The Court of Appeals has sustained the conviction of retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and two other military officials for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention in 2006 of two University of the Philippines students, Karen E. Empeno and Sherlyn T. Cadapan.
In a decision promulgated last May 31, the CA through Associate Justice Angelene Mary Quimpo Sale upgraded the prison term of Palparan from only reclusion perpetua—a prison term ranging from 20 years and one day to 40 years, as imposed by the Malolos City Regional Trial Court in 2018—to imprisonment that is “without eligibility for parole.”
Presiding Justice Remedios A. Salazar Fernando and Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga Jacob also concurred with the ruling to impose a six-percent annual interest on the P300,000 civil indemnity and damages ordered paid to the families of Empeno and Cadapan.
Palparan is now detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. It could not be immediately confirmed if Lt. Col. Felipe G. Anotado Jr. and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, whose trial court convictions were also affirmed by the CA, is also detained at the NBP.
Empeno and Cadapan were abducted in Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006, and were later detained in various places in Luzon.
The two UP students were suspected to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and other militant organizations.
With the filing of the criminal charges in court, Anotado and Osorio surrendered. Palparan refused to present himself to the trial court until his arrest in Manila in 2014. The RTC denied their plea to post bail.
Among other allegations, Palparan, Anotado, and Osorio presented a defense of alibi in seeking the reversal of the trial court’s decision.
“Accused-appellants’ denial cannot be upheld and accorded greater evidentiary weight in light of the positive testimony of the prosecution witnesses. To repeat, the prosecution evidence is credible, clear, and categorical,” the CA ruled.
“As presented and proved by the prosecution, the facts established the concerted acts of the three accused-appellants aimed at carrying out the unlawful intent of taking and detaining the two victims,” the appellate court said.
The CA stressed that based on the testimonies of witnesses, it was established that Empeno and Cadapan were taken by accused-appellant Osorio and other armed men on June 26, 2006, at 2:00 a.m. in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan, and then brought to Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
From Fort Magsaysay, the two women were loaded onto a vehicle. Around August or September 2006, they were taken and seen in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan.
In September 2006, Palparan arrived at Camp Tecson on board a white vehicle. He did not alight from the vehicle while his companion in civilian clothes fetched the two women and boarded them onto the white vehicle.
They were returned to Camp Tecson after three days and were detained there for around three months.
Then, the victims were taken to the Barangay Hall of Sapang, San Miguel, Bulacan where they were detained there for one week.
In November 2006, the victims were taken to the military camp/detachment in Limay, Bataan.
The witnesses said Anotado visited the two women in the bodega where they stayed on three separate instances.
Then, from May to June 2007, the victims were taken to and placed in a safe house in Iba, Zambales before they were brought back to Limay, Bataan after a month where they were last seen.
“The testimonies of these witnesses are credible, clear, and categorical. These prosecution witnesses were also detainees themselves who saw and got to know the two victims Sherlyn and Karen when they were in various military camps and detachments in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Bataan, and Zambales,” the CA pointed out.
“The details in their testimonies prove that they saw the victims and that they got acquainted with them. These witnesses, particularly Raymond Manalo testified lengthily on direct and cross-examinations.
When subjected to rigorous cross-examination, their testimonies remained clear and consistent,” it said.