“She loves the poor and the masses. This was why she wanted to be a social worker,” Concepcion Empeño, 64, said.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A day after Mother’s Day, Concepcion Empeño took the witness stand to identify her daughter and to narrate the ordeal of their family’s search before the Bulacan court today, May 11.
“She loves the poor and the masses. This was why she wanted to be a social worker,” Empeño, 64, said.
Empeño said her daughter was about to graduate but received an incomplete grade for her thesis writing. This, she said, was the reason why she went to Hagonoy, Bulacan to gather data and complete her thesis.
During the cross-examination, Empeño said Karen’s thesis was on songs of the plight of farmers.
Empeño was abducted along with fellow UP student Sherlyn Cadapan and farmer Manuel Merino on June 26, 2006 in San Miguel village, Hagonoy, Bulacan. Their family has been searching for them for nearly nine years now.
In the witness stand, Empeño recalled how two days after her daughter’s disappearance, she received a cryptic text message, asking what can be done to search for Karen. She called the number and was given another telephone number to contact, which she later learned was human rights group Karapatan.
“It was my first time to hear about Karapatan. But I know they help victims of human rights violations,” she said.
Empeño said they searched all military detachments and even hospitals in Bulacan province but was left without a clue on the whereabouts of her daughter. Asked why she particularly searched in military detachments, she said it was what eye-witnesses told her – armed men wearing fatigue uniforms and military boots abducted her daughter in the wee hours of June 26, 2006.
Their search has taken its toll on the family, especially on Empeño’s job as a principal for an elementary school. She was frequently absent. Nearly all of her leaves, which could be monetized upon her retirement this July, was spent in her search for Karen and in attending events related to her daughter’s case and in court hearings.
Everything that was considered “normal” has turned “abnormal” since her daughter’s disappearance.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Empeño said one of her colleagues who recently retired received nearly a million from the 600 days of leaves that was monetized. As far as she recalls, she now only has 70 leaves.
Empeño, in tears, said during the hearing that no amount of money could ever quantify their search for Karen.