Written by: Rashida J. Elliot
Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan
Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law in the Philippines in 1972. Many recall Martial Law as one of the most painful periods the country has ever gone through. A period characterized by all sorts of violence, including killings, enforced disappearances, major human rights violations, and grave abuses by the military and the political powers of the people's civil freedoms and democratic rights. Those who dared to speak out were silenced, tortured, abused, imprisoned, or even killed.
One of the many victims of Martial Law was Belinda from Davao del Sur. One day in 1984, early in the morning, a young Belinda was at her best friend Maria’s house for a birthday celebration. Suddenly, a unit of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) raided the house and picked up Belinda. She was dragged outside and to a nearby sugarcane field by a certain Sgt. Lito. The PC attempted to force her into confessing that she was a member of a rebel group by strangling and slapping her. Belinda argued that she did not even know what they were talking about. Despite her pleas for mercy and denial of the allegation, the soldiers refused to listen. On the contrary, Sgt. Lito sexually abused Belinda, as he ordered her to take off her trousers and underwear, and started touching her breasts.
Belinda was granted temporary reprieve when a certain Capt. Gomez came and briefly took her away from Sgt. Lito. Later, however, Sgt. Lito took off his pistol and his grenade, had Belinda forcefully hold them, and called Capt. Gomez to tell him of the “evidence” he had against her. Capt. Gomez ultimately took her and brought her to one of the local PC barracks. She was arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms, illegal possession of explosives, and rebellion. She was even forced to sign a document. Shocked and confused about what was happening, she found herself pleading for Capt. Gomez to let her go, claiming she had no knowledge of the charges brought up against her and that the weapons she was carrying were just planted. Capt. Gomez acquiesced, telling her “pasalamat ka at may anak akong babaeng kasing edad mo. Hindi ako masyadong masama at kilala ko pa ang Diyos (be thankful that I have a daughter your age. I’m not too evil and I still recognize God).” She was immediately transferred the day after to the local municipal jail as she was not safe in the barracks.
Despite being moved, Belinda found herself unable to sleep and eat. She was sleepless and often felt hopeless, haunted by the sexual abuse she experienced from Sgt. Lito. As a result of the sergeant’s maltreatment, she suffered injuries and bruises on her face, as well as bruises on her knees. Her mother only found out what happened to her after she had already spent a week in jail. Her mother then approached the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) for assistance and hired a human rights lawyer. Despite efforts made for her release, Belinda was still imprisoned for a year and ten months. She was finally released in early 1986, through the Ministry of Social Services Development (MSSD) custody, now known as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), because she was still a minor at the time of the incident.
Belinda eventually filed a claim to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) in 2014. She submitted documents to support her claim, including the joint affidavit of two witnesses, Rosalyn and Anabel, who corroborated her claims of what happened to her, as they were friends with Belinda’s mother, who often shared updates and her sentiments regarding Belinda’s situation.
Belinda was also among the class members in the Hawaii Court Case "Human Rights Litigation against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos" (MDL No. 840 CA. No. 88-0390). Dated 2013, she submitted a letter to the HRVCB, which informed her that she was eligible for compensatory payment from the Settlement Fund in this litigation. Further, in her claim to the HRVCB, under Sec. 17 of R.A. No. 10368, being a plaintiff in this class action suit has already made her a presumptive human rights violations victim (HRVV).
Belinda was arrested without a warrant, and the circumstances do not qualify as a valid instance of warrantless arrest. As such, the HRVCB, upon adjudicating her claim, awarded her five (5) points for arbitrary detention. The HRVCB denied the victim’s claim for torture because the acts committed do not fall under the legal definition of torture, as defined in the Anti-Torture Law of 2009. Her claim, however, falls under the definition of sexual offense which merits one (1) point. Given that the Board awards the category with the highest points, she was awarded with the higher five (5) points for arbitrary detention.
Such stories like Belinda’s should never be forgotten. Her story, however, is just one of many stories of suffering under the Marcos regime. We must keep their stories alive, no matter how painful it is to recall. We must not simply move on and be blind without addressing the oppression and suffering of the many. We must not forget the countless victims of human rights violations. The dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and his allies, were responsible for rampant illegal arrests, political detentions, killings, massacres, tortures, enforced disappearances, massive bribery and corruption, and blatant repression of the people's civil-political, economic, and cultural rights. Justice must be pursued and attained for these victims.
 “Application for Reparation and/or Recognition” (Case No. 2014-11-00425, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-11-00425, Davao del Sur: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Ibid.; “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-11-00425, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Witnesses’ joint affidavit (Case No. 2014-11-00425, Davao del Sur: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. Belinda did not elaborate nor specify what the document she signed was about. During this period, there were instances of detainees being forced to sign a blank document by the military, later used to either “certify” that they did not suffer under detention or as an “admission” of their guilt of whatever crime was being pinned on them.
 Victim’s affidavit, 2.
 “Resolution;” Witnesses’ joint affidavit.
 “Resolution;” “Re: Ferdinand E. Marcos Human Rights Litigation, MDL No. 840," Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C. to Belinda, Philadelphia, PA, January 24, 2013, (Case No. 2014-11-00425, Pennsylvania: 2013), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violation Victims’ Memorial Commission; “Republic Act No. 10368,” Official Gazette, February 25, 2013, accessed June 17, 2022, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/02/25/republic-act-no-10368/.
 “Resolution;” "Republic Act No. 9745," Official Gazette, November 10, 2009, accessed June 17, 2022, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2009/11/10/republic-act-no-9745/.