Remembering Liliosa Hilao and martial law

Liliosa Hilao (right) was a scholar and activist, the first to be murdered under martial law. (Courtesy of WikiPilipinas)
Liliosa Hilao (right) was a scholar and activist, the first to be murdered under martial law. (Courtesy of WikiPilipinas)

37 years ago, Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial law. It heralded the a reign of terror to cover up wholesale plunder by the Marcoses, his cronies and foreign interests that supported the dictatorship.

To mark this occasion, here is an Inquirer story on Liliosa Hilao, one of those who stood up against Marcos and his martial law. Let us never forget and always honor the memory of Liliosa and other heroes and martyrs who offered their lives so we would enjoy the freedom we oftentimes take for granted.

Read the profile on Liliosa here:

Liliosa Hilao — tortured, raped, murdered
By Christine Herrera
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Sept. 19, 1998

THE FIRST woman and first detainee murdered during martial law inspired the filing of the class suit against the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Liliosa Hilao, then 23, was also gang-raped. Robert Swift, lead counsel of the 9,539 class suit members, described Liliosa his opening statement before the jury at the United States District Court in Hawaii as a “student leader about to graduate college summa cum laude” when she was arrested.

“Liliosa was beaten in her home. She was taken to a military compound, and she died three days later,” Swift told the US jury. “During interrogation, muriatic acid was poured down her throat and burned her throat and lungs.”

The case Hilao versus Estate of Ferdinand Marcos was made to represent the victims of torture, disappearances and summary execution in the human rights litigation.

Her violent death may have saved the lives of her sister Marie, then 20 and her husband Romeo Enriquez, 23; another sister Josefina, then 16; brother Winfred, 26, and his wife, Violeta, 23. Her sisters and brother recalled at the approach of the 26th anniversary of the Marcos proclamation of martial law on Sept.21 that the military would stop their torture wins in the end tactics each time they would be reminded of Liliosa’s death.

The Hilaos never had the chance to grieve for their Liliosa. Truckloads of military men kept vigil during her wake and burial hoping to arrest other so-called “subversives” who might come to condole with her family.

Liliosa’s death was allegedly used by Marcos as a “sample” for other political prisoners to scare them into squealing on their comrades and avail of the amnesty for their release from prison.

The amnesty was rejected outright by the Hilao family. Liliosa’s death also inspired the creation of the Task Force Detainees in 1974.

Liliosa was tagged a “subversive” by the Marcos regime because as editor of the campus paper at the Pamantasan ng Maynila, she was critical of martial law.

As a sign of protest, the graduating class of the Pamantasan wore black arm bands and left a vacant, symbolic seat for their absent classmate. At around 11 a.m. of April 4, 1973, seven months after martial law was imposed, intelligence agents from the Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) raided the Hilao residence in Project 2, Quezon City.

Marie, now 46, recalled that she was with her bedridden mother and three male friends when the armed men stormed their house.

She said the raiding team, led by Lt. Arthur Castillo, ransacked their house looking for subversive documents. Castillo remains in active service.

The armed men were looking for Winfred, whom the military tagged as a communist.

Marie, who was then an urban poor organizer and now secretary general of the Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda), said the raiding team slapped, kicked and interrogated her to force her to snitch on her brother and Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Her three friends suffered the same treatment.

Her mother pleaded to stop hurting her daughter and the three young men. She was in a plaster cast due to a hip-bone fracture.

Marie said the raiding team even ate the lunch she prepared for her mother and other members of the family, leaving them nothing to eat.

Shortly after lunch, one of the three men left; another guarded her friends and the other guarded her in the kitchen. But her guard dozed off giving Marie a chance to escape. She scaled the high wall at the back of her house to inform her ”comrades” of the raid and ask them to warn her sisters and brother in school not to return home.

The warning never got to Liliosa and Josefina, who was in high school. Both were already on their way home when the couriers reached their respective schools.

Josefina got home first and was tortured. Her ears were clamped damaging her sense of hearing. Her sight was also damaged from being slapped around several times.

When Liliosa came, she was immediately brought to one room. The raiders raped her; one of them was playing Russian roulette on her. She was injected with ”truth serum” to talk.

Liliosa and Josefina were separately brought to Camp Crame at around 12 midnight for “tactical interrogation.” The travel time from their house to Camp Crame was only 15 minutes because of the curfew. But Liliosa reached Camp Crame at 2 a.m. and no one could tell where she had been and what happened to her during the two hour interval.

When Liliosa was finally brought to her cell, Josefina saw her. She hardly recognized her sister because her face was swollen and disfigured,her body was bruised black and blue.

Josefina was not given a chance to get near her elder sister and that was the last time she saw Liliosa alive. Two days later, Liliosa was murdered.

Apparently alarmed by the first murder of a detainee inside a military compound, the military immediately released Josefina from prison. The military made it appear that Liliosa committed suicide. The police crime laboratory medico legal report was silent about Liliosa having been gang-raped.

The Hilao children went underground. But Marie, her husband Romeo, Josefina, Winfred and his wife, Violeta were rearrested on Oct. 7, 1974 and brought to Camp Olivas in Angeles, Pampanga.

They were not allowed to eat for nine days. They were again tortured and interrogated as to the whereabouts of Joma Sison.

“Nothing could make us talk and if you kill anyone of us, you have to kill us all because if you spare someone, then he or she will be witness to other murders just like what you did to our sister, Liliosa,” Marie recalled telling their interrogators.

At the mention of Liliosa’s name, the water cure and electric shock would be withdrawn

“You owe us because of the murder of our sister Liliosa and you would pay for that crime,” the Hilaos repeatedly told their tormentors. The political prisoners,were all transferred to Bicutan stockade.

Marie bore a child while in detention. The child was named Liza Liliosa Enriquez, in honor of her sister. Liza Liliosa had to bear the heat inside the cell. The child was only allowed to be brought outside for sunlight for 10 minutes everyday. Mother and child were finally released on Oct. 8, 1975.

Swift presented documents in court that showed Marcos was directly responsible for the torture and the human rights violations of political prisoners.

The US court found Marcos liable for torture and human rights violations of political prisoners and awarded the victims $2.5 billion.

But the money is not a priority to the Hilao family. Prosecuting the Marcoses is. “That’s the only time we can seek justice for Liliosa,” said Marie.

[Notice: All rights belong to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and to the author of this quoted article.]