Martial Law torture victims recall horrors in Negros Occidental

Posted by Shane | Posted on February 23, 2021

By Joshua Villalobos
HAPI Scholar

The event was held via Zoom.

The Humanist Alliance Philippines, International – Bacolod Chapter co-organized an online event with the USLS Political Science Society featuring victims of torture during Martial Law last February 22, three days before the anniversary of the historic, bloodless EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986.

Martial Law torture survivors Mr. Ted Lopez, Ms. Vilma Riopay, and Atty. Neri Colmenares were the event’s main speakers.

Edwin “Ted” Lopez, now the Executive Director of Negros Occidental-based non-government organization Alter Trade Foundation Inc., vividly recalled the torture he experienced under the Philippine Constabulary just because he called himself “Ted” and not Edwin. For over 30 days, he was beaten and electrocuted by the military, who only stopped when they found out that a writ of habeas corpus filed by his friends and family had already made it to court.

Lopez also mentioned the “challenges” that former President Ferdinand Marcos used to justify the imposition of Martial Law: he mentioned the “fake ambush” of former Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, the uprising of the people due to poverty, lack of jobs, high tuition fees, and the communist insurgency as particular alibis.

Vilma Riopay remembered that she was only 21 when armed men from the government requested all of them in her household to go out and identify themselves. When she told them her name, the members of the military said “ikaw man lang gali” (“It was just you after all.”)

When she was seized by the military, they brought her not to their headquarters but to a “military safehouse” where she was interrogated topless. “Mayo lang gid ara to akon menstruation, kay kun wala, gin-rape gid ko nila tani,” she said. (“I was lucky that I had my menstruation days when they captured me because if not, I could have been raped.”) Riopay recalled that after three days, she was transferred to Cebu, where she was put in solitary confinement. She said she got “disoriented” during that time.

After persistent lobbying and dialogue by her parents and the religious sector, the military released Riopay, who was already shaken, couldn’t speak, and couldn’t even wear her slippers properly. The psychiatrist who looked after her said that if she was brought to the hospital later, she would not have been able to recover from the mental and emotional impacts of the torture.

Atty. Neri Colmenares, a multi-awarded human rights lawyer from Negros Occidental, said he was 18 when he was seized and detained by the military.

“The physical torture has a threshold, but the mental torture is limitless,” said the former representative. During his detainment, he was asked by a drunk military man to do a Russian roulette for a few nights.

Russian roulette was one of the torture methods used by members of the military during martial law. In it, the revolver is loaded with one bullet, spun, and the trigger is pulled while the holder points the barrel at himself. For 18-year-old Neri, he was particularly asked to insert the revolver in his mouth and to pull the trigger to know if he was lucky that night.

When Colminares’ beating got too much, one of the military men asked the local warden if Colminares could be brought to the hospital since his death would be held against them. When the warden agreed, the military put Neri’s almost lifeless body on the back of a truck and went to his parents to ask for money to pay the hospital.

“We need to listen and remember the stories of victims of Martial Law,” HAPI Bacolod Lead Convenor Luigi Espeja said. He also added that HAPI stands with the victims of human rights violations from past to present, consistent with one of the organization’s pillars which is human rights.

The shadow and doubts casted by Martial Law continue to challenge us up to this date. The only weapon we have is through research, listening to the stories of people who experienced it, and learning from the mistakes of that era,” Espeja concluded.

Other good reads...

HAPI’s Stance on Anti-Asian Violence

The recent spike of anti-Asian violence in the USA has been disturbing to humanity, especially the attacks on Korean women in a massage parlor in Atlanta. The shooter was a young, ultra-religious Southern Baptist man, with “pizza, guns, drums, music, and God” as a summation of his “good life”. He objectified and vilified these women […]

How Activism Helped Me Excel in My Studies

How Activism Helped Me Excel in My Studies by Joshua Villalobos Bacolod City   “Mag-aral nalang kayo!” That’s the immediate response of people who are either against the cause you are fighting for or just hate to see people who are strong enough to stand their grounds and fight for what they believe is right. […]

Celebrating the HAPI Woman : Self love

Celebrating the HAPI Woman, Pt. 2:  Madelyn Gauna: Self Love By Donna T. Darantinao HAPI Youth Ambassador Unrelenting. Unapologetic. Unwavering. To her, self-love is the key to various doors of life. If you cannot love yourself first, you tend to look for it in every corner of life and end up finding something else. So, […]

HAPI November Meet Up

HAPI Bacolod team has been dubbed as the most active and most balanced chapter. Bacolod team has new projects that would involved individuals in middle school to help with the organization’s advocacy. Having fun is part of the process, taking things to the heart is still what the group has agreed upon. Recently, HAPI Bacolod Chapter […]

“How HAPI Impacted Me” #3 – Donna Darantinao

How HAPI Impacted Me (#3) An essay series featuring retrospectives by HAPI members, staff, and leaders in celebration of its 8th Anniversary.   Having different beliefs from most people my age, I have always been considered an outcast, or worst, left out. Although I always worked hard to achieve whatever it is that I have […]

HAPI Junior raises awareness on HIV/AIDS

HAPI Executive Director AJ Ballares an conducting HIV / AIDS lecture in front of students

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is now considered a global epidemic due to its alarmingly high number of recorded cases. Despite that, there are still many questions and misconceptions about the disease. What better way to talk about the truths and facts of this life threat than with the youth.

HAPI-Green Movement Plant Seeds for the Future in Laguna

HAPI-Green Movement Plant Seeds for the Future in Laguna By Diosa Marie Aguila-Aguirre HAPI-Green Movement Ambassador   Every December 5, International Volunteer’s Day is celebrated with the theme “Volunteer now for our common future.” This is why it was with great pleasure for HAPI-Green Movement to accept the invitation of the Philippine Society of Sanitary […]

Scroll to Top