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: NICOLE VERGARA ARES
XAVIER UNIVERSITY – ATENEO DE CAGAYAN
The 20-year rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. left a mark on Philippine history that will never be forgotten. With the instability of the Philippines’ political environment in the early 1970s, Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed Martial Law as a last resort to counter the growing political unrest over the country. Instead, the dark horrors brought about by Martial Law left many Filipinos detained, tortured, and killed. Some were never found, while some survived. Fortunately, Ricardo was part of the latter. Arbitrarily detained for almost two years, this is his story.
Ricardo was a teenage student activist in Davao del Sur fighting for an end to the Marcos dictatorial regime. He was tasked with gathering all the students. Since Ferdinand Marcos’ second term in 1969, the Philippine economy had been in deep crisis, severely affecting the lives of the people. This, in turn, gave rise to student and militant activists expressing their dissatisfaction with the current administration.
When Martial Law was declared in 1972, just one year before the supposed end of Marcos’ term, Ricardo dropped out of college and solely focused on gathering all the farmers, workers, and professionals in and out of Davao del Sur, extending even beyond his hometown. He became a member of Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK), a national youth and student activist mass organization, and together with his wife, this kept him occupied for the next three years.
Several underground resistance groups in the country had been suppressed by this time. Youth organizations, such as the SDK, of which Ricardo was part, were among those arrested by military forces due to production and distribution of underground propaganda. Many were arrested with subversion and other crimes, which were described in orders subsequently promulgated by Ferdinand Marcos. Despite Ricardo’s successful to-and-fro travels from city to city in three years, the military forces inevitably caught up to him.
One morning in late 1975, Ricardo and his wife were traveling through Northern Mindanao when they were arrested at a local bus terminal by joint elements of the Integrated National Police (INP), the Philippine Constabulary (PC), and the Philippine Constabulary Security Unit (PCSU). During Martial Law, the Integrated National Police (INP) possessed the authority to detain, arrest, and investigate offenses and crimes; and they reported to the Philippine Constabulary (PC), the national police force, who were tasked to maintain peace and order in certain provinces and cities. He was illegally charged with subversion, but no formal charges were made. He was separated from his wife and was brought to a safe house in Caraga.
Ricardo’s experience at the safe house marked the beginning of his suffering. He was usually handcuffed either on a chair, table, or a folding bed. He was threatened to be killed and was subjected to various kinds of psychological torture during interrogations. He was slapped, kicked, or boxed, which resulted in the dislocation of his two ribs. This went on for two months. He was later reunited with his wife and brought to a separate detention center in Northern Mindanao. However, his agony did not stop there. The living conditions of the detention cell he was in were so poor, he was forced to eat meals that were not even fit for dogs, which caused allergies to other detainees and led to their hospitalization. After one year and eight months, Ricardo was finally released in late 1977. However, he had to report monthly to the National Security Agency (NDA) to account for his activities. This arrangement went on for five (5) years.
In his almost two years of detention, Ricardo wrote a letter of request for transfer of detention and custody to a different detention center which was near his parents’ town, however there was no response to it. Additionally, Ricardo’s father wrote a letter of request regarding the release of his son, but was denied. This alone established the facts of the arrest and detention of Ricardo.
In 2014, Ricardo filed a claim for alleged torture and arbitrary detention to the newly instituted Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), to provide reparation and recognition to the victims of human rights violations during Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law regime in accordance with Republic Act No. 10368. The Division granted his claim for Arbitrary Detention but denied his claim for Torture, as Ricardo’s allegation of mistreatment does not account for torture as defined under RA 9745, or “The Anti-Torture Act of 2009”. Thus, Ricardo was properly recognized as one of the many human rights violations victims of Martial Law.
Ricardo was also one of the plaintiffs in the Hawaii case entitled “Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390). He received proceeds from the class suit twice, in 2011 and in 2014.
It has been 46 years since the fateful incident that changed Ricardo’s life forever. Despite the horrors of Martial Law, Ricardo continually fought for injustices in the country, fully knowing his life would be in danger. While stories like his might not equate to those who have suffered more during his time, his struggle for justice is notable nonetheless. What Ricardo went through is a living reminder of the cruelty the Filipinos faced during the Marcos regime, and his courage in those darkest times is something to be proud of.
 Carolina G. Hernandez, Gregorio C. Borlaza, and Michael Cullinane, “Martial Law,” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2022), accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.britannica.com/place/Philippines/Martial-law.
 Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-09-00537, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Carol Araullo, “FQS: The Uprising That Created and Nurtured People Power,” Rappler, February 24, 2014, accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.rappler.com/voices/thought-leaders/51446-carol-araullo-from-first-quarter-storm-to-edsa/.
 “Report on the Underground Resistance in the Philippines Oct. 1973,” October 1973, Newspaper Clippings 1973: Clippings 4, Philippine Newspaper Clippings 1973, Filippijnengroep Nederland Collection, Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Christina A. Lopez, Freedom From Arbitrary Arrest and Detention in the Philippines: A Problem of Enforcement, 4 B.C. Third World L.J. 72 (1983), September 08, 2011, https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/twlj/vol4/iss1/4.
 “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-09-00537, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission; HRVVMC, Alleged Perpetrators, PDF file, 2020, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yEfE2no89GTT9QIH2BV_z15tOOs_VgYo/view.