Martial Law fact checks

FALSE: ‘Only one executed,’ ‘none arrested’ under Marcos’ Martial Law – Enrile

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FALSE: ‘Only one executed,’ ‘none arrested’ under Marcos’ Martial Law – Enrile
Many individuals have come forward to share their stories of being arrested and tortured under the Marcos regime

Claim: During Martial Law, it was only drug lord Lim Seng who was executed. Also, no one was arrested for criticizing then-president Ferdinand Marcos.

In the first part of “JPE: A Witness to History” on September 20, former Senate president and defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile said that he once “challenged” a journalist to “name me one that we executed other than Lim Seng.”

Here is the transcript of the conversation between Enrile and Marcos’ son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, in the video:

Marcos: What is the biggest fallacy that young people now are being fed about the reasons behind and the actual events of Martial Law?

Enrile: They claimed that we killed a lot of people. That’s why when I was interviewed by someone some time ago, I challenged her: Name me one that we executed other than Lim Seng.

Marcos: What was the accusation? Was it that they were summarily executed?

Enrile: That we had 70,000 arrested, which was not true! Maybe if they will include the people who violate curfew and jay walkers, maybe you can reach that number. People could go out at night. They can go out to fish, they could go out to farm, they were free in fact. Of course, if you are a member of the rebel group or a war lord or someone who violated the criminal law, you had to be arrested, whether you have Martial Law or not.

Later, Enrile added that during President Marcos’ term, no one was arrested for religious or political beliefs or for criticizing the president.

Enrile: Name me one person that was arrested because of political or religious belief during that period. None. Name me one person who was arrested simply because he criticized Marcos. None.

Marcos: But there were a lot of critics still very vociferous and very… speaking out against him and his administration, even during the Martial Law, when the country was under Martial Law.

Enrile: Jovy Salonga, for instance, he was involved in the Light a Fire Movement and many others. Very few were arrested. And they were released. They were inconvenienced for a while but they were released. The late Pepe Diokno, he didn’t want to be released. I told him, “Pepe, just sign anything and just get out of here!” I told him.

Rating: FALSE

The facts: There were more people killed than just legally “executed” under Martial Law. “Executed” as used by Enrile appears to refer only to a government-sanctioned criminal execution that involves capital punishment for a crime committed. The claim is also misleading because it excludes extrajudicial killings that were not sanctioned by any legal process and which often targeted those who opposed government. Most of the time these killings were carried out by state forces.

But even going by Enrile’s definition of “execution”, besides Lim Seng (a Chinese drug lord executed via firing squad in Fort Bonifacio on January 15, 1973), Marcelo San Jose was also “executed” via electric chair on October 21, 1976. This is according to a United Press International wire report carried by The Ottawa Citizen newspaper in Canada, on November 5, 1976. The newspaper is digitally archived at

San Jose “was tried and found guilty of killing a jeep driver on January 30, 1974, and stealing the vehicle,” said the report, adding that it was the “third execution carried out in the Philippines since Martial Law was proclaimed in 1972.”

Even more alarming is Amnesty International’s report that says 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and at least 3,240 were victims of extrajudicial killings under Martial Law. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)

On February 25, 2013, Republic Act 10368 was signed to acknowledge the sufferings of victims and their families under Martial Law, and to provide reparations for them. Incidentally, this law was signed by Enrile, who was Senate president at the time.

Other cases: On October 21, 1992, a Hawaii court ruled that Marcos’ daughter Imee Marcos and former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Fabian Ver violated the human rights of student Archimedes Trajano. (READ: How Imee Marcos got away from paying $4M in damages for Trajano death)

Trajano was tortured and found dead in September 1977 after asking Imee a question during an open forum about her appointment by her father as the head of youth organization Kabataang Barangay.

During Martial Law, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. State agents had legal powers to arrest or execute anyone they believed to pose a threat to national security. Many individuals have come forward to share their accounts and stories of being arrested and tortured under the Marcos regime. Some were also reported killed because of dissent, or being connected to dissenters. (READ: #NeverAgain: Martial Law stories young people need to hear)

Among them: Dr Juan Escandor, a young doctor with the Philippine General Hospital who was tortured and killed by the Philippine Constabulary; 16-year-old Luis “Boyet” Mijares, whose father was writer and whistle-blower Primitivo Mijares; and human rights activist and lawyer Neri Colmenares, who was arrested and tortured by members of the Philippine Constabulary.

Also in the video, Enrile mentioned former senators Salonga and Diokno as among the opposition members who were detained but were eventually released.

Salonga, Diokno: Salonga was accused of allegedly being one of the masterminds of an explosion at the Philippine International Convention Center on October 19, 1980, reportedly after President Marcos delivered a keynote speech there.

He was arrested on October 21, 1980 and was released on November 25 due to immense pressure from Salonga’s supporters and Christian brethren, and because reports about the real mastermind of the explosion surfaced after Salonga’s arrest. (READ: The life, love and struggles of Jovito Salonga)

Diokno openly opposed Martial Law and was one of the first men imprisoned under military rule on September 23, 1972. He was imprisoned for two years without charges. (READ: No cause more worthy: Ka Pepe Diokno’s fight for human rights

In a family statement posted on Friday, September 21, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, son of the late senator, refuted Enrile’s claim that his father “didn’t want to be released” from detention. 

“The primary document in question was the pledge of allegiance, parts of which Dad rejected,” said Chel Diokno. (READ: ‘Distortion of truth’: Diokno family slams Bongbong Marcos, Enrile)

“Our father objected to the terms of the pledge, not to his release. There is a difference between the two. Enrile’s interpretation of Dad’s objections as ‘not wanting to be released’ is an outright misrepresentation of the facts.” – Miguel Imperial, Vernise L Tantuco, and Michael Bueza/

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