Written by: National Service Training Program Student
Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan

In September 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law, supposedly triggered by increasingly violent student demonstrations, the threat of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the Islamic separatists. Many people initially viewed the imposition of Martial Law optimistically,[1] but as time went on, many also started to realize what was truly happening. The military regime imposed by Marcos had actually led to widespread human rights violations; tens of thousands of Filipinos were detained, tortured, forcibly disappeared, or even killed.[2] This is one of the tragic stories of a human rights violations victim (HRVV) whose rights were violated and abused by the authorities during the Martial Law period.

Teodoro is a human rights violations victim (HRVV) of the Martial Law period. In 2014, he bravely shared his story to the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB) as he filed a claim for recognition and reparation for his experience as an HRVV, as well as for how he and his family were abused by the military.[3] According to Teodoro, he arrived in Bataan together with his family in 1968. His livelihood varied, ranging from planting various crops, renting cutters, farming, to doing any other land activities just so he could provide for his family. After two years, his parents and siblings followed them from their home province. They arrived with their own families and built each of their homes together in the land that Teodoro lived in. At the onset of Martial Law in 1973, Teodoro and his siblings were still busy with their livelihoods.[4]

The incident happened later that same year, when, in the dark of the night, Teodoro and his family were awoken by a noise coming from outside. When Teodoro opened the door, he saw from the gas light that about ten policemen from the nearby locality had come to their land.[5] He was forcibly dragged out of his house by two policemen, and as he was being taken to the central area of their land, he saw the other cops force his siblings and his father out of their houses as well. Teodoro became terrified, thinking that the police could and would just shoot them then and there all at once. The police began speaking and accusing them of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The police ordered them to “take out their guns,” adding that “if [they] don’t take them out, [the police] will kill [them]." The police continued to threaten the family into admitting that they were NPA members. All of them strongly denied it, as they were not actually NPA members.[6]

With every instance of denial, the police retaliated by kicking and striking Teodoro and his brothers on various parts of their body.[7] The police also struck them with the butts of their guns. Teodoro, in extreme pain and short of breath as the beating continued, thought that it was the end of his life. After the police, tried as they might, failed to force a confession out of them, Teodoro and his siblings were blindfolded and forcibly hauled into the police vehicles. They were then transferred to a camp in Pampanga.[8]

After arriving at the camp, Teodoro was taken to his room, where more than five policemen and soldiers had been waiting. He was forcibly undressed and tied to a chair. His private parts were electrocuted, causing him to scream, struggle and writhe due to the intense pain. After that, they took turns slapping him, punching him in the stomach, and kicking him while saying "you are an NPA, you have to admit it." While inside the camp, he also saw bruises on various parts of his brothers' bodies, suggesting that they were also subjected to intense torture. After two days, Teodoro and his brothers were released. No charges were ever filed against them and no paperwork was ever handled when they were released.[9]

Teodoro did not simply forget. He wanted justice and recognition for what he and his family went through. In 2014, decades after the incident, Teodoro, together with two of his brothers, Ricardo and Rolando, filed a claim to the HRVCB. The HRVCB ruled in favor of their claim that they had been arbitrarily detained, as they had provided sufficient evidence and testimony to confirm that the police indeed arrested them, without any warrant or justifying circumstances, and detained them for two days.[10] Further, the HRVCB also ruled in favor of Teodoro’s claim for torture, as he was also able to establish how his torture at the Pampanga camp was severe and systematic.[11] In fact, the HRVCB, prior to processing Teodoro’s claim, had already conclusively presumed him as an HRVV, given that he was actually one of the plaintiffs in the Hawaii class action suit entitled “Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390), which had been filed by thousands of other HRVVs and/or their family to seek culpability for and compensation from the Marcoses in the 1990s. Thus, Teodoro was awarded eight points, as the HRVCB recognized his experience of torture. The HRVCB also awarded his two brothers three points, as their arbitrary detention claims were also approved. [12]

Teodoro’s story is but one of the many that are seldom told to and barely known by anyone today. Many victims, like Teodoro, who were defenseless and had no power to stand against injustice, are left until this day to remember the terrible acts that were committed against them. It is important that we should not forget the stories of the victims and their suffering under Martial Law. By remembering the history of the past and the pain that was inflicted upon the victims, we are able to give them their voice. This is one way to bring forth the truth and to enlighten everyone about the cruelty that happened during Martial Law so as to never let it happen again.

[1] Gregorio C. Borlaza, “Martial Law”, Britannica, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.britannica.com/place/Philippines/Martial-law. The reaction was initially positive from the general public, except in the southern Muslim areas, where a separatist rebellion led by the MNLF broke out in 1973.

[2] “Five things to know about Martial Law in the Philippines”, Amnesty International, April 25, 2022, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/04/five-things-to-know-about-martial-law-in-the-philippines/.

[3] "Application for Reparation and/or Recognition" (Case No. 2014-14-05841, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1. The HRVCB was established through Republic Act No. 10368. See "Republic Act No. 10368," Official Gazette, February 25, 2013, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2013/02/25/republic-act-no-10368/.

[4] Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-14-05841, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1.

[5] Ibid., 1-2. Teodoro actually recognized these policemen since he would often see them in town whenever he would take his children there for their studies.

[6] Ibid, 2; Witness’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-14-05841, Zambales City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1-2. The police even threw things at Teodoro’s sibling’s houses, ordering them, as alleged members of the NPA, to come out as well.

[7] Victim’s affidavit, 2; Witness’s affidavit, 2.

[8] Victim’s affidavit, 2-3.

[9] Ibid, 3.

[10] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-05841, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 4.

[11] Ibid., 4.

[12] Ibid., 3-4. Sec. 19 of R.A. No. 10368 states that should an HRVV be eligible for more than one claim, the HRVCB “shall award only one (1) valid claim which corresponds to the category obtaining the highest number of points.” As such, while Teodoro was eligible for both arbitrary detention and torture, he was awarded eight points for the higher category of torture.