Camp Bagong Diwa, during martial law and now

About 30
years ago, the Marcos martial law regime was claiming to have supposedly
already “normalized” the country’s situation, that accordingly necessitated the
imposition of martial law in September 1972. In actual fact, the Marcos martial
law regime was then still persisting with its fascist dictatorship.


About 30
years ago, the Marcos martial law regime was claiming to have supposedly
already “normalized” the country’s situation, that accordingly necessitated the
imposition of martial law in September 1972. In actual fact, the Marcos martial
law regime was then still persisting with its fascist dictatorship.


Marcos fascist dictatorship kept prating then that “there are no longer
political prisoners in the country.” In actual fact, however, human rights organizations
had then documented, with exact body count, the existence of some 750 political
prisoners throughout the country.

About 75
of those 750 political prisoners were then confined at Camp Bagong Diwa. I was
then among those 75.

Now, the
Benigno S. Aquino III regime also keeps prating exactly the very same Marcos
line that “there are no longer political prisoners in the country.” But, in
actual fact, human rights organizations have been documenting the actual
existence at present of about the same number (750) of political prisoners
throughout the country.

One big
difference now is that there are now some 450 of us, political prisoners,here
in the same Camp Bagong Diwa, five times more than our number during the Marcos
martial law regime.

Of these
450 political prisoners presently confined at Camp Bagong Diwa, are some 30
related to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) – including
five of us, NDFP peace consultants – who have been arrested, tortured, swamped
with trumped-up criminalized charges, and who continue to be detained, heavily
repressed, restrictred and deprived. All these, despite standing agreements
with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) for our protection
from surveillance, arrest, torture, detention, trumped-up prosecution and other
repressive acts that would deter our effective participation and work in the
peace process.

are also some 50 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) officers and forces, who
have long been detained here (many of them for about or even more than a decade
already), also on the basis of trumped-up criminalized charges. This, despite a
peace agreement (the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro) already signed by
the GPH and MILF about six months ago, and the recent submission of the
proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law for legislative approval.

And also
brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in November last year, were about 260 additional
Moro detainees arrested where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-led
stand-off in Zamboanga City took place in September last year. Many of them
are, however, only innocent civilians, including a number of minors (below 18
years of age) and elderlies (past 70 years of age).

are, furthermore, about 100 other Moro political prisoners – mostly innocent
community folk arrested
en masse in
“all out war” operations launched against “terrorists” – to justify the
collection of tens of millions of dollars of bounty claims from the U.S.
Anti-Terrorist Aid.

there are also a handful of U.S. rendition victims, who have been transferred
from previous imprisonment in a foreign country (Malaysia), forcibly – drugged,
blindfolded and straightjacketted – smuggled into the country by Philippine
police intelligence forces under the direction of the U.S. FBI. They were
assigned fake Filipino identities, swamped with "terrorism" charges
filed against the fake identities assigned to them, and have been kept in
Philippine imprisonment – Guantanamo style – for about a decade now.

swamping of numerous trumped-up charges, given the very, very slow crawl of
justice in the country’s courts, have been resulting in the intended
practically indefinite detention of these political prisoners here in Camp
Bagong Diwa and elsewhere in the country.

The fact
that all political prisoners brought here to Camp Bagong Diwa are considered
“high risk", and thus specifically confined to “special intensive care” or
“maximum security” jails here under extremely heavy restrictions, has made our
quest for justice and freedom, and our very situation under detention all the
more difficult.

are furthermore the related difficulties, and many times the failures, in
bringing us to courts in our far-away localities, resulting in the further
slowing down of our court cases; the problems even in the visits of our
relatives and supporters from our far-away localities; and the excessively
tight restrictions imposed upon us and our movements within our very cramp

are also the very, very stingy and very, very poor food rations that, in
reality, amounts, at the most, to only 20% of our measly P50/day nominal food
budget – the lowest, compared to that of jails in all cities in Metro Manila
and other cities in the country.

there are the fascist attacks time and again ordered by the top national 
leadership of the jail management, and viciousy
implemented by their "greyhound" (search) operatives. The ultimate in
absurdities take place during these "greyhound" operations.
Confiscations, soiling and wastage of our food, medicines, beddings, clothings
and other personal belongings, and even outright thieveries take place right
and left. They justify all these by insisting that what they have been
confiscating are all "contrabands". Such include transistor radios,
ballpens, paper clips, blunt scissors, artwork and handicraft materials and
products, sewing needles, shaving razors, small shaving mirrors, toothbrushes
with long handles, nailcutters, belts, rice cookers, cooking stoves, lighters,
branded vitamins, and even money. Practically all these have been essential
necessities for our humane existence and daily needs as inmates.

makes their confiscations and their justification of the confiscations all the
more absurd is that most of those items confiscated were brought in with the
official permission of the local jail authorities, or else were bought from the
local jail personnel’s cooperative store.

peace consultants and political prisoners, led in making complaints against the
absurd and cruel confiscations and many other human rights violations committed
by the "greyhound" operatives of the national jail authorities. In
reprisal the latter ordered the confiscation of the typewriter that we used to
type our complaints. The national director of the Bureau of Jail Management and
Penology (BJMP) all the more absurdly tried to justify the confiscation of the
typewriter, claiming that typewriters are also considered as

In very stark contrast, in the more
than seven years I was detained here at Camp Bagong Diwa, during the Marcos
martial law regime, there were no issues at all here about the categorization
of any of the belongings of political prisoners as "contrabands". We
were, without any question and controversy, allowed radios, typewriters, all
writing/artwork/handicraft equipment and materials, all cooking equipment and
tools, all tools and materials for personal hygene, and many other things that
national jail authorities and their "greyhound" operatives now
one-track-mindedly, absurdly and in fascist mindset and manner keep
categorizing and confiscating as "contrabands".

Very ironically, during the period
of actual fascist dictatorship, as political prisoners here at Camp Bagong
Diwa, we then actually never went through such absurd and fascist
"greyhound" operations and confiscations that the present national
jail management and forces have now been committing against us and keep
justifying, contrary to our political and human rights, and contrary even to
ordinary sensibility.

To make us feel "at home"
as "guests of the state", the buildings we were confined in here
during the Marcos martial law regime had no cells and iron bars, but only
individual rooms made of wood, that were locked from inside. The main gate of
the buildings we were confined in would, however, be locked from the outside at

We were then also given more
"freedom" within our jail area. We were allowed whole daytime access
to wide grounds, where on our own we could have sunning, engage in sports,
exercise, and other activities, and also tend to vegetable gardens and raise
poultry within a wide-open five-hectare space around our jail buildings. Very
much unlike now, when we are not at all given access to grounds outside our
very cramp jail buildings, and are instead confined most of the time to a
tight, narrow two-by-forty meters corridor of one wing of one floor of the jail
buildings, where there are a series of control gates, that are padlocked
practically the whole day. Only occasionally, at present, are we allowed access
to the rooftop for sunning and exercise, and for only a very limited time.

We were allocated entire floors of
buildings for kitchen activities, mess halls, television rooms, a library (with
a free daily supply of fresh newspapers), and a couple of production areas
(with machines and tools, like cutters and hammers, to make handicrafts and art
work, and even shoe repairs, and the like). Given the mentality of today’s jail
authorities, practically all of these would not be given way to.

We used to run our own cooperative
store, where goods are sold without any markup at all. Unlike now, where the
local jail personnel own and run their exclusive cooperative store, and charge
us at more than double the market prices of goods.

So that we could ourselves determine
what to make for our meals and control our own food budget and purchases, we
were then given, in cash, a daily food budget of P12 per detainee, the present
equivalent of which is more than P250 – more than five times our present already
very stingy nominal daily food budget of P50, or more than 25 times the real
worth of our present even more stingy actual daily food ration.

No different at all from the others,
the present post-martial law government has only been putting on a democratic
fascade, and in reality continues to hold a big number of political prisoners –
despite its repeated denials – and treats us all with persistent fascist
mindsets, policies and rules, that, in terms of our experiences as political
prisoners here at Camp Bagong Diwa, have ironically been even worse than during
the "normalization" period of the Marcos martial law regime.

All these only reflect how fascism
still rules in essence in the county beneath the fascist veil of
pseudo-democratic regimes that have taken over after the fall of the
   the Marcos fascist regime. All these only
reveal that true democracy and real freedom still need to be fought for all
out, in the interest of the entire oppressed people in the country.

September 23, 2014