“This case was filed in 2008 and it is only now that it is progressing. But I am not completely happy, with the absence of all accused Cafgu members, and the fact that Palparan is not yet back at the Bulacan provincial jail.” — torture victim Raymond Manalo
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MALOLOS, Bulacan – Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan appeared in his arraignment before a trial court here today, June 21, but refused to enter a plea on charges that he was the mastermind behind the kidnapping, torture and detention of two peasant brothers 10 years ago.
Judge Francisco Felizmenio of the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 19 entered a “not guilty” plea for Palparan, who is facing two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with serious physical injuries, filed by Manalo brothers, Raymond and Reynaldo.
Palparan’s co-accused are: Army Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario and members of the Citizen Armed Forces and Geographical Unit (Cafgu), Michael Dela Cruz, Marcelo Dela Cruz, Jose dela Cruz, Maximo dela Cruz, Roman dela Cruz, Randy and Rudy Mendoza.
The Cafgu men were a no-show today. They appeared during the postponed arraignment last May 31.
“This case was filed in 2008 and it is only now that it is progressing. But I am not completely happy, with the absence of all accused Cafgu members, and the fact that Palparan is not yet back at the Bulacan provincial jail,” Manalo told Bulatlat after the hearing.
Palparan is being detained at the Philippine Army Custodial Center in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
The pretrial conference is set on Aug. 25.
The Manalo brothers were abducted in their home in San Ildefonso, Bulacan on Feb. 14, 2006. They were tortured and detained incommunicado in various military camps in Central Luzon, where, six months later, they met University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan. They escaped from their detention in Pangasinan in 2007, after 18 months in the hands of military men.
Warrant vs. other accused
Private prosecutor Julian Oliva Jr. of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) asked the court to issue a warrant against other accused Cafgu members.
Manalo told the media after the hearing that the accused Cafgu members were deployed in their community and were among those who abducted him and brother Reynaldo in 2006.
Records show Cafgu members Randy and Rudy Mendoza died on Mar. 29, 2010, per their death certificates submitted before the Malolos court.
“Kapag nauna ang putak sa itlog, wala yun,” Manalo said after the hearing, referring both to the absence of accused Cafgu members and their reported continued threats and harassments against the Manalo family.
Judge Felizmenio said he already issued a warrant against the other accused last June 1.
In his warrant, Felizmenio said he found “existence of probable cause” after evaluating the report of the investigating prosecutor, and the evidence submitted.
No bail was recommended for all accused, including Palparan.
Before the arraignment, Felizmenio disclosed that he used to be a part of the Office of the Ombudsman. But he said he was never involved in cases against Palparan. None of the parties, both prosecution and defense, raised objections against the presiding judge.
Manalo provided key testimony that led to Palparan’s indictment for the enforced disappearance of Cadapan and Empeño, who were abducted in Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006, along with with farmer Manuel Merino.