Words by Monica Laboy
NOTE: This is an archived story originally published on UPLB Perspective NEWS Vol 42 Issue 3, on June – August 2016.
June 26, 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of two University of the Philippines students, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
Empeno was serving as a community organizer for the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan, and Cadapan was researching on the plight of farmers in Bulacan when they were abducted by gunmen and were reputedly placed under the custody of the military. Raymond Manalo, who was also abducted and tortured by the military by order of Jovito Palparan in 2006 but was able to escape last August 2007, witnessed how the two were hung upside-down, raped, tortured and harassed. Last 2011, the Bulacan regional trial court issued a warrant of arrest against Palparan who was accused of the kidnapping and the illegal detention of the two UP students. However, after Palparan went into hiding for almost three years, he was arrested in Manila by the National Bureau of Investigation last August 2014.
The “Butcher” tag
Palparan, who was the commanding general of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division during the time of abduction denied that he, along with the military, had any involvement in the disappearance of the two students. He also stated that Empeno and Cadapan were not really students, but members of the communist group, the New People’s Army.
Furthermore, this was not the first case of enforced disappearance linked to Palparan. He was also accused for his supposed involvement to the murder of human rights defenders, Eden Marcellana, and Eddie Gumanoy in Southern Tagalog.
Even with 71 extrajudicial killings, 14 victims of frustrated murder, and five massacre incidents, Palparan was praised by former president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006 for his accomplishments in the counter-insurgency campaign of the Arroyo administration.
Political prisoners and desaparecidos
According to a statement of Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) Kicker Daily News, there are 561 political prisoners currently in jail. 304 of which were arrested during the term of former president, Benigno Aquino III. Moreover, Karapatan, a Philippine-based human rights organization, recorded a total of 1205 extrajudicial killings and 206 cases of enforced disappearances under the 9-year reign of Arroyo.
Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances increased during the reign of Aquino with his counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan.
Cry for justice
UP students, with the family of Cadapan and Empeno, and human rights group Karapatan continued to call for justice in the cultural protest held in UPD, June 24. However, Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn Cadapan said that no justice will be given to their daughters until Palapran admits that he abducted the two students.
Until now, Palparan remains to be detained in the Philippine Army Custodial Center in Fort Bonifacio, denying the allegations against him and the students remain missing. [P]