September 21 vs 23: Context on the difference between Martial Law being signed, declared to public

September 21, 2021 - 6:44 PM
List of martyrs and victims of human rights abuses during Martial Law engraved in a wall in the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani in Quezon City. (Photo from Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Facebook page)

Martial Law did not take effect until Sept. 23, 1972, a Filipino historian said as the country marked its 49th anniversary based on public knowledge.

In a Twitter thread on September 21, Kristoffer Pasion explained that Congress still held a session and a huge rally was even held on this day in 1972.

Pasion also described the September 21 anniversary of the Martial Law declaration as a “Marcosian lie.”

The country referenced this date to the occasion as provided by Proclamation No. 1081, a document that Marcos signed to impose Martial Law in the country.

“On September 21, 1972, #PH #democracy was still functioning. Martial Law (Proc. No. 1081, w/ Gen. Orders, Letters of Instruction, etc.) may have been postdated to Sept. 21 but that doesn’t mean it came into effect on that day. That is a Marcosian LIE,” Pasion wrote.

He also cited events as evidence that suggested democracy was still functioning on that date.

“#OnThisDay in 1972, there was a huge rally held at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo led by the Movement for Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties. Headed by Sen. Jose W. Diokno & the National Press Club, it grew to 30,000 the next day,” Pasion said.

“At the same time, Congress was holding its last session in Congress before adjournment. And this was key to why Marcos chose September 21 as the date of the declaration of Martial Law,” he added.

These events were also recorded on the Official Gazette website, wherein it was specified that:

  1. Late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was able to deliver his last privilege speech in the Senate.
  2. Senate and House leaders also held a session that was supposed to extend until September 23.
  3. A huge protest march with 30,000 attendees was held at the Plaza Miranda that afternoon. It was sponsored by the Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties.

Pasion also cited a quote from Primitivo Mijares’ book “the Conjugal Dictatorship,” that discusses the importance of Congress adjourning for the late Senator Aquino to be arrested.

“The timing of the imposition of martial law was heavily dependent on Congress being in session and Senator Aquino being available for the planned arrest,” the book read.

What happened on September 23?

While the proclamation was already signed on Sept. 21, 1972, the Filipino public had no knowledge of it yet.

According to the Official Gazette, Marcos only announced placing the country under Martial Law through television and radio at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 23, 1972, still citing Proclamation 1081.

The takeover of public utilities, shutdown of media outlets, and mass arrests of over 8,000 individuals including opposition senators happened on September 23, not September 21.

The records also stated that throughout Martial Law period, Marcos celebrated “September 21” as National Thanksgiving Day by virtue of Proclamation No. 1180 s. 1973 “to memorialize the date as the foundation day of his New Society.”

“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,” read the write-up.

Why is September 21 special?

Pasion said the date “September 21” was deemed special by Marcos, based on Conrado de Quiros’ explanation from his book titled “Dead Aim: How Marcos Ambushed Philippine Democracy.”

“Aside from the appearance of legitimacy, why Sept 21? It was Conrado de Quiros, from his book ‘Dead Aim’ that pointed out that Marcos liked the date because of its auspiciousness in numerology. The dates he considered were in sevens or numbers divisible by seven. The date fits,” he said.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te pointed out the significance of historical dates.

“Saying that Proclamation No. 1081 declaring martial law was signed on September 21, 1972 but that martial law was actually declared on September 23, 1972 matters,” Te said.

Veteran journalist professor Danilo Arao, meanwhile, highlighted that what the public should remember were the atrocities.

“21, 22 OR 23? Feel free to commemorate the signing (21), declaration (23) and imposition of Martial Law based on historical records. There is no need to impose that today’s commemoration and mass action are ill-informed. Marcos wins only if people fail to remember the atrocities,” he said.