Reliving the dark days of Martial Law, still fighting for the future

Protesters mark the 43rd anniversary of Martial Law, Sept. 21. (Photo by Loi Manalansan / Bulatlat.com)
Protesters mark the 43rd anniversary of Martial Law, Sept. 21. (Photo by Loi Manalansan / Bulatlat.com)

Every night, they would hear the door open. When soldiers hit the door with truncheons, they knew one of them would be taken out.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Sixty-six-year old Danilo Dela Fuente greeted fellow gray-haired activists at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge. He was holding the flag of Selda, an organization of political prisoners as he listened to the speakers at the protest action marking the anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

Asked where he was on Sept. 21, 1972, Dela Fuente paused and said he was at the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines). At that time, he was a member of Kabataang Makabayan.

Also at the protest action was Church worker Roy Montes, 72 years old, who hailed from Borongan, Samar. Immediately after martial law was declared, Montes was among the six who were arrested when elements of the Philippine Constabulary raided the family-owned secondary school.

Both Dela Fuente and Montes experienced the horrors of the Marcos dictatorship. Both are convinced that nothing much has changed 43 years later.

Prison days

Dela Fuente, along with seven others, was arrested on Feb. 25, 1982. At around lunchtime that day, while Dela Fuente and other union organizers were having a meeting, elements of the Philippine Constabulary and military intelligence group raided their headquarters.

Danilo Dela Fuente attends the protest action marking the declaration of martial law. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)
Danilo Dela Fuente attends the protest action marking the declaration of martial law. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)

Dela Fuente was first brought to Camp Crame where he saw other activists rounded up from different parts of Metro Manila. They were asked to line up outside one of the buildings as military assets identified them. He remembered seeing then Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, known for torturing activists. “Nang makita niya si Alan Jazmines, sabi niya, ‘Suki!’ Tuwang-tuwa ang gago. Nangigigil.”

At Camp Crame, Dela Fuente experienced what he called as “cobra.” Lifting his shirt, Dela Fuente pointed at the soft spot just above his stomach and said, “They would hit this with their hands, formed into a ‘cobra’ and I would cringe in pain.”

Days later, his body became numb.

He was later transferred to Fort Bonifacio. Along with three other activists, Dela Fuente was blindfolded with a five-inch masking tape. His captors told him, “Ano? Nakita mo na ang wala?”

Many times, his head was banged on the wall. He was also subjected to electrocution.

The mental torture, he said, was just as bad.

Every night, they would hear the door open. When soldiers hit the door with truncheons, they knew one of them would be taken out. Minutes later, they would hear screams. “Nakikilala namin sa boses kung sino ang kinuha,” he recalled.

He endured all these for four years. On Feb. 25, 1986, he was released from prison.

Church worker Roy Montes says impunity continues to reign in the country. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)
Church worker Roy Montes says impunity continues to reign in the country. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)

Montes, meanwhile, was in and out of prison for the first three years of martial law.

“Nagtuturo lang ako. Dinadala ang mga estudyante sa mga komunidad ng magsasaka. Bawal daw iyon,” Montes said.

He was first released in March 1973. After three months, he was detained again and was released after six months. In February 1975, he was arrested and taken to Cebu.

For Montes, the psychological torture was the most difficult. While he was detained in Cebu, his eldest son drowned in the river. With two escorts, he travelled from Cebu to their hometown in Borongan to attend the wake and burial of his son.

Montes was released in December 1975.

Continuous struggle

Both Dela Fuente and Montes could not afford to retire from their advocacy.

Dela Fuente said he owes his freedom to the Filipino people who ousted Marcos.

For Montes, the situation has even gone worse. “All of my colleagues in the NGO Council in the province were killed by Palparan’s men,” he told Bulatlat.com.

Retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., dubbed as “The Butcher” by human rights groups was assigned in Eastern Visayas in 2005. Rights group Katungod-Sinirangang Bisaya documented 126 victims of extrajudicial killings and 27 disappearances.

“Impunity continues to reign in the country,” Montes said.

The heat — and then the rain — could not dampen the spirits of the two activists, and their colleagues who have been yearning for genuine change. ()

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