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Pinoys in HK recall horrors of martial law

19 September 2019


By The SUN
Image may contain: 7 people, including Dolores Balladares Pelaez, people sitting, table and indoor
Tellez talks of why Filipinos should resist any new attempts to impose martial law in the country

The oft-repeated chant of “never again to martial law” was given fresh meaning on Sept 15, when a group of migrant workers hosted a film screening and dialogue in Li Hall of St John’s Cathedral on the horrors that followed the imposition of martial law in the Philippines 47 years ago.

The event, organized by Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, was held ahead of the commemoration of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines on
Sept 21, 1972, by the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Highlighting the gathering was the screening of a graphic film showing the arrest and torture of Bonifacio Ilagan, then a young student leader at the University of the Philippines, shortly after martial law was declared.

Ilagan was arrested along with noted journalist and film writer Pete Lacaba, who was tortured along with him during the two years that they were detained inside a dreaded unit of a military camp.
Ilagan’s story also includes his younger sister, Rizalina, who followed in his footsteps as an activist at UP, and later disappeared, presumably after being arrested by military agents.

She is among dozens of “desaparecidos”, or people who vanished during the brutal crackdown on anti-government activists by Marcos’ soldiers and paramilitary troops.

Lacaba’s older brother Eman, meanwhile, was killed during an encounter between rebels and soldiers, just as the journalist was about to be freed by his captors.
Three Filipino community leaders who lived through the dark years of Marcos’ iron-fist rule shared their painful experiences during the gathering.

The SUN publisher Leo A Deocadiz related how two cousins he grew up with, and who both attended UP with him, were taken away by the military, never to be seen again.

The SUN editor Daisy CL Mandap spoke of neighbors and friends who were among the tens of thousands who were tortured and abused by the military during the reign of terror throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Amid mounting pressure from the international community, Marcos formally lifted in martial law on Jan 17, 1981, but continued his one-man rule until he was ousted by the People Power Revolution on Feb 25, 1986.

During his dictatorial rule, more than 3,000 people were killed, 35,000 were tortured, 77 disappeared, and 70,000 were imprisoned.

Jun Tellez of the Mission for Migrant Workers, who was an activist during the martial law era, said the gathering was a reminder that Filipinos should resist any attempt by the country’s leaders to go down that path again.

Bayan’s chair Eman Villanueva said the resistance put up by thousands of Filipinos against martial law is mirrored in the ongoing protests by Hong Kong people who are fighting to preserve their freedoms.

Villanueva also urged vigilance, as the Philippines’ sitting president Rodrigo Duterte has shown signs of emulating Marcos, and has already done far more in a short period of time to gain control over the country.

He enthusiastically supported a call for a community-wide network to be set up to call for Duterte’s resignation or ouster, to head off another bloody dictatorship.

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