LIST: False claims of Juan Ponce Enrile on Martial Law

Mara Cepeda

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LIST: False claims of Juan Ponce Enrile on Martial Law
Former Marcos defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, the architect and implementor of Martial Law, also wrongly claims that there were no massacres during that time

MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr publicized the first episode of his one-on-one video interview with Juan Ponce Enrile on Thursday, September 20, the eve of the 46th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

Bongbong, the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, sat on a plush chair facing Enrile, former Marcos defense minister and known architect and implementor of Martial Law. (READ: Martial Law, the dark chapter in Philippine history

But the two men made false or misleading claims in their video entitled, “JPE: A Witness to History,” a clear attempt to justify Marcos’ Proclamation No. 1081 which placed the whole country under martial rule on September 21, 1972.

Bongbong opened the interview by asking Enrile, “What is the biggest fallacy that young people now are being fed about the reasons behind and the actual events of Martial Law?” (READ: #NeverAgain: Martial Law stories young people need to hear)

CLAIM: “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,” said Enrile. 

Enrile went on to say that it is “not true” that 70,000 people were arrested during the Marcos years, unless that number included “the people who [violated] curfew and jaywalkers.”

Enrile also said that no one was arrested during Martial Law because of their political or religious beliefs or because they had opposed Marcos. 

“Name me one person that was arrested because of political or religious belief during that period. None…. Name me one person that was arrested simply because he criticized President Marcos. None,” said Enrile.

FACT: During the interview, Enrile was selective about his recollections. He excluded reference to the extrajudicial killings under Martial Law. (READ: FALSE: ‘Only one executed,’ ‘none arrested’ under Marcos’ Martial Law – Enrile)

“Executed” as used by Enrile in the interview appears to refer to the imposition of the death penalty by the government as punishment for a crime committed. Extrajudicial killings, which often target those who oppose the government, happen without the sanction of any legal process.

Lim Seng, whom Enrile mentioned in the interview, was executed through firing squad in 1973 because he was a Chinese drug lord. Enrile, however, erred in saying Seng was the only criminal executed by the government, because Canada-based The Ottawa Citizen reported another execution during Martial Law. The report said that on October 31, 1976, Marcelo San Jose was sentenced to death by electrocution.

As for extrajudicial killings, Amnesty International reported at least 3,240 people were killed from 1972 to 1981, while around 70,000 people were imprisoned, and 34,000 were tortured.

Numerous firsthand accounts from families of victims and victims themselves who survived arrest and detention also debunk this false claim by Enrile. These accounts had been documented even in what was known before as the mosquito press.

Political dissidents were also imprisoned, accused of crimes ranging from possession of firearms to subversion. (READ: How Marcos treated dissent: Punishing rumors and summoning reporters)

Many of those who were imprisoned were subjected to gruesome forms of torture. (READ: Worse than death: Torture methods during martial law

The late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, one of Marcos’ fiercest critics, was one of the first individuals arrested after Martial Law was proclaimed. (READ: LOOK BACK: The Aquino assassination

Aquino was placed under military trial after he was accused of murder, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion. He went on a hunger strike for 40 days from April 4 to May 13, 1975, to protest the “trumped-up charges” against him. 

In 1977, the military tribunal sentenced Aquino to die. The execution, however, was never carried out as Aquino was allowed to live in exile in the US.

Brave young Filipinos at the forefront of the anti-dictatorship movement were also imprisoned and killed during Martial Law. (READ: Gone too soon: 7 youth leaders killed under Martial Law)

Among them is 21-year-old Archimedes Trajano, who stood up during an August 1977 open forum where Bongbong’s sister Imee Marcos, now Ilocos Norte governor, was a speaker. Trajano asked why she was the national chairperson of the Kabataang Barangay.

Witnesses said Trajano was seen forcibly taken from the venue by Imee’s bodyguards, was tortured for 12 to 36 hours, and thrown out of a second floor window. His bloodied body was found in the streets of Manila on September 2, 1977.

Trajano’s mother later sued Imee and former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Fabian Ver before a district court in Honolulu, Hawaii, on March 20, 1986, about a month after the Marcos family moved there, following the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcoses from power.

The Trajanos won the case in 1991, with the court awarding them $4.4 million. They then filed a civil case with the Pasig City Regional Trial Court in 1993 to collect the compensation from the Marcos family.

But in 2006, the Supreme Court voided the case and ruled in favor of Imee and Ver. (READ: How Imee Marcos got away from paying $4M in damages for Trajano death)

Years later, Republic Act (RA) No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 created the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, tasked “to receive, evaluate, process, and investigate” reparation claims made by victims of human rights violations under Martial Law.

Ironically, Enrile was the Senate president when RA 10368 was signed into law.

A total of 11,103 victims of human rights violations under Martial Law are now mandated to receive reparations for the abuses they endured. (READ: House OKs longer validity of Martial Law victims’ compensation)

CLAIM: “During Martial Law, there were no massacres, like what happened in Mendiola during the supposed democratic government of Cory Aquino,” said Enrile. 

FACT: There were at least two massacres that happened during Martial Law. (READ: FALSE: ‘No massacres’ during Martial Law)

On September 24, 1974, military forces in pursuit of rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front gunned down more than 1,000 civilians praying in a mosque in Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat. This is known as the Malisbong massacre or the Palimbang massacre.

Details of a second massacre – the Bingcul massacre – were reported by various  newspapers based in the United States and Canada. On the evening of November 12, 1977, 7 uniformed men were reported to have entered Bingcul village somewhere in Mindanao and ordered 12 families to get out of their houses. 

The uniformed men made them squat then opened fire on them, killing 42 people. One adult and 3 children survived. 

CLAIM: Towards the end of the episode, Bongbong asked Enrile what convinced the government then that Marcos should already declare Martial Law. Enrile claimed the Jabidah massacre was a mere invention.

“It started when they invented the Jabidah massacre. I say invented because until now, I have not heard anyone who complained about anyone being massacred in Corregidor. No one. The only one who appeared as a member of the supposed Muslim trainees in Corregidor was that fellow who swam across Corregidor to Cavite, which was the invention of Montano and Ninoy Aquino. Because of that political outburst of Ninoy, we lost Sabah. That Jabidah massacre injured the political stature of the Marcos regime, followed by the Plaza Miranda grenading in 1971,” said Enrile. 

FACT: The Jabidah massacre happened on March 18, 1968, when at least 23 Muslim trainees were shot to death in Corregidor Island. The Marcos government, however, tried to cover it up. 

The inside story on the massacre was written by Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan Vitug and Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria in one chapter of their book, “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao,” first published in 2000.

It all began with Oplan Merdeka, a clandestine operation hatched by Marcos in 1967 that sought the training of a special commando unit – named Jabidah – that would create havoc in Sabah, a territory claimed by the Philippines but occupied by Malaysia.

The plan was to send Muslim recruits to invade Sabah in 1968, but the operation ws botched.

On top of not receiving the stipends promised to them, the trainees had to endure harsh living conditions in Corregidor. They were also reportedly not informed that Oplan Merdeka’s real purpose was to invade Sabah. Some of the trainees secretly wrote a petition addressed to Marcos to air their grievances.

Smelling a mutiny brewing, the training officers of the Jabidah unit transferred some recruits to other camps. But on March 18, 1968, some of the trainees were shot and burned – the bloodbath known as the Jabidah massacre.

The massacre sparked the decades-long armed struggle in Mindanao. The Bangsamoro people continue to demand justice for the Jabidah massacre victims to this day. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.