Filipina Recalls Abduction, Torture Near Subic

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – Myrla Baldonado was supporting the removal of U.S. military bases in the Philippines at the height of martial law when she was abducted, tortured and kept in solitary confinement for two years to force her to abort her campaign.

Baldonado, a recent recipient of the White House “Champion of Change” among Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), told  participants to the three-day Amnesty International in Chicago recently she was also blindfolded and confined in a farm and sexually harassed by Philippine Constabulary soldiers headed by a Captain Henares.

She was later thrown into the mix with common criminals in a detention center near what used to be the U.S. Naval Base in Subic, Zambales province in the Philippines.

Coincidence or not, the revelation of Baldonado comes at a very inopportune time when Presidents Obama and Aquino are delicately discussing the basing agreement during their bilateral meeting Monday as it is sticking out like a sore thumb. Thanks to the aggressive behavior of a giant neighbor, the basing agreement is now a fait accompli.

At one point when she was fighting off boredom during solitary confinement, Baldonado requested to be given a book to while her time away.

But instead, her captors planted subversive documents that were later quashed by a Philippine court, which dismissed the case against her for violation of Anti Subversion Law.

Baldonado was among the four members of the panel, which recalled various stripes of torture that seep not only into the U.S. military bases but also into the U.S. civilian police life.

Another victim, Darrell Cannon, said he was placed in Death Row after Chicago police led by its Commander Jon Burke likewise tortured him to force him to own up a murder case he did not commit.


In an emotionally charged testimony before delegates to the Amnesty International, Cannon choked back tears welling from his eyes, saying it took him 20 years before he screamed, “Yes, it is very painful. I still feel mad all the time. Anytime, I channel my anger in a proper manner like this here.

“I am not out to harm anyone. I am out to stop the injustice that was done.

“I am out to stop those, who are still in prison. I am out to help those people, who are still in Death Row to this day. No one has apologized. I lost all my family and I have endured it everyday.

The other members of the panel were Tony Camerino and Perseo Quiroz and Curt Goering, who currently serves as Executive Director of The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), an organization, which heals the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and communities, and works to stop torture worldwide.

Although the case against Baldonado was dismissed and she has since been released, she went thru a healing process, like any survivor of torture in which she can never be completely free.

She immigrated to the U.S. and rebuilt her life, became a worker and full-time organizers for domestic workers in Chicago.

Baldonado now speaks nationally for national domestic workers and became a spokesperson for Latino Union of Chicago Caring Across Generation. She also became a member of torture abolition and support survivors coalition advocating for Illinois domestic human rights.

Baldonado recalled that when she was arrested in September 1983, “I was abducted in a park. I was a spectator and they were extracting information from me because there was a growing movement inside the U.S. bases to pass forward a strike – one of the largest strikes fighting for economic and other political rights.”

She said after she was abducted early in the morning, she was blindfolded and forced to draw water from a well in farm.  Water was poured into  her mouth while she was tied to a narrow bench.

There were about two dozens of them. She was handcuffed all the time to a death post and was asked to read a book to while away the hours.  She recalled her captors called each other “George.” While they were taken to the city, they were asked for names of base workers.

Her father based in Chicago contacted the Amnesty International. This was followed by telegrams and phone calls. Her parents went to the Philippines and picked her up from a safe house, where she was tortured and placed in solitary confinement and was forced to sign in a blank paper.

She said she was fighting the presence of the U.S. bases, for justice, against poverty, lack of independence. “I wanted to change the situation. We are not supporting terrorists; we are supporting a just cause for a better world.


FILIPINA SPEAKS UP ON TORTURE: Myrla Baldonado (extreme right) narrates before delegates of the Amnesty International in Chicago, Illinois recently how she was abducted, tortured and placed in solitary confinement. To her right are Curt Goering, who currently serves as Executive Director of The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), an organization, which heals the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and communities, and works to stop torture worldwide; Tony Camerino, Perseo Quiroz and Darrell Cannon. (JGLPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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