Soldier tagged as abductor of UP studesBy Carmela Reyes-Estrope
Inquirer Central Luzon
CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan, Philippines—A fisherman on Monday identified a government soldier as one of the armed men who allegedly abducted University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.
In his testimony before Regional Trial Court Judge Teodora Gonzales, Wilfredo Ramos said he saw S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio among the men who reportedly barged into the house of a neighbor in Purok 6, Barangay San Miguel in Hagonoy town on June 26, 2006.
Ramos, who was 14 years old at that time, said Empeño and Cadapan were guests in that house.
The students were in Hagonoy to conduct research into the condition of farmers there, said Edre Olalia, one of the lawyers of the missing students’ families.
Ramos told the court that armed men broke into their neighbor’s house at 2 a.m. and blindfolded the two students before they dragged them into a waiting vehicle.
Ramos offered his testimony, as well as a written affidavit, on the resumption of trial of the serious illegal detention case filed against Osorio and Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, who were implicated in the case but they have yet to be arrested.
Palparan, the former commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon, was last seen in December last year when he tried to leave the country through the Clark International Airport in Pampanga. The government has offered a P2-million reward to people who could give information that would lead to the arrest of Palparan, tagged by political activists as “the butcher.”
Gonzales had ruled that only the charges against Osorio and Anotado would be heard because the trial of Palparan and Hilario would only proceed once they are arrested and placed under the custody of the court.
Osorio and Anotado surrendered days after Gonzales issued warrants of arrest against them in December. They were detained and placed under the custody of the military.
Ramos told the court that he and his father witnessed the abduction of Empeño and Cadapan.
Ramos said when the armed men saw them peeping from their window, they went to their house and demanded their silence.
“They told us, ‘Don’t peek or I will shoot you.’ They grabbed us and tied us, but they did not bring us along with the students upon the instruction of their superior officer. He was nice to us. My mother spoke to him and urged him not to drag us along and he relented,” Ramos said.
Ramos said the armed men also took a farmer, Manuel Merin, who served as the guide of Empeño and Cadapan. The Ramos family took in Merin because he was not from Hagonoy, like the missing students.
Jose Cruz, Osorio’s lawyer, said Ramos’ testimony could be challenged because the witness belongs to activist organizations that have accused Palparan of instigating the disappearances of Empeño and Cadapan.
“He is biased. That man is a member of activist groups supporting the families,” Cruz said.
He also questioned the clarity of Ramos’ recollection, saying the alleged abduction would have taken place in the dark.
He wondered why Ramos could easily identify Osorio even without an artist’s sketch guiding him.
Ramos said he recognized Osorio when the latter joined Palparan in a hearing at the Department of Justice last year.