Government misdeed, Human Rights

Rule of (Martial) Law, Anyone?

As I was researching for my article on Martial Law, I came across a booklet on political detainees in the Philippines published by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. It came out on March 31, 1976, more than three years after El Macoy’s 1081 proclamation abruptly ended Voltes V’s TV run and ushered in one of the darkest chapters in our history.

Though published as sort of a primer on political prisoners under the three-year-old dictatorship, the booklet contains appendix on different cases of human rights abuses. One of such cases was the killing of Liliosa Hilao in April 1973. (Liliosa’s sister, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, today heads Karapatan, a human rights organization that I once worked for. Working for/with “Tita Marie,” as she is fondly called, was a memorable and rewarding one for me.)

Then a 23-year-old student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and editor of the university’s student paper Hasik, Liliosa was abducted by constabulary men, led by one Lt. Rodolfo Garcia, in Quezon City. Two days later, her sister found Liliosa dead — she supposedly killed herself drinking muriatic acid. Of course, that was the military’s story. In the booklet’s appendix is a chilling account of how her sister Alice came to know of Liliosa’s death:

“Alice found Liliosa in the emergency room of the Dispensary at Camp Crame, but was allowed to stay less than two minutes inside the room with her. Alice was able to touch Liliosa; she noted that her body was stiff and cold; and grayish; her face was disfigured; there was an opening at her throat; she seemed to ba making gasping noises; but the dextrose bottle next to her bed was not dripping; so that Alice believed that Liliosa was already dead. The room smelled very strongly of formalin. No doctor or nurse was in attendance — only two masked male orderlies who quickly grabbed Alice and brought her outside the room might poison her.”

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