Sidebar: Risking their lives for truth, justice
In her speech after the hearing, Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan called on President Benigno S. Aquino III, the commander in chief of the AFP, to pay attention to the cases of enforced disappearances. “These are serious crimes committed by the armed forces.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – After five years of searching and waiting, Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, could no longer contain her anger. When Retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. was taking his oath, Mrs. Cadapan blurted out, “You’re an animal! (Hayop ka!) Liar!”
Mrs. Cadapan pointed her fingers at Palparan, the alleged mastermind in the abduction of University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and farmer Manuel Merino. Palparan’s face remained stern. Mrs. Cadapan broke into tears afterward.
After venting out her anger, Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan breaks into tears. Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao-Enriquez comforts her. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
“The moment I heard that Palparan is still denying [his involvement in the abduction], I’ve been shaking in anger. If only I could hit him with a chair but I know I must control myself,” Mrs. Cadapan told reporters after the second hearing on the preliminary investigation on the case.
In his counter-affidavit submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) panel this morning, Palparan categorically denied any involvement in the abduction and disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Merino.
In May, the mothers filed the criminal complaint against Palparan and other retired and active military officials for arbitrary detention, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats, and grave coercion, rape, and serious physical injuries.
In his counter-affidavit, Palparan said he vehemently and specifically denies the allegation that he is involved in the abduction. He branded the statements of the two mothers as “mere rhetoric designed and good only for a fishing expedition being very much wanting of concrete and solid evidence.”
“He [Palparan] was the head of the 7th Infantry Division [of the Philippine Army] at the time of the incident. He admitted in court that his men told him about the abduction of two women that day,” Mrs. Cadapan said, referring to the incident on June 26, 2006.
Mrs. Cadapan said their evidence have been presented in court. In June, the Supreme Court issued a resolution saying that the military should be held liable. The high court ordered the military to surface the two students and the farmer who have been missing for five years already.
Ret. General Jovito Palparan Jr. categorically denies involvement in the abduction of UP students. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / bulatlat.com)
Palparan said in his counter-affidavit that soldiers under his command reported to him that a certain Ka Tanya, Ka Liza and a male companion had been visiting the communities in Bulacan for about three to five years. But Palparan, when asked by reporters, refused to confirm that the three he was referring to were Karen, Sherlyn and Merino. “I deny having met Karen and Sherlyn,” he said.
For her part, Mrs. Concepcion Empeño said she had been expecting Palparan’s denial.
Speaking before supporters after the hearing, Mrs. Empeño said, “A week before the incident, Karen’s brother was able to talk to her on the phone. Karen ended the conversation saying, ‘I have to end this, brother. Palpy’s men are already here.’ Who is that Palpy? Isn’t that Palparan?”
“If this court fails to render justice, I hope God will help us and punish him [Palparan],” Mrs. Empeño said as she broke into tears. She thanked the supporters who came and said their presence is a gift for Karen who will turn 28 years old this July 22.
Other respondents Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Col. Felipe Anotado, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario and 2nd Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson appeared in court. In their counter-affidavits, they also denied any involvement in the abduction. Another respondent, M/Sgt. Donald Caigas, is already dead. Only Anotado and Samson are in active service, the rest have retired.
Tension filled the air when lawyer Edre Olalia, one of the legal counsels of the complainants, asked the DOJ panel to allow one of the witnesses to identify one of the suspects who was in the courtroom.
Olalia said they need to get the name of the suspect to be able to amend their complaint. Even as he found it ironic, Olalia invoked Administrative Order 181 of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stating that in cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, prosecutors have expanded authority to do whatever is appropriate for the resolution of cases.
Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, however, denied the motion, saying that the panel is not in the position to help any of the parties to gather evidence. “We are not an evidence-gathering panel,” Navera said.
After the hearing, Olalia asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Office and the Provost Marshall to provide them the name of the person being referred to by Wilfredo Ramos, one of the witnesses.
Appeal to Aquino
In her speech after the hearing, Mrs. Cadapan called on President Benigno S. Aquino III, the commander in chief of the AFP, to pay attention to the cases of enforced disappearances. “These are serious crimes committed by the armed forces,” Mrs. Cadapan said.
In a separate statement, Karapatan said: “Mr. President, your one year of ‘watching’ what happens to the case does not interest us. You have to back our initiatives, you have to stand up with us in our pursuit for justice and ensure that Palparan et.al, end up in jail. Equally important, you have to immediately put a stop to human rights violations under your administration and end impunity in this country.”
Meanwhile, Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) challenged Aquino to prosecute former president and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on human rights violations.
Desaparecidos secretary general Mary Guy Portajada reiterated their demand to open up military camps and safehouses in the country. “This is one concrete action that the president may order, based on his statement of commitment to human rights. As commander in chief, he can do something about this,” Portajada said.
The group also called on Aquino to certify as urgent the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill, which criminalizes enforced disappearance.
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