By Dabet Castañeda
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
VOL. VII, No. 42, November 25- December 1, 2007
One year and five months after their abduction, a witness testified that he had actually seen and talked to Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, the two scholars of the University of the Philippines (UP) who were abducted allegedly by soldiers on June 26, 2006 while doing research in a farming community in Barangay (village) San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. Farmer Manuel Merino was abducted together with the two.
The witness, Raymund Manalo, also confirmed what had been feared all along - that the UP students were raped by their abductors.
Manalo, who was abducted together with his brother, Reynaldo, in their home in Barangay Buhol na Mangga, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, on Feb. 14, 2006, said he first met Cadapan sometime in November 2006 at the barracks of Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. Camp Tecson hosts the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR).
It was an uncanny meeting, Manalo said in his signed affidavit submitted at the Court of Appeals (CA) on Nov. 12. "Sa loob ng barracks ko nakilala si Sherlyn, isang estudyante ng UP," (I met Sherlyn, a UP student, inside the barracks.) Manalo said as she described Sherlyn as a "babaeng nakakadena (chained woman)."
At first, Manalo said he was told not to converse with the chained woman. But on the third or fourth day, Manalo said he approached Sherlyn and gave her food.
Sherlyn, meanwhile, gave Manalo some information about herself. "Sinabi nya sa akin na …matindi ang tortyur na dinaranas niya. Umiiyak sya," (She told me she experienced heavy torture. She was crying.) Manalo said in his testimony.
Manalo also said Sherlyn was ordered to do the laundry during the day. But more than this, what was bothersome was Sherlyn's confession that she had been molested by a certain Mickey, Donald and Billy. "Sabi ni Sherlyn sa akin na siya'y ginahasa," ((Sherlyn told me she was raped.) Manalo said in his testimony.
Manalo described Mickey as "pandak na mataba, maputi," (short, fat, and fair-skinned) while Billy is "maitim, bungi, pinakamataba sa kanila, pandak." (dark, with missing teeth, the fattest, and short) Donald is Master Sgt. Donald Caigas, the same suspect in the killing of human rights worker Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in April 2003.
Manalo said the words "24th IB" was tattooed on the shoulders of Caigas.
Nine days after meeting Sherlyn, Manalo said, he also met Karen and Manuel inside the same military camp.
During the day, Manalo said he, Reynaldo and Manuel were told to do errands while the two women were made to do the laundry.
An unexpected visit
On Nov. 22, 2006, the Manalo brothers, Manuel, Sherlyn and Karen were transferred to 24th Infantry Battalion (IB) camp in Limay, Bataan. According to Raymund's testimony, they stayed there until May 8 of this year.
Going to Bataan, Karen was separated from the four and was forced to ride a black car with Caigas. The rest of the captives rode a stainless jeep.
Raymund said it was in Bataan where he witnessed the torture of Sherlyn and Karen.
The torture happened after Sherlyn told their soldier-captors that she kept a gun at her mother-in-law's place in Calumpit, Bulacan. She was taken to the place but the soldiers found no firearm there. Sherlyn also tried to leave a letter for her mother-in-law but her military escorts saw the letter and confiscated it.
At the hearing for the writ of amparo Nov. 21 at the Court of Appeals (CA), Sherlyn's mother-in-law, Adoracion Paulino, testified that Sherlyn indeed visited her in the evening of April 11. Paulino said she hugged and kissed Sherlyn but the latter just looked at her and took some clothes. Paulino said her daughter-in-law had five escorts at that time. The visit was swift, Paulino told the court.
After the visit, Paulino said the threats to her life had become endless. As she broke down during her testimony, she said soldiers and police had been visiting her at home, asking if it was true that Sherlyn and five of her escorts paid a visit. "Dinenay ko dahil natakot ako para kay Sherlyn, para sa anak ko at para sa sarili ko." (I denied it because I fear for Sherlyn, my son, and myself.)
Paulino said she tried to keep the brief encounter with Sherlyn to herself. It was only in May when she decided to tell Sherlyn's mother, Linda, about the visit.
When Sherlyn was taken back to the camp in Bataan, Raymund said, he saw the soldiers torture Sherlyn, "Itinali sya sa bangko, itinaas ang kanyang mga paa, binuhusan siya ng tubig sa ilong, kinuryente sya." (She was tied to a bench, her feet were lifted, water was poured to her nose, and she was electrocuted.)
"Sumisigaw sya.Matagal syang pinahirapan," (She shouted. She was tortured for a long time.) Raymund added.
When Sherlyn told the soldiers that Karen helped her write the letter for her mother-in-law, Raymund said, he saw the soldiers take Karen outside. However, Raymund said, he did not see what the soldiers had done to Karen. "Narinig ko lang ang mga sigaw nya," (I just heard her cries.) Raymund said.
The following day, Raymund said, he heard the soldiers hurling invectives at the two UP students. "Inuyam sila sa ginawang pananakit, ipinaalala sa kanila ang ginawang paghipo sa kanilang ari at pagpasok ng kahoy sa kanilang ari," (They were taunted regarding the pain inflicted on them; they were reminded that their private parts were touched and a wooden stick was inserted inside their sex organ.) Raymund said in his testimony.
On the other hand, Raymund said, he and Manuel where forced to join military operations in Bataan. Raymund said they witnessed how the soldiers killed two relatives of suspected New People's Army (NPA) guerillas.
From Limay, Bataan, Raymund said, the five of them (Manalo brothers, Sherlyn, Karen and Manuel) were transferred to a safehouse off the shore of Zambales. They stayed in the said place from May 8 or 9 (Raymund was not sure of the exact date) until June.
The five captives were taken back to Limay, Bataan sometime in June. After two or three weeks, Raymund said, he, Reynaldo and Manuel were taken to a forest by a certain "Lat." They were made to sleep in the forest until Caigas ordered Lat to bring them back to the camp.
At night time, the three male captives were again taken to the forest, this time by a certain "Robin." They were taken back to the camp the next morning. Raymund said it was then that he noticed that Sherlyn and Karen were gone. "Hindi ko na sila nakita," (I never saw them again.) Raymund said.
The three male captives were then chained inside the cell where Sherlyn and Karen were kept before. They stayed there for three days, Raymund added.
On the third day, Raymund said "Lat" took Manuel outside the cell. "Kakausapin daw sya ni Gen. Palparan," ( They said Gen. Palaparan would talk with him.) Raymund said, referring to retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, then the commanding officer of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (ID PA) based in Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
"Nakapiring si Manuel, wala siyang suot pang-itaas, pinosasan," (Manuel was blindfolded, he had no shirt and was handcuffed.) Raymund said in his testimony.
"Ði nagtagal, narinig ko ang hiyaw o ungol ni Manuel. Sumilip ako sa isang haligi ng kamalig at nakita kong sinisilaban si Manuel," (After a while, I heard the shouts and moans of Manuel. I peeked and saw Manuel being burned.) Raymund said.
That was the last time Raymund would see Manuel alive. "Sabi ni Donald (Caigas) huwag na raw naming hanapin ang dalawang babae at si Manuel dahil magkakasama na sila." (Donald told us not to look for the two women and Manuel anymore because they are already together.)
The Manalo brothers were then transferred to Pangasinan where they were allowed to tend a small farm owned by Caigas. Around 1 a.m. of Aug. 14, the brothers were able to escape from their captors when the soldiers became drunk.
A writ of amparo has also been filed for the Manalo brothers who are still kept in a sanctuary as threats hound them and their family to this day.
Raymund is scheduled to testify for Sherlyn, Karen and Manuel on Dec. 18. Bulatlat