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 Martial Law Era imposed in the Philippines bears numerous counts of horrifying cases of Human Rights Violations. It is dubbed the “Golden Era” by historical distortionists, but those who faced adversity during the time deny any claim that it was the greatest years of the country. It was starkly far from golden — from the tracking down and mistreating of critics, activists, and even ordinary citizens, to the deprivation of the right to speak out and defend oneself. Out of those targeted, only a few managed to retell the horrors that scarred them for life. One of them is Gabo from Ilocos Norte.

Gabo recounts that he was sleeping on that day in 1985, when he was awakened by men shouting at the door. It turns out that the ones causing a stir were members of Philippine Army (PA) and Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF), who were looking for him. [1]

That same day, in the same barangay where Gabo was residing, co-residents Aguilar, Nicasio, and Danilo stated that they were also apprehended. Aguilar and Nicasio, father and son, were about to go out of their house to plant rice when six soldiers came and invited them to take a bath in a river in the barangay.[2] The two followed, and on the way, they spotted Gabo at the river. When they arrived at the river south of the barangay hall, Gabo, Aguilar, and Nicasio were forcefully submerged a number of times.

Danilo luckily did not experience this, though he was not safe from harm. In the morning of that same day, Danilo was at his home when members of the CHDF came and brought him to their camp located at a barangay in Ilocos Norte, where he was interrogated and beaten on the sides of his body and his chest. Danilo was then taken to another camp wherein he was forcibly detained for one day and one night. Soon after, he was transferred to the provincial jail, wherein he was reunited with Gabo, Aguilar, and Nicasio.[3]

In the same camp, Gabo was interrogated by the CHDF members, forcing him to admit to providing food for the New People’s Army (NPA). As he denied this, he faced a beating afterwards.[4] Altogether, the four barangay mates were incarcerated at a provincial jail in Ilocos Norte. Aguilar and Nicasio were released after a little more than a month, and Gabo was released the month after that. Unfortunately, Danilo remained at the provincial jail.[5]

The men who took advantage of and assaulted the victims were agents of the state. On top of this, the victims were not presented with a warrant of arrest, further invalidating the actions subjected to them by the perpetrators. Taking a look at the accusations and grounds for detaining the victims, there was no justification for their inhumane actions.[6]

Gabo, who was already recognized as a human rights violations victim (HRVV) through the Hawaii Class Action Suit against the Estate of Marcos, further filed a claim for reparation and recognition in 2014 to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. With Gabo as the main claimant, Nicasio and Danilo helped strengthen his claim as they provided supporting documents and joint affidavits. In the end, the Board recognized Gabo as an HRVV under RA No. 10368 and ruled that the violations committed on him were Physical Injuries and Arbitrary Detention.[7]

This justice that Gabo and his barangay mates were able to attain was possible after almost thirty years since their ordeal in 1985. Although they were lucky to have survived, the incident will be remembered as a plight that will remain with them for life. Just by acknowledging what they had undergone, the unforgettable encounter finally ended in a much deserved resolution.[8]

These unlawful acts add to the instances wherein estate agents abuse their power, and aggravate citizens without any rightful cause. Along with other human rights violation cases, it proves just how unfair the justice system was during Martial Law. Violators had much confidence that the administration would turn a blind eye to their targeting of and abuse of citizens.

As these experiences were documented, their stories should never be forgotten, along with other HRVVs during the Martial Law era. Their horrific experiences should not be invalidated by contemporary fake news, in an attempt to constantly try and revise history. Stories such as Gabo’s and the rest of his fellow victims can serve as a lesson to all Filipinos; to continue to become educated about the atrocities under the Marcos Regime. This serves as an homage to the thousands of victims whose lives were put in danger and forever changed because of a dictator’s false and selfish cause.


[1] “Resolution,” (Case No. 2014-02-00002, Laoag City: 2014), 1; Victim’s Affidavit, (Case No. 4-2014-02-00002, Ilocos Norte: 2014), 1. Accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[2] Joint Affidavit of Witnesses, (Case No. 2014-02-00002, Ilocos Norte: 2014), 1. Accessed through the archives of The Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[3] Ibid, 1.

[4] Ibid, 1.

[5] Ibid, 1.

[6] “Resolution,” 1.

[7] “Resolution,” 1-2.

[8] Ibid, 1-2.