The first step

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

It took 12 years for the parents of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan to finally attain justice. Former Army major general Jovito Palparan and two other soldiers under his command were found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of the two students from the University of the Philippines. They will serve life sentences. One of the accused remains at large. It is not surprising that Palparan continues to deny having anything to do with the disappearance of the two students, even questioning the credibility of the prosecution’s witness. But why did he go into hiding for almost three years if he was truly innocent? And why is one of the accused still at large? These are not the actions of innocent people. 


I do not understand how two female students pose a threat to the country, such that they had to be abducted by armed soldiers and illegally detained. If they are suspected of being NPA or communist sympathizers, why not let the police take them into custody and give them due process? Were the two students armed? Was it necessary for soldiers to take them away? Or is this how Palparan delivers his message of fear to the area he was assigned in?

Palparan and his men have been convicted, but until now the two students have yet to be found. I cannot imagine what they were subjected to by Palparan’s henchmen while in detention. It is not hard to believe they were tortured, both physically and psychologically, and worse. And when the issue of their disappearance hit the news, they were simply disposed of. The parents are urging that their daughters surface, dead or alive. For them, Palparan’s conviction is just the first step to attaining closure. I can understand that.

Many groups laud the conviction of Palparan, most notably human rights advocates who have long accused “The Butcher” of human rights violations in the course of his war against communism. Feel free to draw comparisons to this administration’s war on drugs. But while this may be considered a victory against those who abuse power and authority, many victims of similar disappearances and human rights violations have yet to attain justice. The same goes for Kian Delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz. How many years before their loved ones get to hear the conviction of those who ended their lives? DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said justice may take a while, but it does come. That is of little comfort to those who have been waiting for decades. One only needs to look back at the Marcos dictatorship. Then there is the possibility of the convicted being pardoned, especially by a president known to favor the police and the military. What if a mole starts burrowing through files and records in the hope of finding a reason to pardon these men? Definitely not the first time it’s been done. I really hope in this case, Palparan stays where he belongs.

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