Playwright who survived martial law torture reports death threat
MANILA, Philippines — Activists and martial law survivors rallied behind a colleague, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, after he received a death threat on the phone from a man claiming to be just waiting for the “final order” to have Ilagan killed.
The man called on Jan. 2 at around 3 p.m. to ask him to “stop what I’m doing,” without elaborating, said Ilagan, who reported the matter to the Quezon City Police District’s Station 15 on Wednesday to seek help in tracking down the caller.
In an Inquirer interview, Ilagan said the caller introduced himself as a “commander” of a unit tasked to take out “communists.”
“He said he knew enough about me and still had some respect for me, but that he and his unit were just waiting for the final order from the higher-ups,” Ilagan said. “He said: ‘When we finally get you, don’t even bother begging for mercy.’ This is as close as I can remember.”
He said his caller gave a name but “I was so surprised that I wasn’t able to pin it to memory because I wanted to hear what he was driving at, and that concerned me.”
Ilagan, 70, spent about a year in detention as one of the activists arrested during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the late father of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. His documented ordeal included days of physical and mental torture at the hands of the military. When released in 1976, he found out that his sister Rizalina had disappeared.
But Wednesday’s sinister call was the first time he received a death threat that was so personal and direct, Ilagan said.
He said he had no idea what it meant when the caller asked that he “stop’’ what he was doing since “I have been silent since the election” of the late dictator’s son.
But Ilagan had remained active as a speaker at martial law memorials and rallies as the co-convener of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (Carmma) and the broader Movement Against Tyranny.
‘Oras de Peligro’
His last public engagement was at a memorial for the late Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist of the Philippines, whose armed wing, the New People’s Army, has been waging an insurgency since the first Marcos presidency.
His latest writing project is a screenplay for the film, “Oras de Peligro,” which is touted as a corrective to last year’s controversial “Maid in Malacañang,” a movie accused of rewriting the narrative of the Marcoses’ downfall in 1986.
Like “Maid,’’ “Oras” depicts the last 72 hours of the Marcoses at the Palace before they were flown to Hawaii at the climax of the Edsa People Power Revolution. Ilagan and the director, Joel Lamangan, another martial law survivor, said their project would show “the correct version of history.” Oras is scheduled for release next month.
Proof of ‘arrogance’
Carmma on Wednesday condemned the threat directed at Ilagan, calling it “another proof of the overweening arrogance of the Marcoses and their ilk and their utter lack of remorse for their crimes.’’
“But if they think that this will deter us from our campaign, they are wrong,” the group said in a statement.
The playwright, Carmma said, stood “at the forefront of the struggle against the evils that the Marcoses represent: their distortions of history and the concept of heroism, and the shameless lack of accountability for their massive plunder of the public coffers as well as the death, torture, involuntary disappearance, arbitrary detention and other injustices suffered by tens of thousands of Filipinos.”
“We will uphold and defend Ka Boni’s rights, and we will never relent in the struggle for truth and accountability, despite threats and challenges,” it added.
For the Movement Against Tyranny, the caller “clearly meant to harass and intimidate [Ilagan] and other activists into silence and inaction.”
“It is a threat we do not take lightly as hundreds of activists have been murdered in the past. We call on officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and other government security forces to ensure that no order to kill Ilagan is issued to any of its units,” it stressed.