The mothers of missing UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno today filed a criminal complaint against retired General Jovito Palparan Jr. for rape, serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention and other crimes, based on sworn affidavits of several eyewitnesses.
Counsel Edre U. Olalia, Secretary-General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said “This will not ensure that Karen and Sherlyn will be brought back to us. Indeed, this is more than seeking justice for them. This is a way to put these incorrigible abductors, torturers and rapists out of places of authority.” Karen and Sherlyn have been missing since 2006.
Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeno, alleging conspiracy within the military unit, filed the complaint at the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Palparan, former commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army; his commanding officers Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac of the 56th Infantry Battalion and Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado of the 25th Infantry Battalion. It also charged M/Sgt. Donald Caigas and M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario for particular acts of torture and rape. The charge of rape is non-bailable.
Attached to the complaint were eight detailed affidavits that established Sherlyn and Karen were in military custody. Farmer Raymond Manalo, whose testimony was taken in open court in 2008 during the habeas corpus proceedings in the Court of Appeals, positively identified several of the abductors and torturers, as well as witnessed horrible acts of torture. Manalo was himself abducted in Bulacan in 2006, but he eventually escaped.
Other Bulacan farmers, fishermen, and other barriofolk have willingly come up to state for the record that they saw Sherlyn and Karen being abducted or in the custody of the military, said Att. Julian Oliva, a member of the NUPL Legal Team. “Despite the possible consequences, they have stood up in defense of the two UP students who served their community. This is an outstanding act of courage, and a genuine belief that criminals must be punished,” he said.
The criminal acts that were alleged by witnesses are: rape, serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats, grave coercion, and violation of R.A. 7438, or the law which provides for the rights of detained persons.
NUPL also cited violations of international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture.
Among the NUPL counsels are two young UP Law graduates, Attys. Sandra Jill Santos and Ma. Cristina Yambot, who both just passed the Bar and are contemporaries of Karen and Sherlyn.
This is the first criminal case either lawyer will handle. “The time has come for us to take the cudgels for our friends,” said Atty. Santos, “and to continue what Karen and She have begun.” Atty. Santos served with Sherlyn in the UP Diliman student council.
Atty. Yambot, who entered UP as an undergraduate the same time as Karen, said “What we could only demonstrate against as students before, we will help prosecute as lawyers now.”
The mothers of the 2 missing UP students had earlier secured the court’s approval for the writs of habeas corpus and amparo, but neither writ has been executed. The Court of Appeals in September 2008 ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to release the two coeds, but the latter has denied custody. Military camp inspections have been unsuccessful.
This is the first countersuit against Palparan to be filed during the present administration of President Noynoy Aquino. Palparan earned the monicker “The Butcher” for his bloody record of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Gen. Palparan was sued during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had supported and praised him publicly. Other killings attributed to him are those of human rights worker Eden Marcellana, peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, activist Choy Napoles, and many others.
The case of Marcellana and Gumanoy were brought to the UN Human Rights Committee, where the GMA government was held accountable for violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Atty. Olalia, who handled these cases, said “We will continue to pursue all avenues to prosecute human rights violators. We will not let them get away with murder, rape, and other crimes that debase our sensibilities. We will continue to stand by our clients who have dared to speak out against the worst types of violations—those committed by state agents and the state itself.”
This criminal case is a continuation of the efforts of human rights defenders and lawyers to abate the impunity surrounding human rights violations, coming on the heels of the damages suit against GMA and her cohorts for the Morong 43 incident, and to be followed by other suits in the near future against top civilian, military and police officials.#