By Dabet Castañeda
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
VOL. VII, No. 42, November 25- December 1, 2007
One year and five months after their abduction, a witness testified that he had actually seen and talked to Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, the two scholars of the University of the Philippines (UP) who were abducted allegedly by soldiers on June 26, 2006 while doing research in a farming community in Barangay (village) San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. Farmer Manuel Merino was abducted together with the two.
The witness, Raymund Manalo, also confirmed what had been feared all along – that the UP students were raped by their abductors.
Manalo, who was abducted together with his brother, Reynaldo, in their home in Barangay Buhol na Mangga, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, on Feb. 14, 2006, said he first met Cadapan sometime in November 2006 at the barracks of Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. Camp Tecson hosts the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR).
It was an uncanny meeting, Manalo said in his signed affidavit submitted at the Court of Appeals (CA) on Nov. 12. “Sa loob ng barracks ko nakilala si Sherlyn, isang estudyante ng UP,” (I met Sherlyn, a UP student, inside the barracks.) Manalo said as she described Sherlyn as a “babaeng nakakadena (chained woman).”
At first, Manalo said he was told not to converse with the chained woman. But on the third or fourth day, Manalo said he approached Sherlyn and gave her food.
Sherlyn, meanwhile, gave Manalo some information about herself. “Sinabi nya sa akin na …matindi ang tortyur na dinaranas niya. Umiiyak sya,” (She told me she experienced heavy torture. She was crying.) Manalo said in his testimony.
Manalo also said Sherlyn was ordered to do the laundry during the day. But more than this, what was bothersome was Sherlyn’s confession that she had been molested by a certain Mickey, Donald and Billy. “Sabi ni Sherlyn sa akin na siya’y ginahasa,” ((Sherlyn told me she was raped.) Manalo said in his testimony.
Manalo described Mickey as “pandak na mataba, maputi,” (short, fat, and fair-skinned) while Billy is “maitim, bungi, pinakamataba sa kanila, pandak.” (dark, with missing teeth, the fattest, and short) Donald is Master Sgt. Donald Caigas, the same suspect in the killing of human rights worker Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in April 2003.
Manalo said the words “24th IB” was tattooed on the shoulders of Caigas.
Nine days after meeting Sherlyn, Manalo said, he also met Karen and Manuel inside the same military camp.
During the day, Manalo said he, Reynaldo and Manuel were told to do errands while the two women were made to do the laundry.
An unexpected visit
On Nov. 22, 2006, the Manalo brothers, Manuel, Sherlyn and Karen were transferred to 24th Infantry Battalion (IB) camp in Limay, Bataan. According to Raymund’s testimony, they stayed there until May 8 of this year.
Going to Bataan, Karen was separated from the four and was forced to ride a black car with Caigas. The rest of the captives rode a stainless jeep.
Raymund said it was in Bataan where he witnessed the torture of Sherlyn and Karen.
The torture happened after Sherlyn told their soldier-captors that she kept a gun at her mother-in-law’s place in Calumpit, Bulacan. She was taken to the place but the soldiers found no firearm there. Sherlyn also tried to leave a letter for her mother-in-law but her military escorts saw the letter and confiscated it.
At the hearing for the writ of amparo Nov. 21 at the Court of Appeals (CA), Sherlyn’s mother-in-law, Adoracion Paulino, testified that Sherlyn indeed visited her in the evening of April 11. Paulino said she hugged and kissed Sherlyn but the latter just looked at her and took some clothes. Paulino said her daughter-in-law had five escorts at that time. The visit was swift, Paulino told the court.