Source: Humans of Pinas

“It happened 40 years ago, but some details of my torture still burn in my memory. I was 12 years old when Pres. Marcos imposed martial law, promising to free the people from poverty and eliminate corruption. After 4 years, his promises remained unfulfilled and the people became further impoverished.

Stealing of public funds became rampant. Foreign loans to fund Marcos’ overpriced projects buried the Philippines in debt. His cronies took over businesses and the country’s economy suffered from being second in Asia before Marcos, to one of the poorest countries in the region.

Life was very difficult, and I remember lining up to buy a “ganta” of rice which was rationed due to scarcity. The opposition and activists critical of Marcos were labelled as NPAs and killed or imprisoned without charges in prisons all over the country.

All the injustice and corruption bothered my young mind, and I decided that young people like me must push for social reforms to ensure a better future for our generation and the people.

At 17, I became Chairman of the Student Catholic Action-Visayas under Bishop Antonio Fortich and campaigned for the return of student councils and papers, then banned by Marcos.

In 1978, when I was elected to the SCAs National Council at the age of 18, I was suddenly arrested without warrant by the military while walking towards the Bacolod Cathedral. I was heavily tortured for days in a military camp.

The military forced me to eat paper when I refused to admit that I committed any crime. They would beat me up and electrocute me at night by pounding my nape with an “electric cattle prod”. They inserted M-16 bullets between my fingers which caused excruciating pain every time they squeezed my hands.

I also underwent the terrifying “Russian Roulette”. A military man brought me to a room one evening, emptied his revolver of bullets, placed one bullet in the chamber, and put the barrel of the gun inside my mouth.

I realized that the barrel of a gun when inserted into the mouth, accompanied by an overwhelming fear of death, felt very cold.

If a gun was forced into your throat, the sound of its trigger being pulled felt so loud as if the gun exploded. It was a horrible sound. He did it twice, leaving me completely drained as I could feel my brain splattered in the wall.

I was also brought to a room and made to watch them insert what looked like a thin wire into the penis of a man and electrocuted him. I was next, they threatened, but they got tired of the torture and told me “bukas ka na”. Which only filled me with dread.

One night, I was taken to a room and repeatedly beaten. The interrogator strangled me so hard that I nearly lost consciousness.

The next day, the warden was forced to take me to the hospital as I was continuously vomiting due to a damaged throat. That was the time when my parents knew of my arrest, after almost a week of torture.

Our brave FLAG lawyer, Atty. Francisco Cruz, managed to force the military to show the warrant of arrest called ASSO signed by Marcos and Enrile to justify our arrest.

Since the court charges were false, the military did not even bother to attend court hearings. The judge was forced to dismiss the case after eight months of detention. Despite the acquittal, however, I remained in prison until Marcos ordered my release after a year.

My young mind was so traumatized that I initially felt afraid of continuing my activism, fearful that I might not survive another arrest. A government which tortures 18 year olds is certainly a cruel government.

However, martial law became so unbearable to many Filipinos that I later decided to continue the fight for people’s rights against tyranny. After all, it was my future that was at stake too.

While organizing student councils in 1983, I was again arrested through an arrest warrant called PCO issued by Marcos. I spent a total of 4 years in prison merely because I was a student activist. When Marcos was deposed in 1986, our case was dismissed upon the pressing of Sen. Jose Diokno, Atty. William Claver and our other FLAG lawyers.

I continue to be a human rights activist up to now. This probably shows that terror may initially scare a people but, in the end, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be extinguished by repression. Tuloy ang laban.”