CHICAGO (JGL) – The martial law regime in Cavite allowed the people to vote but prevented them to watch the canvassing recalled Sally Richmond during the candle-light vigil of the Memorial Service and Forum held at the Hana Center on 4300 N. California Avenue, Chicago on Sept. 21. The event, which was sponsored by the Filipino American Human Rights Alliance or FAHRA-Chicago, commemorated the 45th anniversary of martial law.
On Sept. 21, 1972, this reporter noted that on his way to work to the Pilipino/Daily Star (now the offices of Philippine Star) at Port Area, Manila, the atmosphere was noticeably very quiet – like it was Good Friday – while aboard a jeepney. It was missing its usually raucous radio newscasts and commercials.
Marlon L. Pecson was in high school when he realized the country was on martial law after Sen. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, which, he said, led to the end of the martial law regime.
Although he voted for President Rody Duterte, Pecson said he does not approve of the killing of victims of his war on drugs. Like the death of Ninoy Aquino, he said, one killing of a human rights victim is one too many that could lead to the end of the Duterte regime.
Four years before the imposition of martial law, Juanita Salvador Burris had been teaching at the Far Eastern University. She said that mass actions including explosions of Molotov cocktails in the University Belt, particularly at the government-run Philippine College of Commerce, was then a common, almost daily, occurrence.
RECOLLECTIONS OF MARTIAL LAW
These were some of the recollections of martial law proclaimed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos on Sept. 21, 1972.
Jerry Clarito, convener of FAHRA-Chicago, said he did not know about human rights and freedom of assembly until he attended rallies where he learned why Filipinos are poor.
He said as host to two huge U.S. military bases, the Philippines used those bases to protect the interests of Americans living and doing business in the Philippines. Along with other foreigners, he added that the Americans are siphoning off foreign reserves of the Philippines that are being remitted overseas, thus, making the Filipinos poor.
“Most Filipinos didn’t appreciate their human rights nor demand that the government should provide them access to health and mental care services. The martial law military were rounding up activists at urban communities while protecting rich people and government employees.
“I was a victim of Arrest, Seizure and Search Order (ASSO) issued by then Defense Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile. Our house was raided but I escaped. But my friends were not as lucky,” he said.
Clarito, now a senior citizen, said Popoy Lagman, Liliosa Hilao and the Acebedo brothers, who were schoolmates, were tortured and killed by martial law authorities. He claimed that Hilao’s private parts were soaked with muriatic acid.
Alice Hilao Gualberto shared a graphic description of how her sister, Liliosa, was exposed to inhumane and barbaric treatment which led to her death.
“Her body bore signs of struggle; her lips (showing signs of burns from cigarette butts) appeared to have been made a virtual ashtray, the mark of a point of a gun appeared on one of her legs and her throat bore a hole,” she said.
With the horrible abuses of the military, violation of human rights, and the deepening economic crisis, the Acebedo brothers joined the rebel forces to fight the martial law regime instead of continuing with their studies.
THE DIGITAL MUSEUM OF MARTIAL LAW IN THE PHILIPPINES
To prevent the repetition of the “reign of terror,” Clarito urged millennials to educate themselves of the horrors of martial law by visiting The Digital Museum of Martial Law in the Philippines at https://martiallawmuseum.ph. He said, “You can see the period of 14 years, the values that we learned. You can see how Filipinos were killing Filipinos. Why Filipinos are resisting violation of human rights. Why it took us more than 300 years to defy Spaniards.”
Clarito added: “The website will give you access of what is happening to the whole nation, grassroots history, so there will be no repeat of the atrocities of Marcos to the community, historical depth of Philippine history and the coming together even if the Philippines were 10,000 miles away from us.”
As they remembered their relatives and friends who died during martial law, those who came offered candle light with some of them uttering “present” to indicate that the souls of the victims were around during the vigil. Among the heroes remembered were Edgar Jopson, Bobby de la Paz, Macling Dulag and Sen. Ninoy Aquino.
This reporter also honored the memory of Tim Olivarez who wrote for Tempo — he disappeared on Feb 4, 1985. Olivarez confided to this reporter that on the eve of his disappearance, Major Roberto “Bobby” Ortega had called the offices of Manila Bulletin asking for him (Olivarez). Apparently, Jose “Don Pepe” Oyson was upset that Olivarez had exposed Oyson’s smuggling activities in Tempo, sister publication of the Manila Bulletin.
Before Ortega died, this reporter asked him through his Facebook account why he had called Olivarez, Ortega did not post a response. Olivarez told this reporter that Ortega and members of the PC Metrocom Strike Force were protecting the smuggling activities of Don Pepe
Salvador-Burris recalled that even prior to martial law, between 1968 and 1969, while she was teaching at the Far Eastern University, the University Belt was the hotbed of student activism. She said that Molotov cocktail explosions were rocking the Belt, particularly the nearby state-run Philippine College of Commerce, where students were soaked to a ‘strong ideology’.
“When you have a strong love for your country, you were branded as communist,” she said.