ASAn si Palparan? (ASAP) is a collection of artworks in the style of Larry Alcala’s “Slice of Life” and Martin Handford’s “Where’s Waldo”. A contribution from you can help bring to the general public the plight of several victims of human rights violations conducted by the military forces in the country and eventually bring justice to them by finding, convicting and jailing Maj. General Jovito Palparan Jr.
General Palparan, notoriously known as the “Butcher,” is responsible for the abduction, torture, killings and/or disappearances of several of our kababayans—activists and ordinary folks in the provinces—including UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno who remain missing to this date. Palparan personifies the prevalent state of impunity in the country, as he continues to evade the warrant of arrest against him. The warrant of arrest is a result of the persistent struggle for justice of the mothers of Cadapan and Empeno.
In June 26, 2006 two Univerisity of the Philippines Students – Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and a peasant – Manuel Merino were abducted by several armed men, witnesses believed to be soldiers, belonging to the 56th Infantry Battalion, in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
Sherlyn and Karen’s families together with human rights organizations Karapatan and Desaparecidos went to look for them in military camps, hospitals, morgues, etc. A blotter was filed before the local police station the afternoon that they were disappeared, but the police only recorded the incident and no thorough investigation was conducted.
The two students were then staying in the house of a peasant named William Ramos. William and his son Wilfredo Ramo, were later secured to help in the filing of the habeas corpus case as well as to protect them from possible harassment by the military.
Another witness, Alberto Ramos, a member of the Barangay Human Rights Action Committee who was likewise abducted and taken to the military detachment in Mercado, Hagonoy, Bulacan, where he was interrogated by the military to prove the identity of the two students, was also sought to help in the case.
Assisted by the human rights groups the families filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights.
In July that same year they eventually filed a habeas corpus petition before the Supreme Court which delegated the case to the Court of Appeals. Several witnesses came out to testify before the court to prove the military’s accountability on the abduction of the three. One of them, Oscar Leuterio, who was illegally detained and held incommunicado by his military abductors for five months, swore before the court that he indeed had seen Sherlyn, Karen and Manuel inside Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. Oscar knew Manuel because they were friends.
Another witness, a Village Human Rights Officer testified that she saw the plate number of the vehicle used in the abduction. The vehicle with the same plate was discovered inside the local headquarters of the military in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Despite their testimoies, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for habeas corpus the following year.
With the enforcement of the Writ of Amparo in 2007, the Cadapan-Empeño legal counsel used this legal remedy and filed a petition on the writ of amparo for Sherlyn and Karen. Another witness was presented to corroborate other testimonies earlier presented in court during the habeas corpus hearing. Raymond Manalo, testified in court that he had talked and was with Sherlyn and Karen while inside the 24th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Limay, Bataan. He also stated that the two women told him that they suffered severe torture and was raped by their military abductors. Raymond, a peasant was also abducted and held incommunicado for at least 18 months together with his brother Reynaldo.
The rape and torture of the two women was later given a context with the testimony of Adoracion Paulino, Sherlyn’s mother-in-law, who stated in her affidavit that in April, 2007 Sherlyn visited her, accompanied by military personnel. She initially told the military that she will lead them to where she “kept weapons”. It turned out that she had only wanted to leave behind a note in the home of Adoracion, hoping that her mother-in-law would find it and give to her family. Unfortunately, the letter was discovered by Sherlyn’s military escorts and she was immediately dragged out of the house. Adoracion was warned not to intervene and was threatened if she did. Sherlyn was brought back to the safehouse where they were kept and together with Karen, was severely tortured and raped.
Meanwhile, other efforts were made in search of Sherlyn, Karen and Manuel. In October, an exhumation was made in Bataan, which witnesses identified as the place where the 24th Infantry Battalion used to hold their headquarters. Karapatan, together with the Commission on Human Rights, University of the Philippines Anthropology Professor Dr. Francisco Datar and Dr. Maria S. Ungria of the University of the Philippines DNA Analysis Lab conducted the exhumation. They were able to dig up human bones burned to the core and a yellow slipper which Raymond Manalo identified to belong to Manuel Merino. The 7th Infanty Division still maintains to this day that they never put up any military headquarters in that area.
In September 17, 2009, the Court of Appeals came out with the decision granting the protection of the families of the victims but not the opening of the military camps for the search of the students nor for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to surface them.
The families of Sherlyn and Karen through their lawyers elevated the case to the Supreme Court. In May 31, 2011 the high court came out with a resolution affirming the Court of Appeals decision, but with a modification, this time ordering the respondents –Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson, Gen. Jovito Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Arnel Enriquez and Donald Caigas “to immediately release Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Merino.”
In May 4, 2011 the families of Sherlyn and Karen filed a criminal complaint before the Department of Justice in a make or break legal effort to gain justice for their children.
In June 13, 2011 the Department of Justice appointed a three-man panel to look into the Cadapan-Empeño case.
From July 8 to September 23, 2011 a total of nine hearings were conducted for the preliminary investigation of the case. During the first hearing, witness Wilfredo Ramos, positively recognized the man beside Palparan, who was later identified as Staff Sergeant Eduardo Osorio, as one of the men who dragged the two UP students from their house.He was included in the amended complaint filed before the DOJ.
The DOJ finally released the resolution on December 16, 2011, finding prima facie evidence against four military officers – Ret. General Jovito Palparan, Jr. Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario and Staff Sergeant Eduardo Osorio.
The criminal case – Kidnapping with serious illegal detention was filed by the public prosecutors before the Regional Trial Courts in Malolos, Bulacan. Subsequently, arrest warrants were issued against the respondents on December 20, 2011. Two of the accused Lt.Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sergeant Eduardo Osorio surrendered to the Criminal Investigation and Detecion Group. They werelater transferred to themilitary camp, Fort Bonifacio citing security threats. However, the families of the two students opposed this during the start of the trial on January 2.
At the same time, lawyers of the accused filed motions for reinvestigation of the case against their clients, suspension of the Watch List Order and Hold Departure Order on them , among others.
Succeeding court hearings were held from January – February until the Judge went on leave until end of March. In April the court dismissed all the motions filed in court by the defendants. Lt. Col. Anotado and S/Sgt. Osorio were arraigned thereafter on April 23. The Pre-trial was held on May 21 while the next hearing was set on August 2.
Days after the respondents’indictment, Palparan tried to escape but was stopped by immigration authorities at the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark, Pampanga on December 19. He was on his way to Singapore, supposedly for the christmas holidays. Together with M/Sgt. Hilario, Palparan has remained at large since then.
In the meantime, families of Sherlyn and Karen together with human rights groups Karapatan and Desaparecidos called for a People’s Manhunt for the fugitive Palparan, which they launched on December 28, 2011. They posted Wanted posters of Palparan in Quezon City and Manila as well as called on other regions to post similar posters in their major cities and towns.