Written by: Paula Evth Halina
Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan

Accusing someone of something they did not do is a common thing, and its severity can greatly differ. It can be something as mild as being accused of stealing a pen from your classmate or workmate, to something as severe as being accused of being a third party in someone’s marriage. In the end, no matter the consequences of such actions, the damage will have already been done, and it can result in physical, emotional, or mental damage, but in the worst-case scenario, it can even result in someone being killed. Looking back at the regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., falsely accusing someone can be a life-and-death situation. A lot of people were arrested, violated, tortured, or even killed, simply because they were accused of something they did not do.

During Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’ first term which started in 1965, then-newly elected senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. warned about him and said that the Philippines would turn into a garrison – a nation controlled by the military. By 1970, protests from different places were held as issues such as price hikes, a bigger gap between social classes, and the American bases, among others, worsened.[1] Surely enough, on September 21, 1972, Marcos signed Proclamation No. 1081, placing the Philippines under Martial Law. However, this was only formally declared on September 23, 1972.[2] Declaring Martial Law gave Marcos powers that included command over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), as well as exclusive decision-making power for any crime committed by the citizens of the Philippines. Many were silenced, including activists, political opponents, critical members of the Church, publishers, journalists, and all those who had opposed Marcos. Media outlets and various radio stations across the country were shut down.[3]

Some four decades later, on February 25, 2013, Republic Act No. 10368 was passed. This created the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), which was tasked to receive, adjudicate, and award claims of human rights violations victims (HRVVs) of the Martial Law period. By the end of its work, it had compiled a so-called Roll of Victims, which lists down all of the HRVVs formally recognized by the HRVCB. The victims’ names were categorized into a point system based on how the board awarded their claims, ten (10) points being the highest – for the ones who were killed or were forcibly disappeared – and one (1) being the lowest - for the ones who suffered other forms of human rights violations. Two (2) points were awarded to victims who suffered physical injuries, inflicted by agents of the State. One of these victims was Arnaldo.[4]

In 1978, Arnaldo was just in his house in Zamboanga del Norte along with his friends Hassan and Jeremiah, when a group of men from the Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF), a militia force organized during the Marcos regime, and the Philippine Constabulary (PC), came to arrest Arnaldo suspecting him of supporting and harboring members of the New People’s Army (NPA).[5] He was brought by the CHDF troopers to a nearby barangay and questioned him on his involvement with the NPA. Arnaldo could not answer the soldiers, simply because he had nothing to tell them. However, due to this, the soldiers began to hit him, causing him to cough up blood. Due to the beating he endured, he suffered multiple broken ribs and other injuries. Though he was held in custody for just less than 24 hours, the injuries he sustained were long-term as it took him six months to recover.[6] Arnaldo resorted to using herbal medicine to heal from his injuries. He was afraid to go out to get hospitalized, as the soldiers warned him that they would kill him if they still saw him around. In order to try and seek justice, he reported the incident to his local Barangay Captain but he was simply advised to remain silent lest the perpetrators kill him.[7]

The HRVCB, even before adjudicating Arnaldo’s claim proper in 2014, already conclusively presumed him to be an HRVV under the Marcos regime, on the basis that he was one of the plaintiffs in the Hawaii class action suit entitled “Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 940, CA No. 88-0390). This was the lawsuit filed by the thousands of HRVVs and/or their families during the Martial Law period, which resulted in a decision in favor of the plaintiffs.[8]

Upon processing his case, the HRVCB ruled in favor of Arnaldo for the claim of analogous violation of physical injuries, affirming that he indeed suffered during his ordeal with his captors, as provided for in Sec. 3(b)(6)(iii) of Republic Act No. 10368.[9] However under the definition provided for in Republic Act No. 9745 also known as the “Anti-Torture Act of 2009”, the acts of maltreatment stated by the victim do not fall under the definition of torture. Further, under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, given that he was only held in custody for less than 36 hours, he was also not eligible to claim for arbitrary detention. Thus, the HRVCB could not approve Arnaldo for his initial claim of Torture nor for the claim of arbitrary detention.[10] However, the HRVCB still acknowledged Arnaldo’s suffering and its impact on his life and well-being, as he was incapacitated for more than ninety (90) days which undoubtedly affected his ability to work and provide for himself. As such, he was awarded two (2) points, based on the point system given by the HRVCB based on the human rights violation committed, for physical injuries.[11]

If life stories of victims were simply forgotten, how can we as people learn? There were many Martial Law victims like Arnaldo who were beaten up based on mere allegations; some of them suffered even worse fate. We must always be vigilant of how people of authority act. This applies to the president as well. One’s action as president can lead a nation into chaos or peace. The many human rights violations that took place during President Marcos Sr.’s Martial Law regime proved this. The abuse of power of the authorities under his regime led to incidents like that of Arnaldo, where people suffered because due process was not followed, because the accused was presumed guilty even before an investigation took place, and because the military acted upon mere rumors. In the end, no matter the consequences of such actions the damage will have already been done to the falsely accused victims, and it can be irreversible. Such is the importance of why many today continue to highlight the importance of remembering our Martial Law history, so these kinds of abuses and atrocities can never happen again.

[1] "Batas Militar: Martial Law Under President Ferdinand E. Marcos Full Documentary," 3:34 - 4:35, ML Chronicles, YouTube, 1:56:26, July 5, 2015, accessed May 4, 2022, documentary, Documentary by Foundation for Worldwide People Power.

[2] “Declaration of Martial Law,” Official Gazette, accessed May 3, 2022,

[3] “Declaration of Martial Law,” Martial Law Museum, accessed May 30, 2022,; “Breaking the News: Silencing the Media Under Martial Law,” Martial Law Museum, accessed May 31, 2022,; “Infographic: The day Marcos declared Martial Law,” Official Gazette, accessed June 19, 2022,

[4] “Republic Act No. 10368,” Official Gazette, February 25, 2013, accessed June 19, 2022, “List of Victims and Recognized Motu Proprio,” Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, accessed June 19, 2022,

[5] Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-09-00590, Zamboanga del Norte: 1993), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission; Witnesses’ joint affidavit (Case No. 2014-09-00590, Zamboanga del Norte: 1993), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims' Memorial Commission. Jeremiah was also living in Arnaldo’s house, while Hassan was there at the time sharing corn with the two.

[6] Victim’s affidavit; Witnesses’ joint affidavit; “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-09-00590, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commision, 1.

[7] Victim’s affidavit.

[8] “Resolution,” 1. The affidavit he submitted for the claim to the HRVCB was actually made in 1993, and it is likely that this version of his story was the same one submitted for the class action suit.

[9] Ibid., 2; “Republic Act No. 10368.”

[10] “Republic Act No. 10368;” "Republic Act No. 9745," Official Gazette, November 10, 2009, accessed June 17, 2022, The HRVCB by law shall award the victim the points in the higher category should they be approved for claims in more than one category. In this case, Arnaldo could have been eligible for three (3) points or more had he been approved for arbitrary detention or his initial claim of torture.

[11] “Resolution,” 2.