Source: Humans of Pinas

“I will never forget when they put my father, Ka Pepe, in solitary confinement in Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

It was barely six months after Martial Law was declared. I remember my mom waking me up one morning and asking me to accompany her downstairs. There was an Army truck in front of our house, and there were soldiers unloading my Dad’s things—things that used to be in his maximum-security cell in Fort Bonifacio, where he was imprisoned without charges.

My mom asked the soldiers why, and where my father was. But I guess they were ordered not to say anything. They finished unloading and left. My mom then told me to get dressed. It was time to visit our lawyer, Senator Lorenzo Tañada, who prepared a petition for habeas corpus, which he filed before the Supreme Court. Being young then, the timeline is fuzzy and the days blend together, but I remember that our whole family went to the Supreme Court during the hearing.

Tagapagtanggol ng mga inaaapi at nangangailangan -- 'yan si Atty. Chel Diokno 4

I vaguely recall that a recess was called in the middle of oral arguments. When Sen. Tañada returned, he told my mom that we and the Aquino family would be allowed to visit Dad and Ninoy. When my Mom received the Order from the Supreme Court allowing us to visit Dad, we went to Fort Bonifacio expecting to see him but the military authorities just made us wait until we ended up going home. The following day we returned to Fort Bonifacio.

They told my Mom that we could visit Dad that afternoon but we would need to bring our cars. When my Mom asked where we were going, the officer just said, “North, crossing Guadalupe Bridge.” He told us to wait for a guide to arrive. And so we did. We had no idea where we were going.

We (the Diokno and Aquino families) just followed the convoy to Highway 54, which is now EDSA. We headed north until we reached North Diversion Road, now NLEX, and kept going. We passed through Bulacan and into Nueva Ecija.It was dark when we reached Fort Magsaysay. An army officer approached my mother and Cory Aquino, and said we could visit Dad and Ninoy—but only for half an hour.

I remember thinking how unfair it was that after traveling for hours, after not seeing my father for days, we were just being given thirty minutes with him. But who were we to complain? We were just happy to see him again.The Aquino family told us to go ahead. Soldiers brought us to the visiting area. There we saw that we couldn’t even touch our dad—there were two layers of chicken wire between us.

Tagapagtanggol ng mga inaaapi at nangangailangan -- 'yan si Atty. Chel Diokno 5

My father looked so much older. He was unshaven. He just stood there, at the door, with a guard beside him. He was silent, and he had his left hand behind his back. We all cried at the sight of him. Dad broke the silence by asking us how we were. He told my Mom that his main concern was our welfare.

He showed us that he had to hold up his pants because he had lost a lot of weight, and was not allowed to wear a belt. He told us he was placed in solitary confinement in a bartolina with windows boarded up and hardly any ventilation.No one informed us where Dad was, and it turned out no one told him and Ninoy either. One evening, he said, a soldier went to his cell in Fort Bonifacio, blindfolded him, handcuffed him, and brought him with Ninoy to a helicopter.

His blindfold was only removed in the bartolina. But we were surprised because he was able to deduce where he was: from the conversations of the guards and from the food they gave him, he figured he was in Central Luzon, perhaps Nueva Ecija. He confirmed it with us.It was a very emotional half-hour.

We were all crying—out of anger, out of frustration, out of hopelessness, out of knowing there was absolutely nothing we could do against the powers that brought him and kept him there. We wanted to continue talking, but the soldiers said our time was up. We left and returned to where the Aquino family waited, and the sight of us shocked them.

Tagapagtanggol ng mga inaaapi at nangangailangan -- 'yan si Atty. Chel Diokno 6

We learned from them later that they saw us as a strong family and that we never broke down in public. Then it was their turn to enter.Soon—too soon—it was time to say goodbye. By 7:45PM, we were heading back to Manila.All I remember about going back is that our van broke down, and while we were waiting inside we started to sing Bayan Ko.

The soldiers escorting us told us to stop but my Mom said to continue and we did. The rest of the trip home is a blur. We reached Manila just before midnight. It was the same city. The same house. I went to sleep in the same bed.

But I knew—deep down, in that half hour, in that eight-hour round-trip to and from Laur—that something had changed. I was only 12 years old at the time but I felt much older. What they did to Dad made us even more determined to fight for him and the other victims of the Marcos Dictatorship.