‘We Feel It… Martial Law is Back’

If there is anyone who knows what Martial Law was like, it would be people like Carmencita Mendoza-Florentino and Rodolfo del Rosario, who were both victims of the Marcos dictatorship. Many people thought that after Marcos’ ouster in 1986 no dictatorship would ever happen again, but Florentino and Del Rosario believe otherwise.


Carmencita “Miling” Mendoza-Florentino and Rodolfo del Rosario both look old enough to not be expected to join protest marches through thick vehicular smoke and under full noon heat, as they did in Manila last Sept. 21, the 34th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

But not only did they join the march of protesters under the banners of Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda or Organization of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and for Amnesty) and other cause-oriented groups affiliated with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) along España Avenue to the Liwasang Bonifacio (or Bonifacio freedom park): they were among the first to troop to UST for the assembly,

stayed at Liwasang Bonifacio all afternoon though black clouds threatened to pour rain on the sweat-drenched ralliers (and send them all to the sickbed the next day), and were among the last to leave the rally park. And it was not only because they wished to relive that dark chapter of the country’s past: it is because the dark hours are here again, they grimly said.

Noong i-declare ni Marcos ang martial law, winasak lahat niya ang mga oposisyon” (When Marcos declared martial law, he destroyed all opposition), Mang Rudy said. “Pati Kongreso, nilansag niya. Y’ong position ng vice president, nilansag din niya ‘yon. So siya na lang ang natira. ‘Pinakulong niya ang libu-libong taong tutol sa kanya.” (He abolished even Congress. He also abolished the vice presidency. So no one was left but himself. He ordered thousands opposed to him imprisoned).

Ngayon, ibang klase”(Now it’s different), he added. “Hindi pa deklarado, marami nang nawawala, marami nang hinuhuli, maya’t maya may pinapatay at may nawawala. At ganoon din, y’ong mga oposisyon katulad ni Peewee Trinidad ng Pasay, pinasuspinde na, ngayon si Binay delikado na rin. Iniisa-isa na. At siguro, parang katapat ng martial law, kapag nagtagumpay y’ong charter change, nariyan na. Magiging prime minister si Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at baka i-declare na rin na siya y’ong president for life. ‘Yan ang nakikita ko ngayon. So ibang klase, pero doon din papunta.” (There’s no declaration yet but many people are missing, many are being arrested, there are many being killed and disappeared. Likewise, those in the opposition like Pasay City Mayor Peewee Trinidad, who has been ordered suspended, and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, are also in trouble. They are being hunted one by one. And alongside martial law, if charter change succeeds then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may become prime minister and she may declare herself president for life. So it’s different but it’s headed in the same direction Marcos took.)
‘We feel it’

Alam mo, ngayon, damdam na damdam namin – kasi naranasan namin ang martial law – martial law na ngayon, e” (You know, we really feel it – because we experienced martial law – we’re now under martial law), Aling Miling said. “Hindi nga lang ‘dineklara. Bawal kang magsalita ng katotohanan, pag nagsalita ka ikukulong ka. Dudukutin ka. Ganoon ang panakot ngayon kaya maraming dinudukot at pinapatay.” (There’s just no declaration. You’re barred from speaking the truth, if you speak you get arrested. You get abducted. That’s what they terrorize people with these days, that’s why many are being abducted and killed.)

Data from various human rights groups place the number of victims of extrajudicial killings under Marcos’ 20-year rule at 1,500. Data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) show 759 persons as having involuntarily disappeared during Martial Law. Military historian Alfred McCoy, in his book Closer than Brothers, said there were 35,000 torture victims all in all during the Marcos years.

Karapatan has recorded 755 victims of extra-judicial killings and 184 victims of enforced disappearances from 2001, when Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising, to September 2006.

When then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1081, placing the Philippines under martial law, Aling Miling was the president of a women’s community association in Tatalon, Quezon City. There was a law then under which they were considered the legitimate occupants of the land where their dwellings stand, and yet their shanties were demolished, courtesy of the Araneta and Tuason families.

The women, she said, organized among themselves because the men then were being arrested. But, she would later learn, being a woman was no protection against arrest.

Traumatic first arrest

Her first arrest, which was in 1976, was particularly traumatic for her. She was brought to Camp Crame, then the Philippine Constabulary general headquarters in Quezon City, and was grilled by several officers, among them then Cols. Ramon Montaño and Rolando Abadilla. She thought she was going to be raped – and that probably would have happened, she said, if the torturers had not discovered she was from the Ilocos like many of them.

After her release two months later, she went back to community organizing and became involved in human rights advocacy through the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), which had taken up her case. She would be arrested and detained two more times during the Marcos years.

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