By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – One of the soldiers linked to the abduction of two University of the Philippines (UP) students and his counsel was a no-show at the Department of Justice (DOJ) hearing today.
Staff Sgt. Edgardo L. Osorio did not appear at the DOJ hearing on the preliminary investigation on the criminal case filed by the mothers of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan against retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and several military officials.
Osorio was named one of the respondents to the complaint after an eyewitness was able to identify him during a hearing on July 19. Osorio, now assigned at the 24th Intelligence Service Unit of the Philippine Army based in Fort Bonifacio, served as one of the security aides of Palparan during the said hearing. In his counter affidavit filed during the last hearing, Osorio denied the allegation.
This morning, Osorio was supposed to submit original copies of the documents he attached in his affidavit to prove his claims. His lawyer, Narzalle Mallares, also counsel of Palparan, did not appear in his behalf. One of the lawyers of the complainants decried “dilatory tactics.”
“I don’t know why they are not here. They will have to receive our reply affidavit for them to file a rejoinder. I think they want to delay the resolution of the case,” Julian Oliva Jr., one of the counsels of the complainants, told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
In their reply-affidavit, Mrs. Concepcion Empeño and Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan debunked Osorio’s claims.
The mothers argued that even if Osorio’s military record is considered at face value, it will show that from May 5, 2006 to July 6, 2006, Osorio was assigned at Fort Andres Bonifacio, thus not making it physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the abduction on June 26, 2006.
They added that the defense of alibi cannot prevail over the credible, straightforward and positive identification of Osorio by an eyewitness and even survivor to the abduction.
They said further that the summary of information of Osorio regarding his military assignment will of course not contain information of his participation in the abduction of Karen, Sherlyn and Manuel Merino because the abduction was a covert operation of the military.
“Expectedly, this is covered by classified information or paperwork, if at all. At best, an ‘official’ assignment at one place does not totally preclude his being given a ‘special mission order’ in another place, or at worst, to get involved in a totally unauthorized activity,” they said.
That Osorio, an active soldier, provided security for retired general Palparan proves that Osorio is one of the trusted men of Palparan, the complainants said.
Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, head of the DOJ panel, said Osorio will be given until Sept. 14 to submit his rejoinder and failing to do so will mean the case is submitted for resolution.
Oliva said they are confident that the DOJ panel will find probable cause to the criminal complaints. “The Supreme Court decision itself states that the respondents are the ones responsible for the abduction. The disappearance of the two students is more than equivalent to probable cause,” Oliva said.
Oliva was referring to a decision promulgated May 31 by the Supreme Court stating that Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac of the 56th Infantry Battalion and Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado of the 24th Infantry Battalion, M/Sgt. Donald Caigas and M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson, Arnel Enriquez and several “John Does” who were once assigned to the 7th Infantry Division and the 24th Infantry Battalion as “responsible and accountable” for the abductions.