Mother hopes 2 missing girls will also surface

Dino Balabo - The Philippine Star

MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – With Jovito Palparan out of hiding, will his alleged victims also surface soon?

This is the fervent hope of Erlinda Cadapan, who never abandoned her belief that her daughter Sherilyn is still alive.

Cadapan said Sherilyn was 29 when she was abducted with two others in Hagonoy, Bulacan on the night of June 26, 2006.

“She would be 37 years old now,” Cadapan said in a radio interview over dzMM when asked for her reaction on Palparan’s arrest yesterday.

Mrs. Cadapan said she cannot describe the pain caused by her daughter’s disappearance.

She admitted she is still angry with Palparan but added that yesterday’s arrest is a step toward justice.

And she still believes that her daughter is still alive.

“I wish my daughter is here with me right now along with Karen,” Cadapan said, referring to Karen Empeño, who was snatched along with Sherilyn.

Connie Empeño, for her part, said she wanted Palparan incarcerated along with common criminals for the disappearance of her daughter Karen.

“There should be no VIP treatment for him. I want to see him in a regular jail along with ordinary criminals,” Empeño said.

Both Mrs. Cadapan and Mrs. Empeño broke into tears upon hearing of Palparan’s arrest.

“I wailed and shouted when I heard that he had been arrested,” Mrs. Empeño said.

Mrs. Cadapan was among those who went to the National Bureau of Investigation main office in Manila upon hearing news of Palparan’s arrest.

She said she wanted to see Palparan personally but never got the chance.

Cadapan said she is ready to face Palparan anytime, but declined to say what she would will tell him.

Cadapan said she still hopes Palparan’s arrest would lead them to their missing kin.

She recalled a conversation she supposedly had with Palparan during a court hearing back in 2011, during which the Army general supposedly asked her – without explicitly admitting having knowledge of the crime – if she would drop the charges if and when her daughter surfaced.

She recalled just saying the case was already under the court’s jurisdiction.

Cadapan said they have strong evidence against Palparan who she also accused of sexually assaulting her daughter and Empeño and many others.

Both mothers shared the optimism that the retired general’s arrest was a first step towards attaining justice for their disappeared daughters.

Time to face trial

Militant groups hailed the arrest of Palparan yesterday, saying it was long overdue for the former general to face trial for human rights violations.

Human rights group Karapatan blamed Palparan for the killing and disappearance of human rights defenders.

From 2005 to 2006 alone, when Palparan was commanding officer of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, specifically with the 24th Infantry Battalion, known as the torture battalion under him, there were 71 victims of extrajudicial killings, 14 victims of frustrated killing, and five incidents of massacre, Karapatan said.

“No special treatment should be accorded to him. There should likewise be no more delays in delivering justice, for the victims and their relatives have suffered far too long,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan also blamed Palparan for the killing of human-rights defenders Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in Southern Tagalog; Pastor Edison Lapuz in Leyte; lawyer Fedelito Dacut in Leyte, and Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Karapatan also urged the government to hold accountable those who harbored Palparan.

Karapatan urged the supposed victims of Palparan to come out and file charges.

Militant labor groups also hailed the arrest of Palparan, calling on the government to resume the court trial against the retired general.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Koalisyon ng Progresibo at Makabayang Manggagawa said Palparan’s arrest is a victory for the relentless fight for human rights and justice.

Edre Olalia, private counsel for the families of Cadapan and Empeño, said the arrest of Palparan signals the immediate resumption of the trial.

Olalia said Palparan’s arrest is never too late for justice to catch up.

He said that on August 18, the defense counsels for Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio will prepare to wrap their case, but trial for Palparan will begin.

“What happens thereafter will come under close scrutiny, here and abroad. Palparan must face the music and the full wrath of the furies for all the crimes credibly imputed to him,” Olalia said.

Olalia said Palparan should be detained at the Bulacan Provincial Jail by orders of the court having jurisdiction over the accused.

He said that no special treatment should be given to the retired general.

Lawmakers also hailed the arrest of their former colleague, Palparan, who served as representative of the Bantay party-list in the House of Representatives.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said the arrest of Palparan is actually the easy part.

“The hard part is prosecuting him,” he said.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, a former police officer, congratulated the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and Naval Intelligence for Palparan’s arrest.

He said the arrest showed the government’s resolve to run after high-profile fugitives.

Pagdilao also said he will seek a congressional inquiry to look deeper into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Palparan and how he managed to remain at large for a long time.

The government peace panel negotiating talks with the communist rebels, on the other hand, said the arrest of Palparan is a triumph of justice.

“The government peace panel for the negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front welcomes the arrest of retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr., today, International Humanitarian Law Day,” the government panel headed by Alexander Padilla said. –Reinir Padua, Rhodina Villanueva, Artemio Dumlao, Mayen Jaymalin, Paolo Romero, Michelle Zoleta, Jose Rodel Clapano

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