In this post, I continue with the presentation I made at the UP College of Law remembering martial symposium last Friday, the 40th year anniversary of its imposition.

In previous entries, I already intimated that I was captured on September 16, 1973, tortured and interrogated for about two or three weeks, and detained until December 12, 1974.  I use the term “captured” instead of “arrested” because of the absence of arrest warrants.

How does torture feel like, look like?  I am sure a number of you in the audience are members of fraternities and you went through initiations.  I am a fratman and I went through an initiation before getting accepted.  A frat initiation is a dress rehearsal to torture but  is not its equivalent.  Take a fraternity initiation and multiply the intensity, the pain, the anxiety and what have you by a factor of 100 or a 1000 and you will have experienced tactical interrogation at the hands of intelligence operatives.

By and large, fraternity initiation masters want the neophytes to survive the initiation so the latter could graduate as brothers.  In contrast, the aim of tactical interrogators is to extract information.  If one gets maimed or killed as a result, that was the least of their concerns especially if the interrogation is done in their safe-houses.  If the captive dies, there’s deniability.

How reliable is the information extracted captives under duress?  There are two schools of the matter.  One asserts that the data extracted is useful and truthful.  A captive resists or withholds the truth but will do so to stop the pain.  The other school stresses the utility of other means like psychological warfare (sleep and food deprivation, disorientation, and humiliation)  and drug-aided (e.g. ‘truth serum’) questioning.  This approach believes that these techniques, since they are not frontal attacks on the person of the captive, are more effective since they either induce a false sense of security or disorientation.

In my own experience, there was a division of labor between those who deliver pain and those who ask questions.  The pain producers prepare you, soften you up for the inquisitors.  They are like a wrestling tag team.  Sometimes, if the interrogators do not get the info they you have, they send you back to the torturers.

You may have noticed that I am intellectualizing this part of my martial law experience.  It is not because I have forgotten.  It is because I cannot forget even if I wanted to.

After undergoing tactical interrogation, we were sent to the Ipil Rehabilitation Center (IRC), a minimum-security detention center inside Fort Bonifacio (now in the Global City area).  In comparison, Ninoy Aquino was detained in a maximum-security detention facility.  In Ipil, we had both an aboveground and underground organization.  Both were geared to organize our mass escape.  A month before the scheduled mass escape, the coordinators outside were captured.  As a result, the scale of the eventual escape was reduced but was still successful.


It was a propaganda coup for the anti-dictatorship movement and perhaps because of the embarrassment it caused, about 200 of us were released from detention on December 12, 1974.  Prior to our release, we were digging escape tunnels.


There were many more of us who were released than those who were left behind.  While I was generally happy, I also felt sad because of those still detained.


I went home to fully realize that  I now had  a family and that I had new responsibility.  My wife, who was also an activist, evaded capture and gave birth to our first child when I was still detained.  Upon my release, I had to work to support my family even if I did not have a bachelor’s degree.  I got employed in Makati through the help of former activists.  This new persona became the cover for my and my wife’s continued anti-dictatorship activities.


Of course, this continuing political activity caused anxieties within our families.  It narrowed our social circles to family and fellow activists.


It was a good thing that I eventually joined the UP faculty.  To my mind, it was the best cover.  It also afforded the most expansive environment for political activity, study, and reflection.  It also broadened my social circles to include students, colleagues and other professionals.  Notwithstanding martial law, I felt at home in UP.


If I were to sum, martial law made me, shaped me.  It may be over, but I am, together with many others, what I am because of it.


I do not consider myself as its victim because I think I emerged stronger.  What I believe is that the entire nation, except the Marcoses, their cronies and minions, were victimized by martial law.  Alas, a great number of them still strut around as if they have done nothing wrong.




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