“The prosecution thus far had shown that evidence of guilt against the accused for said crimes is strong.” — Judge Teodora Gonzales of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Relatives of missing University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan welcomed the court decision denying the bail petition of two military suspects in the abduction of the students.
“That’s good,” Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview. “I am happy that the judge was able to see that our witnesses are telling the truth.”
In a decision dated July 12, Judge Teodora Gonzales of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 denied the bail petition of Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and Staff Sargeant Edgardo Osorio. The two, together with retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and Master Sargeant Rizal Hilario, are charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the disappearance of two UP students in 2006. Palparan and Hilario remain at large.
The court said “the prosecution thus far had shown that evidence of guilt against the accused for said crimes is strong.”
“As to whether or not the accused were only maliciously pinpointed for the kidnapping of the victims is a matter which at this stage can only be considered as a defense that calls for further factual support in the course of judicial proceeding,” the court said.
Witness Raymond Manalo positively identified Anotado in court. In his testimony, Manalo said Anotado was the one who talked to him and to Karen and Sherlyn for about three times at the military camp in Limay, Bataan.
Osorio, meanwhile, has been identified by Wilfredo Ramos as the one who hogtied him, his father, the two UP students and farmer Manuel Merino on June 26, 2006.
“I am thankful to the judge for such a decision,” Mrs. Concepcion Empeño said in a phone interview. “I hope this will speed up the case.”
Lorena Santos, secretary general of Families of the Desaparecidos for Justice, said it is a positive development that should lead to the conviction of the suspects.
In the same vein, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said the junking of the petition for bail of Palparan’s co-accused “is a welcome development in the long and arduous search for justice for Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.”
For Edre Olalia, secretary general of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and one of the private counsels: “That’s good news though not unexpected given the strength of the evidence against all the accused, including Palparan, as the facts show that they were all part of an evil conspiracy where the ghastly act of one is the ghastly act of all.”
Karen’s father, Oscar Empeño is not satisfied. “The two [Anotado and Osorio] must be transferred to a regular detention facility. The military is still protecting them.”
Anotado and Osorio are detained at Fort Bonifacio, headquarters of the Philippine Army.
“Palparan should have every reason to cringe in fear of being locked away for a long time once justice has caught up with him,” Olalia said.
Palparan, former commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division that has jurisdiction over Bulacan, was positively identified by Manalo during the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Mrs. Cadapan said that Palparan’s flight is a “sign of guilt.” She lamented that the task force created by the Philippine National Police for the capture of Palparan and Hilario was “all talk and no action.”
“As long as Gen. Jovito Palparan is being protected by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and his benefactors in government, as long as he is not made accountable for the gross human rights violations that he so shamelessly perpetrated, as long as impunity is being promoted by the Aquino administration, there is still a long way to go to attain justice,” Palabay said.
Santos said the prosecution must not stop with Anotado and Osorio. “The enforced disappearance of the two students was not done in isolation. It was ordered by the higher-ups in the military. Palparan should be held liable,” she said.
Mrs. Cadapan knows they still face a long struggle. “In his SONA [State of the Nation Address], Aquino did not say anything about human rights. In his long speech, he never mentioned how he would stop human rights violations. This only proves that he tolerates the human rights abuses perpetrated by state agents.”