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: YAIEN C. MAGHUYOP
XAVIER UNIVERSITY – ATENEO DE CAGAYAN
In September 1972, amidst a rising protest movement against the way the country was being administered, then-President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, stating it was what the country needed to defend itself from the increasingly violent student protests and the threat of a communist insurgency. Since its declaration of martial law, the Marcos administration has since been well-documented as a perpetrator of human rights violations conducted throughout many sectors of Philippine society.
In 1974, Anton was a high school student at a local industrial school in Benguet. He was then the President of their student body government as well as an active student leader.
One weekday, that same year, Anton did not attend his afternoon class and instead went to a local hospital as he needed to undergo a medical checkup. When he had finished his checkup, he walked over to a nearby house and was waiting for a ride home when a yellow owner-type jeep stopped in front of him. Seeing his classmate, Robin, on board, he immediately boarded the jeep. He was not aware of what was to befall him and his friend thereafter. Years later, Robin would recall that it was drizzling that afternoon, and Anton was evidently in need of a ride home.
Anton assumed that the jeep was owned by the civilian who was driving Robin, but he quickly found out that riding with them were two Philippine Constabulary (PC) officers wearing their fatigue uniforms. During the ride, the students were told that they were being brought to a detachment in Mountain Province, far away from their respective homes. They did not attempt to escape because of fear.
After travelling fifteen kilometers for about 40 minutes, due to the rugged and unpaved way, they reached the detachment at approximately seven in the evening and were interrogated straight away. For three long hours, they were repeatedly yelled at and asked questions on the organizations they had joined. They were prevented from standing, eating, and going to the restroom, causing them to be very stressed, mentally exhausted, and hungry. Afterwards, they were brought to a room where the officers instructed them to sleep on the floor, with neither beddings nor blankets, except for some pieces of carton. The temperatures in the room that night, like most nights in the high-altitude province, were freezing. The two young men were not able to sleep at all that night.
At six in the morning on the following day, the two were boarded on a bus back to Benguet, and were accompanied by Sgt. Reyes and another PC member. Anton was fearful of where the two officers were taking them and what might be done to them once they got there. On their way, they dropped by a restaurant, where the two officers ate pinapaitan and served Anton and Robin their leftover soup. Anton had no appetite to eat.
When they arrived at the PC camp in their province, they were brought straight to an interrogation room, where they were forced to admit to the crime of rumor-mongering and spreading words against “Macoy,” then-President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Both were adamant in denying this, compelling Sgt. Corpuz to drag them to the armory. He then brought out an armalite, pointed it at them, and threatened to kill them if they did not admit to the allegations. After an hour, they were put in a room marked as “STOCKADE,” which apparently had been converted into a detention room. There they joined other male detainees of about twenty in number – some of them students, some policemen, and others, ordinary folks. There were only metal beds to sleep on and for three days, the detachment officers fed them by merely throwing in a few pieces of pandesal and a little coffee, which the detainees rushed to get ahold of before the others. Because Anton and Robin were smaller and younger than their companions, they could hardly get even one piece of bread for themselves.
In the morning of their third day, they were summoned to the Administration Office, where they met their school principal and two fellow students named Lina and Marie. It turned out that the two of them had just been taken by the PC that very same day.
Decades later, Lina would recall that when word had gotten around their school that Anton and Robin had been taken by the PC, their teachers advised them and their classmates to never travel alone. A climate of anxiety had taken shape in the aftermath of the arrest. True to their teachers’ fears, she and Marie were also captured three days later and brought to the PC detachment. When they met Anton and Robin at the detachment, Lina saw a wound on Robin’s neck, caused by a ballpen that poked through his shirt and into his skin every time he was collared and lifted from the ground by his interrogator. Anton and Robin recounted for them what they had been put through since their arrest.
A series of negotiations took place in the detachment that day as they were joined by their local Councilor, a pastor, and other teachers, who demanded that the four students be released. Later that afternoon, the claimants were told they could finally go home, but on the condition that they had to regularly report to the PC detachment in Mountain Province, where they were initially detained, for two months. Anton and his friend complied with this, returning to the detachment fifteen kilometers away from their hometown, regularly as ordered.
With the verified witnesses’ and claimant’s statements, the Board recognized that Anton was arrested without legal grounds, and was detained for a period of three days without any case filed against him before any civilian court. Under sections 3(a) and 3(b)(1) of R.A. No. 10368, also known as the “Human Rights Victims’ Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013,” when a person is taken into custody against his will by state officials without a proper arrest warrant issued by a civilian court, detention becomes a human rights violation. With the stated definition, it was proven that what he experienced during martial law was a human rights violation, since there was neither an arrest warrant issued from any civilian court, nor a charge filed against Anton from the time he was arrested and detained until he was released.
Another violation committed against him by the PC is what is defined by law as Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CIDT). CIDT, under Section 5 of the R.A. No. 9745, or the “Anti-Torture Act of 2009,” is defined as an act committed by a person in authority against a person in his or her custody that reaches a level of severity that causes the latter to suffer, be humiliated, or be degraded. Based on the evidence provided by Anton and the witnesses of his case, he and his friend Robin were forcibly interrogated, were not provided with any food at first, were forced to sleep on the bare floor in freezing temperatures, were offered leftover food, and were fed with pandesal thrown inside their detention room, as if they were animals to be fed.
The frightful twists and turns of Anton’s unexpected ride to the PC detachment in Mountain Province, then to the PC camp in Benguet, when he was supposed to go straight home that fateful afternoon in 1974, are the highlights of just one of the thousands of cases of human rights violations that have been documented from the martial law period. Anton’s story is proof of how anyone and everyone at the time was an easy target under military rule, which is why human rights violations were rampant.
True stories like this are critical in informing and persuading people to never again jeopardize human rights and freedoms. If such incidents are simply buried, the offenders will only enjoy impunity for years to come, perpetuating the risk of recurring human rights violations and putting everyone at danger. In such a situation, peace and justice will be difficult to attain. Thus, the need to retell these stories for everyone is essential.
 Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-16D-00110, Benguet: 2014), 1. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Witness’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-16D-00110, Benguet: 2014), 1. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.|
 Victim’s affidavit, 1.
 “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-16D-00110, Quezon City: 2017), 2; victim’s affidavit, 2; witness’s affidavit, 1. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Resolution,” 2; victim’s affidavit, 2.
 Second witness’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-16D-00110, Benguet: 2014). Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Resolution,” 3.
 “Resolution,” 3.