Written by: Kay Angelie M. Busano
Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan
Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. rose to fame using his eloquence and charms, winning the hearts of many people, but as soon as greed took over, he became the mastermind of one of the greatest government robberies in history. On the 21st of September 1972, Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081, which placed the Philippines under Martial Law, officially declaring it on the 23rd. During this time, many Filipinos suffered from the abuse of power by the government. A number of Filipinos were illegally detained. Many were taken away from their families and tortured. Even worse, some never found their way back home. Many lives were lost because of the unjust treatment without due process, as they were simply trying to fight for their rights and the freedom – the ones that we have and enjoy now.
The Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission (HRVVMC) has recognized at least 11,103 victims of human rights violations during Martial Law. Among these victims is Ambrosio, who was born in Negros Occidental. He worked as a farmer and was also a constituent of Kristianong Katilingban – an organization that was established as disputes began due to the imposition of martial law. Members had taken the Christian teachings earnestly and adopted them to their everyday living in an effort to lift themselves out of poverty.
Ambrosio’s eldest son, Kiko, avers that, one day at dawn in early 1978, Ambrosio and other farmers who were members of Kristianong Katilingban were busy loading sugar canes at a local town in Negros Occidental. Suddenly, soldiers of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF), led by a certain Damaso, apprehended Ambrosio and the others without any warrant of arrest and accused them of being involved with the New People’s Army (NPA). While arresting them, the State agents struck Ambrosio and the others with the butts of rifles and manhandled them. They were taken to the local detachment and imprisoned in a pigsty. Every night, prisoners would be brought out one by one to be questioned. Being a prisoner, Ambrosio would be beaten and tortured by the CHDF soldiers. Whenever the CHDF soldiers performed operations against the NPA in the area, he and his companions were hauled out to accompany them as well. After being held captive in the said detachment, the group was eventually transported to the nearby Philippine Constabulary (PC) headquarters, where they were detained for another 11 days.
About two weeks later, Ambrosio and his co-detainees, including Mang Pio and Mang Emilio, were released from the detachment without being given any release documents. Instead, they were even ordered to sign a piece of paper, the contents of which were not explained to them. Mang Pio and Mang Emilio personally witnessed Ambrosio’s ordeal, as they suffered alongside him. They also sustained various ailments as a result of the mistreatment and injuries inflicted by the military. Furthermore, Ambrosio’s son, Kiko, noticed that after his release, his father continually experienced severe pains until he passed away in 2004 due to an illness.
In 2014, Kiko filed an application for reparation and/or recognition to seek justice on behalf of his father. He submitted all the required documents and affidavits, including the joint affidavit of Mang Pio and Mang Emilio, to support and prove that his father is a victim of human rights violations during Martial Law. The Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) stated in their resolution that the victim may be granted an award of three (3) points for their detention that lasted for fourteen (14) days. However, Ambrosio was awarded a higher six (6) points for Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment since it was proven that the perpetrators mistreated him and illegally detained him during Martial Law. These perpetrators displayed an abuse of power towards the people they were meant to protect.
The horrors of Martial Law are not just a fragment of history that needs to be told, but something that should ‘never again’ be repeated. The victims’ stories hold an unimaginable truth - State-ordered attacks against its own people, including the torture of imprisoned activists, violence against women, and the salvaging of ordinary citizens. Certainly, the atrocities during Martial Law are no fairy tales. The recorded fact, that there are 11,103 victims of human rights violations during Martial Law, is a testimony to the horrors that our countrymen faced. Thus, these numbers tell us different stories of struggles.
If stories like Ambrosio’s are simply forgotten, then the cycle of abuse, violence and tyranny will continue to obscure our vision of genuine freedom and democracy; we will continue to suffer in an unjust society where oppression and corruption are rampant; and we will have betrayed the memory of those who sacrificed their lives to fight for restoring democracy in our country. Instead of this, may we continue to live out the sayings, “Never Forget” and “Never Again,” as their stories need to be told again and again so that we would be constantly reminded of our historical accountability. May the stories of Ambrosio and other victims of human rights violations during Martial Law never be forgotten, because their bravery, determination, and courage were part of the reason why we were able to escape the shackles of the Marcos regime.
 Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, “Essential Truths About Marcos' Declaration of Martial Law” (Philippines: Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission, 2019), 2.
 “List of Victims and Recognized Motu Proprio,” Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, accessed May 4, 2022, hrvvmemcom.gov.ph/list-of-victims-recognized-motu-proprio.
 “Application for Reparation and/or Recognition” (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Kristianong Katilingban,” Negros Nine Human Development Foundation, Inc., accessed 4 May 2022, www.negrosnine.com/issues-kk.
 Claimant’s first affidavit (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Negros Occidental: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission; Claimant’s second affidavit (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Negros Occidental: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission; Witnesses’ joint affidavit (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Claimant’s first affidavit; Claimant’s second affidavit; “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Claimant’s first affidavit.
 “Civil Registry Form No. 2A” (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Application for Reparation and/or Recognition,” 1-2. Included in the docket files is an envelope from Rod Domingo, and a letter, in English and Filipino, from the Hawaii District Court, both pertaining to the Hawaii Class Action Suit (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0330 and CA No. 88-0390). Claimants in this class suit are presumptively considered human rights violations victims (HRVVs). However, the Board resolution does not explicitly recognize Ambrosio as a plaintiff in this suit, so it is possible that they may have ruled his case without considering him a presumptive HRVV.
 “Resolution,” 1-2. The law only acknowledges one award to be given to the victim which would be based on the highest point system of the violation that was done to the said victim. As such, given that Ambrosio was approved for his claims of detention, and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, meriting three points and six points, respectively, he was recognized for the claim with the highest points (CIDT, for six points).