Ex-political detainees urge gov’t to organize claims body-A A +A
Sunday, October 20, 2013
FORMER political detainees who fought against the dark years of Martial law are ageing and sick. Others, unfortunately, failed to wait for the elusive justice the government owes them as death beckoned ahead.
The former detainees fought for the freedom gained by the Filipinos as they bravely and courageously toppled the Marcos dictatorship. They risked their lives. They who have been instrumental for the Philippine press to be tagged as “the freest” in Asia despite the chilling reality that members of the press are getting killed as impunity lurks today amid “democracy.”
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III signed into law on February 25 this year the Republic Act 10368 or the Human Rights Victim Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, but its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) cannot be formulated without a claims board.
Hugo “Jerry” Lavisores Orcullo Jr., chair of Samahang ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda) in Northern Mindanao, urged the government to fast track organizing the human rights recognition and reparation board to start the process to indemnify the victims the soonest.
Getting older, sick
“The law has been signed. We are getting older and others are sick. I am sick. We are slowly dying and we are not seeing yet a glimpse of what the Law can possibly do to bring that elusive justice we long to see,” Jerry, his nom de guerre as he joined the underground movement, Orcullo said.
Jerry was detained twice during the Martial law regime. On December 1972, he was one of those arrested when the government went after the student activists in Cebu City.
“I was detained together with the other activists in Cebu and other provinces in the Visayas at Camp Sergio Osmena 3rdPolice Constabulary (PC) Zone headquartered on Jones Avenue. We were more than a hundred cramped in the social hall turned political detention center,” Jerry recalled.
Three months later, all the detainees were transferred at Camp Lapu-lapu of the Philippine Army in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
“Daku na nga detention facility. I kept myself busy by tending to a vegetable garden. After about a year and two months, many of us were granted amnesty and freed. No charges were filed only safekeeping daw,” Jerry disclosed.
Jerry went home to Padada, Davao del Sur and enrolled to continue his Bachelor of Arts in History. There, he got involved into activism again, this time he was one of those who went underground to continue the fight against the dictatorship.
Arrested the second time
“I was arrested again on October 23, 1983 by the 421st PC Company under Capt. Filipino Amoguis. I was suspected to be a top red leader. The government placed a bounty on my head, at P70 thousand.
Jerry was brought to safe house where he was tortured while being interrogated.
While naked, the interrogators let him sit on a block of ice. He was blindfolded throughout his interrogation. “They even covered my head with cellophane. They mauled and at times made my ears and face an ashtray. They’d fire their guns near my ears and forced me to drink my urine. I never had food in three days. I was hogtied, and they repeatedly asked about Romulo Kintanar, a top red leader during our time,” he narrated when asked on his torture experience.
He added bullets were placed in between his fingers then the interrogators pressed them. Jerry saidn agents from the defunct National Intelligence Security Authority (Nisa) and the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) took turns in interrogating him.
On the fourth day after he disappeared, he was surfaced. Jerry’s wife, Gigi, filed writ of habeas corpus. The former PC provincial commander Roberto Lastimoso presented him.
“I saw my wife and eight month old daughter, now Atty. Sora Dereka Orcullo-Alinas. I was heavily guarded and handcuffed,” he said.
Then, he was brought to court of Judge Alfredo Lagamon Sr. and the Free legal Assistance (Flag) lawyer brothers Winifredo and Beethoven, Atty. Oscar Musni, and the late Laguindingan mayor Orville Avellanosa defended me.
Lagamon ruled Jerry should be freed since no charges had been filed against him and the arrest was illegal. Military lawyers Maj. Angelito Moreno and Mayorico Bodbod quickly showed preventive detention action signed by Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. I was brought to MOPJ. A week later they filed a case of subversion against me, a violation of RA 1700 or the Anti-subversion law. That started my detention for almost a year at MOPJ and then Camp Alagar stockade. I was released after almost a year with only one trial,” he recalled.
Two months after his release, Jerry’s brother, Alexander Lavisores Orcullo, was killed on his birthday on October 19, 1984.
“My brother is a martyr and a hero. He was a teacher, writer, broadcast journalist and a barangay captain of Mandug in Davao City. He was killed in front of his wife and his two-year old son. He was known as the Ninoy Aquino of Davao. During his funeral, 300,000 joined his burial. Then, the three-day ‘welga ng bayan’ was staged,” Jerry shared as he remembered his brother’s birthday and death anniversary.
After the political storm, the torture has made Jerry’s tolerance to pain high. It has taught him to handle well all the crises in his life. “With those pain inflicted as they tortured me, I became resilient, keen on calculating risks, and never opted to fear again. My brother’s death strengthened my resolve to continue with the struggle for justice to the oppressed and advance freedom of the press at all cost,” he said.
Jerry served as a barangay captain in Taguibo in Butuan City and the former president of Cagayan de Oro Press Club. These were his newfound platform to continue defending democracy after he left the underground and joined the parliamentary struggle.
He also named his three daughters Sora Dereka, Vera Dereka and Ailex Dereka after Demokratikong Rebolusyon sa Katawhan (Dereka) to remind the next generation of his bloodline that their predecessors fought for nationalism, freedom, justice and democracy.
In 2008, death showed up again as Jerry was diagnosed with a Stage 4B cancer of the larynx. He had laryngectomy, a process of removing vocal chords, thyroid and parathyroid glands. Since then, he went through six major surgical operations, 10 chemotherapy and 33 radiation sessions. Jerry’s breathing has been bypassed through a surgical hole in his neck. It is medically known as stoma.
“Even with this new brush with death, fear never set in. I live each day as I resolve to rise above physical pains and agonies and strengthen my faith in God,” he said.
Last week, Jerry went under the knife again. This time a tube has been inserted in his stomach to take in food. He just got out of the hospital on October 17, 2013.
Armando “Mandex” Naul, one of the political prisoners during Martial Law who survived military torture is determined.
Tatay Mandex, as people call him, has two grownup children now. He has fine features with warm, friendly eyes, which are visible even with his dark-rimmed glasses on.
He lives a simple life as seen in his worn polo shirt paired with blue jeans. He was on his way to a meeting in the city when this paper interviewed him.
At 15, he was making his way as an out-of-school-youth organizer in a community in Davao City. In his youth, he has deeply understood the Philippine socio-economic, political and cultural realities in the country.
He engaged himself serving the trade unions, transport groups and farmers to help them realize the upheavals they were facing during the Marcos’ regime’s blow to suppress the left.
“Revolutionary fervor comes from emotions. Human rights violations were exorbitant that time and all you have in mind was to strike back even if your life is at stake,” said Mandex indignantly.
Life as a worker
In 1976 to 1979, he worked in a shipping company in Davao City following his mother’s plea.
“My mother kept on ranting about what I did as an activist. She said I needed to find a job and not just squandered around. I knew then that she feared for my life,” Mandex narrated.
Bearing the activist zeal, Mandex organized a worker’s union inside the shipping company and managed to organize the workers for a strike to demand an 8-hour work time instead of 12 to 14 work hours.
“It was the darkest times. People were forced to work overtime without pay,” he said.
After staging the strike, the company filed charges against him and the others. They were fined P100 thousand.
Luckily, his elder brother was a police. He was acquitted from the charges, and he continued his journey as an activist.
By the time Marcos declared Martial Law, suppression was intensified. He continued organizing in the community. His uncle who was a military in the Philippine Constabulary (PC) informed him that he was on the OB List.
On February 5, 1985, while he was in his friend’s house, some military personnel looked for him and raided his friend’s house. He was brutally arrested and the tortured.
His taste of death
He was blindfolded and his hands were tied. When the vehicle stopped, he was dragged outside as they headed to the military’s safe house.
He was terrified. His knees were shaking but he remained resolute. One man tied his whole body and placed him in a corner.
He could hear them talking from afar but could not decipher anything. Then, someone hit his head with an armalite, smacked him with a hardwood, beat him to death and shot him on his upper thigh until his body weakened.
After that incident, he sensed that men were surrounding him. They kicked him all over his body nonstop and scorched him with lighted cigarettes. He went through the commonly known form of torture, the water cure. His head was covered with a plastic bag, and his head was soaked in a barrel of water. These all happened while coaxing him to speak about the revolutionary movement.
“Bahalag i-torture pako nila adto, wala man koy masulti kay legal man akong paglihok nga mubatok sa pasismo ni Marcos”, said Mandex.
Displeased, his abductors again submerged him in a filthy toilet full of human feces. He struggled but he felt he was going to faint of the stinking smell. Then they put a pen on his right ear and pushed it inside, and electrocuted his private part. They kept on insisting he knew information about the movement which for the nth times Mandex knew nothing about.
For three consecutive days, he was endlessly tortured.
“I asked them to take my life. I could not endure it any longer. But they were ruthless and heard nothing. They continued to torture me,” he said with a glint of rage in his eyes.
When the chief officer of his elder brother knew about his capture, the former requested for his release to properly detain him and follow due process in court.
By then, he was very weak and could not move a muscle. He was brought in detention in Davao City and attended court hearings. He was accused of rebellion and incite to insurrection.
Not very long, the people’s organizations asked for international help to free political prisoners. It was granted when former president Cory Aquino won the election. He was released from prison a year after his imprisonment.
Despite all the hardships he experienced, he never ceased to continue the struggle for genuine democracy and resumed his life as an activist.
Tatay Mandex is now 57 years old. His health is declining and suffered from two strokes in 2006 and 2008. He is hypertensive and he has diabetes too that compelled to resign as a people’s group organizer.
He spends his time mostly at home or attends session in the city hall on Mondays, and also a member of Selda.
“Actually, we already won the case in a Hawaiian court and the U.S. District court awarded us (those heavily tortured) $3M each. But no money has reached us,” he said.
He added that the government would surely not release the money because they are the one spending Marcos’s will. He questioned the government’s slow process in compensating the victims.
Currently, there are 15 estimated persons to be indemnified in the province.
Their demands should not be ignored. Though they (Selda) claim for the compensation, it is only secondary.
As the interview concluded, Tay Mandex said: “One of our primary demands is the recognition of our struggles during Marcos dictatorship through inclusion of our stories in educational system (schools) so that the youth will be adept in the Philippine history during Martial Law.”
Jerry, Mandex and the other former political detainees hope to see justice served before their time is up.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 20, 2013.