Defining Martial Law

What do we talk about when we talk about Martial Law?

A Law

Martial Law refers to the replacement of civil rule by military rule.

This may be characterized by:

  • curfews
  • the dispensation of military tribunal rulings on civilians
  • the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus

Martial Law is a power of the President as Commander-in-Chief of all Philippine armed forces meant for times of crisis and for the security of people and expediting justice.


A Person

Martial Law in the Philippines is usually equated to a person: President Ferdinand Marcos. Some people talk about what Marcos was like and about what he did such as achievements and abuses.


A Historical Event

Martial Law in the Philippines is often thought of as a historical event to learn about in Araling Panlipunan class. It is often asked: What are the important dates? How did it begin? How did it end?


The Problem

When people talk about it in just one way, it can oversimplify the issue. If it’s just a law: Legal or illegal? If it’s just a person: Good or evil? If it’s just a historical event: Stuck in the past?

All these aspects are important, but they don’t give the whole picture. History is not just about picking sides or memorizing facts.


The call

The call is to honor our national memory by remembering Martial Law in the Philippines in all its complexity. We want to empower students and teachers to learn and teach the lessons of Martial Law in a way that leads towards an engaged citizenship in our present society.

Here are the topics can explore in this museum:

  • Martial Law is not just an issue of legality but of justice.
  • How can martial law be used and abused?
  • Martial law is not about judging a person but looking clearly at how their actions impacted society.
  • What can one person do to our society and its institutions?
  • Who else was involved in making these impacts?
  • Martial law is not just an event in the past, but about our present and our future.
  • How do the events of Martial Law continue to affect us today?
  • What can we learn from Martial Law so that we can change our society for the better?