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 claimant, 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 Commander. 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, her nephew Paulo, and her nieces, Christina and the then-two-and-a-half-year-old Salina, lived peacefully in Eastern Samar. One afternoon later that year, however, a gunshot was heard. Flora picked her niece, Salina, and they ducked together on the ground as their house was sprayed with bullets. Soon after, she caught a glimpse of her sister, Maria, covered in blood and sprawled on the ground. She died soon afterwards. They were strafed by more than thirty military personnel, led by a certain Capt. Manansala. The family also lost Paulo and Christina, who fled and disappeared in the chaos. Flora, her parents, and her niece Salina were taken to another local PC camp. On the second day of being there, investigations began. For Flora and her parents, it was still difficult to tell their story because they had still not come to terms with the death of Maria and the disappearance of Paulo and Christina.
Much later that year, Flora’s parents and Salina were released. Investigations on Flora, however, continued. She was invited over to the residence of a certain Capt. Agapito and a certain Capt. Isalin. The moment she stepped foot into their home, however, she was greeted by the two who were both wearing nothing but their underwear. She was taken aback and ran off, saying she had just forgotten something. She never came back. Subsequently, she was taken to Cebu, where she was detained for ten months, again with the school owner Ronan Samonte.
Salina, her aunt, and her family were all arrested by the military and tagged as supporters and/or members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Due to her family’s lengthy and harrowing experiences, she developed a trauma of seeing anyone wearing military uniforms, rooted in the profound unlawfulness of the Martial Law regime. In the claim she filed to the HRVCB, her claim for torture was not upheld, as her experiences do not fall under the legal definition of torture, as provided for in the Anti-Torture Act of 2009. However, she was approved for her claim of illegal detention, as Flora’s affidavit provided sufficient information to verify her claim of the same.
Stories of Martial Law victims, like that of Salina, Flora, and their family, should never happen again and must never be forgotten. We must remember a story like this, for it represents all the other stories that have become vulnerable to historical revisionism. This story may be just among thousands, but it embodies all the victims who suffered, died, and went through the agony of a crime against humanity.
 “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-07356, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Ibid.; Witness’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-14-07356, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Witness’s affidavit.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid. More than the constant fear they had to deal with due to the military, they have had to deal with the consequences of having to shut down their market stall, therefore losing their livelihood, as well.
 Ibid, 3. Victim’s affidavit (Case No. 2014-14-07356, Metro Manila: 2014), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
 Ibid. They were left with no other options but to pray that someone was able to find and take care of Paulo and Christina.
 Ibid, 3-4; Victim’s affidavit.
 Victim’s affidavit.
 "Republic Act No. 9745," Official Gazette, November 10, 2009, accessed June 17, 2022, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2009/11/10/republic-act-no-9745; “Resolution.” According to Flora’s affidavit, she also received a letter from Atty. Robert Swift, and received compensation from the Settlement Fund of the class action suit Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand Marcos (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390) as a plaintiff.