RETIRED ARMY general Jovito S. Palparan, Jr. and two other military officers were convicted of kidnapping and serious illegal detention by a local court on Monday.
This is in connection with the abduction of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, two students from the University of the Philippines, in 2006, at the height of the Arroyo administration’s campaign against communist rebels and their network in civil society and the academe.
Malolos City Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Alexander P. Tamayo ordered the penalty of reclusion perpetua, 20 to 40 years of imprisonment, against Mr. Palparan and Lt. Col. Felipe G. Anotado, Jr. and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio.
UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan were said to be conducting field research on the plight of Bulacan farmers when they were abducted in 2006. They have not been found since.
Mr. Palparan and his fellow convicted kidnappers were also ordered to pay P100,000 to the heirs of Mss. Empeño and Cadapan as civil indemnity and P200,000 in each case as moral damages.
Another of the accused, however, remained at large. The same court issued an arrest warrant on M/Sgt. Rizal C. Hilario, even as it issued its decision on his fellow accused.
As commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion, Mr. Palparan became notorious as “berdugo” (the butcher) among the activist community. But from being one of the favored generals in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, he became a fugitive after an arrest warrant was issued against him in 2011, and was caught in 2014 in an apartment not far from Malacañang.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque Jr. said: “We respect the decision of the court and we would want justice to be done to the victims.”
For his part, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters in a text message: “Justice may come a bit late, but it does come. Let’s believe in that.”
Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan, in a statement said, the decision sends a “strong signal” to violators of human rights.
“This should send a strong signal to the AFP, the PNP, and the rest of those in government that sooner or later the law and our justice system will hold to account violators of human rights. As a father, I also wish the whereabouts of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who have been missing since 2006, to be known,” he said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas