“It has been four years and so far we have nothing but motions. Palparan may be long gone but this case would be far from over.” – Concepcion Empeño, mother of disappeared UP student Karen
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MALOLOS, Bulacan — In his latest effort to stall his trial, retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the court proceedings, resulting in the postponement of the pre-trial at the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 for the third time.
“It has been four years and so far we have nothing but motions. Palparan may be long gone but this case would be far from over,” said Mrs. Concepcion Empeno, mother of disappeared student Karen.
The families, through their lawyers, and even the Malolos court itself, have yet to receive a copy of Palparan’s certiorari petition before the CA. Defense counsels claim they sent it via registered mail on Friday, Sept. 26.
Edre Olalia, one of the lawyers of the victims’ families, described Palparan’s latest moves as “dilatory baloney” using recycled petitions already dismissed by both the Regional Trial Court and the CA.
In 2012, the Court of Appeals denied the petition for certoriari, which was filed by Palparan’s counsels while he was still in hiding.
Inside the courtroom, Palparan was sitting at the witness stand surrounded by at least six soldiers, when the lawyers and families of victims arrived. He then moved to his “usual” spot before the hearing began.
The retired general could be seen whispering and snickering with soldiers surrounding him.
“Why are they protecting this man? They brought him here all the way from a far place, only to be hidden from us?” Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, told Bulatlat.com.
Mrs. Cadapan, after the hearing, attempted to get through the throng of soldiers and tried to hit Palparan with a shoe. A clerk stopped her and asked her to calm down as they were still inside the court room.
“Then I will wait for him outside,” she warned.
Palparan was captured Aug. 12 after three years of eluding an arrest warrant based on kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges in relation to the disappearance of the two students of the University of the Philippines, Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
During the hearing, Palparan’s lawyers submitted a notice of filing of a petition for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a writ of temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction.
Olalia told the media after the hearing that the filing of certiorari is simply a delaying tactic in the hope that the victims’ mothers would be worn out or that their witnesses would be threatened or scared.
If Palparan is innocent, he added, it should be in his primary interest to clear his name. But the retired general, he said, has opted for the use of all possible legal tricks.
The certiorari filed by Palparan, according to Olalia, is baseless, as it is a “rehashed and resurrected legal tricks” to stop the proceedings. He added that the arguments presented were the same ones junked with finality by both the Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals back in 2012.
Transfer to civilian jail
On Sept. 25, families of the victims through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers asked the Malolos court to move Palparan to a civilian detention facility such as in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The court, however, will await the conforme of the state prosecutors before acting on the motion for Palparan’s transfer. Private prosecutors, under Philippine laws, are under the direct supervision of state prosecutors.
Palparan, in a television interview, said he is lonelier now at the Philippine Army Custodial Center (PACC) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, adding that he has no one to talk to unlike at the Bulacan Provincial Jail.
But he said that he feels more secure now in the PACC.
During the hearing, Narzal Mallares, one of Palparan’s lawyers, said that they are now having a hard time going in and out of the PACC to visit his client.
Judge Teodora Gonzales of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 asked Mallares if he wants Palparan transferred to another jail so his lawyers would not find it difficult to confer with the retired general.
Mallares retracted by saying that the court has already decided on the detention issue with finality.
On Anotado and Osorio
Also during the hearing, the private counsels of the victims’ families filed an omnibus motion to declare the case against Palparan’s co-accused Col. Felipe Anotado Jr. and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio submitted for resolution. The omnibus motion includes waiver of right to present evidence and submit formal offer of evidence.
The two accused were given eight hearing dates to present their witnesses, but they failed to do so.
On June 23, the Malolos court gave the two accused their last chance to present their witness on the next hearing date, or it would be deemed that they have waived their right. On Aug. 18, they still did not present their witness.
Both have also failed to submit their formal offer of evidence, within the prescribed period, which was until Sept. 2.
Judge Gonzales gave the two accused 10 more days to respond to the omnibus motion.
Outside the court, members of progressive groups held a protest action, denouncing the special treatment that the government is extending to Palparan.
Lorena Santos, secretary general of human rights group Desaparecidos, told Bulatlat.com that victims have waited long enough for justice to be served.
“Families of victims cannot be blamed if they want to throw their shoes or shout at Palparan. It simply reflects the victims’ thirst for justice,” she added.
Santos also urged the court to take the cue from the public outcry to hold Palparan accountable and for the speedy proceedings of the case.