In this post, I continue my recollection of martial law experiences some thirty-nine years ago.

If you were betrayed by a comrade, it is not possible to claim that you don’t know anything. The proper response is to admit to less important things and continually deny more important matters. Precinct 1 of the Manila Police Department was apparently not the place where we will be questioned thoroughly. We spent the night of September 16, 1973 planning how to react to tactical interrogation (questioning with torture) that we knew will come in the next days.

A tragicomedy happened to Mauro and me in the morning of the 17th. After spending a fitful night in the detention cell of Precinct 1, we (“The Betrayed”) were rounded up in the morning to be transferred somewhere. I am not sure we had breakfast (or even just a pandesal or two). As Lt. Nacu was leading us to the police vehicles, I saw my eldest brother, Edgardo, who was with the National Police Commission, approaching. He asked Nacu if he could talk to me. Nacu retorted that my brother should know the SOP; that I should be held incommunicado while interrogation was going on. Then he asked my brother what he was to me and Kuya Eddie said I was his youngest brother. Nacu asked me to confirm the relationship. I denied it; I wanted to preserve my identity as Roel Malaya. I did not want to be questioned about my previous activities in my hometown. For Nacu, that was that. He practically shooed my brother away.

From Balut, Tondo we practically crossed the metropolis to reach Camp Panopio (almost opposite Mar Roxas’ Balay) in Quezon City. My sister-in-law believes she saw while going to the market in Sampaloc, Manila. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why we made a pit stop in Panopio. We were led to an office on the second floor where a battery of officers either took turns or simultaneously asked questions and insulted us. Jun C and I were separated from the group and were led to a doctor’s clinic purportedly for medical examination. After assuring himself that both of us were still in good health (under the circumstances), the doctor started mauling us for a good thirty minutes or so. Since Jun was wearing braces, his mouth was bleeding. The doctor avoided my face and concentrated all of his blows on my chest, abdomen, and back of the head. I bet he told his wife about this under the heading “Another day in the clinic”!

In my opinion, the mad doctor tortured both Mauro and me simply because he wanted to. He did not ask any questions. He was not an intelligence officer. Simply wanting to torture is one of the reasons why uniformed grown men torture young activists.  Perhaps, in the eyes of the mad doctor, we were demons or sub-humans not worthy of humane treatment.

After the session with the mad doctor, we were transferred to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police and Investigation Service (MPIS) in Camp Crame. After the usual processing (finger printing, taking of ID pictures, etc.), we were led to the MPIS detention cells. After about an hour or so, Mauro and I were startled to hear our real names being paged over the PA system. Little did we know that Kuya Eddie managed to trace our whereabouts and insisted on seeing me. When we refused to budge, the PA blared–ilabas ang mga bagong dating (Bring out the new arrivals). So “The Betrayed” had to go to ante-room and a tough sergeant asked each one of one: Anong tunay mong pangalan? (What’s your real name?) Everybody gave their true names but we still hesitated. Kuya Eddie came in and pleaded that I own up to my real name since Papa and Mama and the rest of the family had been suffering since I went on the lam. I broke down and admitted that I used a false name. For emphasis, the sergeant asked for my real name and I gave it. Mauro had no choice but to give his real name too. We both knew we will be punished for this subterfuge.

Maintaining a cover story and identity is necessary for underground (and espionage) work. In Barrio Magsaysay, I was an underground activist. I did not want to reveal my true identity when I was captured because I operated on an aboveground/underground basis in my hometown. There, however, I could not hide my identity. Aboveground work means one operates using his true identity while living in his legal residence.  An activist can operate on both aboveground and underground basis.  This is true when martial law was imposed since all anti-Marcos political activities were proscribed.  When captured in Tondo, I wanted to maintain my false name so my hometown activities will not be covered by the interrogation. Well, so much for that wish.

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