Another unrecognized martial law victim


TUMAUINI, Isabela — Lola Carmen Abenojar, who is now in her early 70s is one of the tens of thousands of victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law period.

In 2013, when congress passed RA 10368 of the Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Act the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) was created tasked to evaluate and provide claims for reparations of victims.

Lola Carmen were among those who applied for recognition and reparation claims. The HRVCB received more than 75,000 applications nationwide but approved only 11,000. Lola Carmen was among those whose claim was not approved.

According to Lola Carmen, she and her late husband, Monico Abenojar were taken by government soldiers from their home in Barangay Capellan at Ilagan City, Isabela. They were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and were tortured in numerous gruesome ways.

“They punched my chest and slapped me many times, they kicked my thighs so I lost balance and fell,” Lola Carmen recalled how she was battered at a military makeshift camp.

“The sodiers forced alcohol on me that my clothes got drenched, they even lit cigarettes stuck them in the ears and kept asking me if I was an NPA, everytime I say no they burned me with the cigarette,” Lola Carmen further recalled.

Showing her thumb that is missin its nail, she retold how her fingers were repeatedly hit with the butt of a gun. She remembered using her little towel to wrap it around her bloody fingers. She said they were also not given any food or water during their whole stay at the military camp.

Even though they kept saying they were not NPA members, Lola Carmen said the soldiers insisted they were lying. “We told them we were farmers and that we are not rebels but the refuse to listen,” she said.

She and her husband were kept for two days in a temporary military camp in San Lorenzo, Ilagan City, Isabela.

“We left our home and came here in Barangay Lalauanan (Tumauini) because the soldiers our houses that we were only left with the clothes we were wearing,” Lola Carmen said.

The next morning after that incident, Lola Carmen was then approached by the barangay captain at the time and was told to wait while he goes to the mayor. Instead of the mayor, it was police forces who came back and brought her to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) where Lola Carmen and her companions were given big clothes to wear.

Their daughter, Josefina Abenojar-Garaci, witnessed the abduction of her parents and was one of those who gave statements to the HRVCB. Lola Carmen’s oldest child, Victorino Abenojar, also gave a statement.

Josefina said, Lola Carmen filed her and her husband’s claim for compensations as early as October in the year 2014.

Josefina said they only received the letter from the HRVCB asking for more statements from witnesses for her mother’s and father’s claims sometime in the first week of May, a few days before the claims board closed operations in May 12.

“We were told that we needed more witnesses to attest that my parents were really taken by soldiers,” said Josefina.

They got statements from Lola Carmen’s brother-in-law Melisio Santiago and an Ilagan resident Guillermo Ramill, but by the time they arrived in Manila on June 2, it was too late.

There many others like Lola Carmen whose claims were denied due to lack of documentary and other evidences.

Lola Carmen also complained that communications were always late. She added that many of victims like her are not properly informed about the processes of the HRVCB.

“We only get to know about the schedules through the radio and by that time it was already too late,” she added.

Lola Carmen also said that many of her village folk were not able to file their claims because they came to know about the filing much later. Some, she said could not afford even transportation to go to Ilagan City to process their claims.

Josefina stressed that the importance of getting the reparation is for her parents to achieve justice because it is a recognition that indeed they suffered human rights violations during Martial Law.

“We hope the processing of claims be extended that all victims will be able to receive recognition and reparation,” Josefina said.


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