Martial Law

Martial Law survivor Bonifacio Ilagan receives anonymous threats

Jairo Bolledo
Martial Law survivor Bonifacio Ilagan receives anonymous threats

THREATS. Renowned playwright Boni Ilagan and former CHR chairperson Etta Rosales, both Martial Law survivors, lead their fellow victims in taking an oath to guard the country's democracy against any threat of tyranny on June 30, 2022.

Jairo Bolledo/ Rappler

Ilagan says: 'While the man didn’t say outright that they would kill me, his point was all too clear: They could'

MANILA, Philippines – Martial Law survivor and renowned playwright Bonifacio Ilagan sounded the alarm over anonymous threats he received.

“He [caller] said that his unit was tasked to wipe out communists and told me to desist from my activities,” Ilagan said. “He said he ‘knew enough of me and still had some respect for me,’ but he and his unit were just waiting for ‘the final order from the higher-ups,’ and they would surely get me, and that I should not ask for mercy, it would be futile, because I had already been warned.”

This was part of a statement that Ilagan shared on January 3 about a phone call he received that threatened him.

Ilagan is an activist and among the conveners of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law. The playwright said that although there was no direct mention that he will be killed, the message was clear.

“While the man didn’t say outright that they would kill me, his point was all too clear: They could.”

In an interview with Rappler on Wednesday, January 4, Ilagan said there were no prior indications or incidents before he received the threat. There were indications of surveillance before, he said, but he shrugged them off.

Yes, mga text ng trolls, I suspect. And some na palagay ko mula [sa] military agents and indications of surveillance. Pero I shrugged them off,” Ilagan said. (Yes, text messages from trolls, I suspect. And some that I think came from military agents and indications of surveillance. But I shrugged them off.)

This, he added, was the worst threat he has received so far.

What happened

The Martial Law survivor said he received the phone call at around 3:14 pm on January 2, while looking for plants for his fish tank along Congressional Road in Quezon City. The call came from an unknown number, and the caller identified himself as “Kumander” (commander).

“I heard a man’s voice. He wanted to talk to Mr. Bonifacio Ilagan. I asked who he was. He said he was Kumander (I failed to get the complete name), and that he belonged to a unit (whose name I also was unable to remember but I recall him mentioning a ‘sector’).”

Ilagan told Rappler that the call came from a man who is probably in his 50s. “Definitely not the sales pitch kind,” he added.

He said his activism could be the reason behind the threat: “There is no other reason I can think of behind the threat, it’s my activism that goes way back to the 70s. Pero what baffles me is, after the elections, wala na akong statement sa media. Tahimik na ako.”

(But what baffles me is, after the elections, I didn’t give any statement to the media. I was already silent.)

Shortly after the filing of candidacies for the 2022 polls, Ilagan, along with other Martial Law survivors filed the first disqualification case in November 2021 against then-presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The petition sought disqualification based on the then-candidate’s 1997 conviction for failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

Martial Law survivor Bonifacio Ilagan receives anonymous threats

During Marcos’ inauguration on June 30, Ilagan and other Martial Law survivors also took an oath at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, vowing to guard against tyranny under another Marcos presidency.

Meanwhile, Ilagan added that “rank and file” activists are the most common targets of attacks. But for mass leaders and those who often face the public, the threat against him is the most recent one.

According to rights group Karapatan, at least 17 civilians from the peasant sector became victims of extrajudicial killings from July 1 to November 30. This includes Ericson Acosta and Joseph Jimenez, who were part of organizations. (READ: IN NUMBERS: People we lost under Marcos in 2022)

On arrests and detention, Karapatan said they have recorded at least 30 illegal arrests under Marcos – 24 of them peasants, and at least 10 affiliated with organizations.

Ilagan added he is considering various options, including calling on authorities to probe into the incident. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.