This is an entry of the 50 Before 50 Martial Law Commemoration Series. To see the full list of entries, press this link: 50 before 50 Project Page
Written by: Zweetzel Blaize Ebcas
Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan
In September 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. signed Proclamation No. 1081, which placed the entire Philippines under Martial Law. The arrests of former Senator Benigno Aquino and many other personalities, most of which being the fiercest critics of Marcos, marked the start of the massive waves of human rights violations that took place during the Martial Law regime. Similar to what happened with these other personalities, Adolfo was also among the very first arrested and detained around the time Martial Law was declared.
In 2014, Adolfo filed a claim for reparation and recognition for illegal detention and torture to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) to seek justice for himself. Through this claim, he was able to share his story.
According to Adolfo, in his affidavit, in the early hours of one day in late September 1972, he was awoken by the loud barks of his two dogs, followed by a loud call from the front gate of their house. He peeked out his window and he saw four or five armed and uniformed men in front of their home. The men in uniform kept calling out to the family until Adolfo’s mother, Leonora, asked what they needed. The men told her that they were looking for a certain man named “Adolfo” at their house. She confirmed that he indeed is living in that house, but that he was currently away in Manila. The men did not believe her, and ordered her to open the door, lest they spray the house with bullets. Before they opened the door, his parents told him to hide in the cabinet. He was soon forced to reveal himself, however, as he saw a man pointing his armalite rifle in the cabinet where he was hiding. Together with his mother, they were forced to ride the military jeep, leaving his father, Pedro, anxious and fearful.
On their way to the detention center of one of the local Philippine Constabulary (PC) headquarters in Pampanga, Adolfo and his mother learned from the soldiers that Martial Law had been imposed by President Marcos. Radio and television stations had been ordered closed and Senator Aquino, Senator Diokno, and many other opposition members had been arrested. In the crowded detention camp in Brgy. Sto. Domingo, he arrived to see many more student activists like him who had been arrested earlier. He himself was interrogated on what weapons they were using during their rallies or who supplied it, but he vehemently denied using any weapons; they only ever brought brochures and leaflets.
Adolfo stayed in the detention center for thirteen nights along with other people, some of whom were actually his fellow Pampanga First Quarter Storm activists. They were then transferred to another local PC headquarters in Pampanga for ten days. Similar to the crowded camp in the previous detention center, sanitation and ventilation was substandard, and many of the detainees became sick. They were then transferred to a larger camp, where it was not as crowded, had proper sanitation, enough food, and also allowed visitors. However, Adolfo felt anguish because his parents had to walk many kilometers just to visit him. Soldiers in the camp threatened the detainees that they would be transferred to Mindoro, where they would rot. Though they were not physically tortured, the mere thought of what could happen to them, compounded by their imprisonment, was already mentally torturous.
Adolfo spent months in this camp before being released in 1973. He could not rejoice upon release, however, as he felt that he had been a great burden to his parents, especially to his mother. Unfortunately, his mother, Leonora, fell ill and died shortly after Adolfo was released, causing him even greater sorrow, as he believed that his mother only waited for him to be released before passing away. He was stigmatized as a detainee and this made it difficult for him to find work, and he felt that he was being treated as a criminal undeserving of opportunities.
Though a traumatic experience for Adolfo, he recalls that this was not the first time he had a brush with Marcos’ military. During a demonstration in a local university, he was beaten up by the military and brought to a different PC detachment. He was charged with multiple cases, such as illegal possession of explosives, resisting arrest, disobedience to agents of authority, frustrated homicide, among others. However, these were dismissed because of lack of evidence.
Upon the adjudication of Adolfo’s claim, the HRVCB ruled that, while his experiences do not fall under the definition of torture, as defined in Republic Act No. 9745, he was approved for his claim of detention, as he was able to easily corroborate and substantiate his claim through documentary evidence submitted. He was arrested with neither a warrant of arrest nor a charge ever filed against him. Though it was never revealed why he was targeted, it seems apparent given how he was arrested during the first wave of massive arrests upon the imposition of Martial Law. Adolfo had been part of the First Quarter Storm and was active in the social movement opposing Martial Law. The PC even took him into custody under threat of physical harm and interrogated him on using weapons when they were conducting rallies.
Since his release, Adolfo has actively reconnected with some of his fellow activists and detainees, and has written about his experience during and about Martial Law as a whole. He became a chief official of an organization which seeks to provide services and assistance to former activists. He often marks the imposition of Martial Law by listening to revolutionary songs, reading old newspapers, looking at old photographs, and catching up with his former comrades. Despite all that befell him, he remains thankful for those who continue to believe in him, in his ideals, and in his decision to oppose the dictatorship that crippled their country.
A story like Adolfo’s should not be simply forgotten. If so, there is a huge possibility that it will happen again – that the government will violate human rights – and go much further. If we let time wash away our memories of the stories of Martial Law victims, then their sacrifices – the sacrifice of those who fought and died for our country’s freedom – will have been in vain. But perhaps Adolfo himself has the perfect words for our situation. “We saw it in history that those who quietly bore the brunt of abuse and exploitation also speak out and rise up,” he said. In one of his articles written years prior, he also concluded with portentous and uplifting words that may be most applicable to us, including the Martial Law victims who are still alive today: “… this is not the end of the world, especially for those on the side of the Martial Law victims… At this point, we must unite and help each other.”
References “Declaration of Martial Law,” Official Gazette, accessed May 4, 2022, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/featured/declaration-of-martial-law/.
 “Application for Reparation and/or Recognition” (Case No. 2014-03-00202, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1.
 Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-03-00202, Pampanga: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1.
 Ibid., 2-3.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid. The article “Cayabe Foundation GA, Sept. 23,” written and submitted by Adolfo to the HRVCB, contains the names of the people he identified in his affidavit, affirming that they were First Quarter Storm activists from Pampanga.
 Ibid., 4; “Application for Reparation and/or Recognition,” 2.
 Victim’s affidavit, 4; Headquarters 1st Regional Command, Command for the Administration of Detainees to Director, Investigation Group, IRECAD Post, “Release of Detainees as of 1-25 April 1974” (Case No. 2014-03-00202, Pampanga: 1974), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Victim’s affidavit, 5.
 “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; “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-03-00202, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 2. The HRVCB did not consider his earlier experience into their adjudication, as this incident happened before Martial Law was declared, a time period outside of their mandate.
 He also wrote “Kasama sa Kalsada,” an article which tells of his thoughts about Martial Law, about Claimants 1081, and about his former comrades during the First Quarter Storm.
 “Cayabe Foundation holds GA, Sept. 23,” article written and submitted by Adolfo and accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission; “Resolution,” 1-2.
 “Ex-underground Activist Says People Slow in Seeking Change,” Asian Journal Publications, Sept. 22-24, 2004 (Case No. 2014-03-00202, Pampanga: 2004), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 11-14.
 Victim’s affidavit, 5.
 “Ex-underground Activist Says People Slow in Seeking Change,” 14.
 This can be found in the previously mentioned “Kasama sa Kalsada” article written by Adolfo.