As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1972, posts a series of testimonies from human rights victims of the Marcos regime. Thousands of Filipinos were murdered, tortured, or disappeared in the 14 years the country was under a dictatorship.

After the fall of the Marcos regime in 1986, close to 10,000 human rights victims – the survivors themselves or their families – filed a class suit against the Marcos estate. A US district court in Hawaii ruled in January 1995 that the victims are entitled to a share of the ill-gotten wealth recovered from the Marcoses: a total of $2.7 billion for their torment and torture.   

However, the legal victory remains only on paper. The Hawaii ruling has to be enforced in the Philippines by a local court. The Makati Regional Trial Court is currently hearing the case but the Marcoses have so far been successful in blocking compensation to the plaintiffs.

So far, only $10 million, or $1,000 each, has been awarded to the victims and their kin. The money is not even part of the $2.7-billion compensatory and exemplary damages awarded by the Hawaii court but is from a settlement with Marcos crony, Jose Yao Campos, who has real estate properties in Texas and Colorado.

MARTIAL LAW VICTIMS | At 12, he watched his parents die and was made a slave to soldiers 1

This narrative is from the affidavit of a resident of Veruela, Agusan del Sur who, in October 1981, when he was 12, watched as militia murdered his parents and escaped being killed himself. When he reported the killings to the detachment of Airborne troops in his village, he was instead turned into an errand boy. When he finally found access to a lawyer, he asked if there was a chance he could get justice for his parents. The reply: ‘Unlikely because the military did it and we are still under Martial Law.’