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




Police officers are in charge of ensuring public order and safety, enforcing the law, and discovering, investigating, and preventing illegal activity.[1] However, in this article, we are going to discuss the struggles and experiences of a victim of abuse by the authorities during the Martial Law period of 1972-1986, and how the victim sought justice afterwards.

Arbitrary detention is a violation of one’s right to liberty. The victim becomes more vulnerable to other human rights violations because they lack the means to defend themselves or escape against other acts which may be inflicted upon them. Detention may be illegal without being arbitrary and vice-versa. It is illegal when the law has not been complied with, while arbitrary means an unjust and inappropriate nature of the detention.[2]

Rico is a Filipino citizen who lived in Davao del Sur together with his family. In late 1984, Rico brought his daughter back to their house with some of his colleagues. While waiting for his brother-in-law, armed men in a land cruiser military vehicle suddenly arrived and threatened them with pointed guns. They were ordered not to move so that nothing bad would happen to them. It was at this moment when Rico’s life changed for the worse.[3]

Without bearing any warrant of arrest, a certain C2C Kevin, and the other armed officers brought Rico and his colleagues to the local Philippine Constabulary (PC) Barracks where they were held captive.[4] After 30 minutes at the PC Barracks, they were again dragged to the vehicle to force them to point out their comrade as an alleged member of the New People’s Army (NPA). When Rico and his other colleague refused to do so, they were brought to a nearby bridge and were instructed to get out of the vehicle and start running. Rico refused to follow the orders because he knew they would shoot them instead.

Rico successfully survived the ordeal, but was brought back to the PC Barracks where they were locked in the interrogation and torture room with no proper evidence or arrest warrant. There, they were beaten, punched, kicked and urinated on. They were deprived of food and were only given a liter of water for the four of them who were inside a small room. When Rico was turned over to a certain Lt. Ben a week after, he refused to follow the calls of the officer which resulted in him being beaten up. Bullets were also placed in between his fingers as punishment for being hard-headed.[5]

Atty. Salvador Bermejo helped Rico to file a motion for reconsideration, and his case was recommended for dismissal due to insufficiency of evidence with costs de oficio in late 1984. Rico was released in mid-1985. Together with the other victims, Rico eventually filed for the Hawaii Settlement Claim, becoming plaintiffs along with many other victims of Martial Law to seek compensation from the Estate of Ferdinand Marcos.[6]

Due to having filed for the Hawaii Settlement Claim, Rico was conclusively presumed as a human rights violation victim (HRVV) under Section 17 of Republic Act 10368 as a victim represented in the Hawaii case entitled “Human Rights Litigation against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390).[7] The division ruled against the claim of torture, but finds Arbitrary Detention as meritorious in this case. The circumstances of Rico’s arrest and detention falls under the purview of Detention as defined in RA No. 10368, since Rico was detained for a period of almost eight months without a proper warrant of arrest. Detention merits five points for his case.[8] As such, Rico’s name was included in the Roll of Victims as a recognized human rights violations victim.

No one could have imagined Rico’s life after that, as experiencing nearly eight months of brutality and torment as he was held captive can cause trauma that will last a lifetime. Rico would never trust anyone from the authority again. Other decent policemen are also impacted because this occurrence reflects the authority and how they handle justice. We should be more disciplined and educated when choosing the leader of our country, never succumb to temptation and greed because we, the citizens of the country will suffer if we choose the wrong leader for our country, and history will repeat itself. The system should implement a strict jurisdiction to avoid abuse of power to avoid injustice such as detention without cause, detention due to planted evidence, detention due to fabricated testimonies, and many more. If stories like these are simply forgotten, nobody would seek justice for the victim and their lives would be ruined due to the trauma they received while being detained. We can use our voices to spread awareness about these types of situations or cases, and help those voiceless people to be heard in order to avoid these unjust situations.


[1] “Police,” Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed May 23, 2022,

[2] “Arbitrary Detention.” TRIAL International, October 13, 2016, accessed May 23, 2022,

[3] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-11-00978, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[4] Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-11-00978, Davao del Sur: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[5] Ibid., 1

[6] “Re: Ferdinand E. Marcos Human Rights Litigation, MDL No. 840” (Case No. 2014-11-00978, Pennsylvania: 2013), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[7] Victim’s affidavit.

[8] “Resolution.”