BY RONALYN OLEA
Human rights group Karapatan deemed lame the Court of Appeals (CA) decision on the writ of amparo for two missing students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and their companion Manuel Merino. In a decision Sept. 17, the 11th Division of the CA ordered respondents to immediately release or cause the release from detention of Empeño, Cadapan and Merino.
Respondents include Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Police Director General Avelino Razon, Major Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Gen. Jovito Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Arnel Enriquez and Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson
In a press conference, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general said the decision bears no punishment for the perpetrators. She said it does not recommend the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the abduction and torture of Empeño and Cadapan.
Lawyer Rex Fernandez said the CA could have recommended the filing of murder (for the reported killing of Merino), kidnapping and arbitrary detention, among others. “But they are not doing it…[the CA] has no will because it is licking the boots of the military.”
Fernandez said the decision does not include inspection of places and production of documents relevant to the abduction of the two students. He also lamented that two years has passed before the CA issued its decision. Enriquez also criticized the CA decision’s final word, which states, “Lest it be misunderstood that this is not an indictment of the whole military establishment.”
The CA decision also states, “By and large, the military is still composed of honorable men whose self sacrifice has so far preserved the Republic. They remain faithful and true to their oath of defending the Constitution by abiding with the rules laid down to make certain that the right to life, liberty and security of every citizens will not be violated without due process of law.”
Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, does not agree with the conclusion of the CA. She said, “…[S]a pananaw ko, ang mga salarin sa abduction ng aking ang anak at nga kanyang mga kasama ay dapat isisi sa buong Sandatang Hukbo ng Pilipinas, lalong-lalo na sa commander in chief ,kay dating AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon, former commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division Jovito Palparan at ang kanilang ginamit na hindi makataong galamay.” (In my view, the culprits behind the abduction of my daughter and her companions who must be held liable include the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially its commander-in-chief, former AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon, former commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division Jovito Palparan and their atrocious cohorts.)
Oscar Empeño, father of Karen, asked, “Bakit hindi maaaring isyuhan ng warrant of arrest ang mga militar at bakit hindi sila ikulong gayong napatunayang sila ang mga salarin?” (Why is it that a warrant of arrest could not be issued to the military and why are they not detained even if it has been established that they are the perpetrators?)
Erlinda said further that the many cases of abduction belied claims that only a handful of soldiers were involved in such atrocities.
Edith Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas, said she was happy to hear the news but realized later it meant nothing. “What good will it bring if it does not bring back to us our loved ones?” asked Burgos.
The AFP said they do not have the two students. Enriquez said the CA decision is also silent on what must be done if the military will not surface the students.
Enriquez asked, “Is the military over and above the civilian authorities? Sila ba ang powerful sa lipunan natin?” (Are they the most powerful in our society?)
Burgos said, “If the CA can only be partially on the side of the good, then it is on the side of evil.”
She added, “Do they not have stained hands if they failed to help the relatives of the disappeared? Are they not liable for the impunity?”
Fernandez said the CA justices should be pro-victim rather than pro-military and pro-establishment. “We will continue to fight the bias of the CA to the military,” he said.
Fernandez said that they will file a petition for review with the Supreme Court this week. (Bulatlat)