Martyrs of the 1981 Daet Massacre

The morning of June 14, 1981, a Sunday, was bright and sunny. Thousands of protesters, mostly rural folk, were coming to Daet from various directions and expected to merge at the town’s Freedom Park beside the Catholic Cathedral, where there would be speeches and protest declarations. Some groups started the night before to escape detection by the authorities. They passed through little-known trails and used bright stones and white rice grains to light their way. Some did not converge immediately but waited until it was the right time for coming together.

They marched north to Daet, taking the secondary roads to bypass military checkpoints. Other marchers from other towns joined in at the junctions. Over 300 marchers from Mercedes town turned up. They reported that some 1,500 started the march but the rest were stopped by the military. Another 500 marchers from Talisay were also intercepted by soldiers. Despite this the marchers to Daet had grown to some 3,000 to 4,000 men, women and children, sweaty and eager to join the bigger crowd waiting at the park.

Barely a kilometer away from their final destination, at the crossing called Camambugan, they were stopped by some 35 soldiers of the 242nd company of the Philippine Constabulary, commanded by a Capt. Joseph Malilay. The marchers were told to stop, disperse and return to their villages. But Freedom Park was now so near, the group would not disperse. The impasse lasted for half an hour while the marchers debated their decision. Then firm in their determination, the marchers decided to move forward, with the frontliners’ arms held tight to each other.

There was pushing and shoving between the two forces, and then the order to fire was given, with Capt. Malilay himself among those firing at close range.The PC commander of the province, a Col. Nicasio Custodio, was also present at the incident. The firing lasted less than a minute. But in that half-instant, four men were killed and more than forty were wounded.

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