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: NATIONAL SERVICE TRAINING PROGRAM STUDENT
XAVIER UNIVERSITY – ATENEO DE CAGAYAN
On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. signed Proclamation No. 1081, declaring Martial Law in the Philippines. Since the imposition of Martial Law, many Filipinos have witnessed and suffered through callous human rights violations, as tens of thousands were arrested or detained, and thousands more tortured, forcibly disappeared, or killed. Even towards the end of the Marcos regime in the mid-1980’s, as the facade of peace and order started to wear off for the many now-disillusioned Filipinos, the Philippines found itself still gripped with cases of abuses and atrocities. The story of Alphonso is a testament to this reality, as he was an innocent victim of Martial Law, and one of many who can speak to the horrors that occurred during that time.
Alphonso, along with many of his colleagues, went to a barangay in Tarlac on February 7, 1986, to assist in safeguarding ballots for the 1986 snap elections. They were riding a minibus en route to the area when they were abruptly stopped by armed men, who asked them to exit the vehicle. They were then assaulted with guns the men were carrying; the others were punched and kicked. Alphonso and the others were rendered bloody due to the injuries they sustained from the armed men. Alphonso and his companion later on discovered that the armed men were members of the military.
They were eventually taken to a municipal hall in Tarlac. Military members continued abusing the victims, strangling, punching, and kicking them while they were in the vehicle. Because the authorities had guns, the victims were scared to defend themselves. The beating continued upon their arrival and eventual imprisonment. The victims were continuously assaulted for three days. The victims, unsure of why they were being treated this way, asked their captors what offense they had committed, but the military men had no response.
The victims were imprisoned in the municipal hall for fifteen days, and were only fortunate that Doña Aurora Aquino, mother of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, assisted in their release from their detention. They were let go on February 21 and rushed into hiding within the Aquino residence. Two days later, they were taken to the Supreme Court for a supposed hearing, but this was eventually called off. The victims were eventually taken to Forbes Park for temporary refuge. They later came to be known as the Tarlac 32.
In 2014, 28 of the victims who composed the Tarlac 32 went forward and filed their claims to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) for recognition and compensation. Upon proper adjudication of their consolidated claims, 26 of the 28 victims, including Alphonso, were awarded 3 points after the HRVCB for having been illegally detained for two weeks.
Stories and experiences like that of Alphonso and his fellow poll-watchers should never be forgotten and should serve as a lesson for us. This is only one of the numerous incidents that have occurred in the past, even during the tail end of the Martial Law period. If stories like this are forgotten, future generations would be unaware of the horrors that many Filipinos faced during those times. Power corrupted itself. The current attempts to rewrite history are fueled by the desire to deodorize and whitewash the corrupt and abusive regime of the Marcoses and their cronies. Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was never brought to justice and was never held accountable. As such, Filipinos, particularly the youths, should be more informed and aware than ever as they navigate the digital world in the age of disinformation and propaganda.
 “Five things to know about Martial Law in the Philippines,” Amnesty International, April 25, 2022, accessed June 22, 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/04/five-things-to-know-about-martial-law-in-the-philippines/
 As will be mentioned later, they are known as the Tarlac 32. However, only 28 are included in this consolidated claim to the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB).
 Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Tarlac: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-06-00443, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. The two others were awarded just one point for physical injuries.