Marie Hilao-Enriquez, martial law activist, dies

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TO GO WITH Philippines-revolution-vote-Marcos-rights,FOCUS by Joel Guinto
This photo taken on February 22, 2016 shows Marie Hilao-Enriquez, (L), vice president of Selda, a group of people who were detained by late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos' security forces, and Selda president Bonifacio Ilagan (R), a former student activist who was jailed without trial for two years during the dictatorship, as they attend a protest against the possible return of any Marcos to the presidential palace in Manila. The Philippines is this week celebrating 30 years of democracy, but thousands who suffered through the Marcos dictatorship tremble with anger at slow justice and the stunning political ascent of the late strongman's heir. President Benigno Aquino will on February 25 lead the commemoration of the
FILE PHOTO: This photo taken on February 22, 2016 shows Marie Hilao-Enriquez, (L), vice president of Selda, a group of people who were detained by late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos' security forces, and Selda president Bonifacio Ilagan (R), a former student activist who was jailed without trial for two years during the dictatorship, as they attend a protest against the possible return of any Marcos to the presidential palace in Manila. (Photo: NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Amaryllis “Marie” Hilao-Enriquez, an icon in the human rights movement in the Philippines, passed away on Sunday at the age of 68. The news of her passing came from her daughter, Andrea Enriquez.

“My mother dedicated her life to fighting for justice and human rights. She was a beautiful person: funny, intelligent, brave, and strong. She was loved and will be greatly missed,” Andrea said in a post.

In 1995, Marie Enriquez helped establish Karapatan where she served as the founding secretary general and eventually as chairperson in 2009.

As a human rights worker under the organization, Enriquez worked for the release of political prisoners and the dismissal of charges against wrongfully detained individuals in pursuit of justice.

Remembering Marie Enriquez

Marie studied occupational therapy at the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines. It was there where she became involved in social issues and activism and eventually joined Kabataan Makabayan, a national democratic youth organization.

Her sister, Liliosa Hilao, was also a martial law activist who served as the editor-in-chief of the student publication of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Liliosa was the first reported case of killing under military detention after Marcos’s martial law was imposed.

According to Karapatan, Enriquez went underground to continue her work as a community organizer after her sister’s death. Due to her opposition to the martial rule, she was arrested in 1974 where she was tortured and detained for two years.

After her release, Enriquez joined the Kapisanan para sa Pagpapalaya at Amnestiya ng mga Detenidong Pulitikal sa Pilipinas or Kapatid and campaigned for the release of her detained husband.

Enriquez continued her advocacy and her call for justice even after the ouster of the late dictator Marcos. Post-EDSA, she campaigned for reparations for victims of human rights abuses during the martial law period.

As a member of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (SELDA), where she eventually served as a chairperson, Enriquez worked for the filing of the class action against the Marcoses in Hawaii, where her mother and younger sister were named plaintiffs.

Enriquez also worked for the enactment of Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. The law led to the compensation of more than 11,000 martial law victims under the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

In 2016, Enriquez led the formation of Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) where she and her organization campaigned against historical revisionism of the martial law period.

Karapatan remembered Marie as a mentor to numerous activists and human rights workers during her decades-long service. “We are deeply indebted to her brilliant, selfless and passionate work as among the foremost human rights defenders in the Philippines. We vow to strive to honor her legacy of service to the Filipino people in every possible way that we can and as long as tyrants and dictators remain in our midst,” Karapatan said in their statement.

“Tita Marie, as she is fondly called by many, is a stalwart in the anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle and in the relentless advocacy for justice and accountability of the Marcoses,” human rights organization Karapatan said.

Meanwhile, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president and Marie’s close friend Edre Olalia said calling Enriquez “an icon of the human rights struggle is an understatement.”

“Don’t worry, we got the baton and we are holding to it fast,” Olalia added.

Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice.

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