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
The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines affirms that “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” Pursuant to this, the use of torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means that disables the free will of a person who is under investigation is strictly prohibited. The Constitution thus mandates the compensation and rehabilitation of victims of such practices.
Under the Martial Law Era of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., thousands of Filipinos did become victims, but it was only in 2013 when a law was passed ordering the recognition and compensation of all individuals who could prove that they were victims of human rights violations under the Marcos administration. The law, Republic Act No. 10368, further mandates that all recognized victims are to be honored and memorialized.
The subject of this story is one of those victims – a young man named Herminio, from the Central Luzon region. He was suddenly grabbed by the Philippine Constabulary (PC) in 1973 and was forced to come with them because, as he was told, he had to be interrogated. Herminio recalls that at that moment, he was in so much shock that he felt that he was losing all of his strength and breath. He knew that he had done nothing wrong.
Before they reached their destination, the maltreatment started when the PC men suddenly punched him on the stomach. This was repeated by a certain constable before he was herded into an investigation room, where he saw the head of the provincial PC Command. He was forced to admit that he was a subversive. When he did not admit to this and refused to give any further information, he was again punched several times by the constable, causing him deep physical distress, and threatened that he will suffer more if he continues to deny the allegations. When he was finally fetched to his cell, he was hit hard on the back, making him nearly fall face-first onto the floor of the cell.
He was treated as if he were less than human and undeserving of dignity and respect. His first night in jail was spent with grief over what had just happened; he had so much apprehension of what the future would bring. The following day, he and a few other detainees were given cleaning duties in various spots from the Municipal Hall to the municipal Catholic Church. Afterwards, they were transported via jeep to the PC camp of a neighboring city. They were bullied on the way by the PC men, who made them sing and eat used cigarettes. They arrived at the camp at noon and were made to stand in the heat of the sun for about an hour. They were not given food for the rest of the day. While in detention, they were cramped into stockage rooms that had no beds, mats, or blankets.
Herminio was treated like a slave and made to do various chores – cleaning, watering plants, washing cars, even carrying the corpses of individuals whom he was told were killed in armed encounters. Every morning at 4:00, he and his companions were made to rise and perform exercises.
Herminio was then released after a month and a week under a temporary release order and was required to report to the PC every Saturday for an indefinite amount of time. Life after prison was never the same again. He recalls in his account, which he submitted to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) that for some time after his release, the military still continued to monitor him and sometimes even came to his house drunk. His parents and siblings were always terrified. Years later, even when he had already married and acquired a house for him and his wife, soldiers still came to his home.
Herminio filed for reparation and recognition to the HRVCB in 2014, presenting his sworn statement of the events and other documentary evidence so he could prove his case. He is now one of the 11,103 individuals in the Roll of Victims
Reparations are given out by Governments as a way of resolving the damages they had caused through unlawful acts during times of war or military rule. But is this enough? Can all of the harm done on Herminio truly be paid off?