“We will ensure that Palparan’s conviction will not go down the drain, unlike other human rights cases that the department has handled.” – Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — “We will wait and see.”
This was the immediate reaction of Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, on Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan III’s pronouncement in a dialogue on Oct. 16 that they would conform with the pending motion by private counsels to transfer retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan to a civilian detention facility.
Palparan is currently detained at the Philippine Army Custodial Center in Taguig City after a Sept. 15 court decision allowing his transfer from the Bulacan provincial jail.
On Sept. 25, families of the victims through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) asked the Malolos court to move Palparan to a civilian detention facility. The court still awaits the conforme of the state prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before acting on the motion.
At the October 16 dialogue with DOJ, Palabay stressed that the Bureau of Jail and Penology has the capacity to secure a high-risk detainee like Palparan, who – in his petitions filed before the Malolos court and in his media interviews – cited security risk as among the basis for his transfer to a military detention facility.
Erlinda Cadapan, mother of missing University of the Philippines student Sherlyn Cadapan, said that for the past four hearings, Palparan’s camp has done nothing but to stall the proceedings by filing various motions.
Baraan, for his part, assured Mrs. Cadapan that they would strengthen the public prosecutors and that as soon as Palparan is transferred to a civilian detention facility, the public prosecutors would surely ask for more speedy proceedings.
Palabay said the government would have to prove that they are not doing “double talk.”
Karapatan and the families of the disappeared students expect the public prosecutors to announce their conforme on Palparan’s detention on Monday, Oct. 20.
Karapatan, in a statement, said human rights advocates fear that public prosecutors would not conform with the motion to transfer Palparan to a civilian detention facilty, as stipulated in the opposition filed by the mothers of the disappeared through the NUPL.
Their fears, she added, are not baseless. Palabay cited that the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued resolution back in 2013 that dropped Gen. Eduardo Ano as one of the respondents in the disappearance of farmer activist Jonas Burgos.
The DOJ, she said, also issued a resolution that absolved high ranking military and police officials from the torture case filed by security guard Rolly Panesa.
Palparan, the highest military officer ever indicted for a human rights violation case, was transferred to the Philippine Army Custodial Center in Fort Bonifacio.
Families of the disappeared and progressive groups deemed the said transfer as a homecoming for the retired general, dubbed as “the butcher” and posterboy of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, which did not discriminate between armed revolutionary forces and activists.
Among those present in the dialogue were human rights advocates, church workers and environmental activists.
On the task force
Apart from Palparan’s detention, human rights advocates and church workers also called on the Justice department to look into various human rights cases that remain unresolved.
They presented cases such as the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Fr. Cecilio Lucero, tribal leader Jimmy Liguyon, botanist Leonard Co before Baraan’s attention.
Glenda Co, wife of Leonard Co, said their petition for review urging prosecutors to charge murder instead of homicide has been pending before the DOJ for two years now.
Their motion for the change of venue, Mrs. Co added, is also pending before the Supreme Court for a year now.
There have been 40 environmental activists killed under President Aquino, according to Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.
Pia Malayao of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said that of the 46 indigenous peoples killed under Aquino, only two cases were filed.
In the case of the Capion massacre, she said, the police did not give credit to the testimony of eyewitnesses and survivor of the killing.
“Whenever the government is criticized for not acting on cases of human rights violations, it is quick to flaunt the task force it formed. But what we really want to know is how this mechanism could really address the cases,” Malayao told Baraan during the dialogue.
“We will ensure that Palparan’s conviction will not go down the drain, unlike other human rights cases that the department has handled,” Palabay said.
Stand with victims
Outside the DOJ, activists held a rally urging the Aquino government to look into the cases of human rights violations.
In a statement, the chruch group Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) urged the DOJ to stand with the victims as their families “cry for justice in a much louder and clearer voice.”
“As we are dismayed over the denial of justice to our fellow church workers, we are very disappointed in the special treatment being enjoyed by the butcher former military officer Gen. Jovito Palparan,” Nardy Sabino of PCPR said.
“This gives a wrong signal that masterminds and perpetrators, once again, will not be prosecuted.”
Mrs. Cadapan, for her part, said she is hoping that the Justice undersecretary would be true to his word.