Amanteflor Torres came from a farming family. Having been an honor student in grade school and high school, as well as a student leader, he wanted very much to become a lawyer. Thus he went to Manila to study law at the Lyceum of the Philippines, thinking to support himself by taking a series of part-time jobs.
The plan did not work out, and he had to drop out before finishing his degree; he had gotten married in 1964 and needed to work fulltime. So he approached a congressman from his province, who was able to find employment for him. Eventually, in 1976 Torres was hired to manage the politician’s business of exporting handicrafts, and later, his logging company.
Under martial law, Cagayan province was particularly notorious for the widespread human rights violations by soldiers and members of the local militias or Civilian Home Defense Force. Although at first Torres kept silent about the abuses of the regime and its supporters, it came to a point where he was openly saying, “sobra na sila” – this is going too far.
In 1984 he and other human rights advocates put up the Cagayan Valley Human Rights Organization. They organized dialogues, marches and rallies to call attention to the plight of the victims of military abuses and to seek justice for them. As an active participant in seminars, symposiums and rallies, he denounced the corruption in government and military atrocities, urged people to organize and to take a stand. He was a popular public speaker, whose humorous comments masked his firm commitment to principles.
His daughter tells an amusing story about the time he was brought in for questioning by the authorities. It was during the 1984 local election campaign, when many oppositionists were being arrested and severely tortured.
Torres prepared for his encounter with the military by dressing well and putting on some jewelry. He answered his interrogators in English, and insisted on the presence of his lawyer. After a military informer failed to confirm his identity as a rebel commander, he confidently advised his captors to release him without further ado. And they did, to the applause of his supporters who had waited for him outside the camp.
Because he had a wide following, in 1985 he was asked to join the Marcos political party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. Maning declined the offer and instead joined the call for a boycott of the snap election called by the dictator. He knew the risks of this decision. Writing his daughter in Manila in January 1986, he gave instructions on what should be done in case he was arrested or killed. Still he continued to join and lead in activities to prepare for possible manipulation by the KBL of the electoral results. He also helped organize a local chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
On the night of February 4, 1986, two days before the presidential snap presidential elections, Torres and another activist friend were walking home late in the evening when they were accosted on the street and sprayed with bullets. People who heard the shots were too frightened to come out. The bodies were recovered only the next morning.
Witnesses pointed to four policemen and a paramilitary man as suspects but there were never any apprehensions. A local town official, also a possible suspect, left the country immediately after the killing.
Overcoming their fear, thousands came to the wake and joined the funeral march. Along the highway, coins were dropped by the passengers of commuter buses in offerings of sympathy and support.
Soon after the new government came into power, the eldest daughter of Maning Torres, Irma, wrote President Corazon Aquino asking for an investigation into her father's death. No official investigation took place.
PARENTS Lauriano Torres and Corazon Argonza
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Maria Luisa Marano / 8
Elementary: Lallo Central School, Cagayan
Secondary: Lallo High School, Cagayan
College: Lyceum of the Philippines, Manila