Countless victims of human rights violations from Ferdinand Marcos’ regime remain unrecognized and undocumented. One of them is Fr. Jose Reyes Nacu, who was detained in 1973 under mere suspicion of subversion and rebellion, with not a single charge brought before him and no avenue to defend himself in court – a gross violation of his civil and political right to information and liberty, and an appalling display of aggression on the part of his arrestors.
A rare account of Fr. Nacu’s story can be found in Primitivo Mijares’ The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, in which Mijares, who defected from the dictatorship after serving it as “media czar,” divulged numerous accounts of corruption and betrayal, to which he had access from behind the scenes. Pages 246 to 247 of the exposé, in its 1976 edition, describe in brief the work of Fr. Nacu with the urban poor communities of Tondo, Manila and Hillcrest, Quezon City. Like many nuns and priests in his time, he was invested in raising the social and political awareness of the members of these communities and was dedicated to helping empower them to be more politically active and vocal. He was arrested on 29 January 1973 and detained for months without being presented with a formal charge. He managed to escape on 4 June and filed a request for political asylum at the French Embassy, but was denied. Foreign correspondents from the International Press met him at the embassy and received his personal statement, in which he expressed his disappointment at being denied protection. In his statement, he also said, “As a Filipino and a priest, I cannot, in conscience swallow violence and deception the present dictatorship brings to the Filipino people. The Filipino people will not remain oppressed forever. I remain united with them in active hope for freedom and justice in our land.” He told the correspondents that he was joining the underground anti-dictatorship forces, and then left.
No further documentation is available, as of writing, to tell what happened to Fr. Nacu thereafter. What is left only is the priest’s searing indictment of the regime’s corruption and his justification for choosing the path of rebellion. Thirteen long years passed after Fr. Nacu’s escape from detention before the dictatorship finally crumbled, leaving behind it a long and bloody trail of violence and impunity. Fr. Nacu and 125 other individuals were given motu proprio recognition as heroes by Resolution No. 18-2018 of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board for their courageous efforts in resisting the dictatorship.
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