Monday, July 17, 2006

What happened to UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan?

The University Council of the University of Philippines at Diliman made a resolution last July 12 expressing "great concern" on the inability of the government to locate the two missing UP Diliman undergraduate students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

The resolution stated:

It is now 10 days since President Emerlinda R. Román wrote a letter to Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and to Department of National Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. requesting assistance in locating the two students. In the letter, President Román described the circumstances attending the abduction of the two students: “According to raw reports reaching my office, six or more masked armed men forcibly took them at about 2 in the morning of Monday, June 26, 2006, in Purok 6, Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. The masked armed men were using long guns and apparently did not show any court order for their physical detention. We were also informed that Karen was asked to remove her shirt. They used this shirt to blindfold her. Sherlyn is pregnant. The women were then forced into a vehicle that proceeded in the direction of Iba, Hagonoy.”

We would like to emphasize that whatever the motives and circumstances behind it and whether it is carried out by private persons or by persons connected with government, abduction is always illegal and punishable by law, aside from being a violation of the victim’s human rights.

We are greatly concerned that they may be victims of the wave of extra-judicial executions and forced disappearances associated with elements of the security and defense establishments. Indeed, we fear for their lives.

We would therefore wish to strongly support and reiterate President Román’s request to Secretaries Puno and Cruz and other government authorities that they immediately furnish us with information of the whereabouts of Ms. Empeño and Ms. Cadapan, provide them with medical and legal assistance, and release them to the care of the University as soon as possible. We consider the continuing silence of the authorities in this matter of life and death to be inexcusable and a betrayal of the public trust.

In conclusion, we would like to repeat President Román’s words to Secretary Puno and Secretary Cruz: “We know that you share with us a commitment to the spirit of the UN General Assembly’s ‘Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance’ (Resolution 47/133 of December 18, 1992). We also know that the acts done by masked armed men are criminally punishable under our laws. Most of all, as parents committed to teaching the virtues of valuing human dignity, we are certain that you could address the matter with empathy."

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