WRITTEN BY: RIANNA COLIN G. GALENDEZ
XAVIER UNIVERSITY – ATENEO DE CAGAYAN
It has been nearly half a century since thousands of people were killed, tortured, raped, forced into exile, or taken away from their homes. While there is a lot to be reflected upon in the sheer number of victims, there is also as much importance in considering each of them, as each one tells of a life that was threatened, wronged, aggrieved, rendered voiceless, or silenced.
The story of the families of Salina and Flora is one of the many in the statistics. In September 2014, Salina personally filed a claim for reparation and recognition to the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) for Illegal Detention and Torture. She supported her claim by submitting her affidavit. She also submitted the affidavit of her aunt Flora, an envelope addressed to Flora, among other documents.
In 1972, when the series of incidents occurred, the claimants, Salina, was still just a baby. As such she provided her aunt’s affidavit to furnish the details of what transpired. According to Flora’s testimony, she herself was one of the many who were victims of abuse and human rights violations under the regime of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.. Particularly, she had been a victim of torture, illegal search and warrantless arrest, abuse, as well as illegal detention. She was also one of the claimants in the Class Action Suit against Marcos Sr. in the U.S. Federal District Court of Honolulu Hawaii (MDL No. 840, CA. No. 86-0390), which resulted in a favorable decision for the victims. Other than her, her brother Roselito and the rest of their family were also victims.
In Samar, soldiers raided a local school where Flora’s brother, Roselito, teaches. He, along with some school teachers and the school owner Ronan Samonte, was arrested. After this, the military began keeping tabs on their family. When they went to see Roselito, bringing him food to eat, a guard threatened to imprison Flora and maliciously tagged her as one of the supporters of subversive people.
Months later, after Roselito had already been released, Flora was summoned to go to a Philippine Constabulary (PC) camp where she would be questioned by the local Provincial Commanders. They brought her to the office and tried to extract information from her about names of people, events, and incidents that she never knew about in the first place. Unable to answer, she was instead arrested and detained in a cell together with the school owner Samonte. The next day, Flora was again interrogated. As she was again unable to say anything, her captors pointed a gun at her lips. Wanting to bring this to an end, she implored them to just kill her instead. Soon after, she was able to go home for a while to take some of her belongings and was accompanied by two soldiers. She told them that they could just find her at her store in the market everyday, together with her sibling, Maria.
Flora frequented the soldiers’ office, where she was also frequently slapped during the interrogation. She continued to assert that she knew nothing and no one, except for Samonte, whom she only knew as a coworker of her brother. She was left helpless and frightened. As they grabbed her arm and squeezed it violently in their rage, she again implored the officers to just kill her and be done with it. While she was still locked up, Roselito left for Cebu to work there, as he feared remaining in Samar.
In early 1974, Flora was released from imprisonment. Though she and her family thought that their suffering would finally end, the military remained on guard outside her family’s house. The entire family suffered sleepless nights, feeling chained up by the unfathomable despair and constant fear. For months, the military would often ask her parents about the whereabouts of her brother. Due to circumstances, their entire family opted to find a more peaceful place to live. In 1975, her family finally moved to Eastern Samar.
For a few months, Flora, her sister Maria, her parents, and her two brothers lived in a small, cramped house. They were constantly afraid, as they were aware that they were being watched by the military. They were forced to sell most of their belongings, including their land, in order to raise money to move to another place. Flora and her family eventually moved to Cagayan de Oro City, where they could start anew.
Through the years, Flora and her family have struggled to come to terms with what happened to them. Her brother Roselito passed away in 2001, still haunted by the memories of his time in detention. Flora passed away in 2013, leaving behind a family that still bears the scars of the past.
Salina, with the help of her aunt Flora’s testimony, was able to file a claim for reparations and recognition for the illegal detention and torture that her aunt and family had suffered. Her claim was recognized by the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB). The story of Salina and Flora serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed during the Marcos dictatorship and the ongoing struggle for justice and recognition of the victims and their families.