Barcenas, Paredes: Don’t forget Martial Law

·5 min read

TWO Cebuanos who were jailed during martial law urged the public not to forget the country’s dark past.

Veteran lawyer Democrito Barcenas and retired Regional Trial Court executive judge Meinrado Paredes said their experience of imprisonment proves there was a dictatorship but that historical revisionism now threatens to cover it up.

Both men were arrested and jailed on Sept. 23, 1972, two days after then president Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the country under martial law.

The year before, Marcos had suspended the writ of habeas corpus, allowing authorities to arrest anyone without due process, after the bombing of Plaza Miranda, which Marcos had blamed on the communist party.

Paredes told SunStar Cebu that he was reviewing for the bar at his apartment on Lopez Jaena St. in Cebu City when he was picked up at 7 a.m. by seven members of the military.

Paredes was the second person to be taken into custody and brought to the Camp Sergio Osmeña, now the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas headquarters. The first was a 19-year-old woman who came from a prominent family.

“We didn’t understand why we were arrested. It must have been because we were activists against the Marcos administration. It was the only reason we could think of. I used to be a member of the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan,” the retired executive judge said in Cebuano.

At 4 p.m. that day, it was the turn of Barcenas, then a young lawyer and vice mayor of then Carcar town in southern Cebu, to be picked up by the military. He was brought to the camp around 5:30 p.m.

“The others who were arrested earlier thought I was there to help them because I always assisted activists only to be dismayed when they saw me being fingerprinted. I turned out to be under arrest like them,” said the human rights lawyer Barcenas.

This was confirmed by Paredes, who said that in the first week of martial law alone, 127 persons in Cebu were arrested without any charges.

“Attorney Barcenas arrived in the afternoon. We were all very happy. We clapped because we thought our lawyer had arrived. Then we saw that he was being fingerprinted,” Paredes recalled with a smile.

Barcenas was detained for 90 days. During this period, his wife Lourdes, who was then eight months pregnant, traveled 80 kilometers back and forth every day to visit him. She was given only five minutes to talk to him.

“I was released after 90 days, but it was conditional. I needed to ask for permission from the military if I wanted to go to another province and I couldn’t give an interview to the media. I wasn’t physically tortured but I suffered psychological torture. They kept on threatening to ship us to Corregidor,” Barcenas said.

Paredes spent one year behind bars, three of which were spent at Camp Sergio Osmeña. The remaining months he was jailed at Camp Lapu-Lapu in Barangay Apas, Cebu City, which is now the Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command headquarters.

“As for torture, there were so many stories. There were credible cases, but I personally didn’t witness anyone getting tortured. In the beginning of Martial Law, the PC (Philippine Constabulary) was not savage. Some of them became abusive much later,” he added.

Reparations

When Republic Act (RA) 10368, also known as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, was passed, Barcenas received close to P1 million from the Philippine government, while Paredes received a higher amount.

RA 10368 was considered unprecedented legislation not only in the Philippines, but in Asia, with the Philippine Government “acknowledging its legal and moral obligation for the gross human rights violations committed by the regime of Marcos.”

“Even if they gave me P20 million, it could not pay for what I went through. They took away my liberty. They harassed me. My wife was forced to travel 80 kilometers back and forth every day. We endured so much hardship and no money during that period,” Barcenas said.

“For me, the money was not important. What is important are the historical facts that there was a dictatorship, that human rights were violated and, in my case, I was detained without being charged,” Paredes said in Cebuano.

Half a century after their ordeal, Marcos’ son, Ferdinand “Bonbong” Marcos Jr., is back in Malacañang, 36 years after the Marcos family was forced into exile by the People Power Revolution in 1986.

Barcenas considered Filipinos who voted the younger Marcos into power in the last presidential election as a “laughingstock.”

The two men believe the Marcos family used their ill-gotten wealth during the election to hire trolls, or “persons who intentionally try to instigate conflict, hostility or arguments in an online social community,” to spread fake news to dupe the public.

“Assuming he (Marcos Jr.) won because of their stolen wealth, their camp had unlimited money to pay trolls and propagandists who were liars. As for us, we didn’t have money. We couldn’t afford trolls and liars,” Barcenas said.

“I don’t approve of the young Marcos’ presidency because he is using it to revise history. It’s only natural for a son to defend his father. This regime, out of all the other regimes in our history, has been the worst in using fake news. If you describe this regime, this is a regime of lies, deceit and fake news. The trolls are too much,” Paredes said. (PJB)