New Internationalist

Marcos atrocities: the pain continues

The stories are as varied as the forms of torture, but these sordid tales all scream in pain; the cries reverberate beyond the confines of the prison cells and locked-up chambers of 40 years ago.

To this day, the thousands of victims of the military rule imposed on my country on 21 September 1972 still carry the marks of the torture they suffered in the hands of the military – rape; sexual assault; beatings; electrocution; enforced disappearances; being buried alive; shot in cold blood; hog-tied; water torture; solitary confinement; sleep deprivation.

The list goes on and on – and so does the memory of pain,sealed in the victims’ weary voices, their bruised hands, blank stares, burnt legs and the wounds that they carry. And to those who have disappeared, their loved ones’ empty nights of waiting desperately.

Last Friday saw the 40th anniversary of the start of the military regime. I hadn’t yet been born when dictator Ferdinand Marcos put the country under martial law, but the stories are told and retold by the survivors up to this day.

One victim, now a human rights worker, narrates how she was gang-raped by the members of the military; another remembers the exact chilling moment when the barrel of a gun was shoved inside his mouth and when every click meant either his life or death as his captor played Russian roulette while interrogating him. One child will never forget the image of his father shot before his very own eyes.

‘One will never forget the coldness of a gun’s barrel shoved into your skin,’ he says.

A journalist who wrote against the dictatorship suffered severe torture in jail. He was beaten on most nights, given electric shocks and his captors took turns pressing their lighted cigarettes on his skin.

Activists, human rights workers and journalists were captured and beaten. Many survived, but others disappeared in the dead of night, forcibly taken from their homes, never to be seen again. There were thousands of victims in the 14 years that the country was under the dictatorship.

Ferdinand Marcos justified the declaration of martial law, saying months of terrorist attacks needed some drastic government action.

But history would later tell us that Marcos’ defence minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, staged his own assassination to justify military rule.

In 1986, after the fall of the Marcos regime, democracy was restored. Political prisoners were freed and close to 10,000 human rights victims have now filed a class suit against the Marcos estate.

Yet, 40 years later, my country is far from being free. The cronies of the Marcoses remain in power. The business empires they grew during the Marcos years are even bigger now, while at least a third of the 94 million Filipinos live on less than a dollar a day. Hectares and hectares of agricultural land remain in the hands of landlords, despite a comprehensive agrarian reform programme that mandated the distribution of land to farmers. The economy continues to sag in debt, with expenditure far exceeding revenues. Members of the military continue their human rights violations. The press is now under attack by a new law that restricts free speech online.

Extrajudicial killings are rampant, and the only son of the dictator Marcos, who carries the same name as his father, is now a popular member of the Senate of the Philippines.

Photo: philippine presidency under a CC Licence

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  1. #1 jhelo jhasper 16 Apr 15

    the writer is a lier,do you think now have a good governance under the two Aquino Administration,do you think they do job or the filipino people,what benigno III and Cory Infrastructure and project have done? what happen the economics?what happen the Farmers,poor people and 32 journalist where killed under by benigno III,what happen the soldier and Saf commando?i dont like people do story for only propaganda,you said Marcos is Dictator and Worst President??BenignoIII is the 32nd worst world president and how many child abuse and rape under benigno III

  2. #2 Uncle Tom 13 Aug 15

    This is the history of the entire human civilization in a nutshell: ’Mankind is the devil.’

  3. #3 Duke Hazzard 13 Aug 15

    You are right, ’Uncle Tom.’

    Humankind (’Human-mean’) is the devil.

  4. #4 Analisa 13 Jan 16

    You can't solely blame the faith of a person under a political arena to a single man who led his country aiming for prosperity. Martial Law or not, most or all of the so called “victims” were willing participants who committed crimes, demeaned him directly or protested a government whose only purpose was to make a country great.

    To his opponents, Marcos was called a tyrant, thief, murderer, plunderer and all sorts of unimaginable name calling. But there were always two sides of one’s past no matter how many stories it could reach. When you flip into the backside, you hear other people with rational thinking that those were needed to complete its meaning.

    The law abiding citizens, rich or poor who believed in his regime have not been hurt or punished in any form because all they did were to follow their dreams to succeed and took advantage of the good things his government had offered. As much people hailed other leaders their hero, to them Ferdinand E. Marcos is also a great hero and the best president who ran the country.

    A single hurtful word is sharper than a sword and quicker than a bullet that penetrated someone’s heart with a long lasting wound. Life in politics is marred of violence. Politics is war. If you follow the non-confrontational warfare then the victory is more near. When you decide to take on the bumpy ride, you must prepare for such consequences you may not see the light at the other end of the tunnel.

    Confucius - “Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you.”

  5. #5 Buck 28 Jun 16

    WW2 lots of japanese soldier raped young filipinas, tortured filipinos killing for no reason.. and yet lots of filipinos up to these day wants to live and work in japan. im not gonna say martial law is good. but if thats the only way to save the country to become a communist. if the people still feeling the pain why people uses LRT,NAIA, NLEX,SLEX, schools, roads, and buildings marcos build? .. the author is young who got blinded by the yellow ribbon..

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About the author

Iris Gonzales a New Internationalist contributor

Iris Cecilia Gonzales is a Filipino journalist and blogger. At present, she covers economic news for a Manila broadsheet, but she also writes other stories here and there. She has been blogging since 2004 on various issues including women and children and human rights. She is among the winners in the TH!NK 3 global blogging competition organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre.

You may email her at [email protected]

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