Carvajal: Day of infamy

Break Point

SIGNED in Sept. 21, 1972, Martial Law was not declared until Sept. 23. I was preparing to say Mass in a barangay chapel the following day, Sunday, when a house help arrived breathless to tell me a truck-load of soldiers were at Mabolo’s St. Joseph Church looking for me.

I went on with the Mass wanting the soldiers to arrest me in front of Church-goers. But they never came. Fearing a silent arrest I went to see Region 7’s Commanding Officer, General Amor, to ask him why. Being new at his post, he feigned ignorance of why I was on the list of persons to be served with an ASSO (Arrest, Seize and Seizure Order).

Instead, however, of detaining me, he sent me home to wait to be called to a conference he was arranging with my superior, Cardinal Julio Rosales. I found out later Imelda Marcos had arranged for activist priests to be released to the custody of their respective bishops on certain conditions.

At the conference, the condition for my release was that I be removed from my other positions, executive assistant of CASAC (Cebu Archdiocesan Social Action Center), archdiocesan director of SCA (Student Catholic Action), and chaplain of FFW (Federation of Free Workers). I was accused of using these positions to incite people to rebellion.

The Cardinal readily agreed to the condition. I knew he was just being a concerned father trying to save a son from prison and its dreaded consequences; still it rankled that he lent more credence to the military’s accusations than to my protestations that I was merely doing what I thought was the most relevant priestly work at the time which was to help workers and farmers achieve a better quality of life.

In my chagrin at the Cardinal’s loss of trust and confidence in me, I asked him to let me go to Mindanao. (I heard bishops there were standing up to Marcos and courageously fighting for small people). Either that or I resign my priesthood. It was an offer he could not refuse.

After a brief stint at community organizing in Davao City, I finally found work in MISSSA (Mindanao-Sulu Secretariat for Social Action) as project analyst. A month in MISSSA and I was served a second ASSO. Only this time I was whisked blindfolded to a military “safe-house” for nightmarish days of endless tactical interrogation.

Fortunately, Davao’s Archbishop Mabutas talked the head of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, a fellow Ilocano, into releasing me; and my nightmare was over as quickly as it started. I resigned from MISSSA (and priesthood) five years after that dreadful ordeal.

I’m not really sure why I’m sharing this. But in case you wonder how small people suffered under Martial Law, here’s one not-so-small person’s grim experience of that day of infamy.


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