What Went Before: Palparan and the abduction of Empeño, Cadapan | Inquirer News

What Went Before: Palparan and the abduction of Empeño, Cadapan

/ 04:08 AM August 13, 2014

On June 26, 2006, University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan were seized by gunmen from their rented house in Hagonoy town, Bulacan province. A farmer, Manuel Merino, 57, came to the students’ aid but was also taken, witnesses said. The three were forced to board a “stainless” jeep with Plate No. RTF 59.

Empeño, then 22, was a sociology student doing research on the plight of Bulacan farmers. Cadapan, then 29, a human kinetics student and community organizer for the farmers’ group Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan, was reportedly two months pregnant.


In July 2006, the parents of Empeño and Cadapan asked the Supreme Court to compel the military to release their daughters. In a six-page petition, they claimed that Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division based at Fort Magsaysay, in Laur town, Nueva Ecija province, had hinted about their daughters’ arrests in an interview on ANC on July 4. The Supreme Court ordered the military to produce the students but military officials denied holding them.

In the same month, then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her State of the Nation Address to a joint session of Congress, saluted the controversial Palparan for his iron-fisted approach to insurgency. “We will end the long oppression of barangays by rebel terrorists who kill without qualms even their own,” she said.


“In the 7th Division area of responsibility, Jovito Palparan has come to grips with the enemy. He will not let go until the communities in the long night of terror emerge into the light of law and freedom,” Arroyo said.

In September 2006, Palparan, who was born on Sept. 11, 1950, in Cagayan de Oro, retired as commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon.

After his retirement, he managed security firms for mining companies and was among the nominees of party-list group Bantay in the 2007 elections. He took his oath as congressman in 2009 after the Supreme Court ordered the Commission on Elections to follow a new formula for allotting party-list seats, increasing the number of seats for party-list groups in the House of Representatives.

Prime suspect

In January 2007, retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, who led the commission that looked into extrajudicial killings, said a fact-finding report named Palparan the “prime suspect behind the extrajudicial killings.”

Citing command responsibility, Melo said his commission recommended that Palparan and other military officers be held responsible for extrajudicial killings in their areas during their tour of duty.

In October 2007, acting on a petition for a writ of amparo filed by the students’ mothers, the Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeals to hear the case. Under the writ, the military or the police cannot 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. It also opposed a request for documents and military operation reports, saying this was tantamount to a “shotgun” search warrant.

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

On Sept. 17, 2008, convinced by Manalo’s testimony, the appellate court directed the military to free the two students and Merino. It said there was “clear and credible evidence” that the three were “being detained in military camps and bases under the 7th Infantry Division.”

Criminal charges

In May 2011, after years of fruitless search, the mothers of Empeño and Cadapan filed criminal charges, including torture and rape, against Palparan in the Department of Justice (DOJ). The other offenses alleged in the complaint were serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats and coercion.

In July 2011, at the start of the preliminary investigation on the complaint filed in the DOJ, Palparan, labeled “The Butcher” by political activists, denied having a hand in the disappearances. “What will you admit if you have done nothing wrong?” he said.

In December 2011, Palparan went into hiding when he was ordered arrested by the Regional Trial Court in Malolos town, Bulacan, in connection with the abduction of Cadapan and Empeño. He was last seen at Clark International Airport where Bureau of Immigration personnel stopped him from boarding a plane for a supposed vacation in Singapore.

In February 2012, Ricardo Diaz, then director of the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Luzon, said the NBI had yet to find Palparan despite operations aided by the police and the military in at least 18 areas nationwide he went into hiding.

Diaz said the NBI’s search for Palparan took its agents to 18 areas in the provinces of Isabela, Mindoro, North Cotabato, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Quezon and Laguna, and in the cities of Pasig, Balanga and Angeles.

In August 2012, President Aquino raised the bounty for the capture of Palparan and other high-profile figures facing criminal charges.  The President doubled the reward from P1 million to P2 million for information leading to the arrest of Palparan.–Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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TAGS: Abduction, Bulacan province. A farmer, Human rights, Jovito Palparan, Karen Empeño, Manuel Merino, Sherlyn Cadapan, UP students, were seized by gunmen from their rented house in Hagonoy town
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