Never Forget: Martial Law’s Desaparecidos
by Anne Marielle Eugenio, September 20, 2019 7:58pm
Art by Dani Elevazo
By definition, Martial Law happens when the president puts a certain area under the control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other bodies related to it. The head of the state declares it when there are civil unrest and other disasters.
In the Philippine context, Martial Law is defined by the Marcos Regime; of injustices, suppressed freedom, and cruel ways of torture. What meant to establish peace in the country became a nightmare for Filipinos. So when September 21 looms, we often are reminded to Never Forget. And to use that phrase is to consciously understand how innocent lives were wrongfully taken during the Martial Law. And if anything, we would like to remember the lives of those who vanished without a trace—The Desaparecidos of the Martial Law
The Desaparecidos were those who allegedly joined in the rebellion against the Marcos administration. They were said to be tormented in inhuman ways, and their bodies (or spirits) were never brough to peace. Here are a few stories about the Desaparecidos of Martial Law:
Ronald Jan Quimpo, a student of the University of the Philippines who dropped out to join activism against the Marcos government. He was arrested with Liliosa Hilao (who died during the ordeal) but was also released after three months. Then one day, he went out of his home with the intention of coming back for dinner, but he never did.
There’s also Rizalina Ilagan, a student who was a member of Kabataang Makabayan and became active in staging street plays showing the problems in the Philippine society; and Jessica Sales, a college professor who discussed the political condition of the country in classes. Both of them were part of the activist group “Southern Tagalog 10,” described as “the single biggest case of involuntary disappearance” during the Martial Law.
Another activist who disappeared without a trace is labor lawyer Hermon Lagman. He offered free legal services to those people experiencing unfair labor practices. He openly disapproves of the administration and joined protests. In May 1977, he disappeared and his family never heard from him again. They believed Lagman was abducted by the military.
Author of The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos Primitivo Mijares was a prominent name during the Martial Law era. He was once a reporter justifying the Martial Law in the country but became a member of the opposition after some time. He was last seen boarding a plane returning to the Philippines from Guam and was never seen since then.
They are only five of the almost 2,000 Deseparacidos during the Martial Law. There are victims who survived and lived to tell their tale. They were abused and tortured mentally, physically, and sexually—they were electrocuted, beaten up, have even become unwilling participants of Russian roulette. These are only putting their torture lightly.
That being said, the survivors of Martial Law want the current and future generations to be educated properly about this “dark” chapter in Philippine history. The administration violated human rights and suppressed the liberty of the people. But because there are people who fought for freedom, Filipinos were brought out of the dark. Those who sacrificed their lives for the democratic nation we are living in deserve tribute and recognition—we can’t do that if we will forget Martial Law.
As citizens of this country, we have the duty to preserve the freedom the Martial Law heroes ransomed. It’s time to educate ourselves about the officials we should and should not elect. Let’s look for leaders who seek to serve the people. It’s time to be wise and fight for our rights to have great leaders in position. We will not have history repeat itself, and so we must #NeverForget.
Photos from Bantayog.org.