Martial law massacres | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Martial law massacres

/ 12:28 AM September 22, 2016

The vigilance and defiance of a people against a despot won in the end. Those who fell in the night did not die in vain. Tyrannical rule, abuse of power and unprecedented plunder committed against a nation forced to its knees shall not see a repeat.

On the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law that threw the Philippines into darkness for 14 years (1972-1986), it behooves us to remember, remind and revisit, to vow to ourselves and shout to tyrants, NEVER AGAIN!


Not all of the victims of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship were chosen individuals only, pursued, picked out and punished unjustly and severely. The despot’s iron hand had a grasp so big it could crush groups and communities in one bloody swoop.

Massacres they were called. In the 1980s, I was part of a book project that documented the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship. The book was “Pumipiglas: Political Detention and Military Atrocities in the Philippines, 1981-1982” initiated by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines. This was the second of the Pumipiglas series.


Going over it conjured up places, faces and events. I saw a number of photographs I had taken myself, recognized words I had written myself. No bylines, no photo credits for us—it was better that way, at that time.

Here are excerpts from the chapter on massacres.

Guinayangan, Quezon. Feb. 1, 1981. While the government was fussing over the so-called “lifting” of martial law and the coming of Pope John Paul II, the peasants in five towns of Quezon province were astir. The coconut farmers’ grievances had piled and wanted to air them. They marched from different directions. As a group of farmers neared the Guinayangan plaza, the military opened fire. Two people died and 27 were wounded.

Pulilan, Bulacan. June 21, 1982. In a dimly lit house in barangay Balatong, Pulilan, Bulacan, a group of six sat huddled together. The six were peasant organizers discussing and assessing their work… Suddenly a window burst open to reveal 25 to 35 uniformed military men with firearms. Five of the peasants were taken by elements of the 175th PC Company. The sixth was able to slip away. The military men took their captives with them and drove off to Pulo in San Rafael town some 20 km away. By midnight, five corpses lay at the municipal hall of San Rafael. All were riddled with bullets.

Daet, Camarines Sur. June 14, 1982.  People from several barrios marched with streamers denouncing the “fake elections” and Cocofed and to demand increase in copra prices. As the marchers moved forward, the soldiers opened fire. After the smoke cleared four marchers lay dead and at least 50 were injured. Two of the seriously wounded died two months later.

Las Navas, Samar. Sept. 18, 1981. Residents of Barrio Sag-od were awakened by gunfire. Armed security men of the San Jose Timber Corp. who were also members of the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) ordered residents to come out of their homes. These men were allied with the so-called Lost Command, a paramilitary group pursuing insurgents. Suddenly, there was gunfire that lasted more than 15 minutes. When it was over, 45 men, women and children lay dead.

Culasi, Antique. Dec. 19, 1981. More than 400 residents of Culasi’s mountain barangays held a rally to raise two issues: their complaint against a new PC company in their place, and the reduction of taxes on farm products. Despite the warnings, the marchers pushed on. While on the bridge, the soldiers opened fire. Five farmers were instantly killed and several were injured.


Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur. May 25, 1982. Airplanes dropped bombs on Barangay Dimalinao. Three died and eight were injured. The bombing was seen as military reprisal against the community because communist rebels killed a soldier two days earlier. Two men from the community were picked up days later and killed. Some months later, the residence of Bayog’s parish priest, a Jesuit, was strafed with bullets.  He had written letters protesting the torture and harassment of Subanon who were suspected to be supporters of armed communists.

Labo, Camarines Norte. June 23, 1982. Five men who had just finished constructing the 45th Infantry Battalion’s Mabilo detachment were gunned down by soldiers of this army unit. It was to avenge the death of a friend of one of the soldiers in the hands of unidentified gunmen.

Tudela, Misamis Occ. Aug. 24, 1981. The Gumapons, a Subanon family, were asleep in their house in Sitio Gitason, Barrio Lampasan, in Tudela when paramilitary members of the so-called Rock Christ, a fanatical pseudo-religious sect, strafed their houses. Of the 12 persons in the house, 10 were killed, an infant among them.

Hinunangan, Southern Leyte. March 23, 1982.  Eight people were killed in Masaymon, a barrio in Hinunangan. Six of the eight victims were 3-18 years of age. The grieving mother identified the perpetrators as troopers of the 357th PC company.

Talugtog, Nueva Ecija. Jan. 3, 1982. Five men in their twenties were last seen being rounded up by military elements at around 7 p.m. Their corpses were found the next day. The military had suspected them to be communist supporters.

Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur. Feb. 12, 1982. Members of the notorious Ilaga, a terrorist cult known for cannibalism and who also served as CHDF members, killed 12 persons to avenge the death of their leader who was reportedly killed by the New People’s Army.

There is no more space for two more massacres in Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte, and Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

Not to be forgotten is the massacre in Escalante, Negros Occ., on Sept. 20, 1985. On the eve of the 13th anniversary of the imposition of martial law, hundreds of sugar workers, farmers, fishermen and students marched in protest. The Regional Special Defense Force and CHDF members fired on the crowd. Twenty marchers were killed and scores were injured.

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