Brothers Raymund and Reynaldo Manalo who were given protection by the Supreme Court are not only victims of enforced disappearances who were lucky enough to survive, they are also vital witnesses against retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VII, No.29, August 26-September 1, 2007
As it turned out, two farmer-brothers Raymund and Reynaldo Manalo who were given protection by the Supreme Court (SC), in an unprecedented move, by barring the Armed Forces and the Defense Department from arresting or harassing them, are not only victims of enforced disappearances who were lucky enough to survive. They are also vital witnesses who could provide testimonies that the two missing University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño who were abducted June 26 last year are under military custody. Raymund is also the first witness to testify that he personally saw retired Maj. Gen Jovito Palparan, who is being tagged as the “butcher” by activists and human rights groups for his alleged role in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, participate in the abduction and torture of political activists.
Raymund Manalo is the second desaparecido who have surfaced to say that the two missing UP scholars are under military custody. The 26-year-old farmer together with his older brother Reynaldo, 38, surfaced at the Supreme Court Aug. 23 to file a petition for protection after escaping their alleged military captors who have detained and tortured them for a year and a half. They have also requested the High Court to conduct a full-blown probe of their ordeal. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hold an en banc session to decide on their request for a probe.
In his sworn statement, the younger Manalo said they were abducted on Feb. 14 in san Ildefonso, Bulacan, and were detained in three military camps and two safehouses – first in Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija; then they were transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan and later in a safehouse in Zambales. They were again transferred to the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Limay, Bataan and finally, in another safehouse in Pangasinan where the brothers had escaped on Aug. 13.
The younger Manalo also testified that he saw and personally talked to Cadapan and Empeño twice during his detention – the first was in Camp Tecson and second, inside the military quarters in Limay, Bataan.
He said he also saw Manuel Merino, the farmer-companion of the UP students when they were abducted in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006. However, the younger Manalo said he later learned that Merino had been killed.
The testimony of Raymund Manalo corroborates the statement of another former desaparecido, 49-year-old Oscar Leuterio, who was released Sept. 14, 2006 after agreeing to his captors’ offer that he serves as an asset for the military.
In a previous interview, Leuterio told Bulatlat that he saw Cadapan and Empeño while he was detained in Fort Magsaysay. Leuterio also said he heard soldiers mentioning a certain “MM,” the supposed codename for Merino. He later learned Merino had been summarily executed.
In the same interview, Leuterio also said he actually saw the Manalo brothers when they were brought in the same safehouse inside Fort Magsaysay where he was detained for almost five months.
The human rights groups Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) and Desaparecidos (Families of the Disappeared for Justice) lauded the surfacing of the Manalo brothers.
“We laud Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo’s bravery in telling the world of the plight of other compatriots who have been abducted and held in ‘ghost prisons’ by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Karapatan said in its statement.
“We likewise share the hope of the Cadapan and Empeño families with the news that the Manalo brothers saw Sherlyn and Karen alive,” the statement further said.
Desaparecidos, in its statement, said the Supreme Court, with its pledge to give remedy to victims, must be able give protection to Manalo brothers who were victims of enforced disappearance. “They may be already free but they are still in danger. The SC must likewise be able to dispense justice for victims and their families,” the statement said.
Desaparecidos has recorded 184 victims of enforced disappearances from Jan. 2001 to July 30, 2007. This does not yet include the disappearance of two other farmers in Tagkawayan, Quezon – Jun Marcellana and Jaime Aurellana – who were abducted allegedly by soldiers on Aug. 15. Bulatlat