Hitting the world with a story on martial law

By Herbert Vego

SINCE 1972, I must have written 50 columns about the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos 50 years ago.

Known as Proclamation No. 1081, dated September 21, 1972, we only knew about it two days late in the afternoon of Sept. 23. The radio stations and TV channels had failed to sign on in the morning.

When the government’s TV channel leaped back to life, it showed Marcos personally breaking the news that he had declared martial law “to build a New Society”.

But, of course, since history could not be altered, I have always tried to spice up the same event with different angles.

This time, may I pose this question:  Have you encountered articles on martial law by local journalists which have become reference materials for students, teachers and history buffs worldwide? May I delve up close and personal?

Just yesterday, I discovered that one of my articles had been so used. One was republished by Course Hero, an American education website based in Redwood City, California, which has more than 80,000 paid subscribers. My reproduced column began with the editor’s foreword:

“One Filipino who shared his experiences under the Marcos’ regime was Herbert Vego, a journalist and an author of an article stating his own bad experience.”

I would like to quote excerpts from that cited article of mine, today being the 50th anniversary of martial law.

“I recall that morning (Sept. 23, 1972) when I turned on the radio but could not hear a sound. Soon enough, my neighbors were complaining of similar ‘damage’ to their radio sets. There were no newspapers, either.

“Marcos had by then signed Proclamation 1081 declaring martial law but kept it secret while rounding up and jailing politicians and activists critical of his regime.

“I had no inkling that such a declaration would determine my destiny. I was only 22, newly-married, and was working as a ghost writer for a columnist of the Philippine Sun and Evening News (now both defunct).

“Marcos eventually allowed radio, TV, magazines and newspapers to resume operation on condition that every bit of information would redound to ‘developmental journalism’. Media practitioners criticizing the New Republic would be arrested.

“Rabid anti-Marcos journalists and politicians were already behind bars, victims of ASSO. It was no dog but acronym for ‘Arrest, Search and Seizure Order’ issued by Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos’ martial law administrator and defense minister.

“I thought I had no problem because I was then pounding the entertainment beat for the Marcos-controlled Daily Express.

“One day, Pete Vael – the editor of the then famous Hiligaynon magazine, where I was also writing an entertainment column – talked to me. He would give up Hiligaynon in favor of a ‘juicy’ government job at the Ministry of Information, which was headed by Information Minister Francisco Tatad.  Would I like to join him there? I initially resisted, having criticized President Marcos while still a columnist of the Quezonian, the school paper of MLQ University.

“Unfortunately, I had to be interviewed by a certain Col. Vicente Tigas, who was in charge of screening job applicants.

“To my horror, Tigas pulled a sheaf of clippings of my anti-Marcos, pre-martial law columns in the Quezonian.

‘Don’t worry,’ Tigas said. ‘Just go to Camp Aguinaldo for your clearance.’

“I did. I was ordered by a Philippine Army official to sign a promissory note to the effect that I would never again criticize Marcos.


“Guilt-stricken, I did not return to Tatad’s office. I must have lost a ‘good future’ for that change of heart but regained my dignity as a journalist.”

The above story became a basis as well for an American illustrator to draw a comic strip for another website, storyboardthat.com

Try to access that comic strip as reproduced for my Facebook account, Herbert L. Vego.



MORE Power, the energy-distribution utility in Iloilo City which is soon expanding to Passi City and 15 towns of Iloilo province, may be described by the idiom “generous to a fault.” It’s because even criticisms against it find space on its Facebook page.

No doubt it’s because this company – with Sir Roel Z. Castro as president – is determined to learn from criticisms to improve its services.

Electricity billing is prone to customer complaints despite the fact that MORE Power still charges the lowest rates in the entire Philippines.

On the contrary, many customers of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) have openly expressed their wish to shift to MORE, if possible.

A distribution utility, you see, does not get all the amount printed in each power bill. It only gets 26 percent of what’s in the bill, which also includes payment for generation, transmission and other charges.

MORE applies what is known as the “competitive selection process” (CSP) that welcomes bidders among generating utilities.

The last word on CSP is that MORE Power has inked a five-year power supply agreement with the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) for 20 megawatts (MW) of renewable geothermal energy. EDC and First Gen jointly run the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Plant.

“Having renewable energy in our portfolio,” Castro said, “will save our consumers from higher prices.”

One recalls that MORE Power had previously inked a one-year contract with the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp (PSALM).  It expired last July 25.

As recently written for this paper by editor Francis Allan Angelo, MORE Power will also “purchase its 45MW base load from two coal-based power generators.”

It’s just unfortunate that the price of coal in the world market has gone up from US$90 to around US$400 per metric ton (MT) as a result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

May we beg of you for prayers for an end to that war?