Cong B. Corrales
THE ARREST of former major general Jovito Palparan will bolster the cases filed against the ex-military official accused of a string of alleged human rights violations.
The arrest came three years after Judge Teodora Gonzales of the Regional Trial Court Branch 14 in Malolos, Bulacan issued a warrant for Palparan on serious illegal detention and kidnapping charges of students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) Secretary General Edre Olalia told the PCIJ in a phone interview that while the arrest has been long overdue, it will certainly bolster their case.
“From my own experience and based on the law, even one eyewitness can secure a conviction,” said Olalia. He said they have already presented three eyewitnesses who testified about Palparan’s involvement in the kidnapping and torture of Empeño and Cadapan.
“We have presented (a farmer, a security guard and a barangay official) who have seen Empeño and Cadapan at one time when they were abducted. The three positively identified Palparan. They were able to live to tell their stories because they were able to escape their abductors,” said Olalia.
“We have a previously scheduled hearing on the case on Monday (August 18),” Olalia said.
He added that with the arrest of Palparan Gonzales may decide separately for the two co-accused of Palparan, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado Jr. and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, or “wait for Palparan for a joint resolution on the case.”
Olalia said that the fourth accused, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, is still at large.
“He must be treated no different than any other in jail where he will be detained while awaiting trial,” he said.
When asked on the possibility that some government officials had helped in hiding Palparan, Olalia said that they will file cases against these officials for “accessory and obstruction of justice.”
“We will file cases. They should be held accountable. (But) it is incumbent on the Justice Department to file cases against these officials as soon as they find out who these officials are,” he said.
Even before Palparan’s arrest, Olalia added that relatives of the victims and human rights defenders were mulling the filing of another case for violation of the Anti-Disappearance law against Palparan.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay agrees that the arrest of Palparan is “long overdue.” She claimed that Palparan got help from government officials and that his lawyer knew where he was hiding all this time.
“Those who helped him evade arrest should be held accountable,” Palabay said.
According to the records of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan), Palparan has committed some 332 human rights violations—extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance, frustrated murders and torture—in three areas he was deployed from May 2001 to September 11, 2006. The breakdown of the human rights violations are as follows:
- Mindoro (May 2001-April 2003): 38
- Eastern Visayas (February 2005-August 2005): 25
- Central Luzon (September 2005-September 11, 2006): 75
- Mindoro: 5
- Eastern Visayas: 12
- Central Luzon: 42
- Mindoro: 37
- Eastern Visayas: 9
- Central Luzon: 15
- Mindoro: 37
- Eastern Visayas: 25
- Central Luzon: 38
“Among those killed under Palparan are human rights defenders Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in Southern Tagalog; UCCP Pastor Edison Lapuz, Leyte; Atty. Fedelito Dacut, Leyte; Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente,” Karapatan’s statement on their website reads.
Karapatan also said that from 2005 to 2006 alone, under Palparan—who was then the commanding officer of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division—there were “71 victims of extrajudicial killings, 14 victims of frustrated killing, and five incidents of massacre.”