2 UP students still missing after 7 years
MANILA, Philippines – Seven years have passed since they last enjoyed their freedom. The question of whether they will ever get the chance to reclaim it remains unanswered.
On June 26, 2006, University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan were abducted by several gunmen while doing fieldwork in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
Cadapan, then a 27-year-old human kinetics student, served as a community organizer for the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan. Empeno, then a 20-year-old sociology student, was gearing to complete her academic research on the plight of Bulacan farmers when the incident happened. Unfortunately, along with her research and annotations, Empeno and Cadapan went missing.
Witnesses claim they were seized and placed under custody by the military. They were allegedly tortured, harassed and raped. Maj Gen Jovito Palparan has been accused of being behind the abductions and had been indicted for kidnapping and illegal detention. He remains at large.
Intensifying the search for Palparan, the Aquino government offered a P2 million reward for information about Palparan’s whereabouts.
For 7 years, Coni Empeno and Linda Cadapan, mothers of the abducted students, have been taking their campaign to the streets. The mothers described the past 7 years of their search for their daughters as painful and difficult.
"Magmula na sila ay madukot, tuloy-tuloy ang pagdinig sa kaso nila sa Court of Appeals tapos sa DOJ [Department of Justice] tapos sa RTC ng Malolos. Nag-hearing last Monday. Wala ding nangyari," Linda Cadapan said.
(Since they were abducted, trials continued at the Court of Appeals, DOJ and Malolos RTC. There was a hearing last Monday. Nothing happened.)
Without batting an eyelash, Coni Empeno also challenged Palparan to appear before the court. Addressing Palparan, an unfazed Empeno said, "Humarap siya kung hindi siya guilty." (He should show up if he is not guilty.)
Despite the setbacks in their case, Coni Empeno and Linda Cadapan are determined to continue fighting for their daughters.
“Hangga’t nabubuhay ako, hindi kami titigil sa paniningil ng katarungan at kalayaan para kina Karen at Sherlyn," promised Coni Empeno. (As long as I am living, we will not stop seeking justice and freedom for Karen and Sherlyn.)
According to Desaparecidos deputy secretary general Lorena Santos, the number of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration climbed to 16 and 142, respectively, as of May 2013.
In the 2012 yearend report of Karapatan, there were 14 and 137 reports of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings, respectively.
More than just numbers, the statistics signify numerous lives and rights being trampled upon. To Desaparecidos deputy secretary-general Lorena Santos, the figures reveal a lot about the current government’s lack of will power to act on the human rights violations.
Santos accused Aquino of insincerity in pursuing the perpetrators of the abductions. While Aquino passed legislation like the Law on Anti-Enforced Disappearances and the Marcos compensation laws, she said they should be implemented or enforced.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Etta Rosales also expressed her dismay about the slow progress of the investigation of their case.
“It is very sad that that after 7 years, investigating agencies handling the case of the two UP students were not able to show anything at all. These agencies should do double work since these are celebrated cases,” Rosales said.
In UP, students commemorated the 7th year of Karen and Sherlyn's abduction with a candle lighting activity. They are likewise collectivey calling for the immediate arrest of Palparan. - Rappler.com