Ninoy Aquino: “On September 23 … democracy died.”
What is the cause for all of this struggle? There is, so simply. I believe that no man, how brilliant this man, can dictate the welfare or the direction of 48 million Filipinos. What happened to us? I think we should review what happened to us. In 1972, Mr. Marcos declared martial law. Why did he declare martial law? If you read his announcement, he said there was anarchy in the street, there was a left and right rebellion, there was this and there was that, but there is only one reason which he never said. He wanted to prolong his stay in Malacañang sapagkat napakasarap. You very well know that we have a law in the Philippines that says, no president may stay in the presidency for more than eight consecutive years. That is a law. That is a law even ahead of the United States law. No president may stay for more than eight years. In 1972, Mr. Marcos was already seven years in office, he had one year to go. He was toying with the idea of fielding Imelda, but Imelda showed poor[ly] in the polls. So what did Mr. Marcos do? Change the constitution, sabi niya. So he called a constitutional convention in 1970. We were a few, a handful in the Senate who denounced this, and I told the Senate, “We should not allow an open constitutional convention because it’s very dangerous. Even America hasn’t called a constitutional convention since 1776. They have amended their constitution piecemeal, but they never opened it.” But we lost, and a constitutional convention was called. People were elected, and very quietly Mr. Marcos started maneuvering to change our form of government from an American-type presidential system to a British-type parliamentary so that, he can be elected as a deputy from Ilocos, become prime minister, and then stay on forever. That was the plan. However on January 2, 1972, most of you are already here in America, some of you maybe were too young to remember, but on January 1972, almost nine years ago today, an old man, a retired ambassador from Leyte, his name is Eduardo Quintero, who is now in San Francisco, stood up on the floor of the constitutional convention and shocked the entire Filipino people with the expose that Malacañang has been giving envelopes to the members of the constitutional convention, buying their votes so that they will vote for a parliamentary form of government to allow Mr. Marcos to extend his term beyond eight years. The nation was shocked. Immediately, the NBI swooped down into the house of Quintero and then they open up an aparador, walang susi, and they said 500 thousand pesos in cash were found in the aparador of Quintero. The implication was, the opposition gave him 500 thousand to make his expose. But if there were 500 thousand, bakit walang susi iyon? Hindi naman singkwenta pesos lang iyon. To cut a long story short, a delegate from Cebu, his name is Napoleon Rama, stood up on the convention floor and said, huwag na tayo magtalo, let us not discuss who received or who did not receive, I am now filing a resolution that will provide, if we approve this constitutional convention, this constitutional amendment, this new constitution, no incumbent president or his spouse may seek office. Out sa kulambo si Mr. Marcos. Eh sa takot ng mga delegado, because they will be accused if they voted no that they received the envelope, everybody voted yes. Nalagot si Mr. Marcos. This Rama resolution was overwhelmingly passed. Mr. Marcos and Imelda Marcos are out of the running. So what will Mr. Marcos do? Hindi na pwede sa 1935 constitution, hindi na pupwede dito sa bagong constitution. The only reason left or the only excuse and the only option left for Mr. Marcos is to declare martial law. And so what happened? The students demonstrated in the streets. Sabi ng agent ni Marcos, “sige pa, sige pa, dagdagan pa niyo.” More demonstrations came, sige pa. Finally, bombings started in Manila, and did you know my friends, the Manila police captured one of the bombers, and one of these bombers in Manila was identified as a sergeant of the firearms and explosives section of the Philippine Constabulary. The following day, this man was snatched from the Manila police and we never heard from him again. And then, on September 23, midnight, Mr. Marcos went on television and said, “I, Ferdinand Marcos, acting as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, by virtue of the provision of the constitution which states, in case of invasion, insurrection, rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, I may declare martial law or suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Therefore, I now declare martial law, and shall administer this country alone.” On that day, democracy died. And so Mr. Marcos arrested together with us in the Senate, most of the leaders in the constitutional convention, all of those opposing him, went to jail with us. And then, when they went to jail with us, all the other members of the convention were herded, and they were given a constitution made by Mr. Marcos, and they were told to sign, and everybody signed, except those in jail with us. And once this new constitution was signed by them, they released the delegates. And then on January 17, 1973, Mr. Marcos went on television and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, my countrymen, there is now a new constitution.” But how can we have a new constitution? There was no plebiscite. You know that the law says, “Before you can have a new constitution, you must present it to the Filipino people, and the Filipino people must in a secret ballot, write yes or no. What happened? Tinawag ni Mr. Marcos ang mga citizen’s assembly. Tinawag niya ang mga barrio councils. And then in the middle of this meeting, tinanong “Kayo ba’y gutom na? Yes. Taas ang kamay. Taas” Lahat ng tumaas, approved ang konstitusyon. My friends, this is not fiction, because in the now-famous Javellana case, Javellana v. Executive Secretary, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Javellana, went to the Supreme Court and questioned the illegality of this constitution. And what did the Supreme Court say? Out of 10 justices, 6 out of 10 said this constitution was not validly ratified. According to the 1935 constitution and according even to the new constitution, it was not validly ratified. But then, the Supreme Court added, but there is nothing to stop it. So, we had a constitution.