Memories of Marcos' Martial Law and Beyond: Stories of Unsung Heroes (Part II)

Abductions, torture, salvaging or extrajudicial killings (EKJs in present parlance), widespread landgrabbing and seizure of the properties of the masses - especially of the peasant settlers, Moro and indigenous peoples - check points, zoning and searches in urban and rural communities, massive detention of innocent people, indiscriminate bombings and artillery firings, evictions and force evacuations were abhorrent yet commonplace scenes of martial law.

And yet, up to this day, these nightmares are recurring, years after the downfall of the most hated US-Marcos fascist dictatorial regime. Its vestiges still remain even after the much vaunted “restoration of democracy” associated with the installation of Pres. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino in February 1986.

 

In light of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao which has prospects to extend its scope to the whole country, friends asked me to write about my experiences during Marcos martial law. I could not readily said yes.

I’m lucky and must be happy, so they say, for I survived martial law. I am happy to have survived, yes, but very sad were my memories of those 14-long years of terror and paralysis. It is because many of my friends and acquaintances, mostly the flowers of our Motherland and respected members of the communities who dared to stand up and fight for the rights of the broad masses of the Filipino people became  brutal victims of the atrocious martial law era.   

Before I proceed, let me quote the concluding poem from the narrative of Prof. Jose Maria Sison while he was confronting his demons whilst undergoing 9 years of solitary confinement at a military prison. Sison, the military intelligence agents alleged, was Ka Amado Guerrero, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought) and the leader of Philippine revolution. His poem is a salutation to the countless martyrs who have fought and died for the revolution:

 

“Fragments of Nightmares”

30.

But still my pain and suffering is small

As I think of those who suffer more

The violence of daily exploitation

And the rampage of terror in the land.

I belittle my pain and suffering

As I think of the people who fight

For their own redemption and freedom

And avenge the blood of martyrs.

I belittle my pain and suffering

As I hope to give more to the struggle.”

(December 1979)

 

The following are stories of friends, comrades, and martyrs who fought to birth a society where all can live with dignity:

 

Manong Edoy Salido. In August 1973, Marcos minions launched the first massive “nip in the bud operation” in the border towns of Ibajay (Aklan) and Pandan (Antique). About 100 mercenary troopers - Philippine Constabulary (PC)- from Aklan Provincial Command, augmented by the returning elements of “Kamagong Army” (veterans of Mindanao Moro Campaign), and some local police and members of the Barrio Self-Defense Units (BSDU) were deployed in the said areas.

Not a single Red fighter of the New People’s Army (NPA) was caught. Nevertheless, they arrested an innocent farmer. What was the crime of Manong Edoy Salido? Well, the PC averred that he was in possession of voluminous copies of a hard-hitting pre-martial law magazine, “The Philippine Free Press” and “The Reader’s Digest.”

Salido twice served as a barangay chairman of Maloco. He was respected by residents in the barrio and yet he suffered humiliations in the hands of his captors. He was jailed for several days at the Ibajay municipal jail.

 

Manong Gener Magluyan. In one of their “search and destroy operations” in 1975, the combined forces PC and Pandan municipal police arrested a poor peasant. Generoso ”Manong Gener” Magluyan of Barangay Badiangan, Pandan was forced to guide a military operation against the “Tabag” (a dialect for wild cock) which refers to the highly mobile, barefoot New People’s Army.

After a day of fruitless scouring of the western Madyaas mountains, the PC and police went home empty-handed. Along the way, the blood-thirsty fascists shot and killed Manong Gener. His lifeless semi-nude body was brought to the municipal plaza and was left there to rot for days amid the crawling worms,  swarming flies and the foul air of decay. Relatives and friends of Manong Gener were so terrified to claim his body so he was not given a decent Christian burial.

To instill fear in the hearts of those who would dare to go against the mandate of Marcos “New Society”, authorities went on to commit gross violations and put them on for public display. What a despicable display of barbarism!

 

Baby Terano. PC soldiers in 1976, aided by the armed henchmen of Libacao Mayor Sol Legaspi, and PC Sgt. Bebot Lumogdang, conducted a series of punitive actions in the mountainous areas of Libacao and Madalag in Aklan. Their mission: kill all those suspected for giving aid and comfort to the “enemies of the State.” They indiscriminately fired at peasants toiling in their kaingin plots and wounded an 18-year-old. Baby Terano was writhing in pain and crying for medical help but the PC and paramilitary elements took her and raped her. Terano was a choir member of a local Protestant Baptist church.

 

Marcelo Gallardo and Merlinda Dionisio. One afternoon in March 1979, Marcelo Gallardo and Merlinda Dionisio were in a lively discussion with some peasants in Sitio Bubuc-on, Barangay Naile, Ibajay. Suddenly, an armed group called “The Night Raiders” led by Ex-PC Sgt. Marlon Franco arrived and shot people in sight, killing Gallardo and Dionisio who was then three months pregnant. The nearby houses were also strafed. Gallardo was a student leader and writer of the “The Chronicler,” the school publication of Ibajay Academy.

Also in 1979, notorious members of “The Night Raiders” combed the plains and hills of Barangay Maloco. Along the way, they picked up a tubâ gatherer named Lito to act as their guide. The next day, his relatives found his lifeless body tied in a kakawati tree. His body bore many stab wounds.

 

Crispulo Sabandal. In reaction to the successful tactical offensives launched by the NPA units in Panay, two battalions of the Philippine Army (12th IB and 47th IB) were deployed in the island. In the summer of 1982, the military launched massive search and destroy operations in the plains and hinterlands of Northwestern Panay (comprising the towns of Aklan and Antique) and in Southern Panay. They herded many peasants suspected as “supporters” of the NPA.

One of those herded in Campo Verde, Tangalan, Aklan was Crispulo Sabandal. He was a respected barangay official of Agdugayan, Ibajay. After subjecting him to continuous interrogations and death threats by Maj. Ricardo Jomuad, he was thrown in a deep and open pit together with other peasants. Tortured and hungry for several days, Sabandal committed suicide by drinking pesticide soon after he was set free by his captors.

 

Brigida “Briding” Omambing. On November 1977, Brigida “Briding” Omambing, a Catholic lay leader of the Santa Rita de Cassia parish in Naile, Ibajay led about 500 barrio folks in holding a protest rally against the rampant abuses of the Civilan Home Defense Force (CHDF). This notorious paramilitary group was marauding the villagers residing along Ibajay River. First known victim of this group was the husband of Brigida, Expedito Omambing. He was shot and killed by the CHDF inside his house while there was a birthday celebration.

Omambing led the first known open protest action against militarization in Aklan and in the whole of Panay during the martial law regime. This open defiance against Marcosian decrees prompted the PC Provincial Commander, Col. Orville Gabuna, to go to Ibajay and talk to the protesters. He intimidated the protesters, giving his stern warning of the need for an official permit lest the rallyists face the consequence.

The succeeding protest actions got the ire of the authorities. The widowed Omambing left her two young orphaned children and went into hiding. She was caught in a cave in Sitio Lingganay, Regador, Ibajay in 1983 by the military during one of their massive military operations. According a witness account, Omambing was four months pregnant from her second husband and at that time, suffering from flu. A soldier cut her breasts and then slashed opened her navel with a bayonet. Slowly, Briding Omambing bled to death to the horror of her captured companions.

 

Edward and John Lahaylahay de la Fuente, Antonio Mijares. Brothers Edward and John were the sons of known UCCP pastor, Johnny de la Fuente, Sr. of Jaro, Iloilo City. One afternoon in 1983, the younger John, an organizer, was resting in a hut in Barangay Camalig, Jaro when elements of the Regional Police Field Force barged in and shot him in cold blood. John’s martyrdom inspired the eldest, Edward, to write a poem which was entitled “The Story Did Not End With a Thud.”

A year later, in April 1984 Edward, was brutally murdered by PC soldiers led by PC Maj. Will Blanco in Barangay Agdugayan, Ibajay. Edward and his companions were crossing the Ibajay River when they were ambushed. Edward was wounded, so was his companion, Antonio Mijares. Another companion of theirs, Ka Johnny was instantly killed in the volley of gunfire.

The cadavers of Edward and Antonio bore marks of torture inflicted by PC soldiers. The heartless soldiers used barbed wires to tie the hands of the two. Witnesses recalled that their bodies were hauled by carabaos from the banks of Ibajay River to the barangay road in the sweltering heat of Holy Thursday. The priests and seminarians held a Holy Mass in honor of the martyrs calling the incident “Bloody Holy Thursday.”

Edward was an orator, poet and former editor-in-chief of the student publication of the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City while Mijares was the literary editor of “The Aklan Collegian,” the official student publication of ACC in Kalibo. Mijares was instrumental in the campaign for campus press freedom and the restoration of “The Aklan Collegian,” which was closed right after martial law was imposed.

 

Rizaldy Jesus Maglantay. He was the kababayan of Antonio Mijares and also a campus writer. At the time of his mysterious death, he was a volunteer writer for the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD-Aklan). One night while walking home to his boarding house in Kalibo, he was accosted by several persons. The next day, he was found dead with many stab wounds and bruises in his body. Maglantay’s father was a private high school principal in Ibajay, a USAFFE and World War II veteran.

 

Jojo “Ka Kristin” Paduano and Ka Leda. The two women were wounded in a raid conducted by 47th IBPA soldiers in May 1984, somewhere in the mountainous barangay of Yawan in Ibajay, Aklan. The government troopers were led by Capt. Lacsasa Macauyag. Jojo and Leda were both several months pregnant. Instead of giving them medical treatment, the fascist soldiers mercilessly raped them and left them to die slowly. A Bacolena, Paduano was a researcher, writer and performing cultural artist trained by PETA. She was the niece of former COMELEC Chair Haydee Yorac.

There were many other victims of military atrocities like my friend Maria Luisa Posa, and those I’d known only through their nom de guerre (sagisag sa gera).

Aside from the stories I tell above, I could not forget the countless, nameless and heroic masses of peasants, farm workers and poor fishermen, the urban poor and allies who supported the burgeoning national democratic movement in the countrysides and in the urban centers as well. Because of space limitations, I did not write the details of their struggles.Suffice it to say that they were the unsung heroes immortalized by the premier activist-poet and writer Jose “Pete” Lacaba in his poem “Ang Mga Walang Pangalan.”

Lastly, I quote here again the poem of Prof. Sison. It was written while he was incarcerated in The Netherlands. 

 

Rulers and Butchers

“The rulers and butchers of my country

Rain bombs and artillery fire

To force more than a million

Peasants and indigenous people

Out of their homes and lands

And made way for plantations,

Mines and all kinds of plunder.

They think they can do so with impunity.

 

They have murdered and abducted

And tortured more than a thousand

Workers, peasants, women,

Students, teachers, lawyers,

Journalists, priests and pastors

To quell the people’s resistance

And keep the reign of greed and terror.

They think they can do so with impunity.

 

Before a single one of them

Can be brought to justice

The rulers and butchers of my country

Have colluded with the imperialists

To put me once more in solitary

As in the days of Marcos tyranny,

In a false charge of murder

For the revolutionary acts of the people.

 

I join the ranks of victims

And follow the examples

Of Ka Bel, Ka Satur, Ka Liza,

Ka Paeng, Ka Ted and Ka Joel

Persecuted but unbowed

By the oppressors and imperialist masters

Standing up for the just cause

Of the suffering and struggling people.”

(28 May 2017)

 

*Ruben Saluta is an NDFP consultant. He was re-arrested on March 4, 2015 by combined elements of the AFP and the PNP during the Aquino regime for trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. He was detained at the Special Intensive Care Area-Taguig City Jail before he was allowed bail to participate in peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP.   

 

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