The First Quarter Storm: Setting the stage for Martial Law

The First Quarter Storm happened around 46 years ago and people hardly talk about it anymore. In fact, hardly anyone knows what it was.

What triggered it? Some say it was the massive cheating that happened in the 1969 Presidential elections that saw Ferdinand Marcos win handsomely against a rather pitiful showing by Sergio Osmeña, Jr. Those elections were widely believed to be the dirtiest in Philippine history—money was flowing freely to the electoral powers that be, and intimidation through violence became more commonplace.

If you think about it, dito na nga ang simula.

It was on January 26, 1970 when President Marcos gave his State of the Nation address after he won the 1969 elections. This event coincided with student demonstrations by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and University of the Philippines Student Council. These students, as fate would have it, were obviously quite passionate about their beliefs (regardless of how they eventually turned out years later). They spoke of the election cheating, the rumored bankruptcy of the nation’s coffers to fund the Marcos campaign, the rise in oil prices, and the sagging economy.

What was supposed to be a moderate rally quickly turned into a radical one with people like Jose Maria Sison quickly fanning the flames.

As a result, things quickly turned violent, the police forces reacted, and the students were dispersed. Stones were thrown, guns were fired, and placards hurled at government forces. Around 300 students were injured along with 72 members of the police.

It was soon after that things got even worse. fqsphoto2Just four days later, on January 30, another rally claimed the lives of four students and injured 162. Damage to property was estimated to be between Php 500, 000 to Php 1 million in what was, so far, the most violent student rally in Philippine history.

With the government seemingly doing nothing, less than two weeks later, no less than 100,000 students gathered at the famed Plaza Miranda with rallies also being held at other areas. Aside from the original grievances, they now had to deal with the fact that four students had just recently died and the threat of police brutality was a veritable sword of Damocles over their heads. Fortunately and rather surprisingly, no violence happened at this point.

The heated atmosphere hardly changed however, that less than a week later even more students got involved. This time people from 10 different provinces also held their own rallies. They spoke of United States imperialism, feudalism, and even fascism (perhaps a comment on Hitler and Gestapo-like practices). Admittedly, things got ugly very quickly with the US embassy being one of the victims of student unrest.

The next few weeks were of the same refrain – student rallies with fiery words and flaring passions. Not being granted a permit to demonstrate didn’t deter any of them. The police for their part responded as expected – beating demonstrators and even bystanders. The US embassy was again paid a visit as was Plaza Miranda. There was a march called the Poor People’s March which lamented the nation’s poverty while lambasting the lack of concern from the government.


Ano na tayo ngayon?

The First Quarter Storm was a time of heated passions and violent actions. While it can be said that the students taunted police authorities, both the police authorities and government had the chance to reach out to these demonstrators and be more proactive in keeping the peace. Some demonstrators who went to the Mendiola area had to seek refuge within the walls of San Beda College when the police personnel started swinging their truncheons. Where were the supposed parents of the nation while their children were outside crying and begging for justice?


It seemed like the government was not only not listening, it was also acting against the interests of the public.

This is not an exercise in picking at the scabs of the Philippine past. This is an exercise of what may just be again. The Marcoses want us to forget those days and how our nation’s youth were not listened to by their own leaders. As early as the First Quarter Storm, people were already dying, people were already being hurt, and no one with power did anything to change anything. While it is true that the Marcos children were quite young at that time, they weren’t all that young either. One earlier post here did make mention of the eldest child, Imee, and her episode with Archie Trajano (see that here).

A true leader is one who can bring people together. Unlike Marcos, who treats his own people as enemies of the state. More than that, a leader of our people, especially one aspiring to take the second highest post in the land with a possibility of taking over the reins of power like Ferdinand Marcos Jr wants to do, cannot just tell people to “move on” and forget about the hurtful past especially since his family is part of it.

It all boils down to this: When the country was in trouble and its youth were demanding solutions from its leaders, the response was to silence them using force and to blame them completely saying they were disturbing the peace and were communist lackeys. The truth of the matter was that the country’s leader did not listen and instead endeavored to silence all who opposed him. That hammer fell just two years later with the proclamation of Martial Law.