Vancouver resident Christopher “Perry” Sorio says he’s living evidence of human rights atrocities in his native country.
Sorio recalls suffering for being part of the resistance against the government of then Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
In 1982, he was arrested by soldiers in the capital city of Manila. He was 21 years old at the time.
Sorio related that he was brought to a military camp, denied legal counsel, and tortured.
“I was repeatedly electrocuted through my genitals,” Sorio recalled in a mostly Tagalog-language interview with the Straight.
To make the electric shocks more intense, his captors poured water over him.
In addition to physical indignities, he was also subjected to mental torture.
Sorio related being kept in isolation, and threatened with execution by his captors.
Four decades later, Sorio now learns that the son and namesake of Marcos Sr. is running to become the next president of the Philippines.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has filed a certificate of candidacy for the May 9, 2022 election.
The 64-year-old political scion wants to succeed the Asian country’s current president, Rodrigo Duterte, who is also a friend of the Marcos family.
Candidates for president and vice president have until November 15 to finalize lineups.
Marcos Jr. could team up with Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, a city mayor who has topped public opinion surveys about presidential hopefuls.
For Sorio, the prospect of a new Marcos presidency is an outrage.
“This is the height of the Marcos family’s quest to return to power and revise history,” Sorio said.
The family and their friends have been accused of corruption and amassing ill-gotten wealth, a claim that the Marcoses deny.
Marcos Sr. ruled the Philippines for more than two decades, starting with his election as president in 1965.
He won a second term in 1969, imposed martial law in 1972, rounded up political enemies, and started to govern mostly by decree. He was deposed by a military and civilian uprising backed by the U.S. in 1986.
Sorio recalled that Marcos Jr. donned military fatigues to defend the presidential place when the 1986 uprising began.
“He and I have the same memories. He knew what was happening,” Sorio said about Marcos Jr.
Under pressure from the U.S., the Marcos family left the palace and ended up in exile in Hawaii, where the former president died three years later in 1989.
Meanwhile, a group of survivors and kin of human rights victims initiated a class action suit against Marcos in a U.S. court in 1986.
One of the 10 original plaintiffs was Sorio.
“I joined the suit not for money. I wanted to prove to the world that abuses and human rights violations happened during the Marcos regime. We were the living witnesses,” Sorio said.
After nine years, a Hawaii court led by judge Manuel Real in 1995 reached a verdict, and awarded $1.9 billion to 9,539 human rights victims and their families.
In the interview, Sorio told the Straight that the Marcos family neither paid nor offered an apology.
“They didn’t ask for forgiveness,” he said.
Sorio was detained at a military camp for about two years from 1982 to 1984.
After Marcos was ousted from power in 1986, the rebellion charges against Sorio were dropped.
Sorio came to Canada as a landed immigrant three years later in 1989.
He lived in Ontario and Alberta before eventually moving to B.C. The Vancouver man currently works in the manufacturing industry.
Sorio continues to be an activist for various causes in the Philippines. He presently serves as chair of the Canada chapter of Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or the New Patriotic Alliance), and secretary general of Migrante B.C., a migrant organization.
Meanwhile, Marcos Jr. returned from exile to the Philippines in 1991. His father’s remains followed in 1993.
The Marcos family has since rebuilt its political fortunes.
Marcos Jr. was previously elected provincial governor, member of the House of Representatives, and senator.
In 2016, he ran for vice president, but lost narrowly to Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Marcos Jr. and Robredo will face off again in the 2022 election as the latter is also running for president.
Sorio supports the 1Sambayan coalition in the Philippines that has endorsed Robredo for the presidency.
The widow of Marcos Sr., Imelda Romualdez Marcos, was also previously elected to the House of Representatives.
Marcos Jr.'s elder sister, Maria Imelda Josefa "Imee" Marcos, is currently a senator. She has served as a provincial governor, and member of the House of Representatives.
In 2018, Imee Marcos made a remark that generated controversy.
“The millennials have moved on, and I think people at my age should also move on as well,” she said about people who continue to criticize her family.
Recalling that comment, Sorio posed a question.
“How can people move on without justice?” Sorio asked.
Imee Marcos’ remark came two years after the remains of her father were finally buried in 2016.
The burial was allowed by current President Duterte, a decision later upheld by the Supreme Court.
Sorio noted that many, likely himself, are revolted over the grand political comeback being engineered by the Marcos family with the presidential candidacy of Marcos Jr.
“It’s a collective outrage,” Sorio said.
The Vancouver resident noted that like many victims of human rights violations during the Marcos government, he will never forget.
The Filipino Canadian vows to keep on telling about what happened in the past.
“I don’t want the memories erased,” Sorio said.