Luisa Posa-Dominado — Luing, as she is often called — was abducted by suspected military elements last April 12 while travelling with activist companions Nilo Arago and Jose Ely “Leeboy” Garachico on their way home from Antique. They were on the road when their path was cut off by a van, whose passengers with high-powered weapons started shooting in Luing’s direction. Leeboy was hit, puncturing his lungs. The armed men then alighted the van and dragged Nilo and Luing out of their vehicle and into the van.
Luing and Nilo remain missing up to this day.
The experience is not new to Luing, who is a human rights activist today. During the Marcos dictatorship and even after its fall, she was jailed five times, her first time when she was seventeen and a youth activist. I would like to share a rather lengthy, but nevertheless moving, account of her experiences during Martial Law, from the 80s TFDP book, “Pumipiglas: Political Detention and Military Atrocities in the Philippines”.
THE STOCKADE is the first building from the highway within the Iloilo PC/INP Headquarters in Iloilo City, It is a rectangle 20×40 feet holding about three dozen prisoners. There are 15 political prisoners.
Since March 4, 1978, Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado, known to friends as Luing, has been interned at the Iloilo PC stockade.
For a short while in early 1980, Luing was sent too the hospital.
A military jeep was parked in front of St. Mary’s Hospital in Iloilo City. Near the back of the hospital was a tiny room with a Philippine Constabulary sergeant guarding the door.
The drab hospital room was still an improvement over the prison. The light came in through a small barred window. The eer-present crucifix was the only decoration n the smudged white walls.
Luing sat on the bed, looking wan, tired. Her great beauty could not be hidden by her long-term illness, imprisonment, loos of great deal of weight, crudely cut hair and lengthy mental anguish.
She had just turned 24. The sorrow in her eyes and the lines in her face made her look older. She was thin. She lost 30 pounds since her latest incarceration in Iloilo.
With a soft, soothing voice in the dim of the hospital room, out of earshot of the sentry, Luing told her story.
“Two friends and I were on the way to get medical care. I was ill. One of my companions was pregnant. We were intercepted by a platoon of Scout Rangers (one platoon has three squads with 11 men each). Someone shouted a warning when we were about to be arrested. I ran but tripped. I wasn’t able to get up. We were overtaken.
“We were taken to the Kalibo Sugar Central before being sent to the stockade. I gave my name as Marilou Dominado. I was listed down in previous prison records as Luisa Posa. One of the women arrested with us gae them the name of our companion. They asked me if I knew the name. I said no. They slapped me.”
Luing spent a year in the stockade from March 1978 before formal charges for illegal possession of firearms were filed against her. Later, after an official recommendation was given that she be released in lieu of 5,000 pesos bail, she was charged with murder.
It was obvious that both charges, being filed so late, were trumped up to keep Luing in prison.
“They said I was with the NPA group and my alias was Commander Walingwaling. Two witnesses were needed to testify against me in order to charge me with murder. One was neer clear on my identity. The other is now dead.”
Luing’s husband was an alleged member of the underground. People concerned with her case believed she was being framed and held as hostage.
As Luing talked, the door opened and her mother entered, carrying pastries. She was a short, stout woman with big, round eyes. An eternally worried look clouded her face. She and her husband had never shared Luing’s political beliefs and involvements. Out of the eight children, Luing was the only female. She was tagged the black sheep of the family for unfailing commitment to her political cause. Her parents were not supportie after her first arrest, thinking the experience would teach her a lesson. Eventually, after Luing remained firm in her beliefs and her cruel treatment in prison, her parents sought to understand her and to help her.
A parent’s love and affection was clear in Luing’s mother’s eyes. She fussed over her daughter, making sure everything was all right.
SHE WAS only 17 when she was first arrested. Luing would spend five of the next seven years in prisons. The March 1978 arrest was her fourth. She escaped the first two times she was detained and was released the third. She was engaged for many years to another activist, Tom Dominado, and they were married while under detention together in 1977.
In the years just before and after the declaration of martial law, Luing was a student activist, working with the Movement for a Democratic Philippines. She organized students in Roxas City, Capiz. After the declaration, she was hunted down for her anti-fascist involvements.
In her previous arrests and detentions, Luing was subjected to many forms of torture. She went through the water cure. She was forced to strip naked before many military men on several occasions. She was mashed and manhandled, short of actual rape. One of the soldiers involved in her maltreatmen was PC Sergeant Nick Roca.
Luing’s health problems began even before her present prison term. A first, military doctors declared her illnesses psychosomatic. After consultations with private physicians provided by her parents, she was found to be suffereng from trichomonas cervico-vaginitis infection, made much more critical by the unsanitary conditions in the stockade. She also developed a cyst in her breast and an operation was necessary.
LUING SAT on the bed looking down, oblivious to people around her hospital bed. The physical deterioration she was going through was clear. She nibbled on a piece of bread her mother had brought. She put the bread down. She straightened her back as she raised her head.
Her eyes were clear and shiny. For a short instant Luing looked up and out the barred window. A gleam was in her eyes — a light that, no matter what happened hten and in the future, could never be extinguished.