HIS STORY AND HISTORY | Revisiting Enrile’s claims on Martial Law and EDSA (Part 1)

5 months ago

By Anthony Divinagracia

SEPTEMBER 24, 2018 – Juan Ponce Enrile is talking about history – or at least, his story.

On Thursday, the former defense minister and veteran lawmaker whipped a hornet’s nest through a series of “revelations” on what he claimed were hidden truths behind the late president Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law declaration 46 years ago.

Enrile’s claims were buzzing and biting on three fronts: One, a denial of the massive killings and arrests during the martial law years. Two, Marcos’ losing the battle against the oligarchs. And three, what he claimed was the real purpose of the military uprising that led to the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986.

In a tete-a-tete with the late strongman’s son and namesake Bongbong Marcos and posted on social media as Witness to History, Enrile insisted that the killings and arrests blamed on the late president’s nine-year military rule were untrue.

“They claimed that we killed a lot of people. It’s not true that we arrested 70k people. If you include those who violated the curfew or the jaywalkers, maybe we can reach that number. People are free. If you violated criminal law, you have to be arrested whether you violated martial law or not,” he said in the interview uploaded over social media on the eve of the 46th commemoration of martial law.

“Name me one person who was arrested for their political or religious beliefs. None. Name me one person that was arrested simply because he criticized President Marcos. None.”

But those who outlived Martial Law quickly disputed the claim of Marcos’ former defense minister. One of them was former senate president Aquilino Pimentel, then a human rights lawyer who was imprisoned alongside Jose W. Diokno, Rene Saguisag, Joker Arroyo, Jovito Salonga and many others.

Amnesty International (AI) reports were likewise cited to debunk Enrile. Contrary to the 94-year old former lawmaker’s statement, AI said around 3,420 people died, 34,000 tortured, and 70,000 arrested during the Martial Law years. AI said the figures were culled from documented sources and personal or eyewitness accounts of the alleged Marcos-time atrocities.

Former president Fidel V. Ramos, an Enrile contemporary and commander of the Philippine Constabulary which carried the bulk of the operations targeting actual and perceived enemies of the Marcos regime, are also yet to speak on the matter.

Curiously, as Senate President in 2013, Enrile also shepherded and co-signed Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, which recognizes the existence of human rights violations during the Marcos years, and provides for a mechanism to indemnify the victims. A total of 11,103 Martial Law victims have since received indemnity from the government under this law.

Fight against the oligarchs

Enrile did not also mince words in blaming the country’s oligarchs, the landed gentry whom he accused of scheming and conspiring to frustrate the economic plans of the Marcos regime.

“They control the economy. They controlled the agriculture because they have the haciendas. They control the communication. They want to control even government. You had to talk to interest groups to be able to run for public office in those days. They control Meralco. They control the media. They control the newspapers, the radio. Many facets of industry, the industrialization of the country is controlled by the so-called oligarchs of the land,” he said.

Authors Salvador Escalante and Augustus Y. Dela Paz echoed Enrile in their collaborative work titled “The EDSA uprising? The five-percent revolution (EDSA in Retrospect: A Deconstruction) published in 2000. They called EDSA a fitting venue to mount the “revenge of the oligarchs.”

“EDSA wasn’t just about abstract ideals like justice, freedom, democracy, and morality. A great deal of it was about money and power. Predictably, many of the prominent figures at EDSA fully intended their material investments to produce profits. Cory (Aquino) being a businesswoman herself, fully understood. She was all sympathy for the patriotic rich who helped her get rid of their common tormentors — the Marcoses and their cronies,” Escalante and Dela Paz wrote. The two authors also wrote the book Hubris: When States and Men Dare God: The Persecution of the Marcoses.

Interestingly, one of those Marcos cronies was Cory’s first cousin Danding Cojuangco, who was a family rival in both business and politics.

Escalante and Dela Paz also noted how the elite families deemed Marcos as a pariah in elite social circles, an outsider whose “standing was considered inferior to that of the sugar barons, the shipping magnates, the captains of industry, the lords of utilities, the owners of the press, the loggers and the ranchers, or even the nobles of smuggling and gambling.”

They added: “…when President Marcos started using martial law to undertake economic reforms, the oligarchs balked.”

Like Enrile, Escalante and Dela Paz shared the view that EDSA restored the old elite which Marcos thought were the “social causes of rebellion” and stumbling blocks to the nationalization of key industries and sectors. But Enrile made no mention of the Marcos cronies who actually had strong oligarchic roots like Cojuangco whose name continues to prop up in the P84 billion coco levy fund scam. Nearly P9.8 billion were taxed from the coconut farmers during Marcos’ time but the entire amount was allegedly spent to buy the San Miguel Corporation and the United Coconut Planters’ Bank among others. Enrile was also said to have benefitted from the coco levy funds as head of the Philippine Coconut Authority during the Marcos regime, but he has since denied the allegations.

The New York Times, in a February 26, 1986 report, hit Marcos’ own king-making tendency, saying: “Many of his associates grew richer and richer, profiting one way or another from Government and personal ties. He and his wife, Imelda, grew enormously rich, amassing, by some accounts, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate and antiques in the New York area alone.”

One of these associates was businessman Herminio Disini, whose wife was a cousin of Imelda Marcos. Disini helped broker the $2 billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant for the late president. The Supreme Court ordered his prosecution for allegedly receiving a $1 million commission as an agent for the mothballed nuclear plant. The New York Times also described Disini as a “Marcos golf partner” who “advanced in five years from a tobacco-company post to the proprietorship of a conglomerate with assets worth more than $500 million.”

READ ALSO: HIS STORY AND HISTORY | Revisiting Enrile’s claims on Martial Law and EDSA (Part 2)