By PNA From the Mail

When Marcos announced martial law proclamation 48 years ago

September 21, 2020, 8:33 am

By Severino Samonte

A TOTAL of 48 years after the declaration of the controversial martial law on Sept. 21, 1972 by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, many of the Filipino people, especially the millennial ones, remain confused on the exact date of that presidential prerogative based on the provision of the 1935 Constitution.

Several people thought that Proclamation No. 1081 went effective on Sept. 21 itself, some said it was on Sept. 22, and many others believed on Sept. 23.

That was partly because Marcos himself made the announcement of the effectivity of the proclamation two days later, or on the evening of Sept. 23, 1972, on national television.

In his nationwide address, he cited what he described as rising "wave of lawlessness and the threat of communist insurgency" as justifications.

In effect, the proclamation curtailed press freedom and other civil liberties, closed down Congress, the courts and media establishments, and caused the arrest of opposition leaders and militant activists.

As an overnight shift deskman then of the former Philippine News Service (PNS), I felt I was privileged to be among the few people to know about the declaration of military rule in the country before it was officially announced by Marcos and then Department of Public Information (DPI) Secretary Francisco S. Tatad.

By the way, PNS was a news-gathering agency put up together by the then eight leading national newspapers in Manila – Manila Times, Daily Mirror, Philippine Herald, Manila Chronicle, Evening News, Bulletin, Fookien Times, and Bagong Buhay.

I had just arrived at the PNS office at the second floor of the National Press Club (NPC) in Intramuros on the night of Friday, Sept. 22, 1972, when I got an urgent telephone call from our reporter, Jaime Panesa, who was then covering Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame for the night shift.

Panesa told me that a three-vehicle convoy of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed moments ago by unidentified gunmen near the Wack-Wack Golf Club in Mandaluyong, Rizal. He said Enrile was on his way home to Makati from Camp Crame when his convoy was fired upon.

Nobody in the convoy was hurt, Panesa said, adding that he was rushing to Mandaluyong from Camp Crame to get more details. As all of the other PNS editors and deskmen had already gone home by then, I advised Panesa to call me again as soon as he had the facts.

He did so shortly after 10 p.m. and dictated to me the story, which I immediately edited and transmitted by the so-called “takes” on the PNS wires or teletypes.

In news agency language, the term “take” refers to the first paragraph of a major story, which is labeled as “bulletin” and accompanied by bells; the second as “urgent," then followed by other details as they become available.

After moving the first three paragraphs of the story I headlined “Enrile unhurt in ambush,” I decided to call up a deskman friend at the Manila Times, located at Florentino Torres St. in Sta. Cruz, to inform him about the urgent story. There was no answer from the other end, so I tried two other numbers, but like the first, there was no response.

Wondering why, I tried the Manila Chronicle telephone, but just the same, there was no answer from it.

I was about to tell our night-duty messenger to deliver copies of the story to the Manila Times and the Manila Chronicle, then situated along Aduana St. (now A. Soriano Ave.) near the Manila Cathedral, when the telephone rang. That was shortly after 11 p.m. and I heard from the other end the familiar voice of a close friend, Orville Mauricio (RIP), then publisher-editor of the weekly Metropolitan Mail being published in Caloocan City.

Orville was a younger brother of then Philippine Graphic magazine executive editor Luis Mauricio. He informed me that his brother, also a former executive editor of the pre-martial law Manila Chronicle, was picked up by military men and taken to Camp Crame. I took note of the information and began going over the files of past PNS stories for a possible background on a news item I was thinking of writing about the arrest of Mauricio.

Graphic magazine and the Manila Chronicle were among the arch critics of the then six-and-a-half-year-old Marcos administration, together with the Manila Times and the Philippines Free Press, among other publications.

Shortly after midnight, I officially learned that martial law had been imposed nationwide and almost all media establishments, including radio and television stations, shut down.

This time, the information came from then radio broadcaster Rafael “Paeng” Yabut (RIP), who used to come to the PNS office early morning each to pick up the latest wire stories he would use in his morning news-musical program at Radio DZRH, then located at the former Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) building along Arroceros St. near the Manila City Hall.

Yabut, who was then also a major in the Philippine Constabulary-Metropolitan Command (PC-Metrocom), told me that many other critics of the Marcos administration had been arrested.

In the case of PNS, there was no closure order, but just the same, we had to stop transmission of stories by wires since our subscribers, mostly newspapers and radio-TV stations, were already shut down.

I learned later that an editor of PNS, Atty. Manuel F. Almario (RIP), was among the media personalities arrested, together with contributing editor Juan L. Mercado, former chief executive officer of Depthnews Asia. They were released from detention after a week.

Almario, who was among the young founders of the Kabataang Makabayan, later on worked at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and became editor of the Graphic magazine, while Mercado was taken in by the United Nations Population Commission for assignment in Bangkok, Thailand.

On the morning of Sept. 23, 1972, I left the PNS office at 6 a.m. and headed for home in Novaliches, Quezon City. Unlike the previous mornings, I was not able to read the first editions of national newspapers that day.

When I arrived in Novaliches 45 minutes later, I found many people wondering why there were no newspapers in their favorite newsstands and their radio and TV sets were silent.

One newspaper dealer told me that the first copies of newspapers that arrived for him were confiscated by soldiers.

Although I already knew the reason, I preferred to proceed home, sleep and wait until President Marcos announced officially the effectivity of martial law in the evening of the same day.


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