“It is the accused who will benefit the most because they are shopping for a more favorable or sympathetic judge. The obvious game plan is to dribble and plod.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA –The Bulacan trial court judge hearing the criminal charges against retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, has inhibited herself from the case, following allegations of “partiality” by a lawyer of the accused.
In a decision dated July 13, Judge Teodora Gonzales of the Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 14, said she is voluntarily inhibiting herself from the case to “preserve and promote public confidence in the integrity and respect for the judiciary.” She, however, dismissed the accusations against her as “baseless.”
On June 22, one of Palparan’s lawyers, Bonifacio Alentajan, filed a motion for Gonzales’s inhibition, claiming the judge “repeatedly made comments demonstrating partiality towards the prosecution” during the presentation of prosecution witness Adoracion Paulino.
During the March 11 hearing, Alentajan, who entered his appearance for Palparan’s co-accused Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio only this year, had a heated argument with Judge Gonzales as he frequently raised objections while the judge herself was asking questions to witness Paulino, mother-in-law of Sherlyn Cadapan, one of the disappeared students.
Alentajan verbally manifested that Judge Gonzales should inhibit from the case.
Alentajan alleged that the judge “has lost the neutral impartiality of the ‘cold neutral’ of an impartial judge.” He said his client Osorio is convinced that he will not achieve justice under Judge Gonzales.
Judge Gonzales said in her decision that, “the court vehemently denies such perceived bias, partiality, bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence since her action is within the ambit of the law.”
The NUPL said they have yet to receive a copy of the order asking them to comment on Gonzales’ inhibition.
For almost four years, Gonzales, 59, had been hearing the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case against Palparan, the notorious retired military officer called “The Butcher” by human rights groups. In December 2011, Gonzales issued the arrest warrant against Palparan, who had gone into hiding. In 2014, after Palparan’s capture, Gonzales ordered his detention at the Bulacan provincial jail denying his motion to stay at the NBI or Camp Crame in Manila. She later consented to his motion for transfer to the Army custodial center in Taguig City.
The victims, UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and peasant Manuel Merino were disappeared by suspected soldiers on Palparan’s orders in 2006, and remain missing to date.
Asked on who would benefit from Gonzales’ inhibition, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Edre Olalia said, “It is the accused who will benefit the most because they are shopping for a more favorable or sympathetic judge. The obvious game plan is to dribble and plod.”
Olalia said the inhibition will “certainly delay the case further” as the new judge would have to go over stacks of testimonies, motions and orders accumulated for the past four years. He added that the new judge will “not have the benefit of personally observing the demeanor and deportment of the witnesses, the accused and the counsels.”
The prosecution is set to present its last witness for Palparan’s bail proceedings. Meanwhile, the presentation of testimonies and evidence for his co-accused Osorio and Anotado has already been terminated.
“On such mere sweeping say so and no other, the judge suddenly inhibited herself while practically nobody was looking. And so the case will be heard by a new judge who is probably as clueless to what has actually transpired all these years as the phalanx of anti-riot policemen and army men in full battle gear holding fort at the courtyard every single hearing are,” said the statement of private prosecutors from the NUPL.
Palparan and his co-accused Osorio and Anotado are facing two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in relation to the disappearance of Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said Palparan “seems to be gleeful with these developments, considering his ‘staycation’ outside regular detention facilities would be prolonged while the mothers and fathers of Cadapan and Empeño remain anguished, the witnesses lives and security remain in danger.”
Karen Empeño’s mother Concepcion, told Bulatlat.com that she is dismayed when she heard of the inhibition.
“I am really sad. I feel sorry for the victims of human rights violations. We can never attain justice if we are up against the military. Only in the Philippines,” Empeño quipped.
Sherlyn Cadapan’s mother Erlinda, for her part, said she was in tears when she heard of it. She asked, “Where is the best venue for us to get justice for satanic acts of state forces like Palparan?”
Even as Palparan also supposedly filed a motion against Judge Gonzales’ inhibition, both the mothers agreed that it could be “part of a grand ploy.”
Palabay urged the public to remain vigilant on “sinister and underhanded moves” just as they are wary as the government claims credit for rendering justice “while giving special treatment to ‘The Butcher’ and promoting ‘Palparanesque’ type of violations with impunity.”