Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has denied claims that critics of then-President Ferdinand Marcos Sr were killed or arrested during the Martial Law years — a claim countered by human rights victims of that period.
Interviewed by Marcos' son, former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, Enrile dared critics to name anybody who was killed or jailed for criticizing the government during the Martial Law years.
"Name me one that we executed other than [suspected drug lord] Lim Seng. There was none. Name me one person who was arrested because of political or religious belief. None. Name me one person who was arrested simply because they criticized President Marcos. None," Enrile said.
Video of the interview, titled 'JPE: A Witness to History,' was posted on the younger Marcos' Facebook page on Thursday, the eve of the 45th commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law.
Enrile was the elder Marcos' secretary of justice and defense minister when martial law was declared in 1972.
"Big fat lie"
His claim was immediately denied by three prominent figures in the Philippine human rights advocacy landscape.
"That's a big, fat lie. Kasinungalingan 'yan," said former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, who herself was arrested, detained, and tortured during Martial Law.
"How can he say that, when people he knew were arrested?" Rosales said.
Answering Enrile's dare, former Senator Rene Saguisag named former Senator Lorenzo Tañada, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr, the late Senator Joker Arroyo and Ernie Rondon as among those arrested for protesting against the 1978 Batasan elections.
"It seems to me Ninoy [Aquino], Ka Pepe (the late statesman Jose Diokno), and Uncle Jovy Salonga (former Senator Jovito Salonga) and countless others would not have been detained had they not been critical of Marcos," Saguisag said.
Arrested vs. 'disappeared'
Worse, he said, were the fates of Primitivo Mijares, the "disappeared" author of the "Conjugal Dictatorship;" Mijares' son Boyet, who was found "mutilated and very, very dead" in Antipolo; and Archimedes Trajano, whose corpse was discovered after he had questioned then-Kabataang Barangay head and Marcos' daughter Imee Marcos.
"Being arrested is better than being salvaged or 'disappeared,'" Saguisag told GMA News Online.
Diokno, son of the late Jose "Ka Pepe Diokno," called to mind his father's arrest of almost two years, "without any charges and without any legal basis."
"He was detained because he was a member of the political opposition and a known critic of Marcos," he said in a separate interview. "He was just one of many Filipinos who were jailed by the dictatorship for their political beliefs."
Enrile said the millenials who were born in the 80s onwards have been vocal against Martial Law because of the "inaccurate facts" they heard and read.
"What they know is what they've read or heard based on inaccurate facts," he said.
Enrile also laughed of the figure of 70,000 arrested during Martial Law, which is based on tallies of Philippine government and international human rights organizations.
"They say we arrested 70,000 people, which was not true. Maybe if they will include those people who violated the curfew and jaywalkers, maybe they could reach that number."
Enrile said those who were arrested for their political stand were later on released and suffered only "inconvenience."
"Jovy Salonga was a member of the Light a Fire Movement. Yes, they were arrested, but they were released. They were just inconvenienced for a while. But they were released later," he said.
"Pepe Diokno, he did not want to be released. I told him, sign anything, just get out of here," Enrile added.
Court rulings, however, contradict Enrile's claims.
In February 1995, the US federal court in Hawaii awarded $1.964 billion worth of Marcos' assets to the victims of the human rights violations committed during 20-year Marcos dictatorship.
The Philippine Supreme Court also ruled in July 2003 that the 10,000 claimants in the suit in the Hawaii case are entitled to compensation from the $10 billion Swiss bank deposits of Marcos, which has been deemed ill-gotten by the high court in the same ruling.
The Philippine Congress also passed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act passed in 2012 which mandates the Philippine government to compensate the victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law years such as summary executions, enforced disappearances and torture using the P10 billion ill-gotten wealth of the late president Marcos and his family retrieved by the Philippine government from the Swiss bank. —KBK, GMA News