Belen is a widow and a mother of two adopted daughters. Back in Negros Oriental, she used to teach home economics in the public elementary school.
Seated on top of her tarima (iron cot) inside the Philippine Contabulary/Integrated National Police jail of Camp Crame, she related her story.
Belen saw and felt how their economic status crumbled at the hands of the big landlords, in Negros. Her father belonged to a middle land owner class, one of the classes in the countryside that fall prey to the monopolistic practices of the big hacienderos.
Her fathers land was reduced from 75 hectares of sugarcane to several hectares of rice and coconut lands. The operations of the sugarcane land were ordered to stop by the monopoly of the big landlords and the land laid idle since then.
Belen’s relatively comfortable life did not blind her to the suffering of the sacada (sugarcane workers) who worked on her father’s farm. She and her husband convinced his old man to the increase the wages of his workers. The act displeased the other landlords that the old man was called to the local precinct for questioning. The pressure from the other landlords made Belen’s father cancel the wage increase but unknown to the others, he added a cavan of rice to his farm workers monthly wages.
Belen’s experience in the economic struggle was transformed into one that had a wider perspective – that of political struggle. In he process of helping the workers, she was caught by the military.
Belen was one of the seven women and seventeen men rounded up by elements of Task Force Makabansa in different parts of Metro Manila from February 26 to March 1, 1982. She was arrested with no warrant of arrest in a raid of a worker’s house in Novaliches. She told the military that she was just a visitor but that did not seem to be a good reason for the military to let her go.
She was made to undergo tactical interrogation at the Metrocom Intelligence Service Group (MISG) Conference Room, Camp Crame for the first 48 hours and later at the Transient Officers’ Quarters, Fort Bonifacio where she was detained with other female detainees. For 10 days, tactical interrogation continued while they were place incommunicado from relatives and friends.
It is not without anger that she recall her torture, both physical and mental. Her life was threatened and made a fair game with Russian roulette. Bullets were inserted in between her fingers and were squeezed tight by her interrogators. The threat of rape and of stripping was ever present. Military men, usually drunk, went in and out of her room and so sleep was not all possible. Tension, exhaustion and anger took its toll. Vomiting, diarrhea, and near-dehydration made Belen demand the service of a doctor. Only then did the interrogation cease.
Finding no remedies for what had been done to Belen her co-accused, a collective torture complaint was filed by them on July 1982 before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The following year, they filed a P6.5 million civil damage suit against Gen. Fabian Ver, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces and several others for violation of detainees’ constitutional and human rights. Their lawyers Atty. Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag walked out with their families when the judge announced the dismissal of the case for “lack of merit”.
Source: “Filipino Women in Struggle” TFDP
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