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




The late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. was infamous for his two-decade-long rule over the Philippines, with Martial Law being one of his brutal legacies to the country. Within the Marcos dictatorship lies a multitude of human rights violations against the Filipino people, numerous lives lost and unnamed; stories that have not resurfaced, and stories that are yet to be told.

Abel was one of the thousands of victims who had their rights violated during the dictatorship. One day in 1975, Abel was at his workplace, located at a pier in Davao when he was captured by officers of the National Intelligence Service Authority (NISA) and the Philippine Constabulary (PC).[1] He was forced into a vehicle where he was stripped naked and severely beaten by the officers. He recalls that he was hit on his torso, he believed, for the bruises to not be visible to the public. He also recalls that the vehicle stopped at a public place, where the officers forced him to masturbate in the open; when he refused to do so, a rifle was struck against his head, rendering him unconscious.[2]

When he gained consciousness, Abel felt that he was handcuffed and lying on his back, a towel covering his face and water dripping on his forehead; he overheard a sergeant commanding another sergeant to kill him, but the other responded that they still needed to gather crucial information from him, and that mental torture was necessary.[3] He was transferred hours later to the local PC barracks. Abel, along with a few other detainees were withheld in a single detention cell for months, barely able to move a single muscle due to the miniscule space while constantly clinging on for their lives as they were continuously threatened with charges of murder and subversion.[4]

Multiple interrogations were done daily and he and his co-detainees were coerced into signing affidavits that stated they murdered somebody and that they were members of the New People’s Army.[5] Finally, after three months, a certain lieutenant colonel helped them process their cases. Soon, a member of the Judge Advocate General Office investigated the charges filed against them and the validity of their arrest and detention.

Late in 1975, a release order was handed over to Abel, and he was able to gain the liberty to return to the comforts of his home, on the condition that he is to report to the investigation office monthly. His detainment lasted a total of five months and twenty-five days.[6]

Long after the tribulation and distress Abel encountered, in 2014, thirty nine years after the violation of his human rights, Abel was able to personally file for reparation and recognition to the Human Rights Victims’ Claim Board in Davao Oriental.[7] His co-detainees also presented themselves to the Board with affidavits, attesting to the maltreatment that they and Abel had experienced.[8] He identified the two sergeants, one of them from the PC and the other from NISA, and two civilians as the perpetrators of the violations against him.

After thoroughly studying Abel’s evidence, the Second Division of the Claims Board ruled that he was indeed a victim of Detention and Violations Analogous to Physical Injuries.[9]

Behind the glitz and glamour of the “golden era” of the Philippines are numerous stories like Abel’s. In a library filled with revisionism and misinformation, stories like his would have never been brought to the surface; these are stories that have left scars on Philippine democracy. While the elite and authorities wore numerous jewels and were bathing in luxuries, the only things Abel wore were fear, scars, and handcuffs that will forever echo amongst his memories. Let his story remain engraved in our history; let the justice brought to Abel be instilled in each one of us as we remember those yet unnamed and cases still unresolved; let this story fuel the fire within Filipinos to serve justice to the victims whose human rights had been violated and shattered.

This is merely one of a thousand stories of the Filipinos who suffered under the iron fist of martial law; let these stories remain engraved in Philippine history and democracy, told or untold.


[1] Victim’s Affidavit, (Case No. 2014-11-00728, Davao Oriental: 2014). Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[2] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-11-00728, Davao Oriental: 2014), 2. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[3] “Resolution,” 2.

[4] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-11-00728, Davao Oriental: 2014), 2.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Resolution,” 2.

[7] Victim’s Application for Reparation and/or Recognition, Case No. 2014-11-00728, 2014. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[8] “Affidavit of Co-Detainees” (Case No. 2014-11-00728, Davao Oriental: 2014). Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[9] “Resolution,” 2.