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EXPLAINER: Life During Martial Law

By: Geelyn Avanceña, Raymond Carl Gato

Deemed as one of the darkest eras in Philippine history, the declaration of Martial Law by the late dictator and president Ferdinand E. Marcos has forever changed politics in the Philippines.



49 years have passed since the family of Marcos was stained with criticisms and opposition following severe violations of corruption and abuse of human rights during the Martial Law.

Even though some sources stated that Ferdinand Marcos officially declared that the country was placed under martial law on September 23, 1972, its documented date was just two days earlier, September 21, 1972.

Marcos decided to implement Martial Law to counter the communist threat across the country. It became also a "necessity" as per his diary after the so-called ambush to then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.

According to the Official Gazette in 1986, Enrile revealed that the ambush was faked to justify the implementation of the Martial Law.

Curfew hours and the banning of public gatherings were implemented during the dictatorship. Media outlets were shut down as well to avoid “propaganda against the government” under Marcos’ rule.

During the Martial Law, Marcos ordered the transfer of all powers unto him while authorizing the arrest of individuals wanting to overthrow the current administration.

Marcos also silenced media press freedom by arresting journalists and media owners, implementing “blanket censorship” which required news agencies to get clearance before publishing their articles, including religious publications, and only allowed the ones that are controlled by Marcos to operate. The government also expelled and rejected the visas of foreign journalists during Martial Law.



During the first year of Martial Law, 60,000 were arrested, and according to Amnesty International, about 70,000 people were imprisoned while 34,000 were tortured. The prisoners’ private parts were electrocuted, and women’s genitals were smeared with chili peppers as they were raped and sexually assaulted. They were also beaten up and strangled with wires and burned using cigarettes.

The 10-year martial rule ended officially on January 17, 1981, with Proclamation No. 2045.


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