Horrors of martial law remain fresh in farmers' minds

This article is available in PilipinoBisayaHiligaynon

In a recent interview, Ferdinand Marcos Jr justified his father’s declaration of martial law in September 1972. The dictator’s son also admitted there were human rights abuses, but claimed that such are normal “like in any war.”

Marcos Jr.’s statement exculpated the military and police of horrific human rights abuses and violations during martial law. More than that, Marcos Jr normalized these abuses, just as Duterte has previously justified them.

Farmers interviewed by Ang Bayan reporters do not want these abuses repeated. Although long past, the horrors and names of battalions and officers remain etched in their minds. People in rural villages will never forget the cruelty they suffered under the men of Marcos Sr.

Nay (mother) Lorena of Agusan del Norte was 17 years old when she fell victim to soldiers. She is now 56 years old, but the military’s character is clear to her, which she calls “Marcos’ minions.”

“If they investigate, you can’t property respond because questions and buttstrokes come at the same time,” she said. One even forgot his name because of panic,” she said.

“If they search us women, they grope our breasts, our crotch… Such perverts! We can’t complain, ‘no, sir…’ because you might be hit with rifle butts, be taken to their detachment. Do you think they will ever release you?”

Rifle buttstrokes are the most common of cruelties endured by farmers who are chanced upon by soldiers in their fields. This is what Tatay Rolando went through when he was investigated.

His villagemates went through worse. His neighbor was beaten black and blue with buttstrokes only because he replied “We’ve been here for a long time, we don’t see any rebels.” His two elderly neighbors were killed after being suspected of supporting the NPA.

He was also on the brink of death after being arrested and taken to the detachment on charges that he was supporting the NPA. “I was tortured. I was freed of ropes and taken to the pit where they had earlier buried a young man. I was really nervous about being next.”

The detachment commander? “Sgt. Sumayo,” Tatay Rolando replied without hesitation. If Nay Lorena were to be asked what battalion? “29th IB, which is more brutal than the 54th (IB),” she replied clearly. Their words were stark as if the events had taken place only yesterday.

Indeed, how can the brutality of martial law be forgotten, if after 50 years, they face the same brutality today? “There is not so much difference between soldiers then and now,” Tatay Rolando said. “Before, investigations and buttstrokes come at the same time, before the salvagings. Now, the armalite will be first be aimed before the buttstroke.”

As his father did before, Marcos Jr is now feeding the fascist mindset and impunity with which abuses and violations of human rights continue to be perpetrated with utmost cruelty by state-terrorists against the people.

Tatay Rolando and Nay Lorena have yet to attain justice, as well as Tay Nardo and Nay Paning, who are also among the countless victims of martial law’s horrors. Their answers are the same. “We are poor farmers. We didn’t finish school. What are we going to pay for the paperwork required to file a case?”

Those whose dignities were crushed by martial law, are putting their hope on the armed struggle. “Military abuses push the people to join the armed resistance,” said Nay Lorena, who warned that Marcos Jr might repeat his father’s actions. Tay Nardo agrees, “the answer to martial law,” he said, “is for the people to take up arms. If we too have weapons (as the military), we will no longer be afraid.”

On the part of Tay Rolando, “It is important to immediately get rid of Junior Marcos, because he might follow the policies of his father. The son is worse… We must encourage the youth to join the revolution, to stop the military from torturing. Dare to struggle!”

Horrors of martial law remain fresh in farmers' minds