I am most compelled to write something about news of a “creeping” Martial Law. I have been accused in the past of being so inconsiderate (or something) when I said that all claims of a pressing martial law proclamation were all paranoia. A friend even wrote his criticism about my comments in his blog, with a bit “tampo” on my part. Defensive as I was, I wrote a quick rejoinder, hoping that I won’t be misquoted, and said that it will be political suicide on the part of the president to officially proclaim martial law (if ever it gets passed in Congress). Little did I know that my claim would be frowned upon.

I still stand my ground. I still think that it will be politically stupid for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to officially proclaim martial law. Come to think of it, martial law won’t even stand a chance in Congress, which is so fractitious that it is impossible for Arroyo to have a firm grasp on it. Or even the military; she doesn’t even have an idea how a significant portion of the military hates her guts. The testimonies of General Francisco Gudani and Corporal Alexander Balutan show only the tip of the iceberg. I also think that martial is (still) so popularly stigmatized at least at this point in time, that, according to a social Weather Stations survey. 67% of the Filipino population disproves of it.

Should Arroyo pull off properly a proclamation of martial law, I don’t think she would be able to stay in power for a considerable length of time. Whatever tricks she would do, whatever maneuvering of legal processes, and however large the bribes she would give to her cohorts, they would all spell doom to her regime.

I’m not apologizing for her. Mamamatay muna ako bago ko gawin ‘yun. I am only saying this partly because I am student of Philippine politics and history, and partly because I am an activist. Wait, actually, it is more because of the former. Historical perspective convinces me that the current political atmosphere is far different from the 70s, and that it is not conducive for formal authoritarianism. Back then, a great deal of the youth, both students and out-of-school youth, had developed an excellent brand of idealism, driven by active and reinvigorated nationalism. The era of ferment of the past sadly, has long been gone. Now, we are led to believe that a great deal of the youth has developed unshakable indifference to all issues of national significance. One would even argue that apathy has become the new brand of rebellion for the youth. It should frighten us that majority of the youth does not care anymore about national politics, but MTV, UAAP, NCAA, NBA, MMORPG, F1 etc… (yes, all acronyms imaginable).

Historical perspective also convinces me that there are parallelisms between Arroyo and Marcos–government takeover of selected industries, implementation of calibrated preemptive response to quell rallyists, to name a few. These things would surely bring us recurring images of the 70s. Although government takeover of the oil industry has been the wish of everyone who wants more affordable and reasonable oil prices, we are all aware that this move is politically motivated. It would be a nice to see the Conjuangcos stripped off of their hacienda, and their workers and farmers be avenged, but I highly doubt Arroyo’s motives are all driven by altruism. If she wants to clean up her act, why not try firing Bert Gonzales? Have him imprisoned? Nah, the palace goes even to the extent of covering Gonzales’ tracks. We don’t need to spell it out that Arroyo’s political will to stay in power is unfaltering. So unfaltering that it should make us puke.

In one of my classes, a student asked me why were there underground movements shortly after the declaration of martial law, during the mid-70s when the economy was at its peak. “Don’t they (the UG movements) want progress?” the student asked. I answered that most of these movements were led by people from the intelligentsia, and they knew that it was not a sustainable progress to start with. More importantly, they wouldn’t want progress that would jeopardize their civil liberties. “Progresibo nga ang bayan, takot naman lahat ng mga tao,” I said. I thought my answer would suffice, but then the student, although in a polite way, added that the fact the people were frightened became itself conducive for progress, because they were all disciplined. “Weren’t they thankful for this?” the student asked.

The historical perspective that I hope students would be able to acquire in their HI166 classes is one that would question our existing socio-politico-economic structures. I am grateful that the student asked me that question. It’s just that maybe the students are rather at lost in the process of questioning, that they have been engrossed in performing anti-theses, that they would rather have a dictatorship over our current “democratic” system, because the current one sucks? Is contemporary Philippine history not convincing enough that the one we have now is not democratic at all? And why would dictatorship be so attractive in the face of progress, when the Marcos regime caused the whole body politic imploded? Surely, a mountain of external debt and a nationwide social volcano were more than enough to say that it wasn’t Valhalla that the Filipinos were living in during the 70s. I know performing anti-theses in this case would give Hegel a run for his money, but for this one, I would beg to differ.

If a certain level of historical perspective still lives on among all of us, I hope it continues drive for more active and vigilant (hopefully militant) participation among the Filipino youth. More than debates about creeping martial law, the challenge is much more daunting. So much so that the majority of us would just choose to stay at our comfort zones, because of extreme confusion and hopelessness. But there are some who would choose to do otherwise, and I am still banking on that.

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