What happened on Sept 22, 1972? Nothing of much importance. Just like any other day in the Philippines. I went to school, as usual.
But nothing was usual about that day. Aboard the jeep, I noticed the adults talking in whispers. At school, there was tentativeness everywhere. Finally, the troop leaders announced that classes were suspended.
When I got home, I learned that Martial Law had been proclaimed.
(Note the date – Sept. 24, 1972. Martial Law was announced on TV and radio on Sept. 23. The newspapers headlined it the following morning.)
From about that time, my eldest brother, Jun Abbas went into hiding. Our house appeared to be under surveillance. A couple of months later, my brother went home and slept there. By midnight, the maid called me and my brother Nazir to come down. We thought we were going to have a midnight snack.
I felt so scared because I knew that my brother was inside. They were all over the house. Then one officer opened the door to the bathroom. The door didn’t open fully because there was a body between the door and the wall. The officer then shouted something like “He’s here!”. Suddenly all the machine guns were pointed at the bathroom door. That was one of the scariest moments of my life. I thought my brother was a goner.
My brother, sisters and I were not harmed by the METROCOM soldiers but our houseboy said that he was hit with an armalite butt and our lavandera was threatened with bodily harm.
For months, or even years after that, I had a recurring nightmare, which went like this:
I feel like I needed to escape from the house because of the presence of strangers. I then find myself on the rooftop deciding on the best escape route. I then run towards the garage gate and run outside. I run for my life, constantly deciding whether to turn right or to turn left so as to lose anybody who might be running after me.
Even when we already transferred house, I still had that dream, and in that same house. I had memorized all the street corners and landmarks of that neighborhood.
One day, my brother Nazir told me that ever since our eldest brother was arrested, our neighbors looked at us with more respect and admiration. Somehow, being arrested during Martial Law was a badge of honor. Actually, my brother had two badges of honor. He was also arrested when Mr. Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus a month before the declaration of Martial Law.
Yesterday, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr released a video of him and former Senate President and Martial Law Administrator Juan Ponce-Enrile having a tête-à-tête. The nonagenarian Ponce-Enrile asserted that nobody was arrested or killed during Martial Law because of their political beliefs. He even challenged everyone to “Name one!”
One of them was my brother. He was not arrested because of criminal activities but because of his political beliefs. Throughout his college and law school days, he was a student leader. At UP, he was very critical of the government. He was the Grand Archon of the Sigma Rho fraternity, the head of the Sorority-Fraternity association and the President of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), among others. After university life, he was very active in fighting for the Bangsa Moro Cause. He was Secretary-General of the National Action & Coordinating Council for Islamic Affairs (NACCIA), the United Islamic Forces Organization (UIFO) and other groups, as well as the publisher of the Moro newsletter in Manila and suburbs, Dawat-ul-Islam. Together with my mother’s cousin, Congressman Rashid Lucman, they created the groundwork for the eventual creation of the MNLF by sending 90 young Moros for military training in Sabah.
As for the killings by the Marcos regime, the Dawat-ul-Islam chronicled the murders and massacres done by the Philippine government/military against the Moro people. A couple of years later, my brother Jun gathered the photographs and documents, including copies of the Dawat-ul-Islam, of these massacres and presented them to Tungku Abdul Rahman, then head of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). These documents and my brother’s presentation were the basis for OIC’s official recognition of the legitimacy of the Bangsa Moro fight against the Philippine government. OIC then sent a Quadripartite Committee composed of representatives from four Muslim countries (Libya, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Somalia) to investigate the Moro situation in the Philippines.
In other words, the OIC, which was composed of some 30 countries then (now around 57 states) believed that the Marcos regime in the Philippines murdered, massacred and was committing genocide on the Bangsa Moro (Moro Nation).
It was not the MNLF or Misuari who brought the Bangsa Moro Cause to the attention of OIC and the international Muslim community. It was my brother – Macapanton Rashid Abbas, Jr. And he did it during Marcos’s Martial Law.