Source: Humans of Pinas

TRIGGER WARNING: The following transcript may include sensitive and graphic details about violence and/or rape.

“There were sweeteners for those [in the 1971 Constitutional Convention] who would join the Marcos camp. But resistance to martial rule came naturally. Students and many youth at that time did not like Marcos even as elected leader.

In public youth rallies, Marcos had been a favorite target for his systematic thievery and abuse of human rights.

When the Marcos forces began to move to control the constitutional convention to perpetuate him in power, the battle line was drawn between us and the Marcos group. But in the end, we were only a handful, about 21, who openly defied the dictatorship and refused to sign the Marcos charter.

When a shoot-to-kill order was issued by the government on me and Congressman Bonifacio Gillego, I planned to escape. Jane Lawson was a student in Maryknoll and her father operated a fleet of cargo vessels around Asia.

While I was hiding at the house of Mr. Paco Delgado, she informed me that one of her father’s boats was docked in Manila. My best friend Ricky Delgado rushed to contact the ship captain, Mr. Stephanous Livanos, and arranged for my surreptitious voyage to Hong Kong.

Cecile had a PETA artist, Len Santos, disguise me. I had a new haircut, and I walked with a limp carrying a box like a member of the crew.

I was brought to the engine room and remained there until the vessel was outside Philippine territory. I had no travel documents of my own. I used the passport of Eduardo Pescador, one of Cecile’s actors.

Upon arriving in the United States via Paris, I applied for asylum and helped organize the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) as secretary general with Raul Manglapus as president. I used a refugee document given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees during my exile in the US.

There are recorded “salvaging” of those opposing the dictatorship abroad. Some labor leaders were killed in Seattle. Primitivo Mijares, who wrote the book Conjugal Dictatorship, just vanished from the face of the earth.

The FBI reported he was missing since a Marcos loyalist had convinced him to go home. Up to now, his disappearance remains a mystery. And of course, the globally-witnessed brutal assassination of Ninoy on the tarmac.

Personally, I received threats, sometimes delivered in a friendly manner, others ominously. But one never knew who really spoke for the government not until Mrs. Marcos invited some exile leaders (Ninoy, Steve Psinakis and myself) to meet with her one on one.

In a four-hour conversation at her Waldorf suite, Mrs. Marcos tried to cajole me into coming home. She said many of my contemporaries had done very well by cooperating with the dictatorship, and that martial law had brought a lot of tremendous improvement to the Philippines.

She told me that if I were to go home, I would have not only safe passage in her plane but even an opportunity to serve in the martial law government.

If I didn’t, she slyly threatened that President Reagan was a friend and surely we will be under FBI surveillance. In her inimitably charming way, it was a caring message of warning that our life could become very difficult as exiles.

I founded the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM) overseas and built strong linkages with groups in the Philippines within the anti-martial law movement. Ninoy’s martyrdom provided a driving force to unify and harmonize and to topple the dictatorship.

We documented the hidden billions of the Marcoses and lobbied aggressively to cut US military aid.

The cut of military aid, which could not be substituted from other foreign sources because it was half a billion dollars worth of American guns, bullets, military equipment and training, was a crucial pressure point that forced Marcos to call for a snap election which later Marcos announced on American TV.

Gruesome torture and killing were used even in Latin America. This was called selective terror, where leaders of opposition who cannot be touched are hurt through their families.

I was warned to stop my lobbying in the US. A month later, my brother was tortured, his head crushed, his tongue cut, his eyes gouged out and his mangled lifeless body thrown in front of a churchyard. It made my mother almost insane and my father died of a heart attack.

Yet there was no complaint from my family. Before I went underground, I consulted with my mother and father. My father for a while cautioned against opposing Marcos, for after all he said that it was a struggle among different generations.

This was the generation of Macapagal against Marcos, and Marcos vs. Ninoy. They were contemporary political antagonists.

But my mother suggested that I was elected so it was also my battle, if I so choose to oppose, that I was in an arena where I could fully participate. My father kept quiet and so I understood that to mean that my whole family gave its consent for me to oppose.

But it was natural for me to own the blame for causing so much grief on my family. They had to move to Manila from Isabela and live almost like refugees.

Later, my mother managed to travel to Rome and from Rome to the US. She joined us in exile and took care of my baby girl Xilca. It helped her to be whole again.”

(as published by on January 13, 2002)