The Story of Negros and the Escalante Massacre of 1985
A photo of the emaciated Joel Abong, as it appeared in the front pages of newspapers and magazines and became the symbol of the hunger and poverty that plagued Negros under the Marcos Regime. Photo taken by Kim Komenich on May 4, 1985 in Negros Occidental. Retrieved from LICAS News at: https://www.licas.news/2020/09/22/under-marcos-the-lush-sugar-lands-of-negros-island-turned-red
One of the many victims of malnutrition and hunger in Negros. Photo taken by John Silva in 1986. Retrieved from his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10153891700289976&set=a.125443184975
Roberto Benedicto, notorious Marcos crony and a powerful authority over the sugar industry during Martial Law. Photo retrieved from the Philippine Embassy in Japan’s website at https://tokyo.philembassy.net/the-embassy/the-ambassador/former-ambassadors.
Layout of the place of incident, as recreated from the illustrations found in Political Detainees Update and Int’l Edition, Vol. 1, No. 2 and ICHTHYS, Vol. VIII, No. 34. Illustration by Reginald C. Coloma.
One of the photos of the Escalante Massacre, when the protesters were doused with water. Photo retrieved from the Bantayog ng mga Bayani’s article at https://www.bantayog.org/escalante-massacre.
The Escalante Massacre’s first casualty, Juvelyn Jarabelo, according to the Support Committee for Negros and Political Detainees Update. Photo taken from “The Escalante Massacre,” in Political Detainees Update, Vol. 1, No. 2 (15 October – 14 November 1985), 13, Political Detainees Update (1984-1986), 1985, Filippijnengroep Nederland Collection, Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, Quezon City, Philippines.
The CHDF shot some of those who had already been lying down on the ground outside. When the shooting stopped, the survivors called for help to treat the injured. The dead were laid side by side in front of the town hall, later picked up by the 334th PC company to take back to their headquarters. A local doctor who had tried to save the wounded concluded that many of those who died on the spot had been shot in the back, some of them while lying down. Initial count placed the number of dead at 27, with 197 people missing, 30 seriously wounded and 21 others charged of inciting to sedition. A later tally would place the number at 20 killed and 24 others wounded. Below are the names of those confirmed to have been killed:
Available photos of the Escalante Martyrs. Photo retrieved from the “Escalante Massacre” article of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation at https://www.bantayog.org/escalante-massacre.
Demonstration in Escalante, Negros, September 1985, with a row of fake coffins commemorating the victims of Escalante. Photo taken from the FGN photo collection in the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
An invitation card to the Annual Honoring of Martyrs and Heroes in 2013, which prominently features the Escalante Martyrs. Photo retrieved from the docket files of Alex Labatos (Case No. 2014-06-00710). Accessed from the archives of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.
The long protracted battle against the Marcos Estate resulted in a victory. By 2011, families received letters from Swift and Domingo, notifying them that they had been declared eligible to obtain a settlement fund of ₱50,000 or roughly $1,000. Many of the families kept their copies of the letter, which they used to further establish their claim for the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) in July 2014. The HRVCB was created through the passage of Republic Act No. 10368, which similarly provided for recognition and compensation of the HRVVs of the Martial Law era. They were likewise also assisted by Lazarte-Villalon for this.
The Escalante Martyrs’ names inscribed in the Wall of Remembrance. Photo taken by Reginald C. Coloma on June 10, 2021.
As stated in the ruling, of the 28 personnel who were tried, only three low-ranking policemen, T/Sgt. Generoso N. Subayco, C1C Alfredo T. Alcalde, and C1C Eleuterio O. Ibañez were convicted and jailed for the incident. The ponente, Justice Reynato Puno, expressly denied the petition of the three insisting on their innocence and for their release. He further warned military and police authorities “that they cannot shoot people who are exercising their right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievance.”
Though the court upheld the idea of implied conspiracy, it was “only on the part of all the accused who fired at the demonstrators.” Of those they determined to have fired at the demonstrators, only the aforementioned policemen were arrested and convicted, as the others were among those who were still at large. The remaining 25 officers charged were eventually acquitted, as the court found “the evidence against [them] to be insufficient to establish their liability.” Despite Justice Puno’s words, the three convicted officers were eventually released on parole in 2003. One ranking member of the RSAF, also being pinpointed as one of the perpetrators, was redeployed and even promoted elsewhere.
The monument dedicated to the Escalante Martyrs, in the form of three raised fists, erected in the place where the shooting took place. Photo retrieved from Rep. Carlos Zarate’s Twitter page at https://twitter.com/kaloi_zarate/status/645412244008759296/photo/1.