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Martial law in the Philippines (Tagalog language:Batas Militar sa Pilipinas; Spanish: ley marcial en Filipinas) refers to several intermittent periods in Philippine history wherein the Philippine head of state (such as the President) proclaims that an area is placed under the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Martial law is declared either when there is near-violent civil unrest or in cases of major natural disasters, however most countries use a different legal construct like "state of emergency".

Typically, the imposition of martial law accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, civil rights, habeas corpus, and the application or extension of military law or military justice to civilians. Civilians defying martial law may be subjected to military tribunals (court-martial).

History of martial law proclamationsEdit

Ramón BlancoEdit

Hostilities that began the Philippine Revolution of 1896 started on the evening of 29 August 1896, when hundreds of rebels attacked the Civil Guard garrison in Pasig, just as hundreds of other rebels personally led by Andrés Bonifacio were massing in San Juan del Monte, which they attacked hours later on the 30th. Bonifacio planned to capture the San Juan del Monte powder magazine along with a water station supplying Manila. The defending Spaniards were outnumbered, and fought off rebels until reinforcements arrived. Once reinforced, the Spaniards drove Bonifacio's forces back with heavy casualties. Elsewhere rebels attacked Mandaluyong, Sampaloc, Santa Ana, Pandacan, Pateros, Marikina, and Caloocan,[1] as well as Makati and Taguig.[2] Balintawak in Caloocan saw intense fighting. Rebel troops tended to gravitate towards fighting in San Juan del Monte and Sampaloc. South of Manila, a thousand-strong rebel force attacked a small force of civil guards. In Pandacan Katipuneros attacked the parish church, making the parish priest run for his life.[2]

After their defeat in San Juan del Monte, Bonifacio's troops regrouped near Marikina, San Mateo and Montalban, where they proceeded to attack these areas. They captured these areas but were driven back by Spanish counterattacks, and Bonifacio eventually ordered a retreat to Balara. On the way, Bonifacio was nearly killed shielding Emilio Jacinto from a Spanish bullet that grazed his collar.[2] Despite his reverses, Bonifacio was not completely defeated and was still considered a threat.[1]

North of Manila, the towns of San Francisco de Malabon, Noveleta and Kawit in Cavite rose in rebellion.[2] In Nueva Ecija rebels in San Isidro led by Mariano Llanera attacked the Spanish garrison on September 2–4; they were repulsed.[3]

By 30 August, the revolt had spread to eight provinces, prompting the Spanish Governor-General Ramón Blanco, 1st Marquis of Peña Plata, to declare a "state of war" in these provinces and place them under martial law. These provinces were Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas, and Nueva Ecija.[4][2] These would later be represented in the eight rays of the Sun in the Philippine flag.[5] Despite such declaration, which provided a 48-hour period in giving amnesty to rebels except their leaders, Blanco adopted a cool, conciliatory stance, seeking to improve Spain’s image in the face of world opinion.[6]

Emilio AguinaldoEdit

After the outbreak of Spanish–American War, Emilio Aguinaldo, who succeeded Bonifacio as the paramount leader of the revolution, returned to the Philippines from his exile in Hong Kong on 19 May 1898, with 13 of his staff. He was encouraged to return by the Americans, who saw in him as an opportunity in their war against Spain.[7] After five days, on May 23, Aguinaldo issued a proclamation in which he assumed command of all Philippine military forces and established a dictatorial government with himself as dictator.[8]

On 12 June, at Aguinaldo's ancestral home in Cavite, Philippine independence was proclaimed and The Act of Declaration of Philippine Independence was read. The act had been prepared and written in Spanish by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, who also read its proclamation.[9] On 18 June, Aguinaldo issued a decree formally establishing his dictatorial government.[10] On August 3 another decree signed by Aguinaldo was issued, replacing the Dictatorial Government with a Revolutionary Government, with himself as President.[11][12]

José LaurelEdit

President José P. Laurel of the wartime Second Philippine Republic (puppet-government under Japan) placed the Philippines under martial law in 1944 through Proclamation No. 29, dated September 21. Martial law came into effect on September 22, 1944.Proclamation No. 30 was issued the next day, declaring the existence of a state of war between the Philippines and the US and Great Britain. This took effect on September 23, 1944.

Ferdinand MarcosEdit

In a privilege speech before Senate, Benigno Aquino, Jr. warned the public of the possible establishment of a “garrison state” by President Ferdinand Marcos. President Marcos imposed martial law on the nation from 1972 to 1981 to suppress increasing civil strife and the threat of a communist takeover following a series of bombings in Manila.[citation needed]

On 21 August 1971, while the opposition (Liberal Party) was having their miting de avance in Plaza Miranda, two fragmentation grenades exploded.[citation needed] It took 9 lives and left more than 100 people seriously wounded.[citation needed] Some Liberal Party candidates were seriously injured including Jovito Salonga, who nearly died and was visually impaired. Suspicion of responsibility for the blast initially fell upon Marcos, whom the Liberals blamed for the bombing; however, in later years, prominent personalities associated with the event have laid the blame on the Communist Party of the Philippines under José María Sison.[13] In his autobiography, Salonga states his belief that Sison and the CPP were responsible.[14]

A month of “terrorist bombing” of public facilities in Manila and Quezon City culminated on 22 September with a staged[citation needed] assassination attempt on Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Claiming chaos and lawlessness was near, Marcos declared martial law, thereby suspending the 1935 Constitution, dissolving Congress, and assuming absolute power. Six hours after the Enrile assassination attempt, Marcos responded with the imposition of martial law. Proclamation № 1081 which imposed martial law was dated 21 September 1972, but it was actually signed on 17 September. The formal announcement of the proclamation was made only at seven-thirty in the evening of 23 September, about twenty-two hours after he had commanded his military collaborators to start arresting his political opponents and close down all media and retail (fashion, food, religious, sports) establishments.[15]

The Proclamation read in part:

My countrymen, as of the twenty-first of this month, I signed Proclamation № 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law...
I am also pretty!!!
— Ferdinand Marcos, September 21, 1972

The declaration of martial law was initially well received by some segments of the people but became unpopular as excesses and human rights abuses by the military emerged. Torture was used in extracting information from their enemies.

We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process, and we will not leave you in isolation.
— U.S. Vice-President George H. W. Bush during Ferdinand Marcos inauguration, July 1981[16]

Martial law was lifted by President Marcos on January 17, 1981. In the following years there was the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, the Snap Elections of 1986 and the People Power Revolution or EDSA Revolution in 1986 which led to Marcos, with the advice from the U.S. government, left the country and Cory Aquino becoming president.

Gloria Macapagal ArroyoEdit

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was planning to impose martial law to put an end to military coup plots, general civilian dissatisfaction, and criticism of the legitimacy of her presidency due to dubious election results. Instead, a "State of National Emergency" was imposed to crush a coup plot and to tackle protesters which lasted from February 24, 2006 until March 3 of the same year.

On December 4, 2009, through Proclamation No. 1959, President Macapagal-Arroyo has officially placed Maguindanao province under a state of martial law.[17] The declaration also suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the province.[18] The announcement was made days after hundreds of government troops were sent to the province, which would later raid armories of the powerful Ampatuan clan. The Ampatuan family was implicated in the massacre that saw the murder of 57 persons, including women members of the rival Mangudadatu clan, human rights lawyers, and 31 media workers, in the worst incident of political violence in the nation's history. It has also been condemned worldwide as the worst loss of life of media professionals in one day in the history of journalism.[17] President Macapagal-Arroyo lifted the state of martial law in Maguindanao last December 12 of the same year.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Salazar 1994.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Agoncillo 1990, p. 173
  3. Agoncillo 1990, p. 174
  4. Joaquin, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila. Vera Reyes Publishing. 
  5. Ocampo, Ambeth (17 December 2009). "Martial law in 1896". Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  6. Cristobal Cerrato: El joven Maeztu y la canalla periodística- nº 37 Espéculo (UCM). Retrieved on 2011-08-02.
  7. Kalaw 1927, p. 106.
  8. Titherington 1900, pp. 357–358.
  9. Kalaw 1927, pp. 413–417 Appendix A
  10. Guevara 1972, p. 10.
  11. Kalaw 1927, pp. 423–429 Appendix C.
  12. Guevara 1972, p. 35.
  13. Doronila, Amando (2007-08-24). "Politics of violence". Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  14. Dizon, David (2002-11-19). "Salonga's Journey". Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  15. "Martial Law 40th Anniversary". Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. November 30, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  16. Philippines: Together Again, TIME Magazine, July 13, 1981
  17. 17.0 17.1

External linksEdit

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