Martial law detainee recalls nightmares


By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- For Merlita Lorena Tariman, 69, Martial Law was a real nightmare to her as she recalls that she was just securing a Philippine Constabulary (PC) clearance for her to enroll at the Bicol University graduate school when in the evening of July 3, 1973, a group of the defunct Philippine Constabulary soldiers went to their house in nearby Daraga, Albay and picked her up for interrogation at the Regan Barracks (now Camp Gen. Simeon Ola of the PNP), located in this city. Tariman was 22 years old when Martial Law was Declared on Sept. 21, 1972. She was a journalist writing a column in the Bicol Chronicle, a local weekly tabloid in Albay while also an employee at BU. Tariman narrated she was so surprised when a thick folder of dossiers was shown to her where her name was included in the list of activists under the national order of battle. She said in the folder were records of her active involvement with the Kabataang Makabayan or KM where she was being tagged as a threat to national security. “My name was number 87 on the list of the 4,000 names of activists wanted by the military’s Order of Battle,” she said. Then Col. Elias Lazo, Albay PC commander, sent me to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna where i was detained for four months and undergone daily detention rituals such as interrogations, office cleaning chores, and gardening, Tariman said. Camp Vicente Lim detention center then had accommodated thousands of Martial Law detainees from the provinces of Southern Tagalog and Bicol. At the center, the detainees underwent interrogation, torture, and those considered as high-value detainees were sometimes kept for two weeks inside a “bartolina,” a small light-less, windowless square cell shut out by a steel door. Tariman said she was released after four months and sent back home to Daraga but still was under house arrest for four years (1973-77). “During that time we were allowed to roam around but were required to report to the camp on a monthly basis for the military authorities to know your whereabouts; failure to report would mean being hunted down once again, ” Tariman said. Tariman said when Martial Law was declared among the prominent Bicolano activists from Sorsogon and Albay detained were Roberto Ador, Marne Kelatis, Diego Onate, Larry Perez, Michael Molina, Nano Manahan, Jaime and Jose Imperial, Freddie Buban, Mila Ragos, and Tootsie Jamoralin. Merlita is the wife of Pablo Tariman, a Bicolano and an Inquirer arts and culture contributor and music impresario. The couple is blessed with three daughters Karinina, 40, Kerima, 37, and Tamara, 35. Tariman said, “all my daughters are Aces --- Atenista, Aktibista, Atleta and their husbands’ surnames begin with the letter A for Akerman, Acosta and Abellana.” Her daughter Kerima, a student leader at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman Quezon City made headlines in 2000 when she was arrested by military authorities in Isabela for alleged connection with the communist movement. Tariman said she is currently coordinating with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regional office for her Human Rights Victim (HRV) claims. “My name was among the first of the 4,000 list of HRV claimants being processed by the HRV Claims Board to receive Human Rights reparation for arbitrary detention” during Martial Law.