Karen and Sherlyn fight on
Despite her present predicament, Sherlyn Cadapan remains strong. She displayed this characteristic even at a young age, up to when she became an athlete. Her undefeatable stance in spite of her struggle in the hands of the military, as in all other tournaments she has participated in, may be likened to her attitude in a game of will and determination.
One day in April of this year, Sherlyn planned to escape. She devised a strategy to let others know of her and her friend Karen Empeno’s whereabouts.
The game plan: make their military guards believe that she has given in. That she has decided to capitulate to their demands. That she is willing to admit whatever it is they want her to admit. She planned to make them believe that she would accompany them to the house of her lover in Calumpit, Bulacan to tell them where firearms and other weapons are supposedly being hidden.
On April 11, together with a band of female soldiers, Sherlyn went to her lover’s house. In her pocket was a slip of paper revealing that she and Karen were being detained in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan.
Her lover’s parents were happy to see her and welcomed her with warm hugs. But before she had a chance to give them her slip of paper, her secret was found out by one of her guards. She was immediately whisked back to their vehicle. She was gravely punished for her ‘betrayal’.
The account above is from Raymond Manalo’s sworn statement. Raymond is one of the Manalo brothers who were abducted by the military on February 2006. They managed to escape their captors on August 13, 2007.
This is part of Raymond’s second sworn statement. The first was signed and submitted to the Supreme Court for his appeal requesting for protection. The second, however, was not signed and submitted only to Karapatan, a human rights alliance.
During the last hearing for the filing of the writ of amparo for the Empeno-Cadapan case, the Court of Appeals ordered Raymond to testify and reveal all he knew.
Because the second statement was not signed, the courts immediately dismissed it for lack of legal basis. But for Karapatan, it confirmed information they received from various sources: Karen and Sherlyn are indeed alive and in military custody ten months after they were forcibly and illegally abducted last June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
Raymond further accounted that he had a deep talk with Sherlyn. “I didn’t know her at first, I thought she was one of the military’s mistresses…It was only after two or three days later that we were able to exchange stories,” he said.
He said that the first time he saw Sherlyn she was “very thin and gaunt-faced, her eyes were deep”. Her hands and feet were bound in chains. While Karen was mostly silent, Sherlyn was always ready to converse.
In some instances, he said the two “did the military’s laundry and gave them massages.”
The military were very angry when they found out about Sherlyn’s plan. According to Raymond, Sherlyn was tortured when they returned to the camp. So was Karen. “They delivered heavy punches to the whole of Sherlyn and Karen’s bodies, their mouths bled, they were hanged upside down with only one foot tied while naked…Then the military poured water in their nostrils.”
Reynaldo Raymond’s brother, was ordered to throw away the two’s urines “splattered with blood.” “While I was made to wash their bloodied clothes and underwear,” Raymond said. It was not included in Raymond’s second sworn statement but he said that Sherlyn told him that their captors also raped them.
The Manalo brothers said that they spent quite a long period of time with Karen, Sherlyn and Manuel Merino (the farmer abducted with the two) in the same camp. On May 2007, they were brought to a safehouse in Iba, Zambales. Raymond said that he knew the place because he saw the arc of the town. On the first week of June, they were then returned to the camp of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Bataan. “On the 8th or 9th of June, the three of us (Reynaldo, Mang Manuel and I) were brought to the forests beside the camp,” Raymond said. He said that that was the last time he saw Karen and Sherlyn.
Writ of Amparo
In the writ of amparo petition filed, Karen and Sherlyn’s parents requested an inspection of the camps and safe houses mentioned in Raymond’s testimony.
It was very difficult for Linda Cadapan, Sherlyn’s mother, and Connie Empeno, Karen’s mother, to hear Raymond’s story. But they said they were “expecting it.” Linda rages at the ‘kind of monsters’ their daughters’ military captors and torturers are.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, on the other hand, refused to answer Raymond’s statements. But in their reply to the petition filed by Connie and Linda, they said that they would not allow for the investigation of the camps and safe houses because it would be “dangerous”. According to Atty. Amparo Teng of the Office of the Solicitor General representing the AFP in court, to approve it would only seem like a “fishing expedition”.
The courts, for its part, agreed to hear the testimonies of Karapatan witnesses, including Raymond’s and the parents of Sherlyn’s lover who refused to be identified in the media.
Connie says “she just wants to see her daughter, dead or alive.” For Linda, “While there is no evidence, I do not consider Sherlyn dead.”
For now, they are both hoping that legal processes will aid in their continuous search for their daughters. But, notwithstanding legalities, these developments have made their judgments more clear: on one hand the government’s brazenness and on the other hand the greatness and heroism of their daughters.
Not a day passes that she does not think of her daughter, said Connie. She said that she only has deep admiration for her daughter’s commitment to help famers in Bulacan. She thought, “My daughter is a great, great person.”
“Even as a young girl, Sherlyn has always been strong. She always braved the waters by herself,” recounted Linda. It was when Sherlyn joined the varsity team, Linda said, that Sherlyn was honed to become a firmer and stronger person.
And now, in the merciless hands of the military, she continues to fight on, together with her friend Karen. ###
more the version of the Writ of Amparo later.
read also my related post on karen and sherlyn.