Witness tags soldiers in torture of UP students

As the Aquino government continues to fail to arrest retired general Jovito Palparan, another victim of state-enforced abduction and torture has positively identified some of the soldiers who tortured Karen and Sherlyn.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MALOLOS, Bulacan – A witness recounted before the court how soldiers tortured the two students of the University of the Philippines (UP), Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

In a hearing at the Bulacan regional trial court, Sept. 24, Raymond Manalo testified that elements of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) tortured Karen and Sherlyn at a military camp in Limay, Bataan in 2006.

Karen and Sherlyn, along with farmer Manuel Merino, had been forcibly taken by suspected state agents on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan. They remain missing to this day. The mothers of the two UP students filed charges against retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and several other military officers for the enforced disappearance of their daughters.

“I saw Sherlyn, her feet tied up, soldiers poking at her private part with a stick,” Manalo said in Filipino during the direct examination by lawyer Julian Oliva Jr.

Manalo and his brother, Reynaldo, werealso taken by suspected state agents from their house in San Ildelfonso, Bulacan on February 14, 2006. In his affidavit, Manalo said they were transferred from one safehouse or military camp to another. It was at Camp Tecson where he met the two students and Merino sometime in August 2006. After 18 months of captivity, the Manalo brothers escaped.

“Karen was also tortured,” Manalo said. “Both of them were stripped naked, they were hung by their feet while soldiers burned their bodies with cigarettes.”

Manalo said he and Merino were ordered to wash the undergarments of the two UP students. “There were blood clots,” he said.

Asked how he came to know that the men who tortured the students were soldiers, Manalo said he read it from the arc at the entrance of the military camp and some of the men had tattoos on their arms with the text 24th IB.

Raymond’s testimony was upheld by the Supreme Court in its decision on the writ of amparo petition filed by the mothers of the two students.

Two of the accused – Col. Felipe Anotado Jr. and Staff Sgt. Edgar Osorio – both active military officers, were present during the hearing. Palparan and another suspect, Rizal Hilario, remain at large. They are facing charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

Positive identification

During the hearing, Manalo also positively identified Anotado as the one who talked to him and to Karen and Sherlyn for about three times at the military camp in Limay, Bataan.

“Would you be able to identify that person?” Oliva asked. Raymond replied yes and pointed to one of the men wearing Army uniform.

Asked to identify himself, the man said: “Col. Felipe G. Anotado Jr., Philippine Army.”

Raymond said he was able to know the name of Anotado when the latter attended one of the hearings at the Court of Appeals on the amparo petition filed by Mrs. Cadapan and Mrs. Empeno.

Oliva, also officer of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said Manalo��s positive identification crushed the general denial and alibi of the accused.

At the preliminary investigation hearings last year at the Department of Justice, Anotado and the other suspects, including Palparan, denied all the allegations.

Oscar Empeño, father of Karen, expressed frustration as he attended the hearing. “Looking at Anotado, it was as if the meetings [mentioned by Manalo] never happened,” Mr. Empeño said. “He would even shake his head.”

Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said Anotado never expressed any remorse. “With the overwhelming evidence against him, he should have shown remorse,” Olalia said.

Mr. Empeño also lashed at the military. “Why do they tolerate such kind of people in their ranks?” He asked. “They should disown such soldiers.”

Anotado and Osorio wore their Army uniforms during the hearing. They were also escorted by soldiers armed with high-powered rifles. At the entrance of the court room stood a soldier brandishing his long firearm.

The defense called for the deferment of cross examination of Manalo, saying they will have to study all the pertinent documents related to Manalo’s testimony.

The next hearing is scheduled on October 29.

‘Arrest Palparan’

Olalia said authorities have to arrest Palparan, whom he tagged as the “primary mastermind” of the abduction and torture of the students.

“We are growing tired of the government’s alibi for not being able to arrest Palparan,” Olalia said. “They have all the resources and machinery. It is their responsibility to bring them to the court.”

As for the wheels of justice grinding slowly, Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, said: “They are only prolonging our agony.” ()

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