By TERESA CEROJANO
MANILA, Philippines (AP) â¿¿ Almost four decades after he was arrested and tortured and his sister disappeared into a maze of Philippine police cells and military houses, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan is finally seeing his suffering officially recognized.
A writer for an underground communist newspaper, Ilagan and thousands like him were rounded up by dictator Ferdinand Marcos' security forces after he placed the Philippines under martial law in 1972. Detentions, beatings, harassment and killings of the regime's opponents continued until Marcos was toppled in 1986.
Even though democracy was restored, it would take another 27 years for the Philippine Congress to vote on a bill awarding compensation and recognition to martial law victims. The bill was ratified Monday and will be sent to Pres. Benigno Aquino III for signing into law, said Sen. Francis Escudero, a key proponent.
"More than the monetary compensation, the bill represents the only formal, written document that martial law violated the human rights of Filipinos and that there were courageous people who fought the dictatorship," said a statement from SELDA, an organization of former political prisoners that campaigned for the passage of the bill.
Ilagan's story is more of a rule than exception among leftist activists of his generation.
"The torture started in the house. We were beaten up, punched and kicked," he said, recalling a police raid on his residence in April 1974 and the beginning of his two-year detention ordeal. He said he vomited blood after being kicked in the thighs and had the soles of his foot burned by an iron.
"The one episode in my torture that I cannot forget was when they ordered me to remove my pants and underwear and they inserted a piece of stick into my penis. 'Oh my God,' I said, this is one torture I could not bear,'" the 61-year-old said in an interview. He said that interrogators wanted him to decode documents and identify people in pictures that were seized from suspected communist activists.