“Seven years quickly passed by but the progress of our case has been painstakingly slow.” – Mrs. Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MALOLOS, Bulacan – Two days before the seventh year since Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan and Manuel Merino were forcibly taken by suspected state agents, another eyewitness faced the court and swore on his account of the incident.
William C. Ramos, 61, took the witness stand, June 24 at the Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 14. The local court is hearing the charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and three other men in uniform in connection with the disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students.
In his affidavit, Ramos said that on June 26, 2006, at around 2 a.m., several men banged the door of his house at purok 6, barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. Some of the men wore Army fatigue and the others were in civilian clothes but wearing combat boots. When Ramos opened the door, two men grabbed him, tied his arms and blindfolded him. He was hit by the butt of a rifle and then forced to kneel on the ground. His son, Wilfredo, then 14 years old, was also tied.
Father and son were then dragged to the road. William stated in his affidavit in Filipino: “…my blindfold loosened. I saw armed men dragging Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Merino into the jeep. Sherlyn was shouting ‘Tatay, help us.’ Meanwhile, Karen Empeño was begging for mercy as the men took off her shirt and tied her and Manuel Merino was struggling as the men held him.”
One of the men told Ramos in Filipino: “Whatever you saw, just keep it to yourself because we will go back here.” Then the jeep sped away.
Ramos related that Merino stayed in his house while the two UP students spent the night at the house of his relative, Raquel Halili. Ramos said the UP students were doing a research in the area.
Ramos corroborated the statements made by the previous witnesses. His son, Wilfredo, also testified in the same court on Sept. 10, 2012. Wilfredo was able to identify one of the soldiers involved in the abduction during the preliminary investigation of the case on July 19, 2011. Three other witnesses were presented by the prosecution in court.
Two of the suspects – Col. Felipe Anotado Jr. and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio – were present during the June 24 hearing. Palparan and Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario remain at large despite a standing warrant of arrest issued by the Bulacan court.
Karen’s mother, Concepcion Empeño and Sherlyn’s parents, Erlinda and Asher Cadapan, attended the hearing.
“Seven years quickly passed by but the progress of our case has been painstakingly slow,” Mrs. Empeño told Bulatlat.com shortly after the hearing.
“In those years, many things might have happened to Karen. She would have finished her studies. She would have even been married and would have children by now,” Mrs. Empeño said. “We hold on to our memories of her.”
Mrs. Empeño expressed frustration that authorities have so far failed to arrest Palparan. “It is highly possible that the military is coddling him [Palparan]. He should face the court.”
In a statement, Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos or Families of the Disappeared, said the charges and the hearings “mean nothing for as long as Palparan Jr. and his cohorts are free and unpunished.”