Dismantling the Marcos propaganda: Filipinos told to reject Sept. 21 martial law 'anniv'

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2021 08:26 PM | Updated as of Sep 22 2021 12:57 PM

File photo of former President Ferdinand Marcos who placed the Philippines under Martial Law officially from 1972 until 1981.
File photo of former President Ferdinand Marcos who placed the Philippines under Martial Law officially from 1972 until 1981.

MANILA — In a special feature, the Philippines' Official Gazette explained in great detail its argument why the anniversary of the 1972 martial law declaration should be commemorated on Sept. 23, instead of Sept. 21 as commonly observed.

The undated entry published during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III said the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos "declared" Martial Law on Sept. 23, 1972 through Proclamation No. 1081, which he signed two days earlier.


For the Gazette, "Marcos built up the cult of September 21" and the "propaganda" was driven by his "obsession with numerology (particularly the number seven)." Twenty-one is divisible by seven.

"Throughout the Martial Law period, Marcos built up the cult of September 21, proclaiming it as National Thanksgiving Day... to memorialize the date as the foundation day of his New Society," the journal said.

"The propaganda effort was so successful that up to the present, many Filipinos—particularly those who did not live through the events of September 23, 1972—labor under the misapprehension that martial law was proclaimed on September 21, 1972. It was not."

Aquino, in a speech in 2012, believed Marcos belatedly announced the declaration of martial law to "hunt down" political enemies, including his father, the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino. 

"If Marcos signed the proclamation on the 21st of September, why did he wait for two days before making it public? The answer: so that he could temporarily conceal Martial Law from the public, to give himself enough time to hunt down and take by surprise those who opposed his policies," said Aquino, who passed away this year. 

The Gazette lamented the confusion with the dates, noting that with the recognition of Sept. 21, 1972 as the establishment of Martial Law, "This also allowed Marcos to control history on his own terms."

"The arbitrary date emphasizes that the actual date for Martial Law was not the numerologically-auspicious (for Marcos) 21st, but rather, the moment that Martial Law was put into full effect, which was after the nationwide address of Ferdinand Marcos as far as the nation was concerned: September 23, 1972," the country's official journal said.


According to historian Kristoffer Pasion, a former history researcher of Aquino's Presidential Communications Development & Strategic Planning Office, Marcos no doubt imposed the Sept. 21 date to deceive the public and advance his propaganda.

"There’s no question that it was deliberate. The Marcoses believed in numerology, Feng Shui and a host of other things from the fringes that they also integrated these into their propaganda. Perhaps their knack for these things attracted the cultic quality among their fanatics," said Pasion, who now works at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

The Marcoses were "cultural architects," he said, who realized the potential of culture to control public perception.

"We have to acknowledge that the propaganda machine of the Marcoses during and after the dictatorship were very, very effective... They know how to use songs, imagery, even the illusion of progress by means of the Edifice Complex to promote that myth of a golden age despite the economic blunders, high poverty rate, and the human rights atrocities in the regions," he said. 

According to Pasion, campaigning to correct this Sep. 21 "misinformation" could seem "inconsequential." But in the larger scheme of things, it is a liberating process to unchain Filipinos from the infrastructure of a Marcos-built propaganda. 

"The Marcoses built an entire cosmology and powerful propaganda that centers on them. We do this by dismantling one lie after the other... The comeback of the Marcos has proven that the head might have been cut off in 1986, but the roots, the underlings, the network of Marcosian alliances remained in Philippine politics," he said.

The historian added insisting to commemorate martial law anniversary on Sept. 23 is a symbolic act of defiance against the Marcos lie, allowing Filipinos to believe that "truth cannot bend."

"Insisting on simple facts and simple truths grounds us, and perhaps, it will help in the longer battle of the eventual dismantling of this entire structure of propaganda. Let’s start with September 23," he said.

"Insisting it shows our kids and friends that truth cannot bend when forced upon by dictators who believe in numerology. And Truth leads to accountability. Truth leads to justice."

Almost 49 years since Marcos declared martial law, his family is back in several positions of power, while justice remains elusive for those who suffered during his administration.


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