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: KESH SHEINA SOFOCADO
XAVIER UNIVERSITY – ATENEO DE CAGAYAN
Do the people in authority have the power to conceal the truth?
In the months immediately following the 1983 assassination of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the Philippines under the Marcos regime was seeing an increase of street demonstrations against the government, with more people demanding political reform. Responding to the administration’s sensationalism of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) threat, the military carried out rigorous action to apprehend suspected subversives in order to maintain the authoritarian powers of the ruling class.
Dodong of Davao, was one of the victims of these state officials. One day in 1985, at around noon, three groups of men in civilian clothing conducted an ambush raid at his home.2 He was out chopping wood, when the men swooped in and opened fire at him. One of the men pointed him out and said that he was the “Sparrow in Davao.”
In an attempt to stop the men, his wife Katherine shouted, “Huwag! Asawa ko yan!” However, no matter how much his wife pleaded, the officers continued to move with hostility. They began to threaten Dodong while his wife watched. They tied his hands, covered his eyes, and ordered him to run. Amidst the stressful and traumatizing situation, Katherine was able to think fast and outsmarted the soldiers by pleading to her husband not to run, yelling, “Huwag! Babarilin ka nila.” (Don’t! They’ll shoot you.”)
Police torture during Martial Law was common to the public, and it gave people a chance to learn from the experiences of other prisoners. Filipinos who were seized were subjected to torture, ill-treatment, interrogation, et cetera during detention. This is how well-aware Katherine was about their situation, despite being in a state of uncontrollable fear, as she was surrounded by the officers.
Dodong identified his alleged perpetrators: a Philippine Constabulary Composite Team (PC), the local Police, and the Catitipan Group, the commanding officer of which he did not recognize. They raided the place in civilian uniforms to search for a member of the New People’s Army who allegedly killed an officer of the Integrated National Police at Davao. Dodong was accused of killing him and was dragged forcefully into their camp. When they arrived, his blindfold was taken off. It was at that point when he saw dead bodies sprawled on the campgrounds. He was then transferred to a room and ferociously interrogated to admit his crime as a member of the NPA.
Dodong was illegally detained and tortured while being interrogated for the crime he did not commit. He experienced extreme inhumane degradation. In addition to the threats he suffered under the officers, he was beaten with rifles and guns, punched in the stomach, and smacked on his head and other parts of his body, causing him to lose his consciousness. At one point, Dodong was woken up as the officers kicked his unconscious body. He was restricted from seeing his wife while he was detained in his helpless condition. After three days of interrogation, the officers demanded him to sign a confession that he was a rebel.
Dodong had been in prison for eight months when he was informed for the first time that a murder case was filed against him and that an arrest warrant was issued by the court. This meant that his arrest and detention before that was entirely illegal. However, as truth and justice will always prevail, Dodong was discharged from prison in 1986 for insufficiency of the evidence presented against him.
Decades later, Dodong filed a claim to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) and was recognized as a victim of Torture in 2016.
Dodong was greatly affected by the torture for a long time. He developed a difficulty in hearing and sustained broken ribs. He was barely able to stand and walk and was inhibited from working for a long period of time. He also developed a fear of men in uniform. The violation truly left a big impact on the physical life and mental wellbeing of Dodong.
Stories of pain, suffering, and injustice must be shared for awareness and for us to learn. If stories like this are forgotten, then lessons and justice for the victims will be meaningless. Justice aims to protect people and it is our duty to uphold it. If human rights violations stories are kept hidden in the dark, then it has a greater chance of being repeated and replicated.
Ergo, people in authority have the power to conceal the truth but it will not be forever. They are capable of protecting themselves and tarnishing the disadvantaged – but it will have an absolute end. Veritas Liberabit Vos, and the truth will always set you free.
 Youngblood, Robert L. “THE PHILIPPINES IN 1985: A Continuing Crisis of Confidence.” Southeast Asian Affairs, 1986, 225. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27908553.
 “THE PHILIPPINES IN 1985,” 225
 Victim’s affidavit, (Case No. 2014-11-00641, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Ibid; “Resolution,” (Case No. 2014-11-00641, Quezon City: 2016), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Amnesty International, 1976, “Report of an Amnesty International Mission to the Republic of the Philippines,” Amnesty International Publications, ISBN: 0 900058 36 6.
 Victim’s affidavit, 1-2.
 Ibid., 1-3; “Resolution,” 2.
 “Resolution,” 2-3.
 Victim’s affidavit, 2-4.
 Ibid, 3.