MANILA, Philippines — 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 President 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.
Lawmakers in two chambers of the Congress agreed last week on the text of the compensation bill.
Aquino is the son of an assassinated anti-Marcos activist and a mother who led the 1986 “people power” revolt that ousted Marcos and sent him into U.S. exile, where he died three years later without ever facing prosecution for human rights abuses.