Philippine Military Releases Secret Martial Law Records

Posted September 21st, 2011 at 8:37 am (UTC-5)
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The Philippine military has released classified records of its actions during nine years of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who used the armed forces to crush dissent during the 1970s and early 80s.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced the declassification Wednesday in Manila, saying he hoped the secret documents would help bring closure to thousands of citizens who suffered from what he called “the abuses of dictatorship.” Details of the records have not yet been disclosed.

Philippine human rights chief Loretta Ann Rosales, whose office will take custody of the documents, said there are currently records of 10,000 human rights victims during Marcos' rule. But she said she believes the number is actually much higher, with at least 30,000 people jailed during that period, many of them unidentified. Rosales herself, and her politician father were among those jailed and tortured more than three decades ago in military prisons.

Wednesday's announcement comes on the 39th anniversary of Marcos' declaration of martial law, when he shut down Congress, arrested thousands of opposition figures and journalists and ruled by decree. He claimed the moves were necessary to save the country from a communist insurgency.

Marcos was toppled in a bloodless mass uprising in 1986 and died in exile three years later in Hawaii.

In 1995, a Hawaii court awarded human rights victims $2 billion in compensation. However, the claimants only began receiving payments earlier this year, following a settlement with the U.S. investment firm Merrill Lynch, which Marcos used to shield the ill-gotten gains of his dictatorship.