Press Release
May 22, 2017

Senate official gets compensation as Martial Law victim

A top official of the Senate is one of the 317 Martial Law victims to have received last May 08 the first tranche of monetary compensation from the government for the human rights abuses they suffered during the period.

Senate Secretary Lutgardo Barbo is among the more prominent personalities found by the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB) 1st Division to be a "human rights violation victim," citing his arbitrary detention, torture and sexual offense at the hands of military agents in 1980.

"It is a welcome development, but this amount could not possibly repay the fears that I felt for my life and for my family during the time. I suppose no amount of money could pay for what we have lost," he said.

Barbo, a former Eastern Samar governor and president of the Philippine Normal University (PNU), said that he is grateful that the government is finally "taking concrete steps to help those who have suffered so much during those dark years."

"The scars of those years remain, even after all these decades. Even among the victims who still live, Martial Law took away a part of their lives that they are never going to get back," said Barbo.

According to the resolution penned by the HRCVB first decision on his claim, Barbo was arrested at San Fernando, Pampanga by operatives of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in September of 1980.

He was detained in relation to the September 6, 1980 explosion in the YMCA building in Manila, which authorities blamed on the anti-Marcos 'Light-a-fire movement," since his name appeared in the telephone book of Victor Burns Lovely Jr., the alleged bomber.

Barbo proved to be an "unusual target" compared to most individuals pursued by the security services during Martial Law, as he was already a legal counsel for the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company Philippines at the time.

However, his status did little to protect him from the armed men, who forced him at gunpoint to come with them.

"When I told them that I was a lawyer, they said, "Huwag kang mag-lalawyer lawyer dito ah. They told me to be cooperative if I wanted to live," he said.

Paraded as "one communist terrorist big fish" by the military, Barbo was eventually brought to Camp Aguinaldo, where he was subjected to repeated beatings and long hours of interrogation, as agents would insult him, spit at him and threaten to shoot him in his genitals or his head.

The same agents also offered to free him and even schedule him a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos, if he would "testify against then Senator Jovito Salonga." Barbo refused the deal, which angered his captors.

Barbo said his worst ordeal was when he was forced to strip naked by a military interrogator, who then hit and probed his private parts with a wooden stick.

"Right then, I thought that I was going to die. I prayed for more than thirty minutes, and ignored everything that they were saying or doing to me," he said.

"What was painful really is to be humiliated like that, and to be mentally and physiologically tortured," he said.

Barbo was detained for two months, until his wife, lawyer Rebecca Barbo, and his mother -in-law Nieves Bautista Ambulo, secured his release. However, he was placed on house arrest and was forced to report to Camp Crame every week.

While it has been nearly four decades since his detention, Barbo said that the traumatizing experience remained with him through the years.

"For years, whenever I am in a room, I made sure to keep the door open. I could not stand to be locked inside a room - I felt like the ceiling and the walls were going to close in on me," he said.

However, Barbo said that he wished no ill to the military men who were involved in his arrest and torture.

"There had been a time that I wanted to seek revenge, for what they did. But I eventually found out that the commanding officer who was largely responsible for my torture had live a wretched life after the Marcos years, nasira ang buhay. In the end, I only felt remorse," he said.

Barbo said that he has since made it his mission to help those, who like him, suffered abuses at the hands of law enforcers and government officials.

In 1988, the Supreme Court, through a decision penned by former Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, gave a rare commendation to Barbo "for his fearless and unrelenting pursuit of the cause of truth and justice" as lawyer for the families of three fish merchants who were arrested and became missing persons in Eastern Samar during Martial Law.

The reparations and the HRVCB are mandated under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III.

The HRVCB has earlier said that the second tranche will be given after the board finishes going over the 75,000 claims of human rights violations that have been submitted.

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