Friday, November 28, 2014

Start of Martial Law (September 1972)

From a personal account of the late Raul M. Gonzalez:

"Before the declaration of Martial was made public in the early evening of 23 September 1972, there were rumors of arrests of prominent anti-Marcos elements, student and labor leaders, political oppositionists, journalists and newspapermen, owners of media outlets, and persons known to be anti-administration.  Then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos came on the air in what was obviously a taped broadcast.  The decree declaring martial law for the whole country was ante-dated 21 September 1972.
"In one single stroke, Marcos cancelled the Constitution, abolished both houses of Congress, and placed the Armed Forces and the police under his direct command like his own toy to play around with.  He usurped the powers of duly constituted authorities and installed himself as the only authority in the land. 
"I felt disgusted with this turn of events.  I resigned all my positions in government and even my teaching position in the Philippine College of Commerce, a public educational institution.  From then on, I helped human rights victims by providing legal counsel and services for free. 

"I still continued with my legal office, which sustained me throughout my freelance days.  Among my clients were the Yangs of Manila who were the owners of downtown theaters Roxan, Odeon, Maxim and Miramar, among others.  The Yangs figured in the Carmelo-Bauermann real estate case.  The Bauermanns owned the lot in C.M. Recto Avenue where Maxim and Miramar stood, under a lease contract with the Yangs with an option-to-buy clause.  The Bauermanns sold the lot to another party instead.  The Yangs went to court in which I was their counsel, and we won the case up to the Supreme Court. 
"I was aware that Marcos was twisting the precepts of the law in order to show the country and the whole world that martial law was legitimate.  While he closed down the legislature, he maintained the Judiciary to make it appear that there was some form of due process still in effect.  There was no place to go but the Supreme Court, to lodge complaints and hope to be heard.    

"I petitioned the High Court to declare the Marcos decree imposing martial law as unconstitutional and was one of the first private citizens to do so.  I was in my law office together with a friend, Napoleon Dilag, who in the post-Marcos years became a judge in Cavite.  I composed a petition questioning martial law which was later given the file title: 'Dilag vs the Executive Secretary.'  I filed other petitions with the Supreme Court, one after the other, in my capacity as chapter president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

"I waited for results with confidence in the law of averages that soon one of my petitions would inevitably surface and be tabled by the High Court.  I wanted to put on record the fact that several petitions were filed in opposition to martial and questioning its legality, yet most of those petitions were unceremoniously rejected by the High Court.  I took comfort in the hope that the Justices would realize that history would also judge them."