Adoracion Paulino, mother-in-law of missing UP student Sherlyn Cadapan, had a lot of questions when Sherlyn suddenly appeared in her house, being guarded by three women and two men, but Sherlyn did not answer her queries.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — For the second time, Adoracion Paulino took the witness stand and recalled the last day she saw her daughter-in-law, Sherlyn Cadapan, March 11.
Sherlyn, her colleague, Karen Empeño, both students of the University of the Philippines (UP) and farmer Manuel Merino were abducted allegedly by state security forces in Hagonoy, Bulacan in June 2006.
Paulino was the third eye witness who testified before the Malolos Regional Trial Court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges filed against retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and three other military officials.
In her judicial affidavit, Paulino, 63, said that on April 11, 2007 or nearly ten months after Sherlyn and Karen were reported missing, her daughter-in-law went to their house in Calumpit, Bulacan. With her were three women and two men, all unfamiliar to Paulino.
Paulino said Sherlyn looked like a beggar with a dirty shirt, maong pants and rubber slippers. “She was sad, anxious …” Paulino said in Filipino.
Paulino had a lot of questions but Sherlyn did not answer. “She just said: ‘Mother, I would just go to the room to get some of my things,” Paulino said.
Paulino said two of the women remained close to Sherlyn as the latter moved around the house. After being told that all of her things were taken by her mother, Erlinda, Sherlyn took two shirts of her husband and a pair of pants and prepared to leave.
“She kissed me and hugged me and said she would leave,” Paulino said. “She said: ‘Ina, nag-iba na ako ng ruta. Nag-iba na ako ng destinasyon.’” (Mother, I have changed my route and my destination.)
A day after, four men went to their village looking for Paulino. Two of the men wore Army fatigue uniforms while the other two wore undershirts and shorts. Paulino said she recognized one of them as one of the men who accompanied Sherlyn to their house the previous day.
The men asked Paulino if she had visitors the previous night. She said she had no visitors. The men also asked for her son, Valentino. She replied that Valentino was in Masbate.
“They scolded me. They shouted at me and said I am already old but still I lie,” Paulino said.
Before leaving, the men warned Paulino not to accept any visitor. They also told her they would go back.
Fearing for her security, Paulino left their house. She received messages from relatives that men went to their house looking for her.
Paulino’s statement is consistent with her testimony during the Court of Appeals hearing on the same case in November 2007.
In a statement, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said Paulino’s testimony, “corroborates other witnesses’ statements that Sherlyn and Karen Empeño were abducted by the military.”
Earlier, Raymond Manalo, a farmer in Bulacan, also testified in court how Sherlyn, Karen and Merino were tortured.
Another eyewitness, Wilfredo Ramos, also took the witness stand and positively identified one of the suspects as one of those who abducted the two UP students and Merino.
Palparan is still at large
Mrs. Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen, said: “As much as I am thankful for the courage of the witnesses to come out and tell what they know about the fate of our daughters, I am still disappointed that ‘The Butcher’ Palparan is still at large.”
“With Palparan still free, the lives of our witnesses and their families are in danger,” she added.
Palparan and another suspect, Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario remain at large after the local court issued a warrant of arrest against the suspects in December 2011. Two suspects – Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio surrendered to the authorities and are now detained at Fort Bonifacio.
“I challenge this government to seriously pursue Palparan and Rizal Hilario. It is almost seven years since our daughters disappeared. I hope that our daughter’s abductors and torturers will be in jail soon,” Empeño said.
Palabay aired the same sentiment. “The warrant of arrest issued against Gen. Palparan is more than a year now and the anti-disappearance law had just been enacted. Yet, the Aquino government remains a failure in rendering justice, with the continued non-arrest of Palparan.”
“Until Palparan is captured, prosecuted and jailed, we will continue to regard his warrant of arrest as Aquino’s cheap gimmick to pacify the Filipino people’s discontent against the continuing impunity in the country,” Palabay said.