By AIRA MARIE E. SIGUENZA and DOMINIC V. GUTOMAN
MANILA – For martial law survivors like Danilo Dela Fuente, 73, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should have started with his acknowledgment and genuine apology for the sins of his family under the tyrannical rule of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
The survivor is the vice chairperson of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) and a member of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA), both are networks established by martial law victims.
These organizations joined the protest dubbed as People’s SONA last July 25. Their members marched together with other sectoral groups along Commonwealth Avenue to Tandang Sora in Quezon City.
Never Again, Never Forget
In an interview with Bulatlat, Dela Fuente shared the mental and physical torture he experienced during the Martial law of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. He was only 22 years old and a labor organizer under the National Federation of Labor then. On February 25, 1982, he was arrested and tortured along with his fellow organizers.
He recounted the severe abuse he experienced for 24 days:
- Soldiers repeatedly jabbed his solar plexus (a nerve plexus in the abdomen), making his stomach feel extreme pain;
- The Naval Intelligence Security Force brought him to Fort Bonifacio, where they hit his head against the wall several times;
- After that, the Intelligence Security of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, headed by Colonel Galileo Quintanar, who they discovered, later on, were the ones behind their abduction, took him to Camp Bago Bantay in North EDSA Quezon City. In the headquarters, they blindfolded him using a shirt and conducted a form of torture called “Tea Party,” where ten intelligence agents surrounded him, tickled him until he fell down, then simultaneously kicked him by turns;
- After he was pulled out of Camp Bago Bantay, he was taken to a “safe house” where he experienced one of the most traumatizing mental torture known as the “Russian Roullette,” where a bullet was loaded in one of the chambers of a .38 caliber revolver, spinning the cylinder, and then forcing him to pull the trigger aimed at his head;
- Lastly, Dela Fuente also experienced electric shock where live wires were connected to both his left and right middle fingers and big toes.
Dela Fuente can still remember how his saliva tasted bitter like ashes. “After I experienced that, I collapsed, and I did not know that I was put back into Camp Bago Bantay. When I woke up, I was chilling due to a high fever and hallucinated that a fellow prisoner called the military to aid me.”
Only after four years–on February 25, 1986–he was freed along with his fellow Martial Law detainees. Until now, Dela Fuente still has nightmares from these experiences, but the only choice he has is to fight and continue joining the struggle.
Marcos Jr. is not innocent
In a statement, CARMMA said that Marcos Jr. could not claim innocence from the violence inflicted by Marcos Sr.’s tyrannical regime. This further strengthens their call for Marcos Jr. not to deny the truth from the people but instead apologize for it.
Amnesty International documented at least 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 documented tortures, 77 victims of enforced disappearances as well as 70,000 incarcerations during the height of the Marcos dictatorship.
Dela Fuente condemned the audacity of Marcos Jr. to come back to Malacanang. “As if inflicting torture and killing thousands of activists and ordinary civilians were not enough, the Marcoses and their cronies looted the country’s coffers and enjoyed extravagant lifestyles from these funds.”
Prior to Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship, the debt of the country was $600 million. However, during his two-decade rule, it ballooned to a 4,300 percent raise with a total amount of $26 billion, according to the data retrieved by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt. The massive amount of foreign loans pushed the country into a dire financial situation, on top of corruption, cronyism, and the lavish lifestyle of the ruling family.
Another Martial Law survivor, Trinidad-Herrera Repuno, said that the Marcos family’s return to power was never a sign of forgiveness of their sins to the Filipino people.
“We all know that elections in this country is won by money, bribery, intimidation, and fraud. Undoubtedly, Marcos Jr. used their stolen money to bribe politicians, buy votes massively, and build an army of trolls to disseminate false information in favor of his family,” she said.
Asserting their calls and sworn duty
Aside from expecting an apology from Marcos Jr., Dela Fuente also calls for the new administration to accomplish his promises during his campaign period.
“The Filipino people should attain democracy for all and not just for a few. He should guarantee that he will carry off his promises such as lowering the price of rice to P20, ensuring land reforms to farmers, supplying jobs with sustainable salaries, giving housing to urban settlers, and providing free education for the youth,” Dela Fuente said.
Amid the intense heat and heavy rainfall during the People’s SONA, Dela Fuente, along with his fellow Martial Law survivors, pledged to fight for the rights and welfare of the Filipino people.
“In our protest now that Marcos Jr’s SONA is happening, we should tirelessly fight against disinformation and historical distortion. This is the foundation of this regime, and we should not be fooled,” Boni Ilagan, a Martial Law survivor, multi-awarded playwright, and the Convenor of the CARMMA, said during his speech in the 2022 People’s SONA.
In a study about disinformation led by fact-checking organization Tsek.PH, the Marcos-Duterte tandem remains the primary beneficiaries of such campaigns. The negative campaigning came to fruition with the massive defeat of the opposition in the recently concluded national elections, while the tandem became the highlight of the positive limelight in the disinformation arena.
Notably, the SONA of Marcos Jr. mentioned nothing about the misinformation and disinformation in the country, which has continued to mar the democratic spaces for years.
“It is through these protests, these activities with truth-tellers and activists, that we can preserve the truth about the Martial Law victims like us and our way of surviving. These are also part of my neurological activities since I am experiencing seizures and epilepsy due to the tortures I have experienced,” Dela Fuente said.
With the continuous disregard of Marcos Jr. to the situation of the Martial Law victims and disinformation, the survivors remain unfazed in asserting the truth.
“We vow to continue the claim for reparation and recognition of thousand more victims by pushing for a better reparations law. We vow to continue to claim our hard-won non-monetary benefits, as mandated in RA 10368 or Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. We will continue to resist the historical distortion peddled by the Marcoses and their apologists, and the return of the $6 billion more that the Marcoses stole from the Filipino people,” Dela Fuente asserted.
Repuno also added that many of them are already in their twilight years, but they will ensure that their children and the younger generation will never forget the dark history of the country.