After the abduction, relatives of the two UP students filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Supreme Court. The high court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals which dismissed the petition for lack of merit. A motion for reconsideration was filed. Later, the families also filed a petition for writ of amparo with the Supreme Court. The high court also remanded the petition to the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals granted both the motion for reconsideration of the Decision on the petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo in September 2008.
The Court of Appeals found cause in the complaint for illegal detention of Sherlyn, Karen and Manuel and thus ordered respondents (except for then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) to release or cause the release of Sherlyn, Karen and Manuel and for then Philippine National Police General Avelino Razon to investigate and pursue the prosecution of those responsible for the abduction. The military has denied custody of the three.
Meanwhile, Karapatan chairwoman Marie Hilao-Enriquez expressed disappointment at the “inaction of the Aquino administration to prosecute the perpetrators of the horrible human rights violations of the Arroyo regime.” “… [W]e and the victims and families have decided to initiate action against the known perpetrators so that justice can be served the victims and impunity be stopped,” Enriquez said.
A fight against impunity
Mrs. Cadapan said she hopes that the case will serve as a warning to other members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against committing human rights abuses.
“Can a government be considered humane if it allows impunity for the criminals?” asked Mrs. Empeño, adding that filing the criminal charges is their contribution to the fight for justice and against impunity.
Mrs. Cadapan said: “We are not afraid, just as how my daughter Sherlyn was not afraid to stand by her principles.”
Tanggol Bayi, a group of women human rights defenders, hailed the two mothers “for their courage and commitment to justice by pursuing these cases against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s notorious generals led by Palparan. “They are mothers who have become human rights defenders in the course of their quest for justice,” Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi convenor, said.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) whose members serve as lawyers for the victims, said they will continue to pursue all avenues to prosecute human rights violators. “We will not let them get away with murder, rape, and other crimes that debase our sensibilities. We will continue to stand by our clients who have dared to speak out against the worst types of violations—those committed by state agents and the state itself,” Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general of the, said.
Olalia said the criminal case is “a continuation of the efforts of human rights defenders and lawyers to abate the impunity surrounding human rights violations.” Last month, the Morong 43 filed damage suit against Arroyo and top military officials.