“I almost cried out of anger. It pains me to see that Osorio [Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio] and the others have not yet been punished for what they did.”– Wilfredo Ramos, who was hogtied along with his father, the two UP students and farmer Manuel Merino.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MALOLOS, Bulacan – One of the eyewitnesses to the abduction of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan positively identified one of the suspects in a court hearing, Sept. 10.
Once again, Wilfredo Ramos, 20, related how some 20 armed men forcibly took Karen and Sherlyn, along with farmer Manuel Merino, from their house in San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006. Ramos first testified on the same case during the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Ramos pointed to Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio as the one who hogtied him, his father, the two UP students and Merino at around 2 a.m. that fateful day.
Osorio and another suspect, Col. Felipe Anotado, attended the hearing. The two military officers have been detained at the Fort Bonifacio, headquarters of the Philippine Army. Osorio and Anotado are two of the four charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention in relation to the enforced disappearance of the two UP students. Two other suspects – retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario – remain at large after the Bulacan court issued a warrant of arrest in December 2011.
“I almost cried out of anger,” Ramos told Bulatlat.com in an interview shortly after the hearing. “It pains me to see that Osorio and the others have not yet been punished for what they did.”
Osorio and Anotado wore their Army uniforms during the hearing. They were escorted by fully-armed soldiers in camouflage uniform.
Ramos, who was only 14 years old at the time of the incident, recalled that the armed men left him and his father by the roadside while Karen, Sherlyn and Merino were dragged inside a stainless jeepney. Days later, Ramos said he saw the same vehicle inside the camp of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA).
Osorio’s lawyer, Jose Cruz, cross-examined Ramos.
Cruz asked Ramos about his membership with Karapatan, the leading human rights organization in the country.
When Ramos’s lawyer, Julian Oliva, said the questions were irrelevant, Cruz said he wanted to establish Ramos’s bias.
Ramos said he has been a member of Karapatan for four months. Before the incident on June 26, 2006, he was an ordinary farmer.
“Even if I am not a member of Karapatan, I will still fight for justice for Ate Karen, Ate Sherlyn and Tatay Manuel,” Ramos told the court.
Cruz also asked questions regarding the details of the incident, to which Ramos answered.
“Although the defense lawyer was obviously trying to confuse him [Ramos], he was consistent in his answers because he was telling the truth,” Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen, told Bulatlat.com after the hearing.
Cruz repeatedly asked Ramos if he was certain that it was Osorio who hogtied him. Cruz went through the three affidavits submitted by Ramos to the court and asked Ramos why he did not name Osorio in his two affidavits.
Ramos said that after the incident, it was only at the DOJ hearing in July last year that he was able to see Osorio again. The DOJ conducted preliminary investigation last year on the complaint filed by Mrs. Empeño and Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan.
Osorio acted as the close security aide of Palparan during the DOJ hearings. After Osorio was named, the mothers filed a complaint against him.
Oliva, the lead counsel on the case and a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said the cross examination of Ramos “bolstered the testimony of his client regarding the identification of Osorio.”
Ramos said he is determined to seek justice. “They [military] could never buy my principles,” he said.
Ramos related that sometime last year, at the height of the hearings at the DOJ, suspected state agents talked to him and offered him money to retract his testimony. “I agreed to met with them at the Barasaoin Church. There were three of them. They offered to provide my family all our needs,” he said.
Ramos said the three men did not identify themselves but, he said, no ordinary people would make such kind of offer to him.
Palparan still free
Palparan did not show up at the hearing.
Palabay said raising the bounty for the arrest of Palparan is not enough. “The most necessary requisite is the firm resolve of President Aquino to arrest Palparan…” she said.
Palabay likened Palparan to Rolando Abadilla, a colonel who headed the Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group during the martial law years and Rodolfo Aguinaldo, a former military officer who was implicated in several torture cases.
“Palparan reminds us of the martial law years, where torturers roamed freely, were tolerated and were even permanent fixtures in the martial law landscape,” Palabay said.
“Palparan is in the same mold of Abadilla and Aguinaldo. The military is in the same mold, too; believing that to inflict pain on those who they perceive as enemies is the most heavenly thing to do. The tradition continues to this day as the Aquino government implements Oplan Bayanihan that was patterned after the US Counterinsurgency Guide,” she added.