“They grabbed my blouse and went on electrocuting me…This lasted for 20 minutes,” Ripuno, then president of Zone One Tondo Organization (Zoto), recalled. “They were insisting that I am a leader of the Communist Party in the National Capital Region, I told them I was not. They did not believe me,” Ripuno told Bulatlat in an interview.
Ripuno, now 68, went on describing that day. While being arrested, she repeatedly shouted her name and her organization, hoping that the people who witnessed the arrest would alert her colleagues. She was first brought to an isolated place; she thought then she would be killed. Later that day, she was brought to Camp Crame. “If not for the people who immediately looked for me, I would have been salvaged.” Salvage is a term used for extrajudicial killing during the Marcos dictatorship. She was released after two weeks due to pressure from the international community.
“I would not forget,” Ripuno said of Marcoses’ human rights violations. Embittered by the apparent comeback of the Marcoses to power, Ripuno said, she and the other victims would continue their struggle for justice.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was elected senator. His mother Imelda would serve as congresswoman of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte and his sister Maria Imelda “Imee” would soon be the governor of Ilocos Norte.
After more than three decades, Ripuno and the other victims of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship have yet to receive indemnification. “The PCGG [Presidential Commission on Good Government] must be abolished; it has accomplished nothing,” Ripuno said.
In September 1992, Ripuno flew to Hawaii and testified before the District Court of Hawaii. There, she recounted the torture she was made to endure during the Marcos dictatorship.
She said she would always tell the younger generation of her experiences–how she and the other Zoto leaders were routinely arrested ahead of scheduled mass actions , how her husband, then vice president of Zoto, was tortured – his head was plunged into a toilet bowl full of feces, among other sufferings he was made to endure.
Arroyo Did Nothing
Until now, no law has been passed for the indemnification of martial law victims. “The Marcoses have many allies in Congress and the Arroyo government was interested in partaking of their ill-gotten wealth and denying the victims what is due to them,” Fr. Diony Cabillas, member of the national secretariat of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (Selda), said.
“She just made fun of us,” Ripuno said of Arroyo. Ripuno recalled that Arroyo met with them after the Edsa II uprising and vowed to indemnify the martial law victims. “Nine years has passed and nothing happened. She did not even certify as urgent the bill for our indemnification,” Ripuno retorted.
“We witness the return of the glory of the Marcoses,” Cabillas said, adding that the Marcoses.
Ilocos Norte has always been a bailiwick of the Marcoses, said Dr. Judy Taguiwalo, faculty regent of the University of the Philippines and co-chairperson of Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change. “It is like Gloria Arroyo winning the congressional bid in Pampanga despite her being the most unpopular president of the Philippines,” Taguiwalo said in an interview.
Taguiwalo, herself a political detainee and torture victim during martial law, said she is alarmed that the Marcoses have made a comeback in national politics. “Some say the sins of the father should not be passed on to the children but the First Family immensely benefited during Marcos’ reign. In that sense, they are part of the accountability,” said Taguiwalo, adding that there had been no acceptance on the part of the Marcoses of the human rights abuses committed during martial law.
Taguiwalo deemed that Bongbong won due to name recall. “Like the other winning candidates, he had the money to spend for expensive commercials.”
Taguiwalo said the level of discourse in the senatorial race was so shallow. “In any national campaign, money is a big factor. Those who won have long established themselves [in the political arena] and not one of the winning senators is poor.”
Taguiwalo said there was no reconciliation based on justice.
“It is a reflection that there is a modus vivendi among the ruling elite,” the Pagbabago! leader said, referring to the return of the Marcoses. “They are still part of the ruling elite and those in power do not differ from them in terms of their close links with the US government and their class origin.”
Taguiwalo said it is not at all surprising. “There was no consistent, successful effort to prosecute the Marcoses for their ill gotten wealth and for their gross violations of human rights. There is no justice,” she said.
Taguiwalo noted that Marcos’ cronies remain in power, including Juan Ponce Enrile, then defense chief and Frank Drilon, then justice secretary.
Cabillas said the bill for the compensation of martial law victims would face many obstacles. “Enrile and Drilon might help Bongbong in blocking the bill. In the end, the victims would suffer longer.”
Taguiwalo said the problem is systemic. “A mere change of face in Malacanang is not enough to achieve genuine change.
The elections, she said, is only a means of “stabilizing the ruling system by replacing a highly discredited regime with another government, the economic and political policies of which are not much different from the previous one.”
“Not much has changed,” Ripuno said. “If you are poor, you do not have human rights. If you love the country, you will be charged as subversive. Even if there is no Anti-Subversion Law, activists are slapped with rebellion and common crimes, which is even worse,” she added.
The most important thing, Taguiwalo said, is to continue with the main method of social transformation: through organizing.