Declaration of Martial Law
The anniversary of the declaration of martial law is on September 23 (not September 21)
President Jose P. Laurel issued Proclamation No. 29 on September 21, 1944 placing the Philippines under martial law, effective September 22, 1944. Marcos followed a similar process, although he did not actually sign his Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21: he signed it on September 17 or on September 22, in either case dating it September 21.
Throughout the martial law period, President Marcos built up the cult of September 21, proclaiming it National Thanksgiving Day by virtue of Proclamation No. 1180 s. 1973 to memorialize the date as the foundation day of his New Society. The propaganda effort was so successful that up to the present, many Filipinos, particularly those who did not live through the events of September 23, 1972, labor under the misapprehension that martial law was proclaimed on September 21, 1972. It was not.
The facts are clear. A week before the actual declaration of Martial Law, a number of people had already received information that Marcos had drawn up a plan to completely take over the government and gain absolute rule. Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., during a September 13, 1972 privilege speech, thus exposed what was known as “Operation Sagittarius”. The Senator said he had received a top-secret military plan given by Marcos himself to place Metro Manila and outlying areas under the control of the Philippine Constabulary as a prelude to Martial Law. Marcos was going to use the bombings, which includes the Plaza Miranda Bombing, in Metro Manila as a justification for his takeover and subsequent authoritarian rule. In his own diary, President Marcos in his entry for September 14, 1972, wrote that he informed the military that he would proceed with proclaiming martial law.
This was indeed the culmination of a long period of preparation: in his January 1971 diary entries, Marcos discussed meeting business leaders,...