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Proclamations

President Ferdinand Marcos Proclaims Martial Law (1972)

AP Archive

1972

President Ferdinand Marcos Proclaims Martial Law (1972)

AP Archive

In this historic broadcast, President Marcos explains that the “proclamation of Martial Law” is “not a military takeover” but was undertaken “to protect the Republic of the Philippines” and “our democracy.” This short clip then shows scenes of citizens and military alike participate in cleaning and maintaining order in the streets.

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“President Ferdinand Marcos proclaims Martial law,” Associated Press Archives, September 23, 1972.

Papal Visit protest at Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila (1981)

AP Archive

2015

Papal Visit protest at Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila (1981)

AP Archive

On 17 January 1981, via Proclamation No. 2045, President Ferdinand Marcos officially lifted martial law. This was widely seen as an effort to create a positive image for his administration in time for the papal visit in the following month, and to placate growing opposition within the Catholic church.

Four days before the Pope’s arrival, the People’s Assembly for the Pope’s Arrival (Papa), an alliance of 32 anti-Marcos groups, gathered at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to decry American imperialism and the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos. In this clip we see seminarians at the frontlines carrying a large wooden cross, which police forces pushed back and eventually destroyed in their attempts to halt the procession.

In his first homily during his six-day stay, the Pope, without mentioning Marcos’ name, condemned the use of violence to maintain peace and order. The New York Times reports: “‘Even in exceptional situations that may at times arise, one can never justify any violation of the fundamental dignity of the human person or of the basic rights that safeguard this dignity,’ the Pope declared as Mr. Marcos sat stolidly on one of the thronelike gilt chairs on the stage. ‘Legitimate concern for the security of a nation, as demanded by the common good, could lead to the temptation of subjugating to the state the human being and his or her dignity and rights.’”

However, in a separate discussion with religious orders at the Manila Cathedral, Pope John Paul II also cautioned against social involvement: “You are priests and religious. You are not social or political leaders or officials of a temporal power. Let us not be under the illusion that we are serving the gospel if we dilute our charisma through an exaggerated interest in the wide field of temporal problems.”

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AP Archive, “Demonstration Against the Repressive Policies of President Ferdinand Marcos,” YouTube video, 1:46, July 28, 2015,

Letter of Instruction No. 1

Ferdinand E. Marcos

1972

Letter of Instruction No. 1

Ferdinand E. Marcos

Along with Proclamation 1081, President Marcos, signed “Letter of Instruction No. 1″ addressed to the Press Secretary and the Secretary of National Defense, pertaining to media operations. Effectively, the President instructed these bodies, stating…”you are hereby ordered forthwith to take over and control or cause the taking over and control of all such newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media of communications, wherever they are, for the duration of the present national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by me or my duly designated representative.”

After declaring Martial Law, the very first letter of instruction President Marcos signed institutionalized censorship of all forms of media, curtailing the freedom of the press.

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Marcos, Ferdinand E., “Letter of Instruction No. 1,” Official Gazette, Government of the Philippines, September 22, 1972.

The Philippines Sunday Express, September 24, 1972

Various Authors

1972

The Philippines Sunday Express, September 24, 1972

Various Authors

The cover page of the Philippines Sunday Express dated September 24, 1972 shows President Marcos declaring Martial Law just the day before. Accompanying articles explain that this declaration was not a military take-over and that life and business would go on as normal. And yet, the newspaper cover alone elicits a sense of foreboding of what is to come.

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“FM Declares Martial Law,” The Philippines Sunday Express, September 24, 1972.

The Radio-TV Address of President Marcos

Ferdinand E. Marcos

1972

The Radio-TV Address of President Marcos

Ferdinand E. Marcos

On September 23, 1972, two days after he signed Proclamation 1081 imposing Martial Law on the entire country, President Marcos addressed the people of the Philippines on radio and television. On this Radio-TV address, he provided the rationale of military rule as “public safety requires it” and as the nation was “imperilled by the danger of violent overthrow, an insurrection or a rebellion.” In his address, he emphasized that “this is not a military takeover,” and yet, he orders the military to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, prohibit any rallies or demonstrations, and to arrest those “directly involved in the conspiracy to overthrow” the government. Curfew was imposed from 12am to 4am the departure of Filipinos to go abroad was suspended. Furthermore, President Marcos declared that “If you offend the New Society, you shall be punished like the rest of the offenders,” and yet reassured the Filipinos expressing, “but to the ordinary citizens, to almost all of you whose primary concern is merely to be left alone to pursue your lawful activities, this is the guarantee of that freedom that you seek.” This address did not provide much reassurance but was foreboding of the bad things to come.

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Marcos, Ferdinand E. Radio-TV Address of his Excellency Ferdinand E. Marcos, President of the Philippines, Delivered in Malacanang, September 23, 1972.
Marcos, F. E. (1978). Presidential speeches (Vol. 4). [Manila : Office of the President of the Philippines].

General Order No. 3

Ferdinand E. Marcos

1972

General Order No. 3

Ferdinand E. Marcos

With the declaration of Martial Law, President Marcos signed several General (Executive) Orders immediately, including General Order No. 3, where he orders that “all executive departments, bureaus, offices, agencies and instrumentalities of the National Government…shall continue to function under their present officers and employees.” The same goes to the Judiciary which he stated “shall continue to function in accordance with its present organization and personnel,” except in adjudicating the cases of those deemed dangerous by the state. Like other general orders, this one cements and expands the uncontested powers of the President.

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Marcos, Ferdinand E., “General Order No. 3,” Government of the Philippines, September 22, 1972.

General Order No. 2-A

Ferdinand E. Marcos

1972

General Order No. 2-A

Ferdinand E. Marcos

With Proclamation 1081, President Marcos effectively placed the country under Martial Law and immediately after he signed several General Orders that elaborated on and expanded his powers. With General Order No. 2-A (which amended General Order No. 2), President Marcos, as Commander-in-Chief, orders the Secretary of National Defense to arrest and take into custody the individuals who were seen as threats to the state. The order itself lists these types of people. This effectively gave the President and the military unlimited power to arrest people without due process.

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Marcos, Ferdinand E., “General Order No. 2-A,” Government of the Philippines, September 26, 1972. [Amending General Order No. 2 signed on September 22, 1972.]

General Order No. 1

Ferdinand E. Marcos

1972

General Order No. 1

Ferdinand E. Marcos

With Proclamation 1081, President Marcos effectively placed the country under Martial Law and immediately after, he signed several General Orders that elaborated on and expanded his powers. General Order No. 1 cemented his authoritarian powers, as he declared: “I shall govern the nation and, direct the operation of the entire Government, including all its agencies and instrumentalities, in my capacity and shall exercise all the powers and prerogatives appurtenant and incident to my position as such Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of the Philippines.”

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Marcos, Ferdinand E., “General Order No. 1,” Government of the Philippines, September 22, 1972.

Proclamation No. 1081

Ferdinand E. Marcos

1972

Proclamation No. 1081

Ferdinand E. Marcos

A most important and historic document, Proclamation No. 1081, contained the formal proclamation of Martial Law in the Philippines by President Ferdinand Marcos. It was signed on September 23, 1972, then back dated to September 21, 1972, but only announced to the public on September 23, 1972. The document outlines the rationale for the declaration of Martial Law, stating that “there is throughout the land a state of anarchy and lawlessness, chaos and disorder, turmoil and destruction of a magnitude equivalent to an actual war.”

This proclamation marked the beginning of the authoritarian rule of President Marcos, which lasted for 14 years. Marcos assumed powers essentially as a dictator as he declared, “in my capacity as their commander-in-chief, do hereby command the armed forces of the Philippines, to maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all the laws and decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by me personally or upon my direction.”

With Proclamation No. 1081, President Marcos then signed several General Orders and Letters of Instruction that cemented his authoritarian powers, which included arresting persons without due process, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, curtailing the freedom of the press, prohibiting strikes and mass actions, among others. This proclamation also stopped the democratic process allowing him to rule the Philippines, essentially without legitimate Elections and opposition, until his ouster in 1986.

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Marcos, Ferdinand E., “Proclamation 1081,” Official Gazette, Government of the Philippines, September 21, 1972.