A History of Journalism in the Philippines – Period of Nationalism and First Quarter Storm

by Alixander Haban Escote

During this period, journalism moved the country toward nationalism and independence. It is the period when the country experienced economic turmoil and had a hard time in paying its increasing foreign debts. The Philippine peso flunked against the US dollar and America meddled in the state of economy of the country. As a result, the people felt hardships in life and the press reported the continuing destruction of bureaucracy that shaped the neocolonial outline of our history.

In 1963, Bertrand Russel Foundation published the Progressive Review whose prominent writers included Luis Teodoro, Jose Maria Sison, and Francisco Nemenzo Jr. The Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines,16 published essays that mirrored progressive and revolutionary ideas of its editorial staff.

At the University of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, also known as Amado Guerrero, founded the Kabataang Makabayan on November 30, 1964. A militant student organization, it removed the unscrupulous masks of feudalism, capitalism, imperialism, and neocolonialism, which, according to Sison, are “the barriers toward the attainment of freedom and independence.”

In November 1965, the then Senate President Ferdinand Marcos,17 Nacionalista Party presidential candidate, who ran against President Diosdado Macapagal, Liberal Party presidential candidate, was elected Sixth President of the Republic of the Philippines, defeating the latter by 67 000 votes. In January 1966, Marcos vowed to be the “leader of the people” and “to make this nation great again.”

After one year, US President Lyndon Johnson sought support for the American involvement in South Vietnam and called for a summit among his allies in the Asia and the Pacific. As a response, Marcos sent an engineering battalion despite popular clamor for non-involvement.

In December 1968, Jose Maria Sison founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and continued the armed struggle against the government and its foreign tentacles. When Marcos was re-elected for another four-year term in November 1969, CPP formed an alliance with the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan, formerly the military arm of the Partido ng Komunista ng Pilipinas and later the New People’s Army led by Bernabe Buscayno, also known as Kumander Dante.

In January 1970, series of rallies were launched by radical and moderate student organizations protesting the inclusion of politicians in the 1971 Constitutional Convention and the constitutional provision that would allow Marcos to run for a third term. When militant students overrun the military lines and ram commandeered fire trucks at the gates of the Malacañang Palace, bloody violence erupted.18 This bloody episode began a wave of protest known as the First Quarter Storm.

On August 21, 1971, two hand grenades were thrown at the Plaza Miranda19 killing 8 and injuring 120 persons including Senators Gerardo Roxas, Jovito Salonga, and Sergio Osmeña Jr. who attended the Liberal Party proclamation rally. As a result, Marcos suspended the privilege of writ of habeas corpus20.

In a study conducted by John Lent, there were 26 newspapers and 16 periodicals published during this period. The principal newspapers were the Taliba, Daily Mirror, Evening News, Manila Times, Manila Chronicle, Philippine Herald, and the Manila Daily Bulletin. The principal magazines were the Liwayway, Tagumpay, Weekly Nation, Weekly Graphic, Republic Weekly, Philippine Free Press, Asia Philippines Leader, and the Philippine Free Press sa Filipino,

Militant newspapers during this period included Ang Pasada, Samahan ng mga Makabayang Tsuper; Pagkakaisa, Philippine Peace and Solidarity Council; Bandilang Pula, Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan; Ang Kalayaan and Ang Aktibista, Kabataang Makabayan; Taliba ng Bayan and The Liberation, National Democratic Front; and the Sulong, Ang Bayan, and Ang Komunista, Communist Party of the Philippines.

In early September 1972, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.21 refuted “Oplan Sagitarrius,” the plan to place some parts of the country under martial law.

On the very night before martial law was declared, the convoy of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed. Fourteen years later, while facing uncertain fate at the Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City after he broke away from Marcos, Enrile confessed that the “ambush” was staged to help justify the imposition of the emergency rule.

Next: A History of Journalism in the Philippines – Martial Law Days