Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2 Missing UP Students Tortured, Raped inside Military Camp

Original article: http://www.bulatlat.com/2007/11/2-missing-students-tortured-raped-inside-military-camp

By Dabet Castañeda
VOL. VII, No. 42, November 25- December 1, 2007

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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.

First meeting

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.

Last sighting

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Progressive Filipino Women's Alliance Calls for Urgent Action to Condemn the Batasan Bombing

November 14, 2007

Media Contact:
Valerie Francisco, Secretary General,
Email: fire.nyc@gmail. com
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), NY

Marisa Mariano, Chair, babae, San Francisco
Email: info@babaesf. org

Donna Denina, Vice Chair, Pinay sa Seattle
Email: pinayinfo@gmail. com

Pinay sa Seattle, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) NY and babae SF denounce the bombing of the south wing of Batasan Pambansa (House of Representatives) in Quezon City, Philippines and condemn the systematic acts of state terror perpetrated by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Administration. The U.S. based progressive Filipino women's alliance calls for an immediate independent probe to bring justice to the innocent lives lost during this heinous crime.

The bombing occurred last Tuesday night at about 8:30pm which claimed the lives Marcial Talbo, driver of GABRIELA Partylist Representative Luz Ilagan, Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar and congressional staff member Maan Gale Bustalino. There were 11 others who sustained injuries, including Representative Ilagan and Mike Lim, the driver of another GABRIELA Women's Partylist Representative, Liza Maza.

The explosion at the House of Representatives happened as the day's legislative session was ending. Rep. Luz Ilagan and other progressive partylist members filed an impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macagapagal Arroyo on charges of gross human rights violations, graft and corruption, bribery and electoral fraud. Rep. Luz Ilagan, a human rights lawyer who is known to be a staunch advocate for women's rights in the Philippines, has been a reliable supporter of migrant women's issues in the US, the human trafficking of the Sentosa 27 nurses and the deceased NYC domestic worker, Fely Garcia.

"We are deeply concerned that Luz Ilagan was one of the main targets of the bombing," states Valerie Francisco, Secretary General of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York City. Francisco continues, "In light of her endorsement of the impeachment charges filed against President Arroyo, this attack could be another tactic to deter the impeachment proceedings and quell the people's voice."

Progressive groups are concerned that the recent bombing of the House of Representatives as well as the bombing at Glorietta Mall earlier this year are reminiscent of pre-Martial Law conditions in the Philippines and will be used as an excuse to further curtail civil liberties. Although government officials are quick to call this an act of terror, the U.S. national women's alliance questions the timing of this attack and hold the Philippine government accountable for a thorough investigation, including the possibility of state terrorism.

"The recent Batasan bombing is the latest chapter in Malacanang's larger scheme to justify full-implementation of Martial Law. US-based Filipinos played a big role in condemning Marcos during the dictatorship. Filipino-Americans of today will show the same conviction against GMA's administration," states Bernadette Ellorin, Bayan USA Secretary General.

A U.N. Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston issued a report to the United Nations in August on the state of human rights violations in the Philippines under the current administration claimed that the military was in a "state of denial" about its role in the more then 900 political killings since GMA came into power in 2001. As indicated in the recent bombing, even those of the congressional body are not immune to these human rights violations.

There is grave concern over the amount of U.S. military aid provided to the Philippines in the U.S. Senate bill, which is three times the $11.1 million originally requested by the State Department for FY 2008. Increasing the amount of aid by $19million over the State Department's request has already sent a message to the Philippine Government that the U.S. supports the Philippine's counter insurgency strategy cited in the U.N. Rapporteur's report as the cause of so many human rights abuses.

A national day of action via candle light vigil will take place on Thursday, November 15th to honor and remember the victims of the Batasan Bombing and to pay tribute to the countless lives that have fallen victim to state terror in the Philippines. The U.S. based Filipino women's alliance stands in solidarity with GABRIELA in the Philippines and the progressive people's movement to call for an independent probe of the Batasan Blast and to seek justice for Marcial Tuadlo, a victim to the explosion.

Los Angeles:
Exact time to be announced
In front of Philippine Consulate
3600 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010

New York:
In front of Philippine Consulate
556 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036

Contact Person: Valerie Francisco (925) 726-5768

San Francisco:
In front of the Philippine Consulate
447 Sutter St. (cross street is Powell)
San Francisco, CA 94108

Westlake Plaza
4th & Pine Dowtown Seattle
Seattle, WA 98101


FiRE, babae and Pinay sa Seattle represent the women's sector of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S.representing groups of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As the only international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines) , BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. who are committed to undoing over 500 years of colonial rule and to bringing freedom and justice to the people of the Philippines.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ay, Babae!

Grassroots Organization Empowers Filipinas Across the Bay
by Tuongvi Tran, staff writer
November 6, 2007 12:19 PM


A young Filipino mother and her children come home one Fall evening after having dinner with friends. Despite being harassed by her ex-boyfriend, she managed to live a “normal” life. After walking into her Richmond district home, she noticed her ex-boyfriend was already inside waiting for her.

On the night of Oct. 22, 2000, police entered the Richmond district home and entered a gruesome scene – a bloody young woman slouched over a kitchen chair. Claire Joyce Tempongko had been stabbed to death in front of her children by ex-boyfriend Tari Ramirez.

Prior to her death, Tempongko had called 911 six times over the past 18 months, according to San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women. In addition she had also filed police reports, stating his abusive behavior, and filed for a restraining order.

Tempongko’s death sparked outrage in the Filipino community, as many wondered why nothing had been done to protect Tempongko and her children prior to the homicide.

Babae, meaning “woman” in Tagalog, is a grassroots organization created in 2004 by eight women who wanted to prevent future domestic violence-related homicides from occurring. Also, it serves as a resource for a topic that is prevalent, but rarely discussed, in the Filipino community.

“In general, Filipino men always feel dominant,” says SF State student Cherryl Llamas, who believes it’s very typical in the Filipino culture to have some degree of violence. She also believes Filipinas continue to be in domestically abusive relationships due to their upbringing. “Usually, they don’t have a father figure and they see their parents’ relationship and they think that’s the way their boyfriend should act – the trend basically gets misconcepted generally from their family values and ethics.”

According to a fact sheet released by the California State Domestic Violence Interagency Collaborative, 5.8% of California women experience domestic violence a year – 4.8% of which are Asian females. Also, of the 54 undocumented Filipino women residing in the Bay Area, 20% have reported experiencing some form of domestic violence, according to Babae’s website.

Three years later on the night of Oct. 29, seventeen men and women gather at the Filipino Community Center – it’s Babae’s open house. While Villasper and her colleague Marisa Mariano tells the attendees about the organization’s work and reasons why they should volunteer, the topic of conversation naturally gravitates towards the catalyst in why Babae was formed – Claire Joyce Tempongko.

“She did everything right,” says Babae’s organization development coordinator Elaine Villasper in the bottom floor of the Filipino Community Center in the Excelsior district. “She filed for a restraining order, called the police and her partner went through batterer classes. There just weren’t enough services to address her needs.”

Babae uses educational workshops and community forums and acts as a liaison between battered women and the resources they need to be connected with. Unlike many of the city services available, Babae has Tagalog-speaking volunteers that are able to communicate easier with victims.

Also according to the fact sheet, “language, fear about immigration status, and other barriers may limit an immigrant woman’s resources to shelter or financial assistance should she attempt to flee her abuser.”

“There are major loopholes in the system,” says 24-year-old Villasper, who recently graduated from SF State in the spring. “It specifically targets women of color – immigrants – who won’t have, or don’t know of, the resources available to them.”

In addition to not knowing the language or having citizenship, a lot of Filipino women are not telling others about their abusive relationship because they do not want to be looked down at by their peers.

“Nakaka hiya – it means ‘it’s embarrassing,’” explains Villasper. “Some women think it’s shameful to burden other people with their problems – it’s a closed door policy.”

While Babae’s Tagalog-speaking volunteers have opened many lines of communication between the organization and the community, other volunteers’ unique skills have been helpful. Villasper is a certified domestic violence counselor.

And tonight’s open house also brings out 25-year-old Madeline Stacy, who is a quarter Filipina and eager to join Babae and help victims.

“I’ve never been part of a community like this – I’ve always looked white and had those privileges,” says Stacy, whose grandma was born in the Philippines. “I’m trained in crisis intervention for domestic violence and sexual assaults. I want to help.”

As the open house ends and people slowly trickle out of the Filipino Community Center, Villasper and a few other attendees stay behind to clean up the refreshments table and put away tables and chairs. While seventeen people may sound like a no-show event, for the organization that was formed on eight women, it’s an ever-expanding collective.

Isang Bagsak.

Lisette Poole | staff photographer
At the BABAE Open House on Oct. 29, 2007, attendees make gingerbread men cutouts, and write their goals and interests on them to later share with the group. Tina Shauf, (left) 26, explains her gingerbread man to the group and everyone took turns presenting their art project to the group as a way to get to know each other.