Liliosa Hilao

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Liliosa, right, with sister Rizalina

Liliosa Hilao was a 23-year old fourth year journalism scholar at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) and editor-in-chief of HASIK, the student publication. She was a student leader about to graduate college summa cum laude. During Martial Law, several rules aiming to control the publications were set. HASIK published articles that criticized the Marcos administration. In 1972, the year Marcos proclaimed Martial Law, HASIK and many other national and campus newspapers were closed. As editor-in-chief of HASIK and a critic of Martial Law, Liliosa was tagged a "subversive" by the Marcos regime.

On April 4, 1973, two weeks before graduation, Hilao was picked up by four burly agents of the Constabulary Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), led by Lieutenant Rodolfo Garcia, at her house in the Project 2 district of Quezon City. Two days later, Hilao was found dead and foaming at the mouth, in a toilet at CANU headquarters. Reports said that muriatic acid was forced down her throat which burned her throat and lungs. She died almost instantaneously. An independent inquiry showed that she had been severely tortured and sexually abused before being killed.

The accused military men asserted that Hilao committed suicide inside a men's toilet while in their custody. The family however, did not believe them and did not accept the date of her death given. The military officer held principally responsible for her torture and death was Lieutenant Arthur Castillo. He remains in the military service.

On April 7, 1986 a group of former political detainees, the Society of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and for Amnesty {SELDA), filed a class action suit against Marcos before the Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii, for gross human rights violations. Liliosa Hilao's case was the first to be presented in court. This event prompted the Church to set up the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines. Hilao remains an emblem of the revolutionary struggle for national democracy.

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