By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Felicidad Valencia of Amulong, Cagayan, continues to seek justice for her sister Carmelita.
Karapatan-Cagayan Valley documented her account about the abduction of Carmelita at a waiting shed in their town while waiting for a ride. She came home after a week to tell their family that a certain Colonel Aguinaldo had raped her.
After a few months, Carmelita was again abducted, never to be found again.
Brenda Subido-Dacpano, Northern Dispatch Iloko editor, was a victim of warrantless arrest and illegal detention who endured psychological torture during the dictatorship. She recalled that despite political detainees’ hardships, they found strength in unity and number. They organized themselves and worked together to assert humane treatment in jail and their freedom.
Their recollections are but two of the thousands of human rights violations committed under the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Students and other members of the Baguio community were able to hear their stories on September 20 at the University of the Philippines Baguio.
Dacpano also read them her poem, an indignation of Marcos Sr’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, made possible by the Duterte administration.
A day before the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, survivors led by Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto Northern Luzon (SELDA-NL) shared their book project — Panaglagip: The North Remembers.
It will feature stories, literary pieces, and artworks about the country’s darkest period, now under threat of being erased amid massive disinformation and efforts to distort history.
Telling their own stories
Joanna Carino, a Martial Law survivor and the chairperson of SELDA-NL, said there is a “seeming historical amnesia” about martial law and the 1986 people power. She blamed social media platforms that allowed this disinformation to flourish.
Also at fault was the country’s education system, which failed to provide Filipinos, especially the younger ones, with “necessary grounding” on martial law. This made them vulnerable to systematic and massive online disinformation.
She added that even Duterte contributed to historical distortion when he allowed the dictator’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Carino was arrested with her younger sister in Pangasinan.
“We were brought to a safe house where we were tortured with electrocution. They let me watch as they tortured my sister just as they let her watch me,” she recounted.
She said telling people about their arrest, detention, torture, and how they fought against these injustices is their contribution to the truth campaign to cure ‘historical amnesia.’
“The human rights victims and survivors of Marcos martial law are among the most credible sources to counter the lies,” she added.
Amnesty International documented 70,000 incarcerations, 35,000 cases of torture, 3,624 extrajudicial killings, and 77 enforced disappearances under the Marcos dictatorship.
On February 25, 2013, 27 years after the ouster of the Marcos regime, Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, became law. This provided reparation and recognition to victims of human rights violations during the dictatorship. It created the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. It was tasked to receive, evaluate, process, and approve applications.
Out of the 75,749 applicants, the board approved a mere 14% or 11,103.
Carino said that the government’s recognition that rights were violated mattered more than the compensation.
“Fifty years after Marcos martial law, the victims and survivors are still crying for justice. It adds insult to injury that the new president (Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.) has refused to acknowledge the sins of the past and to apologize for the atrocities of Marcos’ martial law,” she added.
SELDA has petitioned the government to pass another recognition and reparation law for thousands of victims who remained unrecognized.
According to Carino, the book is part of martial law survivors’ continuing campaign against “historical distortion and denialism” and the fight for justice. It was made possible by SELDA-NL, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Gantala Press, and Puon Tadiar Library in San Fernando, La Union,
“[The book] behooves us martial law victims and survivors in Northern Luzon to remember, to proclaim the truth about Marcos martial law, and to cry–Never forget! Never again to martial law!” she reiterated.
In his welcome address, UP Baguio political science instructor and Alliance of Concerned Teachers Cordillera Coordinator Ruel Caricativo said that the rich and powerful could control the prevailing narrative and enforce their version of the truth.
“If you have sacks of stolen wealth, of course, you can buy your way to whatever version of the truth that suits you,” Caricativo said in mixed Filipino and English.
Several courts ruled the Marcoses had ill-gotten wealth.
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled in December 1990 that $356 million in Swiss bank accounts came from questionable foundations. It was held in escrow with the Philippine National Bank in 1999. In 2003, the Supreme Court forfeited the fund in favor of the government.
In November 2018, the Sandiganbayan found then-Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Imelda Marcos guilty of seven counts of graft.
The Presidential Commission on Good Governance also recovered P170 billion of ill-gotten wealth from 1986 to 2015.
Caricativo said that among the legacies of authoritarian regimes like that of Marcos Sr. is the implementation of economic policies that benefit the rich and powerful while burying the masses in poverty.
“But let us remind these people, they can buy the truth that they want, but history keeps an account, it keeps tally,” he added.
For Caricativo, the book is another historical account, and its launching is another day of reckoning.SELDA-NL intends to make copies of the book available on December 10, in time for International Human Rights Day. # nordis.net