DAVAO CITY, Philippines – It has been 12 years now since two students from the University of the Philippines disappeared.
And for the families of the victims, the enduring wait for justice to arrive has been excruciating and painful.
After 12 years, justice remained unserved, and the families pointed to main culprit to the disappearance:retired military general Jovito Palparan, who they said has not yet convicted.
UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, together with farmer Manuel Merino were abducted byarmed men believed to be soldiers under Palparan’s battalion, last June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
”We have hoped to commemorate the 12th year of their disappearance in seeing Palparan behind bars. We call on the court to promulgate the case and convict Palparan soon. There remains another half of this year, do not let us wait in agony until their 13th or 14th,” said Concepcion Empeno, mother of Karen and the chair of the group Desaparecidos, in a statement the group issued on Tuesday, June 26.
Empeno said the kidnapping with serious illegal detention case against Palparan at the Malolos Regional Trial Court has been concluded on February 15, 2018.
Yet, four months after the conclusion of the trial, the court has yet to render its decision on the case.
“Our hopes remain high that Palparan will be convicted, yet with heightened vigilance. This is the reason why even a dozen years have passed, we never forget to remember Karen and Sherlyn today,” she pointed out.
As they commemorate the day when their daughters disappeared, the mothers also joined a protest on Tuesday for the call to release political prisoner Rafael Baylosis.
Baylosis is a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), who should have joined the resumption of the peace talks but was recently halted again by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Desaparecidos said that Baylosis remains in detention despite a court order granting him bail.
The group also joined the other sectors in a protest action at the Department of Interior and Local Government office on Tuesday as lawyers filed a contempt of court against the warden of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Special Intensive Care Area I (SICA-I) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig.
“Duterte is keeping critics, dissenters, small drug users and even bystanders in prison, but he has not punished a single human rights violator, drug lord or bystander corrupt officials in two years. He has displayed arrogance against women and critics. He dare not acquit Palparan for abducting and making our daughters disappear,” said Empeno.
Horrors of martial law
The group also made a call to the people to remember the four other desaparecidos who were abducted on 12 years ago.
Linda Cadapan, the mother of Sherlyn said Prudencio Calubid, an NDFP consultant, together with his wife Celina Palma, niece Gloria Soco, and Ariel Beloy were on their way to Samar when they were abducted 12 years ago along Maharlika Highway in the boundary of Quezon and Camarines Norte provinces.
”The road the Duterte regime is treading brings back the horrors of the time when we searched camps and hospitals and dug up graves in search of our loved ones,” said Cadapan, referring to the dark days of the military rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
She added, “how do we expect justice now for the disappeared many years back with a president who has not only perpetuated the same abuses but has coddled martial law remnants and rights violators under his reign?”
Desaparecidos said that enforced disappearance is a known rights violation during martial law which was used to silence hundreds of activists and opponents of the Marcos dictatorship.
“Let us not forget that aside from the comeback of Marcos to power, who Duterte is trying so hard to salvage and help to rehabilitate back in power, there is also Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who belongs to Duterte’s inner circles. Will he, then, punish Palparan who is Arroyo’s celebrated general?” Cadapan emphasized.
Aside from not forgetting, not letting go of the plight for justice is a relevant response to the current situation, she added.
“This is for the grieving mothers of children killed in the war against drugs, for those killed in the Marawi and elsewhere in Mindanao that is still under martial law. The justice we seek is not in resigning, but in keeping it up against this new dictator. We hope that you endure however far and long. Because as long as Duterte and his men are out killing and arresting and threatening everyone, there’s no resting until this is put to an end,” Cadapan concluded.(davaotoday.com)