Tell it to SunStar: Mothers of disappeared UP students hope more perpetrators be brought to justice

The mothers of disappeared University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan have welcomed “both with joy and sadness” the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) First Division affirming the conviction of retired general Jovito Palparan and two other military officials.

They emphasized that the CA decision should usher in more efforts to put perpetrators of enforced disappearances and other human rights violations to justice.

“Habang binabasa ko, umiiyak ako. Masaya ako dahil muling pinagtibay ang ipinaglaban namin na mapanagot si Palparan. Gayunman, hindi pa lubos ang hustisya dahil hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin naililitaw sina Karen at Sherlyn (As I read it [the decision], I was crying. I am happy that they affirmed what we have been fighting for, to make Palparan accountable. However, justice has not been fully attained because until now, they have not surfaced Karen and Sherlyn),” said Concepcion Empeño, Karen’s mother.

Meanwhile, Erlinda Cadapan, Sherlyn’s mother, added that the affirmation of Palparan’s conviction is good news for their families and other families of the disappeared. Karen and Sherlyn were abducted by Palparan’s men on June 26, 2006.

“We are relieved that Palparan has been convicted...without eligibility for parole. We again call on the Bureau of Corrections to put Palparan in the maximum security facility of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) where he belongs,” Cadapan said.

The mothers have earlier expressed deep concern after receiving reports that Palparan enjoys special treatment at the NBP and is not staying at the NBP’s Maximum Security Compound, the detention facility for prisoners convicted of reclusion perpetua.

Cadapan also said Palparan, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio have yet to pay the P300,000 worth of moral damages and indemnification for the two counts of kidnapping with serious illegal detention for the abduction and disappearance of Karen and Sherlyn.

“Wala pa ring katumbas na pera ang buhay ng aming mga anak. Ang iginigiit pa rin namin, na habang pinagbabayaran nila sa kulungan ang pagdukot nila sa mga anak namin, ay sabihin nila sa amin: nasaan sina Karen at Sherlyn? (No amount of money is enough for the lives of our children. We continue to demand that, while they are in jail for robbing our daughters away from us, they tell us: where are Karen and Sherlyn?)” Cadapan said.

The mothers also affirmed they shall continue to call for justice together with other families of victims of enforced disappearances.

“We will not reach this point if not for the strength and courage shared to us by fellow families of desaparecidos, human rights defenders and our lawyers. Not only Karen and Sherlyn, but many remain missing to this day. We call on the public to continue to support our search for justice,” Empeño urged.

For her part, Cadapan said: “From the Marcos dictatorship to Duterte, there are hundreds, if not thousands of families who are still looking for their disappeared loved ones. They, too, deserve justice. The challenge is greater now because those who are guilty of the crime of enforced disappearances are in power once more—but this will not dampen our spirit to continue the search for our missing loved ones with the support of people who want a stop to this injustice.”