THE Malolos regional trial court yesterday found retired Major General Jovito Palparan and two other military officers guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.
In a decision, Judge Alexander Tamayo of Branch 15 sentenced Palparan and Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, to reclusion perpetua.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra welcomed the decision.
“Justice may come a bit late, but it does come. Let’s believe in that,” Guevarra told reporters.
Palparan and the two others also were ordered to pay P100,000 for civil indemnity and P200,000 for moral damages for each count.
Likewise, Judge Tamayo ordered their immediate transfer to the New Bilibid Prison. Papalaran is currently detained at the Army Custodial Center in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
Armed men abducted the students on June 26, 2006 in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan. They were never seen again.
Militants linked Palparan, who was then the commander of the 7th Infantry Division, to the disappearance of the students.
Solons belonging to the Makabayan bloc welcomed the conviction and sentencing of Palparan to a jail term of 20 to 40 years.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlo Isagani Zarate, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said the decision is “painfully long over due.”
The Makabayan solons described Palparan as a “butcher.”
“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,” Zarate said.
Zarate said this certainly is a good day for the human rights community, HR defenders and the families of victims.
For her part, Elago said the conviction of Palparan is not the end all for the fight against the culture of impunity.
“We welcome the decision of Judge Tamayo of Malolos RTC. We salute the families, lawyers and human rights’ defenders who tirelessly fought for justice as well as Judge Tamayo who bravely convicted the coward butcher,” Elago said.
“Palparan’s conviction as guilty in the kidnapping case of Empeno, Cadapan and Manalo is a big and long-awaited victory for the people especially the families of the disappeared.
“Yet the fight continues,” she added.
Casilao, on the other hand, said may Palparan’s case serve as a warning to military officials who are presently wreaking havoc on the lives of the people, especially in the martial ruled Mindanao, against the lumad, farmers and other marginalized sectors.
Casilao reiterated his demand for justice for the forced disappearance of Jonas Burgos in April 2007 that involved then army intelligence Chief Eduardo Año, to the more than 1,200 victims of extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses.
Malacañang said it respects the Malolos City court’s decision to convict Palparan.
“We respect the decision of the court and we would want justice to be done to the victims,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in his regular press briefing in Benguet.
Palparan, Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado Jr. and Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or a prison term ranging from 20 to 40 years, according to the ruling handed down by Judge Alexander Tamayo of Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15.
The court, meanwhile, has archived the cases against Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario because he remains at large.
Palparan still maintained his innocence in the disappearance of the two UP students as he questioned the credibility of the witness who testified against him. With Jester P. Manalastas, EMontano