The parents of missing University of the Philipines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who disappeared in 2006, now have only one wish—to see their daughters, or their daughter’s bodies, dead or alive.
Karen’s mom Concepcion and Sherlyn’s mother Erlinda, has made known their wishes now that Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. has been convicted by a Malolos City court.
The court found Palparan guilty for the abduction of the two UP students.
“Hanggang hindi po nila nililitaw at hindi namin nayayakap ang warm body ng aming anak, I think there’s no closure yet,” the elder Cadapan said in a television interview a day after Palaparan was sentenced to life in prison.
“Para sa akin first step pa lang itong pag-convict kay Palparan na siya ay guilty. Tulad din ni Nanay Linda kailangan din namin na si Karen ay ma-surface. Kailangan namin makita ang katawan niya, maaaring buhay o patay,” the elder Empeño added.
Karen, a sociology student, and Sherlyn, who was taking up sports science, were abducted in Hagonoy, Bulacan in June 2006. Both had volunteered for peasant group Alyansang Magbubukid.
The students, who were branded as rebels, were reportedly abducted, and tortured by Palparan’s men during the height of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s anti-communist insurgency drive “Oplan Bantay Laya, the mothers’ lawyer, Josa Deinla, alleged.
“Yung mga naging biktima nito di lang ‘yung mga pinaghihinalaang sympathizers ng NPA. Even the unarmed, above-ground activists, kagaya ni Karen at Sherlyn. No distinctions whatsoever. Andaming nabiktima ng EJKs at forced disappearances,” the lawyer said.
Palparan, who was nicknamed the “Butcher” by activists, was one of the leaders of the anti-communist drive at the time, and even earned praise from his commander in chief, then President Arroyo, during her state of the nation address in 2006.
“Sa mga lalawigang sakop ng 7th Division, nakikibaka sa paglaban si Jovito Palparan. Hindi siya aatras hanggang makawala sa gabi ng kilabot ang mga pamayanan at maka-ahon sa bukang-liwayway ng hustisya at kalayaan,” Arroyo said a month after the students were abducted.
In a 2010 television interview, Palparan responded when told that he was branded as a ‘butcher’ by activists, saying that “Sometimes it’s a compliment,” especially when it refers to his drive against rebels.
Palparan will be detained at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
Despite this, the parents of Karen and Sherlyn still fear that Palparan may be given pardon, especially now that Arroyo is back in power as Speaker of the House of Representatives, is back in power. She is also known as a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“May fear ako ngayon baka sakaling, ayun nga. Guilty siya. Pero nandiyan na naman sa power si Gloria at ito pang ating Presidente, baka gagawa sila ng paraan para makawala sa krimen na nakaatang sa kanya,” Empeño said.
“Sa nakikita ko ang ating Presidente, mas mahal niya ang militar kaysa ating mamamayan... Sa pagkakataong ito hihilingin ko sa Presidente
Duterte na sana, itong nangyari, sana pagbigyan niya ang taumbayan na magdusa ang salarin na ito,” said Cadapan.
Meanwhile, activist priest Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez said Gen. Palparan “deserves a guilty verdict for his monstrous crime in killing and torturing those who are in the progressive movements working to defend the rights of the poor. I have personally investigated the spate of killings in Mindoro orchestrated by him. And I was also targeted by him for liquidation. The guilty verdict is justice served. He should be made accountable for his crimes.”