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: JOHAIRA SANGGACALA
XAVIER UNIVERSITY – ATENEO DE CAGAYAN
In September of 1983, Fabian’s nephew, Tobias, came to visit his relatives in a local barangay in Zamboanga del Sur to deliver the news that one of their aunts had passed away. With this, he also requested for them to attend the burial. Before reaching the barangay where his relatives resided, Tobias was apprehended by members of a patrolling Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF) group at another barangay. The soldiers then tortured and took Tobias to a municipal jail in Zamboanga del Sur, where they kept him hogtied so he could not escape.
Fabian immediately went to the municipal jail to check on Tobias as soon as he learned of the incident. Fabian requested the Chief of Police to keep Tobias until his return from his aunt’s funeral. The next day, Fabian visited the jail and was notified by a prison guard that Tobias had been taken by the CHDF, and that he was being turned over to another division in Zamboanga del Sur. Upon hearing this, Fabian immediately visited the division to check on Tobias. When he arrived, Fabian inquired regarding the whereabouts of his nephew, only to receive no information.
After desperately looking for leads, three days later, Fabian’s neighbor, Lino, informed him that he had witnessed what happened to Tobias. Lino details to Fabian, that CHDF members had taken a hogtied Tobias to an old graveyard, where they proceeded to torture him. The day after, Fabian visited the graveyard with his neighbor, Lino, and some family members. Expecting the worst, upon unearthing a tomb, they were horrified to discover Tobias’ corpse, and confirmed that his death was the result from the torture he had suffered.
Fabian sought for justice, reparation, and recognition for his nephew. A joint affidavit was signed by two of Fabian’s friends to attest to the truthfulness of his claims. Fabian filed for the claims of Killing, Torture, and Arbitrary Detention before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB). The Board still considered the existence for the claim of Arbitrary Detention, as Tobias was arrested by the CHDF members without any warrant. They also considered the existence for the claim of Torture, as Fabian and his family confirmed through the exhumation of Tobias’ body that this was Tobias’ cause of death. Finally, although Fabian did not present a death certificate, the Board ultimately ruled in favor of the claim for Killing, as Fabian and the other witnesses were able to make a first-hand identification of Tobias’ corpse.
Tobias is also considered a plaintiff in the Hawaii case titled, “Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos,” (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390), through which he was conclusively presumed as a Human Rights Violations Victim (HRVV) under Section 17 of R.A 10368.
It has been thirty-nine years since Tobias’ ruthless murder under the hands of state agents. The Civilian Home Defense Forces (CHDF) abused the authority given to them by the state, as they were originally created to assist with maintaining peace and order during the Martial Law era. We must not forget that during this period, state agents were responsible for many abuses towards thousands of innocent Filipinos. Tobias was not the only victim who died, disappeared, and suffered during the Marcos dictatorship. Tobias’ experience was shared by his family so that his story, among many others, may continue to live on through us, as we always remember.
To end with a quote by Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International, “The candle burns not for us, but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who was shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who ‘disappeared’. That’s what the candle is for.” An important act we can do is to keep this candle of remembrance burning, so that their deaths and sufferings will not be in vain.
 ”Resolution” (Case No. 2014-09-01157, Quezon City: 2014), accessed through the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board website.