“This 2018, we hope that the case against Palparan be finally resolved soon. The case has been running since 2014, and it has been a long ordeal for us and all of Palparan’s victims. We want to see him in jail this year.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
MALOLOS, BULACAN – Three years, three witnesses, three general denials.
The Regional Trial Court of Malolos was, once again, packed with about 30 riot police, an Army bus, two military jeepneys, and a handful of armed uniformed personnel — all brought to guard former Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan during the January 11 hearing.
Early in the trial stage, Palparan claimed that he could present about 40 witnesses to prove his non-involvement in the abduction of two students of the University of the Philippines: Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Read: Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan: Fates Intertwined by a Desire to Serve the Masses
Proceeding with the presentation of evidence, Palparan presented three witnesses: Colonel Segundo S. Metran, Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio, and Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado.
In all of their testimonies, the military officials attempted to deny Palparan’s participation in the crime.
The case has been ongoing since 2014. (Click here for more stories.)
Sherlyn and Karen’s abduction was allegedly carried out by the 24th Infantry Battalion (IB), then under the command of Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado.
The 24th IB is under the 7th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP). At the time of the abduction, Palparan was commanding officer of the 7th ID, specifically created by the AFP to suppress insurgents, specifically the New People’s Army (NPA).
At the time of the abduction, Metran was Deputy Commander of the 24th IB, whose task involved keeping track of the operations and plans of the “G3” team of the said battalion.
When asked, however, if he knew the whereabouts of Lt. Col. Anotado, then he claimed that it was “not part of his job description” to keep track of Anotado’s physical presence within the premises of the 24th IB and that he would not have known if Anotado, by any chance, met with Palparan that time to discuss the counterinsurgency operation.
Anotado’s testimony refuted this because he admitted that the 7th ID would also hold “command conferences” twice or thrice a month, involving discussions on the counterinsurgency program of the government.
When Anotado was asked if he met with Palparan any time before the abduction, he only responded, “If he gives us a message, we would meet him.”
Osorio’s testimony did not have much to offer either.
In the preliminary investigation of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Osorio claimed that he was only detailed as Palparan’s security aide during the hearings. AFP claimed that he was assigned to the Army’s Personnel Management Center in Taguig during the time of the abduction.
Despite having testified already in 2013 to dispute his participation in the crime, the defense still opted to have Osorio take the stand. Expectedly, he had no new testimony or information to offer.
A ‘butcher’ in command
None of the witnesses dared to reveal Palparan’s involvement. Their answers, while on the stand, reflected whenever their commander’s head would shake or nod.
Although Col. Anotado denies his involvement, during cross examination, we were able to establish that he regularly attended the command conferences at least three times a month, where they discussed military operations, particularly the counter-insurgency campaign. He saw General Palparan there. Also, the students were abducted at the time that Anotado was commanding officer of the 24th IB,” Lawyer Jun Oliva, private prosecutor and member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said during an interview.
“All the defense witnesses did were give general denials,” Oliva concluded.
In November 2017, AFP Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Jr. called for the release of Palparan as a morale-booster for the military.
Human rights groups and families of victims of Palparan and his subordinates slammed this statement, calling it ‘brazen and insensitive’.
“The Filipino people will never be happy if Palparan is released. This is to reward a butcher and rights violator once more, as done by previous regimes. He is a killer that the military shouldn’t emulate and be proud of. The military should even condemn Palparan,” said Concepcion Empeño, Karen’s mother, said in a statement.
Related story: ‘Their beloved Palparan should rot in jail’
For more than three years, the Cadapan and Empeño families, and other kin of victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the ‘butcher’ have been awaiting for justice to be served.
“This 2018, we hope that the case against Palparan be finally resolved soon. The case has been running since 2014, and it has been a long ordeal for us and all of Palparan’s victims. We want to see him in jail this year,” said Linda Cadapan, Sherlyn’s mother, said.
Aside from this, they called for the transfer of Palparan to a regular jail cell. Right now, he is being detained in Fort Bonifacio.
“He has been enjoying special treatment from the state for too long,” Concepcion said.
Palparan will take the stand on February 15. The decision is expected to be promulgated in May 2018.