Retired Army major general Jovito Palparan shouted at a Malolos judge Monday, calling him a coward after he was found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Palparan and two others, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt Edgardo Osorio were convicted of kidnapping University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno on June 26, 2006. Both are still missing.
“Duwag ka judge! You’re such a coward!” Palparan shouted as Judge Alexander Tamayo of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15 read the verdict.
When the judge threatened to cite him for contempt, Palparan said it did not matter, since they would go to jail anyway.
As court personnel tried to pacify him, Palparan went on. “You’re such a fool!” he shouted at the judge.
In the service, Palparan pursued a ruthless campaign against communist insurgents in Mindoro, Samar and Central Luzon, earning him the nickname “The Butcher.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines declined to comment on Palparan’s conviction, but Col. Edgard Arevalo, military spokesman, said the institution respects the decision of the court.
“As it has been and always will be, the position of the AFP is submission to the majesty of the courts and respect for the rule of law,” Arevalo said.
“We also respect whatever legal recourse are available to… Palparan Jr. et al under the law and the Rules of Court,” he added.
Aside from the life sentence, each of the convicted were ordered to pay P100,000 in civil indemnity and P200,000 in moral damages.
Palparan, Anotado, and Osorio will be detained at the New Bilibid Prison but their lawyers asked that they remain at the custodial center in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig because of another pending case.
Sherlyn’s mother, Erlinda, cried as the verdict was read, saying the decision was correct and supported by the evidence.
She added that as long as she was alive, she would hope that her daughter is alive.
Palparan was arrested in August 2014, three years after he went into hiding following the issuance of a warrant against him.
A co-accused, Sgt. Rizal Hilario, is still at large.
Palparan was convicted on the strength of testimony from a witness, farmer Raymond Manalo, who testified that he saw both Cadapan and Empeño in a military cell, where he was also held. With Rey E. Requejo and Orlan L. Mauricio
Manalo said he was taken on Feb. 14, 2006 on allegations that he was a communist rebel.
In court, he testified that he saw military men torture and sexually molest Cadapan, 29 at the time, and Empeño, 22.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers hailed Palparan’s conviction.
“We are extremely elated that justice has finally caught up with the coward Butcher. The law and evidence is not only on our side this time around but we are on the side of truth and justice,” the group said in a statement.
“His conviction sends the message that cocky perpetrators of hideous human rights violations will meet their match in the fortitude of the mothers, the strength of the mass movement, the courage of human rights defenders, and the value of good lawyering for the people.”
Edre Olalia, president of the NUPL, said his group was considering the implications of the verdict from the point of view of the command responsibility of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Militant lawmakers on Monday welcomed the guilty verdict.
“This much welcomed verdict is long overdue for this remorseless Butcher Palparan. This then should be taken as a strong warning to other human rights violators, then and now, that reckoning day will eventually come. This certainly is a good day for the human rights community, HR defenders and the families of victims,” Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said.
Anakpawis Party-list Ariel Casilao said the guilty verdict should move other victims of human rights abuses by the military to file charges.
“We laud the families of the victims, their supporters, the human rights advocacy and people’s movement in general, for resolutely struggling for this triumph, the butcher of Oplan Bantay Laya under the Macapagal Arroyo administration should not see a shade of freedom for the state terror he sowed against the people,” Casilao said.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon described a “bright spot in an otherwise difficult judicial process the conviction of retired general Jovito Palparan and two others.”
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the court decision should send a strong signal to the Armed Forces, the Philippine National Police, and the rest of those in government that, sooner or later, the law and the
justice system will hold to account violators of human rights.
Senator Francis Escudero said that “justice has been served.”
Senator Grace Poe said the conviction is a good sign that while a crime was committed years ago, one has to pay for it.
She said the court decision will somehow ease the pain felt by the families of Empeño and Cadapan.
The Department of Justice also lauded the conviction.
“Justice may come a bit late, but it does come. Let’s believe in that,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, in a message sent to reporters.
Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon said the decision could set a good precedent that justice can still be served to other victims of human rights violations.
“This is an important judgment. It sends a strong signal that victims of human rights violations could still be able to secure justice as long as there is a strong will on the part of the victims, their lawyers, and the human rights defenders who support them to hold perpetrators to account,” he said.
The human rights group Karapatan also welcomed Monday’s decision.
“This is a step forward for justice, though partial for so long as Karen and Sherlyn remain missing and numerous other violations remain unresolved,” Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor said. With Rey E. Requejo and Orlan L. Mauricio
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