Martial law ‘peaceful’? Netizens debate severity of Marcos regime

Gaby Baizas

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Martial law ‘peaceful’? Netizens debate severity of Marcos regime
Was the Philippines under Martial Law as peaceful as Marcos apologists make it out to be?

MANILA, Philippines – Forty-seven years ago, the Philippines experiences one of its darkest times as then president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law nationwide.

Amnesty International recorded about 70,000 prisoners, 34,000 tortured, and 3,240 deaths from 1972 to 1981. Thousands of victims, each with their own stories, still reel from the effects of Martial Law to this day. (READ: Martial Law victims, kin: Still no justice, full compensation after decades)

Despite these figures, Filipinos continue to debate whether or not Marcos’ military rule was as bloody as historical evidence makes it out to be.

On the eve of the anniversary of the declaration of martiallaw, many Filipinos shared stories – both positive and negative – about the late dictator’s regime. (READ:#NeverAgain: Martial Law stories young people need to hear) 

Nothing to fear

Martial Law during the Marcos era was characterized by killings, torture, disappearances, and censorship. However, a number of netizens argued that it was a peaceful time, and that Filipinos who didn’t oppose the government had nothing to be afraid of. (QUIZ: Would you have survived martial law?)

A number of comments explicitly referenced the New People’s Army (NPA) and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Joma Sison, in defending the need for martial law. Marcos cited the increasing threat of communism to justify his declaration in 1972.

Despite this, others argued that being spared from the perils of Martial Law was a privilege. Ronald Castor acknowledged that while some Filipinos viewed the Marcos era as peaceful and orderly, not everyone had the same advantage.

“It’s not anyone’s place to say another person’s experience or stories were false. Some are not so lucky,” he wrote.


Some netizens talked about how sparing one’s life involved some degree of corruption. Jacob Alc said that behind the peace and order “on the surface” was an abusive government.

“Everybody is a cousin of a friend of a public official to exempt themselves [from] the law or gain favors. Kapag may gulo, palakasan ng kakilala sa gobyerno (When there’s trouble, people scramble to find connections to the government),” he said.


A few netizens even joked about how one’s relationship with authorities became a matter of life and death.

Progress for whom?

Some netizens were also quick to defend the Marcos regime, claiming it was a period of economic growth and development. (READ: Marcos years marked ‘golden age’ of PH economy? Look at the data)


Other netizens disagreed. Manny Marcelo argued that martial law could not be “good for some and bad for others,” as it was a political phenomenon that negatively impacted the country’s economy as a whole.

“These are bad for every Filipino,” he said.


What are your thoughts on the debate?– 

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Gaby Baizas

Gaby Baizas is a digital forensics researcher at Rappler. She first joined Rappler straight out of college as a digital communications specialist. She hopes people learn to read past headlines the same way she hopes punk never dies.