A memorial event was held Friday for victims of the nearly nine-year period of martial law in the Philippines, on the eve of the 41st anniversary of its declaration by dictator Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989).
"Martial Law should never take place again," the event's leader Loretta Ann Rosales, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, declared at the gathering, which took place in a forest in Quezon Province, located south of Manila,
Speaking to Kyodo News, she said the event is part of "efforts to immortalize the martyrdom of those who fought against the (Marcos) dictatorship."
Rosales, a former political activist, was herself a victim. She said she was detained in 1976, sexually abused and tortured by electric shocks.
In February, President Benigno Aquino signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, which provided 10 billion pesos (around $233 million) in initial compensation money to victims of human rights violations during the martial law period that ended in 1981.
The fund was sourced from ill-gotten wealth recovered abroad since Marcos fell from power in 1986. He died in exile three years later.
When Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972, he cited growing lawlessness and the communist and Muslim insurgencies as the reason for his decision.
But his critics say he did it mainly to secure more power for himself.
Rosales said part of her work at the Commission on Human Rights is rectifying "the lies and the distortion of truth" spread by Marcos loyalists, who describe the martial law years as the country's best, with peace and order restored and the economy growing.
"We are now gathering cases of human rights violation during martial law for docketing and scientific archiving," she said.
Despite court-affirmed cases of human rights violations during the martial law period, former first lady Imelda Marcos continues to debunk the allegations.
"I think it's stupid. What are they talking about? Marcos never implemented a death sentence to a Filipino. Those who died during the martial law period were those communists who were fighting the government," the 84-year-old widow told Kyodo News early this year.
Yet some 10,000 individuals have formalized their claim as victims of torture, illegal arrest, sexual offenses, forced disappearances, summary execution and other forms of abuses during the martial law era.
The number of victims could go as high as 30,000 if the "nameless" are counted, Rosales said.