1973: Lim Seng, under Philippines martial law

On this date in 1973,* under the then-new martial law regime of Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos, a 52-year-old Chinese businessman was shot at Fort Bonifacio.**

Lim Seng was a struggling restauranteur in the 1960s when he dove into the heroin business.

He wasn’t struggling much longer.

He quickly became the Walter White of Manila heroin production, exploiting ties to criminal syndicates in the Golden Triangle to churn out (by the early 1970s) 1.2 tons of smack. Ninety percent of it was exported to the United States. (.pdf source on Lim Seng’s criminal career)

The other 10% helped feed a burgeoning heroin addiction among Manila students, leading to a seminal 1972 anti-drug law under which Lim Seng was arrested days after martial law came down that September. He faced a military, rather than a civilian trial.

Naturally quite wealthy from his enterprise, he evidently believed up until the last moments that he could buy his way out of execution. Little did he understand that he had been ticketed to demonstrate the incipient dictatorship’s iron fist: thousands of civilian spectators crowded the ropeline of the rifle range to glimpse the garishly publicized ceremony, while others took in the radio broadcast or news footage.

Lim Seng was the first person executed by the Marcos regime for drug trafficking.

* Lim Seng was tried in December 1972, and some sources report this as his execution date. Contemporary newspaper accounts unambiguously confirm that the execution took place on January 15, 1973.

** Fort Andres Bonifacio, formerly a base of the U.S. occupation called Fort McKinley, was christened for an executed Filipino patriot.

On this day..

5 thoughts on “1973: Lim Seng, under Philippines martial law

  1. We stayed there in Fort Bonifacio for a 2-day bivouac. On the last day in the early morning before returning to Feati University we watched the execution of Lim Seng. He was wearing a light blue Montagut. There were about 2,000 spectators, some were caucasians.

  2. I was a seaman, in Manila on vacation back then. A friend of mine went to watch the event. I declined accompanying him as it was too early in the morning, 06:00.

  3. I was in manilla in the royal navy when he was executed manilla was under marshal law at the time

  4. I was an eight year old when Lim Seng’s execution by firing squad was shown in the evening news in Philippine television. I can only remember the video clip as being dark as we only had black-and-white television then and the execution took place when it was still dark. I just remember a human being tied to a stake who I presumed was Lim Seng. Again, another indelible part of my childhood in martial law Philippines.

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