Everything happened 42 years ago, but the horrors he went through are still vivid in the memory of Boni Ilagan, a human rights victim during Martial Law.
Ka Boni, as he is called by his peers, was a student at the University of the Philippines when former President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972. He now heads the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a human rights organization.
“Noong idineklara ang Martial Law, underground na ko, pero two years after, 1974 ako ay inaresto, ni-raid yung bahay na aming tinutuluyan, kasama ko si Jose Lacaba, isang kilalang journalist kahit noon,” said Ilagan.
He said their arrest had no legal niceties as they were beaten black and blue for more than an hour before being brought to Camp Crame, the headquarters of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary.
Handcuffed, Ilagan thought that the military’s move to bring him to Camp Crame will end the beating and begin the recognition of his human rights.
“Pero hindi pa ko nakakaupo, sinipa na kagad ako at pinagsusuntok, isinalya ko sa pader at pinagsusuntok ulit. After that, nagkaroon na ng methodical na sistema ng pagtatanong at pagto-torture, iyun na iyung hawak na nila yung mga nakuha nila sa aming mga papeles,” said Ilagan.
This is not the first time that Ilagan is talking about his experience, but emotion still swelled through his throat during the interview.
“Ang ginamit sa akin ay yung tinatawag na San Juanico Bridge, plinantsa ang aking talampakan,” said Ilagan who took a pause and a thousand-yard stare before moving on with his sentence.
“May isang pagkakataon na pinilit nilang pasukan ng tingting ang aking ari,” said Ilagan while shaking his head.
Ilagan’s incarceration ended in 1976, but his release did not end his agony.
When he was released, Ilagan decided to continue his studies, but later found out his sister, Rizalina Ilagan, disappeared.
Prior to his sister’s disappearance, she was seeking for help as some of her peers from the underground movement were already beginning to disappear from their safehouse.
“Siya ay dinukot kasama ng siyam na iba pa at hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa sila nakikita. Well dun sa 10, may tatlong nakita pero patay na. Yung dalawa natagpuan sa bangin sa Tagaytay at yung isa ay nahukay sa isang common grave sa Lucena,” Ilagan narrated.
“Dun sa aming pagsisikap na alamin ang nangyari, nalaman namin na yung tatlong babae dun sa sampu ay repeatedly ginahasa at in-execute silang lahat. Sa katunayan itong kasong ito ay isa sa maraming ebdensya na kasama sa aming pag-file ng kaso sa Marcos Estate sa Hawaii nung 1987,” he added.
Rizalina’s name, along with other martyrs who fought for freedom during Martial Law, is etched in gold on a black-marble Wall of Remembrance.
The wall that was erected at Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City has yet to carry all the names of martial law victims.
To date, 75,730 cases of human rights victims have been filed before the Human Rights Claims Board.
Bobbie Malay, a volunteer of Bantayog ng mga Bayani, is among those who sift through documents.
She said it’s not easy to choose whose name gets to be etched on the wall since there were many people who fought against Marcos.
“Kinailangan ng maraming tao ang sinasabing magtago. Bukod pa dun sa pamumundok dahil maraming-maraming trabaho doon sa resistance movement na kailangan gampanan ng mga taong tutol sa disktadurya” said Malay, who herself was among those who went underground after her husband, Satur Ocampo, was arrested in 1974.
DIFFERENT FROM STORIES ON INTERNET
But stories like these are different from what is peddled today in the internet.
Professor Ricardo Jose of the University of the Philippines noted that the internet provides a different version of history during martial law.
Jose, a historian who also heads the UP Third World Studies Center, said he was still in high school when Marcos declared Martial Law and the version being circulated in the internet is different as newer versions of the story only tackled the infrastructure built and public order implemented while Martial Law was in effect.
“So martial law, sige, 1972 to 86, ang dini-discuss lang yung achievements. So ano yung achievements, yung makita, yung CCP yung mga highways , hindi pinapakita yung other side, yung human rights abuses, yung abuses dun sa ekonomiya, yung pagpasok natin sa utang, that’s not discussed too much in schools” said Jose.
The historian said that during Martial Law, there was news blackout and the only pieces that get printed are news that government wanted to give out.
“Talagang yung news, suppressed yung news. So hindi namin malaman kung ano ba talagang nangyayari. Then hindi nirereport for example yung nangyayari sa Mindanao, nagkaroon ng malawakang digmaan sa Mindanao that time, pero news blackout nun,” Jose said.
“Ibang opposition members nawawala na lang, then gradually lumalabas yung mga kwento na ganun. And then the press could not report it, pag kinuwento ng press, pag nireport ng press kinukuha yung magazine na yun. Even foreign media, kung minsan let’s say yung Time magazine or Asiaweek, critical sa gubyerno, hindi iyan lalabas sa newstands,” said Prof. Jose.
Browsing through the pages of an old textbook used by the Department of Education (DepEd), Martial Law was written only on a section of Araling Panlipunan which chronologically discussed the achievements of Philippine presidents.
Louie Zabala of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said the books previously issued by DepEd that discussed Martial Law were very superficial.
“Hindi lang sya simpleng manipis, kundi may paglilihis pa sa totoong pangyayari na naganap dahil kung makikita natin, halos binibigyang diin yung pag-glorify dito sa martial law sa halip na bigyang diin ang mga karanasan ng indibidwal at ilang mga grupo ng mga tao, so as makapag-paalala, magsilbing tagapag-paalala ito sa mga kabataan natin kaugnay ng madilim na bahagi ng kasaysayan natin,” said Zabala, who used to teach history as part of the Social Studies subject at F. G. Calderon High School, a public school in Manila.
According to Zabala, high school students under the K-12 system will no longer have history lessons since the course was moved to elementary.
“Sa kasalukuyan, lalo sa high school, dahil na-phase out na iyung Philippine History subject at ibinaba ito sa elementary hindi na ito itinuturo sa mga mag-aaral natin sa mga secondary schools. Pero bago ang implementation ng K-12, yung pagtalakay sa martial law ay bahagi lang ng pagtalakay doon sa isang bahagi ng nagawa ng bawat pangulo ng Pilipinas. Pero para ihiwalay yung martial law bilang isang hiwalay na paksa dito sa kasaysayan ay walang masyadong pagtitipon at pagbibigay-diin sa mga librong ginagamit sa mga pampublikong paaralan,” said Zabala.
But DepEd said that’s not necessarily correct.
Undersecretary Jesse Mateo explained that the curriculum provided by the department laid down history in progressive terms.
Mateo said the curriculum is presented in a manner that will allow the students to learn history in their community, before moving to the history of the nation, correlating it with history of the region and that of the world.
“Ang problema natin ay kailangan pa natin ng mga supplementary materials para mapaganda ang pagtuturo nung history na to. Kasi ang gusto nating mangyari yung bata mismo ang magkaroon ng critical thinking. Bibigyan natin sya ng facts,” said Mateo.
The education official explained that one cannot simply focus all his efforts over martial law, in trying to inject history in the instruction of elementary students.
“Hindi mo naman pupwedeng gumawa ka ng isang textbook lang tungkol sa kwan. Kasi yung textbook na yun tungkol sa isang history ng isang grado, tapos paakyat ng paakyat yun, yun ang konsepto na yun,” said Mateo.