Martial law victim scarred for life

Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — Almost three decades after suffering from heavy torture in the hands of state military forces, Ramon Dammay is still in pain.

Ramon, now in his early 50s, was among the beneficiaries who trooped to the Commission of Human Rights office here to claim his $1,000-check from a case that won $7.5 million on behalf of 7,526 martial law victims in a 2011 ruling by a United States Circuit Court in Hawaii.

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) said 2,013 were delisted from the reparation. Selda led 9,539 victims in the filing of a class suit against former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Federal Court of Honolulu in Hawaii in 1986. The U.S. Court of Appeals, in its executory judgment dated December 17, 1996, said that the number of victims who are qualified for reparation is 9,539.

Ramon shared that due to the heavy torture he suffered from soldiers in 1985, he has not been able to work the fields and properly provide for his family.

In 1985, Ramon just returned to their village in Malama, Conner, Apayao after he got fired from the La Villa Resources Corporation (LVRC), a logging company operating in Isabela when soldiers came to their house and accused him of being a New People’s Army (NPA) commander. “I was away for three years and was assigned in the mountains of Isabela to cut timber for the LVRC, maybe that is why they suspected that I joined the NPA,” he said.

He said he suffered from various forms of torture in the hands of his captors. “They beat me up so hard that I thought I would die. They made me drink water until I passed out. They burned me with cigarette butts. They did other things to me, far more barbaric that I could not even tell you,” he told the Northern Dispatch.

Ramon recalled that the soldiers even burned down their house and killed his father when they came for him. “Almost every penny I earned from the logging company went to the construction of our house and the soldiers just burned it on mere suspicion,” he added.

Such tragic experience haunts him to this today.

“It is very frustrating for me because I could not work the fields every day and I can only do the lighter jobs because my back can not take it,” he said. He added that his wife is forced to do more of the work. “After cleaning a portion of the fields for a day, my back gives up that I could not get up the next day,” he further said.

Ramon said his doctor told him that his backbone has cracks and could only be treated through an operation. “The doctor told me I’ll need at least a hundred thousand pesos. I never considered going fo an operation because we do not have money to pay for it so I guess I have to deal with my back pain until I die,” he said.

Long journey

Like all the other victims of martial law, Ramon had waited for so long for reparation for the human rights violations they suffered. When he received a letter saying he is entitled to receive US$1,000 in 2011 he thought he could use it for his medication but to his disappointment there was no check for him.

Ramon’s wife, Ester, said that after receiving the letter in 2011, she and three other entitled claimants from her village went to Baguio City to claim their checks. She said they borrowed money for their travel expenses.

“But when we arrived here they told us that there were no checks for us, all of us from Apayao did not receive a check during the first release in 2011,” she said.

Ester said that the other claimants from her village did not join them this year because they did not receive letters. “They thought it would be a waste of money to come especially when they did not receive letters this time considering that they did not receive a check the last time even if they received letters,” she explained.

Ester said bus or van fare from Apayao to Baguio is P600 per individual. “Our fare (Ester and Ramon) is already P2,400 coming and going home, our tricycle fare and other travel expenses are not even included in that amount. We even had to borrow money for our travel expenses just like in 2011,” she said.

Ester added that in 2011 the money they borrowed was just enough to pay for their travel coming to Baguio because they thought they could use some of what they will receive for fare back. “We were able to go home at that time because the officials of the CHR shouldered our travel expenses going back,” she said.

This year, during the second release last February 22, Ester and Ramon received a check worth P50,000. They said it may not be enough but it will still go a long way. “We have waited for so long for this,” Ramon said.

The couple was told that they can no longer claim the first check they did not receive in 2011. “It is sad because that amount (P43,000) would help a lot for my husband’s medication but we are still thankful that we received a check this time,” she said.

CHR chair Loretta Ann Rosales who led the distribution of checks in Baguio City said her agency could not do anything as the distribution is subjected to US court rules.

Lawyer Harold Kubaron, regional director of CHR Cordillera said only 16 of the 31 entitled martial law victims in the region were able to claim their checks on February 22. “We do not know why some of the beneficiaries failed to show up,” he said.

Kubaron surmised that some of the beneficiaries did not receive their letters and did not know of the distribution just like what happened in the first distribution in 2011.

Rosales earlier blamed the poor postal service in the country and flawed communications system that led to the disenfranchisement of some beneficiaries in the first distribution. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by

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