MaHB: Pol­i­tics


Esquire (Philippines) - - CONTENTS - BY OLIVER X.A. REYES

Mar­cos knows best: With ab­so­lute power comes some aw­ful laws.

When Pres­i­dent Fer­di­nand Mar­cos de­clared mar­tial law in 1972, among the first things he did was grant him­self, and only to him­self, the power to make the laws of the Philip­pines. With great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity. With ab­so­lute power, ah fuck it.

CRE­AT­ING MIL­I­TARY TRI­BUNALS TO TRY PORNOG­RA­PHY CASES. To be ac­cu­rate about it, the mil­i­tary tri­bunals cre­ated dur­ing mar­tial law by Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 39 had ju­ris­dic­tion over any of­fense where the penalty ex­ceeded six years in prison. When the penal­ties for cre­at­ing or dis­tribut­ing ob­scene lit­er­a­ture were in­creased in 1976 to at least six years in prison, the power to seize and ex­am­ine those smug­gled Play­boy mag­a­zines now fell with the mil­i­tary gen­er­als.


IELSZ. In 1973, Mar­cos is­sued Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 192, grant­ing Filipino cit­i­zen­ship to Ron­ald Fredrick Wil­liam Nathanielsz, for­merly a cit­i­zen of Cey­lon, as a re­ward for “his long and con­tin­u­ous ser­vice to the Filipino peo­ple, in the field of jour­nal­ism.” While Nathanielsz has con­fined him­self to sports jour­nal­ism in the last 25 years, his great­est no­to­ri­ety came as the an­chor and booster-in-chief of the egre­giously pro- dic­ta­tor gov­ern­ment TV net­work MBS-4.

CRIM­I­NAL­IZ­ING RU­MOR-MON­GER­ING. Ac­cord­ing to Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 90, the spread of ru­mors, false news, or in­for­ma­tion and gos­sip un­der­mined the sta­bil­ity of the gov­ern­ment and the ob­jec­tive of the New So­ci­ety. The penalty for offering, pub­lish­ing, dis­tribut­ing, cir­cu­lat­ing, and spread­ing th­ese ru­mors—a prison term of be­tween six months to six years.

CRIM­I­NAL­IZ­ING WANG-WANG. Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 96 pro­fesses care for your men­tal sta­bil­ity, not­ing that “much of the chaotic con­di­tions from which our peo­ple have suf­fered are the direct re­sult of in­dis­crim­i­nate and un­reg­u­lated use of sirens, bells, horns, whis­tles, and sim­i­lar gad­gets that emit ex­cep­tion­ally loud or star­tling sounds.” Mar­cos made it a crime for pri­vate cit­i­zens to in­stall th­ese de­vices on their mo­tor ve­hi­cles, pun­ish­able by im­pris­on­ment for six months.

JAIL­ING DOC­TORS WHO DON’T RE­PORT TREAT­MENT OF IN­JURIES TO THE PO­LICE. Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 169 im­posed a one-to three-year jail term on doc­tors who failed to re­port to the Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary “by the fastest means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion” if they had treated any per­son for se­ri­ous or less se­ri­ous phys­i­cal in­juries. While such a law os­ten­si­bly could serve the pub­lic good (such as en-

sur­ing pun­ish­ment for those who in­flict do­mes­tic violence), it also dis­suaded Mar­cos-era “sub­ver­sives” from seek­ing proper med­i­cal care. JAIL TIME FOR EX­PORTERS OF ABACA SEEDLINGS. Per­haps ex­port­ing abaca seedlings is, as Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 216 states, “detri­men­tal to the abaca in­dus­try and the over­all econ­omy of the coun­try.” But im­pris­on­ment for be­tween six months to 12 years?

RE­QUIR­ING ROTC GRADS TO NO­TIFY MIL­I­TARY BE­FORE LEAV­ING COUN­TRY. Un­der Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 183, all re­servists of the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (i.e. ROTC grad­u­ates) were re­quired to no­tify the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines be­fore leav­ing the coun­try, oth­er­wise their pass­ports or travel clear­ances would not be val­i­dated. The same de­cree also cu­ri­ously ( given this was in 1973) re­quired the Na­tional Com­puter Cen­ter to “ren­der such tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance as may be nec­es­sary in the up­dat­ing and anal­y­sis of records of re­servists.” THE CRIME OF BEG­GING AND GIV­ING TO BEG­GARS. The Men­di­cacy Law of 1978, while re­main­ing in place, is among the least en­forced laws of the land. The penalty for an adult who uses “beg­ging as a means of liv­ing” in­stead of ap­ply­ing them­selves “to some law­ful call­ing” may run as high as im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing two years. A per­son who gives alms to beg­gars is pun­ished by a fine not ex­ceed­ing 20 Pe­sos. OUT­LAW­ING PIN­BALL AND SLOT MA­CHINES. The rea­son for the ban, ac­cord­ing to Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 519, was that “the pro­lif­er­a­tion of th­ese gam­bling de­vices ad­versely af­fects the moral re­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram of the Gov­ern­ment un­der the New So­ci­ety, es­pe­cially the youth.”

THE BET­TER AP­PRE­CI­A­TION OF THE LAWS OF NA­TURE AND THE EF­FORTS OF MAN TO CON­QUER SPACE. If you ever won­dered why we have a Na­tional Plan­e­tar­ium, BALNEMCS is the rea­son in­voked by Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 804-A.

TAX EX­EMP­TIONS FOR 1974 MISS UNI­VERSE CON­TES­TANTS. Th­ese days, Congress has to pass a law to grant tax ex­emp­tions. Back in 1974, Mar­cos could dic­tate who would be ex­empt from what taxes. He used that power through Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 486 to ex­empt “all prizes in cash or in kind, in­clud­ing tal­ent fees and gifts” given to par­tic­i­pants of the Miss Uni­verse pageant held that year at the Folk Arts Theater.

TWO HOURS OF DAILY PUB­LIC SER­VICE PRIME-TIME PRO­GRAM­MING FOR TV/RA­DIO. Pres­i­den­tial De­cree No. 576-A re­quired all ra­dio and TV sta­tions to al­lo­cate two hours of their prime­time pro­gram­ming to “pro­grams ren­der­ing pub­lic ser­vice.” “Pub­lic ser­vice” re­ferred to “news, ed­u­ca­tional, and cul­tural pre­sen­ta­tions and other pro­grams in­form­ing the peo­ple of ad­vances in science, in­dus­try, farming, and tech­nol­ogy; of poli­cies and im­por­tant un­der­tak­ings in gov­ern­ment de­signed to pro­mote or safe­guard the pub­lic wel­fare; of mat­ters re­lated to the phys­i­cal, in­tel­lec­tual, and moral de­vel­op­ment of the young; or of tra­di­tions, val­ues, and ac­tiv­i­ties which con­sti­tute the cul­tural her­itage of the na­tion.” In short, fea­tur­ing Imelda in a lab coat tour­ing the kabuki­ran sur­rounded by chil­dren bear­ing gar­lands.

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