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
Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.’s Martial Law dictatorship is renowned for widespread human rights violations. The regime and the military targeted political opponents, student activists, journalists, protesting workers, the clergy, and many others who opposed, criticized, and fought Marcos and his cronies and allies. According to the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, there were 2,326 victims of killings and enforced disappearance, 2,104 victims of torture and inhumane treatment, and 3,355 vicitms of arbitrary detention. Amnesty International places these figures even higher. As put by the Ateneo Martial Law Museum, “power was in the wrong hands.” The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the declaration of Martial Law paved the way for the violations of civil rights. There were changes as a result of this, changes that did not benefit everyone equally.
Joshua, who was born in Iloilo, was a Martial Law victim detained twice by the members of the local Regional Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) Intelligence (R-2).
Just from his first detention alone, Joshua already experienced so many horrors from his captors. He was first detained in 1979, when the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) suddenly apprehended him and took him to the Regional PC-INP Headquarters at a military camp in Iloilo. There, he was blindfolded and interrogated about his personal history and involvement in the underground movement. The officers took advantage of his blindfolded state by putting a matchstick in one of his ears and pricking it. He had a gun pressed to his head, and was threatened and slapped numerous times while being questioned. Joshua took several punches from a certain Maj. Ronilo Sarmiento to the solar plexus and stomach as the questioning went on until late at night.
The next day, he was brought to the PC Stockade inside the camp where he was subjected to another round of interrogation by a certain Sgt. Borromeo. While Joshua was detained, his family sought for him along with a lawyer, considering that there was no warrant of arrest presented when he was apprehended. However, the military authorities still pursued Joshua because he was included in the list of Arrest, Search and Seizure Order (ASSO). It was an issue by a higher command and was not presented to Joshua and his family. The initial incarceration lasted for a year and four months.
The second time he was detained was in late 1981, when Joshua was with his wife Thalia and daughter Geneva. At around seven in the evening, the family was at their friend Gigi ’s house when they were raided by men from a local PC Company, headed by a S/Sgt. Philip Geron . The soldiers acted rashly, aiming firearms at the occupants inside. Joshua and Thalia, along with their daughter and the other occupants of the house, were arrested and transported to a police station before being moved to the PC Company headquarters at their local camp.
Joshua’s second detainment lasted a year and six months. Again, he was detained without a warrant. He was subjected to more mistreatment and abuse. He was also charged with illegal possession of firearms and violating the Anti-Subversion Law (Criminal Case Nos. 1409 and 4010), although without enough evidence. Decades after his ordeal, Jose and his wife sought justice by filing claims for recognition and reparation before the newly created Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB). For Joshua, for both his bouts with illegal detention where he was subjected to grave physical torment, the HRVCB awarded him 7 points for torture, pursuant to R.A. No. 10368, and was duly recognized as a human rights violations victim, one of the many who were tortured during the Marcos regime.
Achieving justice is critical. Safety is promoted through social justice, and equality is necessary. Such occurrences should not be forgotten, as they should serve as a reminder to public officials to carry out their duties and act appropriately. Human rights should always be prioritized at all times. People have a right to their own freedom, where there is no pain and no trauma from the past. Jose is an inspiration for us to never be afraid as long as we are doing the right thing. We should never lose hope, as we can make a change if we remain strong.
 “Human rights abuses of the Marcos dictatorship” Google Arts & Culture, accessed May 20, 2022, https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/human-rights-abuses-of-the-marcos-dictatorship/g11f730zhsc?hl=en.
 “List of Victims and Recognized Motu Proprio,” Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Museum, accessed August 12, 2022, https://hrvvmemcom.gov.ph/list-of-victims-recognized-motu-proprio/.
 Kurt Dela Peña, “Marcos’ martial law: Golden age for corruption, abuses,” Inquirer.net, September 21, 2021, https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1490968/marcos-martial-law-golden-age-for-corruption-abuses.
 Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-06-00259, Iloilo: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-06-00259, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Ibid. His wife was recognized as well, albeit being awarded for a lesser category. She is, nonetheless, a human rights violations victim herself.