Written by: National Service Training Program Student
Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan
No matter how positively historical revisionists may paint the Martial Law proclaimed by then-President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the many Filipinos who were oppressed back then will claim and prove otherwise. The supposed attempt to foment disorder within the country, supposedly caused by student protests, the threat of a communist insurgency, and the rebel groups, “justified” the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972. However, Martial Law itself turned into something even far more sinister than what most have seen in Philippine history. One of those who were able to tell their story today is Rosa, the eldest daughter of an ordinary citizen from Sorsogon who suffered but survived the threat to his life.
In a sworn statement by Rosa, in late 1972, shortly after the implementation of Martial Law, her father Felipe was at their house in Sorsogon when around noon, an encounter occurred between military men and rebels. That incident, marked by an exchange of loud gunshots, led to the death of a rebel called Bugoy, and an injury to one of the military men, led by a certain Lt. Baguilat. As the conflict subsided, the military brought the corpse of Bugoy back to town, and also arrested Felipe, along with a captive named Basilio. The two were taken to the local municipal jail, and were then brought to the nearby military detachment.
The day after the encounter, Rosa’s husband, Antonio, and her brother, Rudy, were also arrested and taken to the aforementioned military detachment. Meanwhile, Felipe was taken back to the same local municipal jail. All of them had been arrested on suspicions that they were sympathizers and supporters of the local rebel group. Rosa further recalls that her husband was released after two weeks, but her father remained in jail. However, after a few days, Antonio was again arrested by the police, led by a certain Police Chief Dimagiba, this time along with his brother, Ranulo, and some other men. They were all taken to the same municipal jail, but would again be released shortly after. Again, only Felipe was again left in jail, where he remained for some time.
During Felipe’s detention, which lasted for more than a year, he was only allowed to visit his family whenever he was accompanied by a police or the military officer. The same military officers also brought his father to various military operations to carry heavy baggage for them. Furthermore, according to Rosa, these military men also ordered the local residents to leave town. Upon returning, they discovered that the men had allegedly looted their properties. This included Felipe’s root crops, abaka, coconut, pili, chickens and pigs, leaving him with no means of livelihood.
It was only in 1974 when Felipe was finally released. However, he was released on the condition that he would have to leave Sorsogon. He did so for seven months, opting to stay with his relatives in Camarines Norte. When he managed to return to his home in Sorsogon afterwards, he came home to an unrecognizably decrepit house. With nowhere left to go, Felipe was forced to stay in the house of his daughter, Rosa.
The perpetrators’ actions were driven by mere suspicion that Felipe sympathized with and supported a rebel group in Sorsogon. Further, his arrest, along with the others’, were not supported by arrest warrants, and were clearly made against their will, depriving them of the opportunity to undergo the legitimate process and to be fairly tried under the law. In doing so, the agents of the State violated their rights as citizens, the very same rights they were supposed to have been protecting in the first place. This incident, without a doubt, is a clear violation of human rights; a common occurrence during Martial Law, which made many Filipinos like Felipe suffer.
Felipe died of an illness in 1994. Rosa, two decades after her father’s death, represented him before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), claiming for reparation and recognition. She stood firm in making known the hardships her family suffered during the time of the dictatorship. After the HRVCB adjudicated her claim for her father, they duly recognized Felipe as a human rights violation victim (HRVV), having been illegally detained for some time during Martial Law, after the incident which took place at his home.
Despite the victory of getting her father recognized, the weight Rosa carries from the bitter past of her family remains. No one truly knows how much suffering they went through just to attain the justice they longed for. Their story emphasizes the need to strengthen the educational program on teaching the history of the Martial Law period. Revisionism should never win over the truth because turning a blind eye to injustices such as this could lead the country to its downfall. Denying the reality that many faced adversities during Martial Law invalidates the suffering of victims such as Felipe and his family. We must never let this happen.
 Claimant’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-05-00878, Sorsogon: 2014), accessed through the archives of Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1.
 “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-05-00878, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, 1.
 Claimant’s affidavit, 1; Witnesses’ joint affidavit (Case No. 2014-05-00878, Sorsogon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Claimant’s affidavit, 1-2.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid. Rosa’s family had also relocated some time before this. Their family was also forced to relocate, as Rosa’s siblings and mother moved to Metro Manila.
 “Resolution,” 2-3.
 Ibid. Rosa had included a claim for involuntary exile, deprivation of livelihood, and torture. However, the HRVCB was not able to approve of these claims. Felipe was not forced to leave the Philippines, which was the legal definition of involuntary exile based on the law. Though Rosa averred that the military confiscated Felipe’s properties, including his crops, she was not able to present sufficient evidence to corroborate her claim. Lastly, Rosa did not elaborate on how Felipe was tortured. Her affidavit, as well as that of the two witnesses, only elaborated on the incident involving illegal detention. Nonetheless, despite these claims being denied, Felipe was still duly recognized as an HRVV, having been illegally detained after the incident shown above.