“I really believed, while I was in there, that they were really going to kill me.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Two torture survivors during the Arroyo administration testified before the International Peoples’ Tribunal, trying both the Philippine and the US governments for perpetuating rampant human rights violations in the Philippines.
Peasant Raymond Manalo testified before the IPT on the enforced disappearance of two students of the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2006, while Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas testified about her abduction in 2009.
“There is still none,” Manalo said when asked if he has attained justice for his suffering, and to the fate of the missing UP students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
The IPT, which is being held in Washington DC, began hearing the testimonies of victims and relatives of human rights violations yesterday, July 16.
Though committed under the previous administration, the defendants included these cases due to Aquino administration’s perpetuation of the climate of impunity and its failure to timely prosecute and punish those accused of rights violation, the indictment read.
“I saw Sherlyn and Karen being tortured,” Manalo said during his testimony via Skype.
Manalo is among the 16 witnesses presented before the IPT on its first day. A total of 32 witnesses would be presented before the jurors.
Manalo and his brother Reynaldo were abducted, detained and tortured in 2006, by soldiers under the command of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. They were forced to falsely admit to be members of the New People’s Army, as they were moved from one military camp to another in Central Luzon.
In a military camp in Limay, Bataan, they met Cadapan and Empeño, who were abducted along with farmer Manuel Merino in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Manalo said Merino was killed and burned alive.
Palparan, now retired, is in military detention, as he faces kidnapping and illegal detention in the disappearance of Cadapan and Empeño. Also charged were Army Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, and Col. Felipe Anotado. Manalo named the latter as one of those who talked to them during their detention in the military camp.
Fil-Am activist Roxas was a volunteer community health worker when she was abducted with two others in La Paz, Tarlac. Raised in the US, she decided to work in the Philippines as she observed the dire health conditions of the people, particularly in Central Luzon. She said curable diseases such as diarrhea can cause death among residents.
She was held for six days in a military camp where she was interrogated and tortured, and forced to sign a paper certifying that she was a member of the NPA who surrendered to the government.
“I really believed, while I was in there, that they were really going to kill me,” she said.
After her release, she filed petitions for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data before the Court of Appeals, which the court granted. The respondents, the military, argued that her abduction was “stage-managed.” But the court ruled that military failed to present proof that it was fabricated.
Roxas said the Philippine government has yet to investigate her case, as the court ordered.
In 2009, Manalo filed charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against ranking military officials before the Office of the Ombudsman, but it has yet to issue a resolution, he said.
Palparan was arrested last year by government agents, after almost three years in hiding. The two students, Cadapan and Empeño remain missing to this day.