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Fake news on detentions, tortures and killings under Marcos

First of 4 parts

“AMNESTY International has estimated that about 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,257 were killed during the Marcos dictatorship.”

That statement, repeated hundreds of times verbatim in Yellow accounts of the martial law era is a classic instance of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels’ technique of deception: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.”

It is also a case study on how purportedly incontrovertible facts on martial law are complete lies, deliberately and methodically spread to demonize the strongman, Ferdinand Marcos.

The Amnesty International (AI) never made that statement attributed to it.

This was deliberately concocted by a virulently anti-Marcos US academic only in 2001 and spread by the Yellows, and especially the communists, since portraying Marcos as a bloody tyrant that had to be deposed had been their main propaganda thrust to justify their existence.

That sentence purportedly issued by the AI has been repeated so many times that many believe it’s true. It is indeed a testament to the fact that even our academics have been so biased against Marcos that they repeat that lie, throwing to the dustbin their training as meticulous fact-checkers. Every single mainstream newspaper (including several columnists in this paper) in the country has had articles repeating exactly that lie.

The most recent broadcast of this was in the debate among senatorial candidates the other day, in which the Leftist candidate Luke Espiritu, who shouted at the top of his voice: “I go for the record, Amnesty International: 3,257 ang pinatay noong panahon ni Marcos, 35,000 ang tinorture, 70,000 ang kinulong. It’s a matter of record.”

It is on the record only in that candidate’s mind. There is no such “record,” in Amnesty International nor even in other barely credible reports. These figures are total concoctions, made only in 2001, and by anti-Marcos US academics.


– The “70,000” imprisoned. This ironically was reported by the strongman Ferdinand Marcos himself in 1976 in an interview with Amnesty International. However, this figure referred to all of those detained — from hours to a few weeks — mostly in the first two weeks of martial law, in the regime’s preemptive move to prevent the opposition from launching street demonstrations. The Task Force Detainees (TFD), despite its task as a communist front of exaggerating the number of political prisoners, could report only 510 detainees as of March 1976. In its annual report dated 1981, Amnesty International reported that “in recent years, approximately 1,000 political detainees were held under martial law at any one time.” The same AI publication also reported that the Marcos regime’s Command for the Administration of Detainees — headed by former Defense undersecretary Jose Crisol — informed it that political detainees by the end of 1980 totaled only 1,913 and was drastically reduced to 243 by June 4, 1981. The AI did not challenge these figures.

These data were subsequently proven correct. When Marcos fell, President Corazon Aquino ordered all prisoners detained under martial law proclamations released despite the objections of then-Defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, as nearly all of them had cases in civil courts — which was the basis for their incarceration and not martial law that technically ended in 1981.

These included Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Jose Ma. Sison, New People’s Army (NPA) commander Dante, 24 others identified as members of the CPP central committee and two others who the military claimed were members of the party’s dreaded urban assassination team, the Alex Boncayao Brigade.

How many were ordered freed by Cory, including those facing criminal charges as the members of the terrorist Light a Fire Movement and those implicated in the assassination plot and Marcos and all political prisons closed? Some 441, a miniscule fraction of the 70,000 figure, portrayed as detained all throughout martial law.


– The “34,000 tortured” is a total fabrication, and I will explain in the second part of this series how it was invented. The Human Rights Victims Claims Board, organized under a law that Aquino 3rd pushed for in 2013, which even used information supplied by the communist-controlled TFD claimed only 2,104 victims of torture — a tiny 6 percent of that 34,000 figure.

Most of these were CPP or NPA leaders. These include Communist Party chairman Sison with his wife, as well as the third chairman of the party, Benito Tiamzon, with his wife, the secretary general Wilma Austria, and 12 other central committee members.

Their claims of torture by a “fascist state” are obviously very questionable not just because the party’s primary propaganda against Marcos was that it was a brutal fascist state. These claims were specifically made to collect compensation under the law that Aquino 3rd pushed, the graver the “torture” the bigger the payments. Indeed, Sison and his gang each got about P1.2 million each in compensation.

My count of those tortured — as reported by NGOs and by themselves in the books they wrote — total only about 800, all occurring in the 1972 to 1974 period. Nearly all and involved party and NPA cadres interrogated in that short period of time when the military tried to extract information from them to lead to the arrest of their comrades.


– The 3,257 figure of those killed extrajudicially is from an anti-establishment American writer Richard J. Kessler’s Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines, published in 1989. I debunked Kessler’s claims in my column, “The truth behind the human rights abuses,” way back in 2016. Kessler’s sole source of data is the dubious TFD. What the TFD actually reported as “killed” or “disappeared” were casualties of the New People’s Army and its allies Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in their war to topple Marcos.

It was a clever propaganda strategy for the Communist Party to portray the Marcos government as a ruthless fascist regime as killing “innocent” peasant organizers in the countryside, especially since the other issues it raised — “imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism” — hardly roused the masses nor the middle class to rally behind the Red flag.

The Aquino 3rd government’s Human Rights Claims Board, which also used partly the TFD’s figures, reported an even smaller figure of “extrajudicial killings” during martial law: 2,326. The board’s report on where each killing occurred bolsters the thesis that these weren’t innocent victims but casualties of the NPA and the Muslim separatists in their battles with the military and the police.

The table accompanying this column, using data from the Human Rights Victims Memorial Commission set up by the Aquino 3rd regime, clearly shows that 97 percent of the “killings” occurred in areas where the NPA as well as the Muslim insurgencies raged since 1972. That is such a diabolical communist propaganda: its NPA and Muslim insurgencies’ casualties in fighting our police and military were used to portray the government as a ruthless fascist state. If they had not fought the government to bring it down, there wouldn’t be any “killings,” no basis for allegations of massive human rights violations.

In all the Yellow and Red narratives of “widespread human rights violations” during martial law, the following crucial fact is never mentioned: That raging during this time was a communist insurgency, which up to 1974 was financially and materially supported by China, and two Muslim rebellions also funded during that time by Malaysia.

The stark reality is that most, if not all alleged human rights violations were the three armed organizations’ casualties, members captured and cadres that went under tactical interrogations to extract information from them and standard military practice… What is astonishing is that while the country’s intelligentsia — its academics and writers — have believed this Big Lie by the Yellows and Reds, most Filipinos don’t.

Indeed, the pillars of martial law — Marcos Defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile; his Philippine Constabulary chief Fidel Ramos, who even became president; Armed Forces chief of staff Rome Espino, who served from 1971 to1980; his technocrats led by his Finance secretary Cesar Virata; his close ally Eduardo Cojuangco; his solicitor general Estelito Mendoza; and many others — would not have assumed their respective roles in Philippine society after Marcos fell if only a tenth of the alleged human rights violations during that regime were true.

It would have been impossible for the strongman’s son Bongbong to become president, as he seems likely to be soon, if the Yellows and Reds’ Big Lie were true. Indeed, I suspect many of those who support Robredo do so because they have fallen under the spell of this Big Lie, and therefore in their moral or religious calculation cannot vote for the son of the strongman responsible for “70,000 Filipinos imprisoned, 34,000 tortured and 3,257 killed.”

This is a classic case of a set of beliefs that are so different from reality, the result of oligarchs’ control of the media.

However, there is a need to debunk this deception rigorously in order to help bury the divisive, false beliefs spread by those tiny but very politically active Yellows and Reds, which would lead to unifying our people. Hopefully, it will be a start of presenting a balanced, but not biased account of a major era of our modern history.

* * *

A columnist in this paper even tried to bolster the credibility of this statement by describing Amnesty International as a “1977 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and respected activists’ organization on global human rights,” an excellent example of the false “argument from authority.” Stephen Rood, a PhD in political science, who headed the Asia Foundation here for 18 years, and supposedly an expert on the Philippines, did the nation a big service but repeated that lie in his book that is supposed to be a primer on the country, published by the prestigious Oxford University. When I asked him where he got that statement, he said he forgot. A supposedly objective, scholarly study on the economy of the martial law period published last November by three UP economists had the very same line. A Marcos-basher in his column wrote exactly that statement to argue that Filipinos should not elect as president Ferdinand (“Bongbong”) Marcos Jr.

To be continued in this series: How this Amnesty lie was concocted; how the Hawaii kangaroo court invented with the communists “10,000 human rights victims” deception.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Dorina Rojas

    Amnesty International calls itself champion of human rights but it’s actually capitalizing and making a living out of “human wrongs” and makes questionable alliances with shady characters whose identities are kept in their equally dark and smelly armpits. Can hardly wait for the next part of the series, Mr. Tiglao, please.

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