No rest for the weary with UP students still missing, Palparan at large seven years hence

26 June 2013

No saving grace for justice in the Philippines without capture and prosecution of Gen. Palparan and other top grave rights violators

No passing of time nor surging adversity can make the families of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno and human rights defenders forget about that ominous morning of 26 June 2006, when the two university students were forcibly taken by military men and herded like cattle, to be brought to the darkest depths where evil men can do barbaric cruelties unimaginable.

With abundant proof beyond any rational doubt, tenacious and unfaltering witnesses, and intense public scrutiny, the abduction and illegal detention of Karen and Sherlyn has become one of the country’s strongest countersuits against human rights violators from the stormy presidency and counter-insurgency programs of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. After months of tedious preliminary investigation, a local court has  taken cognizance of the criminal charges and issued arrest warrants in December 2011.

Even as his co-accused are now facing trial and the dastardly crime painfully recounted by one brave witness after the other,  the notorious coward Gen. Jovito Palparan and his sidekick have evaded prosecution by disappearing altogether without conscience or dignity. When the government with all its powers and resources have failed  — or refused — to deliver in making concrete and exhaustive efforts to pursue, locate, and arrest “The Butcher”, the burden now falls upon the civilian population to lay a glimmer of hope back into what the victims see as a law enforcement and justice system they cannot depend on.

The Cadapan and Empeno families, together with their support groups from various human rights organizations, are using this time of painful uncertainty to indict, not only against the perpetrators of the crimes against their young daughters, but against human rights violators whose systematic abuses are repeated until this time.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, supported by international groups such as the UN-accredited International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the progressive International Association of People’s Lawyers, is taking on the legal battle to compel the military to release Karen and Sherlyn, and to jail Palparan. In a recent resolution by its governing bureau, the IADL said that the continued failure to hold Palparan demonstrates the continuing impunity for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and other violations.

We as lawyers can only do so much as reveal the limits of how the law protects and imperils the people. Papers and pleadings, like old photographs, merely draw out intangible arguments, theories, and memories. And when law barely serves justice, it would simply be impossible to carry on believing that it can singularly bring back Karen and Sherlyn. Or the rest of those still missing to this day.

We call on all those left behind by all desaparecidos, extrajudicially killed, and victims of torture and other human rights abuses to channel our energies toward making government and the violators accountable, and our society safer, better and decent. For together even as our bodies break at times, we can forge a resolute spirit that grows not weary in time, just ever more patient, more intense, more brave, and all the wiser. #

Reference : Atty. Edre U. Olalia- Secretary General – 09175113373

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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”

– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007

“After long years of experience as a people’s lawyer, I can honestly say it has been a treasured journey of self-fulfillment and rewarding achievement. I know it will be the same for all others who choose to tread this path.”
– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010

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