exposing the true colors of the regime, democracy was again attained.
However, the power of the dictator and his cronies were too great, slowly the corruption and greed overwhelmed the new heroes. Many of these patriots “mysteriously” disappeared only to reappear as corpses. Many were locked up for many years, denied the right to defend themselves in court. Those who were too influential such as the case of Ninoy Aquino, were simply sent away, exiled to foreign lands and denied the chance to better their country’s state.
The documentary tells that the press could make a big difference in the lives of the people. One brave journalist could spark a change in the society, and a group, a revolution. Media practitioners nowadays should learn from the past that they should never be afraid to face even the insurmountable pressures that would come their way. Come rain or shine, typhoon or earthquakes, dictators or distracters, media people should never be afraid to tell the truth, because it is only through them, that this nation could know about its real being.
The Philippine Republic simply ceased to exist in that one dark moment of history. The shadow of Martial Law will always be remembered, as one of the truly tragic events that gripped this gallant nation.