The media is often called the fourth estate because of its implicit capacity to shape political discourse. In this regard, the watchful eyes of the media become crucial players in the power play between a citizenry that stands up to the deceits of its government, and the same government that seeks to clamp down on those who oppose it. This is exactly how the Marcos administration perceived news agents and corporations in the wake of declaring Martial Law.
Rolando Fadul, a journalist for Taliba, was among those included in the first wave of arrests by the military the night before the declaration of Martial Law was broadcasted on television. Like many of his colleagues who were detained, Fadul suspected that he could be charged for his articles that could be deemed critical of the Marcos administration.
As responsible journalists, he and his colleagues would not hesitate to report on current affairs, be they about the lives of Filipinos under the New Society or about those who participate in armed struggle in rejection of the same. Marcos was aware of this. He was also aware that these journalists would also not hesitate to report, question and scrutinize the country’s situation under Martial Law should they be allowed to. As such, it also became a concern for many journalists of the time that they could be deemed subversive, pro-Communists or anti-government should officials interpret their articles that way. Under the Anti-Subversive Law, Marcos blurred the distinction between Communism and other leftist ideologies. The Left, armed or unarmed as they were, was considered illegal altogether.
Marcos even accused the press of “harboring communists and communist sympathizers” and “fomenting disorder.” In response, his target published emotionally charged articles in their circulations. The president of the National Press Club, Eddie Monteclaro even encouraged a mass rally at Plaza Miranda on the day of September 21, 1972, where the speakers cried out against attempts to pressure the press into submission. Sure enough, hours later that night, their worst fears were realized.
With the declaration of Martial Law, Marcos ordered the arrest of journalists, writers and columnists along with his critics, opposition leaders and student activists. He also ordered the closure of privately owned newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media of communications, as they were being “used for propaganda purposes against the government.” With this logic, the mass media critical of Marcos was perceived as nothing more than a tool for the communists and this was enough of a pretext for the media blackout that followed.
Fadul’s name was included in a list compiled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines named “Nationalist List of Target Personalities,” along with many prominent arms of the media. These include his fellow Taliba columnist Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo; Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Rosalinda Galang and Maximo Soliven of The Manila Times; Teodoro Locsin, Sr. and Napoleon Rama of the Philippines Free Press; Amando Doronila of the Manila Chronicle; Jose Mari Velez and Roger Arienda, TV and radio commentators; Amelita Reysio-Cruz of the Manila Daily Bulletin, Go Eng Kuan and Veronica Yuyitung associated with the Chinese Commercial News; Luis Beltran of Evening News; Ninotchka Rosca of Asia-Philippines Leader; Luis Mauricio of Graphic; and Manuel Almario of the Philippine News Service; Roberto Ordoñez of the Philippines Herald; and Juan Mercado of the Press Foundation of Asia.
Fadul joined the manifold petitions filed by most high-profile detainees for habeas corpus. However, though this was consolidated for the Supreme Court to handle, most of them had already been released before a decision was handed down, and their petitions were dismissed as moot, disallowing reparations of any sort. Despite their release, they were robbed of their capacity to report on the true state of the nation with news stations and companies closed down, but their very arrest and detainment was enough to cast some doubt on the intentions of the regime and its New Society.
A delegation from the Press Foundation of Asia remarked that “the Philippines Government’s actions against the mass media have no parallel in the whole of Asia. The Philippines remains denied of all civil liberties, its freedom of all education and the leaders of its mass media are in prison without any trial. The Philippine mass media, once considered the freest in Asia, have been suppressed to the point of death.” It escalated when the chief propagandist of the Marcos dictatorship, Primitivo Mijares, himself submitted before the United States a 24-page statement confessing his participation and knowledge in the orchestration of Martial Law and the silencing of mass media, thereby vindicating the men of the media arrested on alleged communist links and exposing what truly happened to the Philippines’ freedom of the press.
Fadul is among the countless journalists targeted by the Marcos administration for the articles written about the country’s dire situation, seeking to prevent the latter’s attempt to veil the truth and stifle attempts to criticize his vision of the New Society. Fadul and many of his peers did not back down in the face of a dictator. Though Marcos wanted a monopoly on the truth, they did not go down without a fight, defending the freedom of the press until the very end. He is recognized as a motu proprio victim of Martial Law today.
G.R. No. L-35567 (1974), accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/1974septemberdecisions.php?id=337.
Marcos, Ferdinand E. “Letter of Instruction No. 1, s. 1972.” Official Gazette of the Philippines. September 22, 1972. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1972/09/22/letter-of-instruction-no-1-s-1972/.
________________. “Letter of Instruction No. 1-A, s. 1972.” Official Gazette of the Philippines. September 22, 1972. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1972/09/28/letter-of-instruction-no-1-a-s-1972/.
Mijares, Primitivo. The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. 1976 Ed. Martial Law Chronicle Project. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://martiallawchroniclesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Conjugal-Dictatorship-of-Ferdinand-and-Imelda-Marcos.pdf.
Rosenberg, David A. “Civil Liberties and the Mass Media under Martial Law in the Philippines.” Pacific Affairs 47, no. 4 (1974): 472-84. Accessed May 27, 2021. doi:10.2307/2755948.
Stuart Santiago, Katrina. “Marcos Loyalist.” The Manila Times. November 19, 2016. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.manilatimes.net/2016/11/19/opinion/analysis/marcos-loyalist/297405/.
Teodoro, Luis V. “Forgetting or Not Knowing: Media and Martial Law.” LuisTeodoro.com. October 5, 2002. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://www.luisteodoro.com/forgetting-or-not-knowing-media-and-martial-law/.
________________. “The Press on the eve of Martial Law: On a Learning Curve.” Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility. September 1, 2008. Accessed May 27, 2021. https://cmfr-phil.org/media-ethics-responsibility/ethics/the-press-on-the-eve-of-martial-law-on-a-learning-curve/.
 Luis V. Teodoro, “Forgetting or Not Knowing: Media and Martial Law,” LuisTeodoro.com, October 5, 2002, accessed May 27, 2021, https://www.luisteodoro.com/forgetting-or-not-knowing-media-and-martial-law/.
 Luis V. Teodoro, “The Press on the eve of Martial Law: On a Learning Curve,” Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility, September 1, 2008, accessed May 27, 2021. https://cmfr-phil.org/media-ethics-responsibility/ethics/the-press-on-the-eve-of-martial-law-on-a-learning-curve/.
 David A. Rosenberg, “Civil Liberties and the Mass Media under Martial Law in the Philippines,” Pacific Affairs 47, no. 4 (1974), 473-474 , accessed May 27, 2021. doi:10.2307/2755948. Monteclaro was also secretary-general of the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties, of which Senator Jose Diokno was the head. At the rally, the primary speaker was Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
 Ferdinand E. Marcos, “Letter of Instruction No. 1, s. 1972,” Official Gazette of the Philippines, September 22, 1972, accessed May 27, 2021, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1972/09/22/letter-of-instruction-no-1-s-1972/.
 Teodoro, “Forgetting or Not Knowing;” Teodoro, “The Press on the eve of Martial Law;” Katrina Stuart Santiago, “Marcos Loyalist;” Primitivo Mijares, The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, 1976 Ed. Martial Law Chronicle Project, accessed May 27, 2021, https://martiallawchroniclesproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-Conjugal-Dictatorship-of-Ferdinand-and-Imelda-Marcos.pdf., 71-72. The entire list is compiled using the aforementioned sources.
 G.R. No. L-35567, September 17, 1974, accessed May 27, 2021, https://www.chanrobles.com/cralaw/1974septemberdecisions.php?id=337. “In the Matter of the Petition for Habeas Corpus of Amando Doronila, Juan L. Mercado, Hernando L. Abaya, Ernesto Granada, Luis D. Beltran, Tan Chin Hian, Bren Guiao, Ruben Cusipag, Roberto Ordoñez, Manuel Almario and Willie Baun, Petitioners, V. Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary of National Defense; Lieut. Gen. Romeo Espino, Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines; and Brig. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, Chief, Philippine Constabulary, Respondents.”
 Rosenberg, “Civil Liberties and the Mass Media under Martial Law in the Philippines.
 Primitivo Mijares, The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, 35-41. This memo was presented by Mijares in June-July 1975 to the US Subcommittee on International Organizations led by Don Fraser, Democrat Representative of Minnesota. This was after Mijares escaped to the United States and threw support for exiled leader Raul Manglapus’s Movement for a Free Philippines. He later wrote The Conjugal Dictatorship to expound further on the grand ruse of the dictatorship.