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




Power is dangerous when it is used for evil, but very rewarding when it is used for the good. Those who choose to use it to control and oppress others can be easily corrupted. Their morality and humanity gradually erode as they commit acts that compromise the well-being of others, making victims out of fellow human beings.

One such victim is a teenager named Dindo, who died defending his home in Metro Manila in 1985. The Philippines was technically no longer under martial law, but then-President Marcos continued to rule with an iron fist. His regime’s list of victims continued to grow longer.

Dindo lived in a large community of families sustained by the meager earnings of drivers, construction workers, factory employees, and bank employees.[1] Unfortunately, they were locked in a dispute with Asialand, a construction company owned by the Presidential son-in-law and husband of Irene Marcos, Greggy Araneta III.[2]

The particular area in interest, according to a 1976-1983 census, reportedly housed a total of 76 families, out of which only 10 were eligible to receive government relocation assistance. The remaining 66 who could not receive assistance had decided to hold their ground and assert a 1983 letter from the National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Gaudencio Tobias, and Greggy Araneta III himself, which they said had promised a portion of the large area for the permanent settlement of their families.[3]

The community had previously filed an Application for Injunction to the local Regional Trial Court (RTC) so that the demolition of their houses could be reconsidered. They were still awaiting the word of the RTC when, early one morning in 1985, a demolition team of more than 100 men – a combined force of the Philippine Marines, the NHA, the local city police, and several Asialand security guards – showed up. Bearing hammers, clubs, and crowbars, these men began hitting residents who fought back and hurling rocks and random objects at them.[4]

On the same day, it so happened that Dindo was outside their home to fetch some water for his mother and father. Suddenly, the men in uniform entered their community and began raiding them. The residents had no choice but to fight back and protect themselves. Dindo, upon seeing a security guard yielding a shotgun, picked up a rock and began aiming it at him. Another member of the demolition crew, seeing this, headed towards Dindo, but the teenager quickly diverted his aim towards this man. The man fell on the ground. Then, one of the guards turned to Dindo and shot him on the front side of his head.[5] As the fighting intensified, a small group of youths remained to defend their homes with whatever they had on hand – stones, rocks, slingshots, pillboxes, knives, and bolos.

When it was nearly 12 noon, the demolition team cordoned off the houses, stood several meters away from the nearest house, and opened fire. At least 20 residents were hurt and a12-year-old girl was shot in the neck. The team then proceeded to tear down the houses and loot them. Meanwhile, Dindo died on the way to the hospital.[6]

This gruesome event was even documented in newspapers. In 2014, Dindo’s mother wrote a statement and filed an application for reparations and recognition that her son is a human rights violations victim of the Marcos regime.

Life is precious and yet so fragile, as can be seen in how Dindo’s life was taken from him with one single pull of a trigger. Regardless of the reason behind his death, he was just a teenager who wanted to defend his home. If it is the government’s duty to protect and serve the people, especially the weak and poor, who is to blame for Dindo’s death? Is it the government? Is it the people who want to protect their homes? Is it those who have been given authority, who have turned heartless and power-hungry, and have no regard for what human life is?

Some people say that power is evil. But for me, no, power is not evil; people are. During the Martial Law years, the authorities and the military were given greater powers, which they abused. But like dogs in leashes, they followed whatever their superiors told them to do, and Dindo is one of the many victims of that power.

The country and their families still mourn the victims of injustice brought on by the authorities during Martial Law.


[1] Alberto G. Romulo, “Let Us Give Our People – Justice with a Heart,” (Privilege speech delivered at the Batasang Pambansa, 24 July 1985), 4.

[2] Ike Suarez, “He Was Only a Scavenger,” Mr.&Ms. Special Edition, 2-8 August 1985, 7; Romy Tangbawan, “Cleaning the dirty esteros with the squatters’ blood,” Malaya, n.d.

[3] Butch Fernandez, “Mathay ‘finally’ acts,” Metropolis, 21 August 1985.

[4] Romulo, “Let Us Give Our People,” 4; claimant’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-14-00251, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[5] Romulo, “Let Us Give Our People,” 4; Medico-Legal Report No. M-2205-85, Camp Crame, Quezon City, 25 July 1985.

[6] Romulo, “Let Us Give Our People,” 4-5; “They shot…” (continuation of a news clipping, n.d.); “Squatters area giniba, 1 patay,” (continuation of a news clipping, n.d.)