MARTIAL LAW VICTIMS | ‘Unbearable torture pushed my brother to try to drown himself’


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

Now 60 years old and doing business at a market in Manila, Francisco “Kiko” Luneta of Batangas City can still vividly recall how he and his six siblings – Maxima, Romeo, Jose, Domingo, Franco, and Ernesto – were tortured by the military starting in 1974.

Their youngest brother, Ernesto, suffered the most, according to Francisco. After his torturers threw him in a pool, Ernesto tried to commit suicide by gulping water and drowning himself.

“Ayaw na n’yang umahon. Gusto na niyang mamatay kasi di n’ya na kaya ang torture [He didn’t want to get out of the pool anymore. He wanted to die because he could no longer endure the torture],” says Francisco, who began having a hearing problem after his tormentors repeatedly knocked his ears and head until his eardrums broke.


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