Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside
When a composite team of military and intelligence security agents of Martial Law under the Philippine dictator Marcos brought me to the detention cell of the intelligence agents for tactical interrogation, they inventoried my possessions, and told me, “now that you are in our hands, you don’t own anything, not even yourself”. Without due process and without a lawyer, they told me: I was found guilty, and my task was to prove myself innocent. For the first three days and three nights, I was not allowed to sleep. I was not allowed to talk with anyone. Good thing they did not take away from me my watch. It told me of the day and the time.
I was subjected to psychological and physical torture. Because I was then a seminarian, at first the military and intelligence agents hesitated to physically harm me. Instead, they wanted to break me by letting me see and hear the horrors of torture of my co-political detainees. They did not succeed in this, so they tried another trick: putting me in a cell without light for two weeks, telling me I was going to die by musketry and that I could tell them my last request. I asked for my parents and brother and sisters, especially my mother, to see me. After two weeks, on the day that was supposed to be my last, I was led to the first of two iron doors of the cell. I only saw my father. We couldn’t even hug each other because of the iron grills that separated us. The visit lasted for 30 seconds.
Physical torture ironically happened during the military’s so-called formal investigation: still without a lawyer, I was grilled for five days. They could not extract anything from me, so a special investigator was assigned to me. He knew how and where to deliver the blows into my body that didn’t leave any evident mark. But then, they would let me hear the reprimand from another officer disapproving the use of physical torture, but who seemingly sided with me as long as I cooperated. This is called the soft-and-hard tactic of torture. This torturer learned his techniques from a world infamous school of torture.
For the first two months of my detention, I stopped believing in God. For if there was a God, how can He allow this to happen to me, when all I wanted was to be a good boy: to help the poor and serve my neighbor. Then, one evening I couldn’t sleep. I roused from my cot at 2 am, got hold of the last book which I had refused to read. I happened to open it on John 15,13-ff: “Greater love no one has than he who lays down his life for his friends…and if they should torture you and bring you to court, remember that they have done it to me first, and worse!” I felt so small and so ashamed of myself. So in the stillness of the night, I promised Jesus: Ok, I will believe in you again. I will continue to love and serve you among the poor whom you specially love and care for. Then I knew I was free. No one could harm me anymore, not wealth or even death itself!