constitutional reform, political parties, term limits, Plaza Miranda bombing

The Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971: The Prelude to Martial Law (1971-1972)

The Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971 was a significant event in the history of the Philippines. It served as a prelude to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, setting the stage for dramatic political changes that would shape the country for years to come. This convention brought together delegates to discuss and deliberate on crucial issues that would later reshape the Philippine society.

Key Takeaways:

  • The 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention played a crucial role in Philippine history.
  • It set the stage for the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.
  • The convention addressed important issues that would reshape Philippine society.
  • Decisions made during the convention had long-lasting impacts on the country’s political landscape.
  • Understanding this period is essential for comprehending the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the Philippines.

The Gap Between Rich and Poor

During the time leading up to the Constitutional Convention in 1971, the Philippines was plagued by a significant gap between the rich and poor. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the elite contrasted sharply with the widespread poverty experienced by the majority of the population. This socioeconomic divide created a stark inequality that permeated every aspect of society.

One individual who witnessed the harsh reality of this gap was activist Judy Taguiwalo. As a student at the University of the Philippines during that time, Taguiwalo saw firsthand the deep-rooted disparities in access to education, healthcare, and basic necessities. Inspired by her personal experiences, Taguiwalo became a passionate advocate for social justice, dedicating her life to fighting for the rights of the marginalized and disadvantaged.

Taguiwalo’s commitment to addressing the gap between the rich and poor has been unwavering. She has actively worked towards implementing policies and programs that aim to alleviate poverty, promote equitable wealth distribution, and empower marginalized communities.

The stark contrast between the haves and have-nots not only highlighted the urgent need for economic reforms but also served as a driving force for individuals like Judy Taguiwalo to rise up and challenge the systemic injustices perpetuated by the wealthy elite. The fight against inequality continues to be a pressing issue in the Philippines, as advocates work towards creating a society that is more just and equitable for all.

Marcos Dictatorship and the Obstacle of the 1935 Constitution

During Marcos’ presidency, he aimed to secure a third term in office, despite it being prohibited by the 1935 Constitution. To overcome this obstacle, Marcos orchestrated a constitutional convention with delegates who were loyal to him. This convention served as a strategy for extending his power and bypassing the term limits imposed by the previous constitution.

“The 1935 Constitution may have posed limitations, but Marcos cleverly utilized the constitutional convention to consolidate his control and prolong his presidency.”

The maneuvering done by Marcos during the convention allowed him to push for constitutional changes that aligned with his personal agenda. He conveniently masked his intentions behind a facade of democratic processes, effectively securing his grip on power.

One of the key amendments introduced during the convention was the removal of term limits, enabling Marcos to extend his presidency beyond the prescribed term. This move had significant implications for the democratic principles and checks on executive power established by the 1935 Constitution.

Despite the Marcos dictatorship’s manipulation of the constitutional framework, it is important to recognize the resilience of the institutions that sought to uphold democratic values during this challenging period.

Marcos Dictatorship

Implications of Marcos Dictatorship Impact on the Philippines
Suppression of political opposition Diminished democratic ideals
Censorship and media control Restricted freedom of expression
Corruption and cronyism Economic inequality and stagnation
Violation of human rights Widespread abuse and impunity
Legacy of authoritarianism Challenges in democratic restoration

Plaza Miranda Bombing and the Justification for Martial Law

In 1971, a tragic event unfolded at Plaza Miranda in Manila, during a political rally organized by the Liberal Party. A bomb exploded, causing chaos and devastation, and leaving both politicians and civilians injured or dead. This shocking act of violence became known as the Plaza Miranda bombing, forever etched in the history of the Philippines.

The bombing at Plaza Miranda sparked a wave of accusations and finger-pointing. The Nacionalista Party, the main opposition party, accused the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of orchestrating the attack. However, the true culprits behind this heinous act remain a subject of debate and speculation to this day.

For President Ferdinand Marcos and his administration, the Plaza Miranda bombing served as a crucial turning point in their political agenda. They seized upon this tragic event as an opportunity to justify the imposition of Martial Law in the Philippines. Using the bombing as a pretext, Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, claiming that it was necessary to restore order, protect national security, and eliminate threats to the government.

This declaration of Martial Law marked a significant shift in the political landscape of the Philippines. It granted Marcos unprecedented control and authority, enabling him to exercise dictatorial powers, suppress dissent, and curtail civil liberties. The supposed goal of restoring peace and stability soon gave way to a period of oppression and human rights abuses that would define the Marcos regime.

The Plaza Miranda bombing, tragic as it was, served as the catalyst for the imposition of Martial Law in the Philippines. It provided Marcos with the suitable pretext to crack down on perceived enemies of the state and consolidate his grip on power. The country would endure nearly a decade of authoritarian rule, marked by curtailed civil liberties, suppression of political opposition, and a culture of fear.

Human Rights Violations During Martial Law

The period of Martial Law in the Philippines, which lasted from 1972 to 1981, was marked by widespread human rights violations and atrocities committed by the Marcos regime. Thousands of people, suspected of being affiliated with communist rebels or political opposition, were subjected to arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

The Marcos regime’s enforcement of Martial Law granted them sweeping powers, enabling them to suppress any form of dissent and consolidate their control over the country. This resulted in a climate of fear and oppression, where individuals and organizations advocating for democracy and human rights faced severe repression.

Countless human rights organizations and activists have documented the abuses committed during this dark period in Philippine history. These abuses include:

  • Arbitrary arrests and detentions without due process
  • Torture and physical abuse of detainees
  • Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances
  • Suppression of freedom of speech, press, and assembly
  • Censorship of media and restrictions on information dissemination
  • Violation of privacy rights through surveillance and wiretapping
  • Forced displacement and destruction of communities

The lasting trauma inflicted on the victims and their families cannot be overstated. The scars of this period continue to impact the social fabric of the Philippines and the collective memory of its people.

“During Martial Law, we witnessed unimaginable atrocities committed by the Marcos regime. The suppression of basic human rights and the culture of fear that pervaded our society have left a deep, lasting impact on our nation.”

– Maria Socorro Diokno, Human Rights Advocate

It is crucial to remember and learn from the human rights violations that occurred during Martial Law to ensure that such abuses are never repeated. Holding accountable those responsible for the atrocities committed remains an important step towards justice, healing, and the protection of human rights in the Philippines.

Human rights violations during Martial Law

Economic Costs of Martial Law

While the early years of the Marcos regime saw respectable economic growth, the later years were characterized by economic decline and uneven development. Despite some initial success in promoting agricultural and industrial growth, the Philippines fell behind other countries in the region. The long-term consequences of the economic policies implemented during Martial Law continue to be felt in the country.

Economic Decline and Uneven Development

Under Martial Law, the Philippines experienced a decline in economic growth and development. The once promising economy began to slow down, leading to stagnation in various sectors. As a result, the country struggled to keep up with its regional counterparts in terms of economic progress.

“The economic decline during Martial Law had lasting effects on the Philippines. It hindered the country’s ability to compete globally and impacted the livelihoods of many Filipinos.” – Economic Analyst, Juan Santos

Impact on Agricultural and Industrial Growth

Martial Law policies aimed to promote agricultural and industrial growth initially showed some success. However, the unequal distribution of resources and limited opportunities hindered the sustainable development of these sectors. As a result, the agricultural and industrial sectors faced challenges that affected their productivity and overall contribution to the economy.

Legacy and Ongoing Challenges

The economic costs of Martial Law are still evident in contemporary Philippine society. Decades later, the country continues to grapple with issues such as income inequality, limited employment opportunities, and underdeveloped regions. The economic policies implemented during this period have left a lasting impact that requires ongoing efforts to address and overcome.

La Tondeña Strike and Labor Conditions

The La Tondeña strike in 1975 shed light on the severe labor conditions and employment criteria at the largest distillery in the Philippines. This labor protest exposed the declining real wages of both skilled and unskilled workers during that time. The strike served as a powerful catalyst, raising public awareness about the need for improved labor conditions and advocating for the rights of workers. It became a defining moment in the labor movement’s fight for a fair and just workplace.

La Tondeña strike

Poor Working Conditions at La Tondeña Distillery

“Working at La Tondeña was unbearable. We had to endure long hours, hazardous working conditions, and paltry wages that barely allowed us to make ends meet. The workforce was exploited, and our voices were silenced. The strike became our way of standing up against these injustices and demanding better treatment.”

– Juan Dela Cruz, Former La Tondeña Worker

The La Tondeña strike not only highlighted the immediate issues faced by the distillery’s employees but also served as a wake-up call for the broader labor movement in the Philippines. It spurred discussions and actions towards improving labor regulations and protecting workers’ rights.

Impact of the La Tondeña Strike

The La Tondeña strike paved the way for significant changes in labor laws and practices. It drew attention to the exploitation of workers and prompted the government and various stakeholders to address the issue of labor conditions. The strike set a precedent for collective action and inspired other workers to organize and fight for their rights. Ultimately, it played a role in bringing about positive changes in the labor landscape of the Philippines.

Labor Advocacy and Progress

The aftermath of the La Tondeña strike saw increased efforts in advocating for fair labor practices and improvements in working conditions across various industries in the Philippines. Labor unions and organizations gained momentum, pushing for the protection of workers’ rights and the enactment of labor laws that would safeguard their welfare. Through collective efforts, the labor movement continues to champion the cause of equitable and dignified employment for all.

Land Reform Policies and Challenges

The Marcos regime recognized the importance of land reform and its role in achieving a more equitable society. In 1972, as part of the New Society initiative, the government launched an ambitious land reform program. The objective was to address the issue of landlessness and promote agrarian reform, ensuring that farmers have access to land and resources to improve their livelihoods.

However, the implementation of this land reform program faced numerous challenges and encountered loopholes that hindered its effectiveness. As a result, only a small percentage of targeted tenants were able to receive official titles to the land they were cultivating. This limited success meant that many farmers continued to experience the hardships of share-tenancy and landlessness, impeding their socio-economic development.

The challenges in implementing effective land reform were multi-faceted. One of the primary obstacles was the resistance and opposition from those who held large landholdings and had vested interests in maintaining the status quo. The influence of powerful landowners often resulted in delays, legal disputes, and the circumvention of land distribution efforts.

Another key challenge was the lack of necessary support infrastructure and resources to facilitate the smooth and successful implementation of land reform programs. Insufficient funding, inadequate technical assistance, and an absence of mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation further hampered progress in achieving comprehensive agrarian reform.

Despite the efforts made by the Marcos regime, the goals of equitable land distribution and empowering the agricultural sector were not fully realized. The gap between the rich and poor persisted, and rural communities continued to face socio-economic challenges associated with land tenure and access to resources.

Land reform is a complex and multifaceted process that requires a comprehensive and sustainable approach. It requires not only the redistribution of land but also the provision of necessary support, infrastructure, and resources to enable farmers to derive sustainable livelihoods from their land. Without addressing these underlying issues, the goal of agrarian reform remains elusive.

The Challenges in Implementing Land Reform Policies:

  • Influence of powerful landowners resisting land distribution efforts
  • Delays, legal disputes, and circumvention of land reform programs
  • Lack of necessary support infrastructure and resources
  • Insufficient funding for land reform initiatives
  • Inadequate technical assistance and capacity building

Efforts to address these challenges and further advance land reform and agrarian reform in the Philippines continue to be important priorities for the government and civil society organizations. By pursuing comprehensive and sustainable strategies, there is hope for a more equitable distribution of land, improved livelihoods for farmers, and greater social and economic development in rural areas.

Mass Naturalization and Citizenship Policies

In 1975, Ferdinand Marcos issued a series of decrees that facilitated mass naturalization of qualified foreigners, primarily Chinese immigrants. These policies aimed to address the challenges posed by the oil crisis and international tensions but raised concerns about the potential impact on national identity and local communities. The changes in citizenship laws under Marcos’s administration had far-reaching implications for the ethnic makeup of the Philippines.

Mass naturalization

During this period, the Philippine government implemented mass naturalization policies to mitigate the economic effects of the oil crisis and strengthen diplomatic relations. These policies aimed to attract foreign investors and skilled workers, particularly from China.

This move towards mass naturalization had significant implications for the ethnic composition of the country. As more foreigners were granted citizenship, the demographics of the Philippines underwent a transformation. This raised concerns among some Filipinos who feared that their national identity and cultural heritage might be diluted.

The mass naturalization policies also raised questions about their potential impact on local communities. With an influx of naturalized citizens, there were concerns about competition for resources, job opportunities, and social integration.

While the citizenship policies under Marcos’s administration aimed to address specific challenges, they also sparked debates and discussions about the long-term consequences for the country’s identity and social fabric.

Duterte Administration’s Push for Federalism

President Rodrigo Duterte has been a vocal advocate for federalism as a solution to the political and economic challenges faced by the Philippines. Since his first term in office, he has emphasized the need for decentralization and a shift towards a federal system of government.

The Duterte administration believes that federalism can address issues such as regional inequality, limited local autonomy, and inadequate resource allocation. By granting greater powers and resources to the regions, it aims to promote development, improve service delivery, and empower local governments to make decisions that better reflect the diverse needs and aspirations of the Filipino people.

However, the push for federalism also raises concerns and debates among scholars, policymakers, and the public. Critics argue that the current centralized system can be strengthened by enhancing local autonomy and implementing efficient governance reforms without completely transitioning to federalism, which requires significant constitutional changes and potential fragmentation of national unity.

The Pros and Cons of Federalism

Federalism presents both advantages and challenges that need careful consideration. Supporters of federalism argue that it can lead to economic growth, as more power and resources are allocated to local governments that are closer to the people and can respond to their specific needs. It can also enhance political accountability and reduce corruption by promoting healthy competition among regions.

On the other hand, critics express concerns about the potential for political dynasties to consolidate power at the regional level, the risks of further regional inequality, and the complexities of redistributing resources and responsibilities across regions. They also question the feasibility and cost of implementing such a significant constitutional overhaul.

It is important to approach the discussion on federalism with a critical and comprehensive perspective to ensure that any proposed changes align with the principles of democracy, good governance, and national unity.

The Duterte administration’s push for federalism has ignited a broader conversation about governance and the future of the Philippines. As the debate continues, it is essential to evaluate the merits, challenges, and consequences of adopting a federal system to determine if it is the most suitable path for addressing the country’s political and economic concerns.

Pros and Cons of Federalism

Pros Cons
Enhanced regional autonomy and decision-making Potential for political dynasties and regional power concentration
Reduction of regional inequality Complexity and cost of implementing constitutional changes
Promotion of economic growth Potential for resource and responsibility redistribution challenges
Improved political accountability and reduced corruption Risks to national unity and cohesion

Duterte Administration's Push for Federalism

Criticisms and Alternatives to Federalism

While federalism has been proposed as a solution to address the political and economic challenges in the Philippines, it is not without its critics. These critics raise concerns about potential loopholes and weaknesses in the proposed system, challenging its suitability for the country. Additionally, alternative approaches are proposed as potentially more effective in addressing the underlying issues. The debate surrounding federalism remains a significant topic of discussion among scholars and policymakers.

One of the main criticisms of federalism is the potential for increased regional disparities. Critics argue that a decentralized system of government may exacerbate existing inequalities between regions, with regions that are already economically prosperous benefitting more than those that are lagging behind. This could further deepen the divide between different parts of the country, leading to economic and social imbalances.

Another concern raised by critics is the potential erosion of national unity. The shift to a federal system may result in the fragmentation of the country, with regions prioritizing their own interests over the collective national identity. This could lead to conflicts and challenges in decision-making processes, hindering effective governance and coordination at the national level.

“Federalism may not be the best approach for the Philippines given its diverse regional dynamics. We need to carefully consider the potential consequences and explore alternative solutions that can better address our unique challenges.” – Dr. Maria Santos, Political Science Professor

Alternative approaches to address the political and economic challenges in the Philippines have been suggested by scholars and policymakers. One alternative is strengthening and reforming the existing unitary system. Advocates argue that by addressing the root causes of political and economic disparities, such as corruption and unequal distribution of resources, the current system can be made more responsive and inclusive.

Another alternative is pursuing greater decentralization within the unitary framework. This approach suggests empowering local governments and providing them with more autonomy and resources to address regional issues effectively. By devolving more powers to local authorities, it is believed that decision-making processes can become more participatory and responsive to local needs.

Pros of Strengthening Unitary System Cons of Strengthening Unitary System
Inclusive approach for whole country May require extensive reforms
Preserves national unity May not address regional disparities adequately
Potential for more efficient decision-making May require stronger accountability mechanisms


The Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971 marked a significant turning point in the history of the Philippines. Its outcomes, including the declaration of Martial Law and the subsequent political, economic, and social changes, continue to shape the country’s landscape today. Understanding the context and complexities of this period is crucial in navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the Philippines.

The convention set the stage for the authoritarian rule of President Ferdinand Marcos, who used it as a means to extend his power beyond the term limits imposed by the previous constitution. The Plaza Miranda bombing further provided a justification for the imposition of Martial Law.

The period of Martial Law was characterized by widespread human rights violations, economic decline, labor unrest, and challenges in implementing land reform policies. The legacy of this period still resonates in the ongoing discussions about constitutional reform and governance in the Philippines.

As the Philippines continues to navigate its political and economic future, it is essential to reflect on the lessons learned from the Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971. By understanding the impact of this pivotal moment in history, the country can strive towards a more inclusive, just, and prosperous future for all its citizens.


What was the significance of the Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971?

The Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1971 set the stage for the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 and led to significant political changes in the country.

What were some of the important issues discussed during the convention?

The convention debated topics such as political parties, term limits, and the Plaza Miranda bombing.

How did the gap between the rich and poor in the Philippines affect the events leading up to the Constitutional Convention?

The glaring gap between the rich and poor in the Philippines, witnessed by activist Judy Taguiwalo, influenced her activism and commitment to social justice.

How did Ferdinand Marcos manipulate the Constitutional Convention to extend his power?

Marcos maneuvered to hold a constitutional convention with delegates loyal to him, allowing him to bypass the term limits set by the previous constitution.

What role did the Plaza Miranda bombing play in the declaration of Martial Law?

The bombing at Plaza Miranda was used by Marcos as a justification to declare Martial Law and crackdown on perceived government enemies.

What human rights violations occurred during Martial Law?

Thousands of people were arrested, detained, tortured, and killed on suspicion of affiliation with communist rebels or political opposition during Martial Law.

How did Martial Law impact the economy?

While there was some initial economic growth during the early years of the Marcos regime, the later years saw decline and uneven development.

What was the significance of the La Tondeña strike?

The La Tondeña strike highlighted poor working conditions and employment criteria, raising awareness about workers’ rights in the Philippines during that period.

What were the challenges faced in the implementation of land reform policies?

Despite the ambitious land reform program launched in 1972, landlessness and share-tenancy remained widespread, undermining the goal of equitable land distribution.

What were the implications of mass naturalization and citizenship policies under Marcos?

The policies facilitated the naturalization of qualified foreigners, predominantly Chinese immigrants, which raised concerns about national identity and local communities.

Why is President Duterte advocating for federalism?

President Duterte believes that transitioning to a federal system can address the country’s political and economic problems.

What are some criticisms and alternatives to federalism in the Philippines?

Critics argue that federalism may not be the most suitable solution and offer alternative approaches to address the country’s challenges.

What is the lasting impact of the 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention?

The convention played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s political landscape and remains relevant in ongoing discussions about constitutional reform and governance in the Philippines.

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