“We have gone to the courts. We have followed the government’s slow judicial process and still, we have not found our daughters.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Like the past six years, Concepcion Empeño and Erlinda Cadapan clenched their fists on this particular day.
Standing side by side at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge, Mrs. Empeño and Mrs. Cadapan did not know each other seven years ago. Their paths crossed when they began searching for their daughters, Karen and Sherlyn.
Both women were not activists before their daughters were forcibly taken by soldiers exactly seven years ago today. Mrs. Empeño is a principal of an elementary school in Masinloc, Zambales while Mrs. Cadapan said she was a simple mother looking after her children.
Their search has changed their very own lives. It led them to understanding the human rights situation in the country and the cause fought for by their daughters. They have become active members of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice.
Now senior citizens, the two mothers religiously attend court hearings. Mrs. Empeño travels all the way from Masinloc, Zambales and Mrs. Cadapan from Los Baños, Laguna.
“We have gone to the courts. We have followed the government’s slow judicial process and still, we have not found our daughters,” Mrs. Cadapan said during the rally marking the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
After seven years, both mothers are holding on.
Mrs. Cadapan has this message for daughter Sherlyn: “Magpakatatag kayo. Kaming nagmamahal sa inyo, mga magulang, kapatid at mga kaibigan ay di titigil sa paghahanap sa inyo at sa hustisya na maparusahan ang may salarin.” (Be strong. We who love you – your parents, sibling and friends – will not stop searching for you, pursue justice and ensure that the perpetrators are punished).
Mrs. Empeño, meanwhile, vowed to celebrate Karen’s birthday on July 22 in the streets, coinciding with the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). “Sasama ako bilang simbolo ng pakikibaka. Yan ang alay ko sa iyong kaarawan. We love you so much . Pakatandaan mo yan,” Mrs. Empeño said. (I will attend the rally as a symbol of our struggle. It’s my gift to you. We love you so much, always remember that.)
“For the past six years, I have not missed one SONA rally,” Mrs. Empeño told Bulatlat.com.