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WHAT WENT BEFORE

/ 03:01 AM June 21, 2011

In the early morning of June 26, 2006, gunmen seized two University of the Philippines students from their rented house in Hagonoy, Bulacan, according to witnesses.

Abducted were Karen Empeño, 22, a sociology student doing research about the plight of Bulacan farmers, and Sherlyn Cadapan, 29, a human kinetics student and community organizer for the farmers’ group Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan.

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Cadapan was purportedly two months pregnant then.

A farmer, Manuel Merino, 57, was also taken after he tried to help the students, witnesses said.

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The three were made to board a private stainless jeep which bore the plate No. RTF 597.

The League of Filipino Students, of which Empeño was reportedly a member, accused soldiers of being behind the abduction.

Empeño and Cadapan’s parents asked the Supreme Court to compel the military to release their daughters.

Named respondents in the petition for habeas corpus were Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, since retired but then commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division based in Nueva Ecija; Maj. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, also since retired but then commanding general of the Northern Luzon Command; and other military men.

On July 19, 2006, the high court ordered the military to produce the victims. Military officials denied they were holding the students.

Writ of amparo

In October 2007, acting on a petition for a writ of amparo filed by the mothers of the students, the high court directed the Court of Appeals to hear the case.

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Under the writ, the military or the police can no longer simply deny involvement in abductions or extrajudicial killings but must also prove they are not involved and, if ordered by the court, open their detention facilities for inspection.

The military opposed the request of the students’ mothers to have its camps inspected, and denied knowledge of the abduction.

The military also opposed a request for documents and military operation reports, saying it was akin to a “shotgun” search warrant.

Witness Manalo

On Dec. 18, 2007, farmer Raymond Manalo, who reportedly escaped from military detention in August of that year, along with his brother Reynaldo, testified in the Court of Appeals that he first saw the two students at Camp Tecson in Bulacan in September 2006.

Manalo said Cadapan’s foot was chained to a double-deck bed when he saw her. He said Empeño and Merino arrived two days later and were taken to a room.

He said all five of them were tortured, adding that he saw what was done to Cadapan but only heard Empeño’s screams. He said he saw Merino being set on fire.

The five were taken to a “safe house” in Zambales in early 2007 and then to Limay, Bataan province, according to Manalo. He said this was where he last saw the UP students. That was in June 2007.

‘Credible evidence’

Convinced by Manalo’s testimony, the appellate court on Sept. 17, 2008, directed the Armed Forces to free the two students and their companion. It said there was now “clear and credible evidence that the three missing persons” were “being detained in military camps and bases under the 7th Infantry Division.”

On Oct. 2, 2008, the students’ mothers asked the high court to allow them to inspect military installations and to declare top military officials and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for the disappearance of their daughters.

The military officers filed their own petition in the high court. They said the appellate court should not have accepted Manalo’s testimony as “divine truth.” Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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TAGS: 7th Infantry Division Nueva Ecija, Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan, berdugo, Crime, forced disappearances, human rights abuses, Karen Empeño, League of Filipino Students, Maj. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Sherlyn Capadan, UP student activists
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