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No justice until Palparan confesses, says mother of abducted UP student

Concepcion Empeño (center) and Erlinda Cadapan, mothers of missing UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan hold pictures of their daughters during a meeting with Sen. Mar Roxas. The mothers are seeking help from Roxas to find their missing children who were believed abducted by the military in Bulacan. RODEL ROTONI

MANILA, Philippines–“There’s no justice until he admits he abducted my daughter and killed her,” said Erlinda Cadapan, mother of University of the Philippines student Sherlyn Cadapan who was allegedly kidnapped by soldiers under the command of Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who was captured in Manila early Tuesday.

“We laud the arrest of the butcher, but there is no justice until he confesses to his crimes,” Cadapan said, using the moniker used by human rights activists for Palparan, former commander of the Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division.

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Erlinda Cadapan joined a rally staged by rights activists at the entrance to the National Bureau of Investigation office in Manila following the announcement of Palparan’s arrest.

She said she hoped Palparan would tell the truth about the disappearance of her daughter, who was seized by armed men in Hagonoy town, Bulacan province, together with another UP student, Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino on June 26, 2006.

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The three were never seen again.

Meeting with Palparan

Erlinda Cadapan, who lives in Laguna province but was in a relative’s home in Manila when she received news of Palparan’s capture, said she wanted to meet the former Army officer but she was not sure whether the authorities would allow the meeting.

“They finally caught the culprit. I was a little dizzy but that did not stop me from shrieking and crying,” she said.

“I want to ask him to tell us the truth about where our daughters are. I will be very calm when I see him,” she said, referring to Empeño’s mother.

“I know Sherlyn is alive,” she said, adding she was holding on to the words of Palparan’s lawyer, Jose Santos, who told a Bulacan court handling the abduction case that the two UP students were still alive.

“That only meant they knew something and were just keeping [Sherlyn] somewhere,” she said.

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Gov’t cover-up

The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said the arrest of Palparan was a cover-up for the Aquino administration’s coddling of criminal suspects.

“We have always believed that the Aquino administration coddled Palparan. Faced with [its] worst political crisis, it was forced to surface Palparan to score some brownie points from the people,” KMU said in a statement.

The group reiterated its call for justice for Cadapan, Empeño and the other “victims of Palparan,” including Jonas Burgos, Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy.

Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos, immediately called the mothers of Cadapan and Empeño after hearing the news of Palparan’s capture.

“I got a very early text from a friend about the arrest. The first thing I did was to call the mothers,” she said.

Hope for Burgos

“It was mixed emotions. We were cheering and we were all crying,” she said, recounting her phone conversations with Linda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño.

Burgos said Palparan’s capture gave her fresh hope that her son’s abductors, suspected to be from the military, would likewise be brought to justice.

Jonas Burgos was abducted by armed men at a restaurant inside a shopping mall in Quezon City on April 27, 2007.

“I had doubted the sincerity of the authorities in finding him because it was a case of uniformed men looking for a fellow uniformed man. But this completely changes the picture,” Edita Burgos said, referring to Palparan’s capture.

She said the families of the disappeared took the news with both optimism and caution, explaining that their “measure of success” is the return of the two missing UP students.

“I am hopeful that they are still alive. Of course, as mothers, it would be hard to raise their hopes only to be dashed [if nothing happens]. We’re saying we should remain cautious and vigilant, continue praying. Let us not let our guard down,” she said.

Light on disappearances

The Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad) was as guarded even as it welcomed the news of Palparan’s capture.

“The much-awaited arrest of the notorious human rights violator Jovito Palparan is an initial triumph of the struggle of justice against impunity. Let this be a major step to ferreting out the truth about the enforced disappearances of Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and many others,” said Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Afad secretary general in a statement.

She said Palparan’s capture “should result in bringing light on the fate of those who disappeared under his command, the immediate surfacing of the victims and in ensuring that this crime would never be repeated.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Palparan must be immediately prosecuted and the “full extent of the law” should be applied to him.

“His arrest should not be used mainly to score political points at the expense of the victims’ relatives who have been waiting for nearly four years to see Palparan behind bars,” Zarate said.–With reports from Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

 

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TAGS: Abductions, desaperecidos, disappeared, Erlinda Cadapan, Human rights, Jovito Palparan, Military, Rights and justice, Sherlyn Cadapan, UP students
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