Home » Publications » Vol. 19, No. 2 (2023) » Legitimising Martial Law: Framing The 1974 Battle of Jolo (Sulu, Philippines) in the Bulletin Today Newspaper

Legitimising Martial Law: Framing The 1974 Battle of Jolo (Sulu, Philippines) in the Bulletin Today Newspaper


After President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on 21 September 1972, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Muslim secessionist rebel group based in the Mindanao and Sulu archipelago waged war against the Manila-based government leading to armed clashes with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). One of their most violent battles happened on 7 February 1974, after rebels invaded the town of Jolo, the provincial capital of Sulu in the southern Philippines. With the help of state-controlled media like Bulletin Today, this battle became an avenue for the Marcos dictatorship to legitimise its authoritarian rule. Analysing frames of the Bulletin Today newspaper on the 1974 Battle of Jolo, this study argues that in an authoritarian regime where the government controlled the flow of information, media framing played a crucial role in suppressing the rebellion which aimed to generate support from the public. Through a close reading of Bulletin Today newspaper issues from February to April 1974, this study unpacks how the Marcos-controlled media filtered, fabricated, and censored news and editorial articles to frame the 1974 Battle of Jolo to strengthen the dictator Marcos’ authoritarian legitimacy and image-making project. This study suggests that the Marcos government discredited the MNLF by labelling them as Maoist Muslims. Attaching such connotations to the secessionist group, the regime framed the group as bearers of harmful behaviour and a threat to the goals and values that Filipino society upholds. The Bulletin Today also underlined the competence of the Philippine military and the constabulary in dealing with the crisis. However, the regime also censored pertinent information about the battle, including their role in the bombing and burning of Jolo.



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