“We cannot just sit back and allow such injustices to continue.”– Desaparecidos
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Eight years since the enforced disappearance of two University of the Philippines students, their families and friends are still demanding for justice.
“My family has lived in agony and torture of many forms: mental, emotional and financial. I hope and pray that any time, day, month or year, she will be surfaced alive, be given justice and that she is in good health and good body condition,” Mrs. Connie Empeño, mother of Karen, told Bulatlat.com.
Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño were abducted in Hagonoy, Bulacan, along with farmer Manuel Merino, on June 26, 2006.
Raymond Manalo, one of the witnesses, said he met the two UP students while they, too, were being held in captivity in various military camps and safe houses.
“I saw Sherlyn, her head touching a wooden bench, her feet tied up while soldiers poured water into her nose and poked her private part with a stick,” Manalo said in a court hearing at Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 14, “Karen was lying on the ground while soldiers burned her body with cigarettes.”
In 2011, the Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 14 issued a warrant of arrest on retired Major General Jovito Palparan, Col. Felipe Anotado, Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio and Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
The court hearing, which has been going on for more than two years now, has been repeatedly delayed by the military, which issued excuses for their repeated failure to present their witnesses, according to relatives and supporters of Karen and Sherlyn.
“It is dismaying that eight years have passed and the government has still failed to surface our daughters and hold to account those who have abducted them. Jovito Palparan is still scot-free despite the supposed task force that was formed to go after them. The two military officials who are in custody [referring to Anotado and Osorio] have continued to deny their involvement in the disappearance of Sherlyn,” Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, said.
In a protest action on June 26 in Mendiola, which was also the commemoration of the International Day Against Torture, Aya Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said, “It is with a heavy heart that we commemorate enforced disappearances.”
“But we cannot just sit back and allow such injustices to continue,” Santos said.
Santos shared that she met Karen and Sherlyn when she went to Bulacan to conduct a research on the plight of peasants there.
“I saw their strength, courage and determination to be of service to the people. And when I heard the testimony of Raymond (Manalo), I know that they remained strong despite what they went through,” Santos said.
She added that it is unfortunate how the government has deprived poor people of two selfless activists, adding that the government perpetuated the “torture and rape of the two women fighting for freedom.”
“We will never know if their loved ones would see them again. But they would remain forever in the hearts of the people whom they have touched,” Santos said.
Mrs. Empeño also extended her gratitude to various groups for their support in demanding the government to surface the two UP students.
“I hope that they would never get tired of calling for an end to this kind of violence. The military should be held accountable. Send Palparan to jail! Justice for Karen!” Mrs. Empeño said.
Addressing her daughter, Mrs. Empeño said, “To Karen, I love you very much. No time has passed that you are not in my mind. You served as an instrument so I would be courageous, strong and sensitive to the sufferings that the Filipino people are experiencing.”