Soldiers tortured UP students, witness tells court in BulacanBy Carmela Reyes-Estrope
Inquirer Central Luzon
CITY OF MALOLOS—A farmer, who was abducted by suspected military men in 2006, told a court here on Monday that he saw University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan being tortured by soldiers before they went missing later that year.
During the continuation of the trial of two soldiers implicated in the disappearance of Empeño and Cadapan, Raymond Manalo testified that he saw the students stripped and beaten by soldiers. He identified Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado as the officer he saw talking to the torturers.
Their coaccused in the case of kidnapping and serious illegal detention—S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario and retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, former commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon—have yet to be arrested.
Palparan 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.”
Bulacan Regional Trial Court Judge Teodora Gonzales had earlier ruled that only charges against Osorio and Anotado would be heard, saying the trial of Palparan and Hilario would only proceed once they are arrested and placed under court custody.
Manalo was abducted along with his brother, Reynaldo, in February 2006, four months before the kidnapping of Empeño and Cadapan on June 26 that year in Hagonoy town in Bulacan.
The brothers, who hail from San Ildefonso, Bulacan, were moved to seven military safe houses, said lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and one of the counsels of the Empeño and Cadapan families.
Olalia said Manalo saw the students being tortured in one of the safe houses in Bataan.
“I saw it for myself. Sherlyn was hanging by her feet and her abductors were beating her sensitive parts with a stick. Karen was stripped and was being burned with a lighted cigarette by her captors. Karen’s hands and feet were bound. They were tortured at the same time,” Manalo told the court in Filipino.
NUPL lawyer Julian Oliva, who presented Manalo to the court, said the witness also narrated in a sworn statement that the students underwent “water torture.”
Manalo said Empeño and Cadapan were tortured because their captors discovered that they had written letters detailing their ordeal and had tried to send these to Cadapan’s relatives in Calumpit town to ask for help.
He said he saw Anotado with the soldiers, who belonged to the 24th Infantry Battalion.
On one occasion, Manalo said he saw a military officer fetch the students from the camp in Bataan. “They were taken to another location and were returned after three days,” he said.
He did not identify the officer but described him as a frequent companion of Palparan.
When he testified in court on Sept. 10, fisherman Wilfredo Ramos identified Osorio as one of the armed men who allegedly abducted Empeño and Cadapan. Ramos said he saw Osorio among the men who barged into the house of a neighbor in Purok 6, Barangay San Miguel in Hagonoy 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.
Lawyer Abner Torres, who represents Anotado, asked the court to allow him to cross-examine Manalo in the next hearing on Oct. 29.
Osorio and Anotado surrendered days after Gonzales issued warrants of arrest against them in December last year. They were detained and placed under military custody.