(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 11, 2014 – 12:00am
This time at least the students did not disappear, never to be found again.
A student and a graduate of the University of the Philippines were taken by Army soldiers last Saturday in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija on suspicion that they were members of the New People’s Army. The story of UP psychology student Gerard Salonga and business management graduate Guiller Martin Cadano raised fears among their friends that they would suffer the fate of UP coeds Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. The two girls were taken by soldiers in 2006 also in Nueva Ecija. A witness said the two were tortured before they disappeared. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
The failure to establish what happened to the two coeds – and to the many other Filipino desaparecidos – surely emboldens soldiers with a certain mindset to continue resorting to such methods in their operations. After a United Nations rapporteur on human rights said the military was in denial about rights violations attributed to state forces in this country, the Armed Forces insisted that all the questionable activities were part of legitimate counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
The military general accused of involvement in the kidnapping and torture of Empeño and Cadapan, Jovito Palparan, is at large and is believed to be enjoying the protection of certain military elements that believe his methods are necessary evils in the name of national security.
This mindset can again be felt in the case of Salonga and Cadano who say they were framed by the military on charges of illegal possession of weapons and explosives. Colleagues at least searched relentlessly for the two students until they were found. Unless sanctions are imposed on those who engage in these activities, however, the nation is likely to see more desaparecidos like Empeño and Cadapan.