By JOSH AVENGOZA
MANILA — It has been almost four years since retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. was convicted over the abduction and torture of two still missing UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. Yet, the case of the two farmers, whose testimonies were key to the conviction of the retired general, remains pending before a Bulacan court.
“Through credible, straightforward and candid testimonial evidence in conjunction with several documentary evidence, the Prosecution proved the respective participation of each of the accused and the fact that they acted in conspiracy with one another in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of private complainants, Raymond Manalo and Reynaldo Manalo and infliction of serious physical injuries on them,” a memorandum filed last week by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), counsel for the farmers, read.
The kidnapping and serious illegal detention with serious physical injuries were filed in 2016, or about a decade after farmers Raymond and Reynaldo were abducted, tortured, and illegally detained in various military camps and detention facilities. Apart from Palparan, other accused include the Dela Cruz brothers: Michael, Maximo, and Marcelo, who are all members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) in Bulacan province.
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Other accused mentioned in the memorandum such as M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, CAA Jose Dela Cruz, CAA Randy Mendoza, CAA Roman Dela Cruz, and CAA Rudy Mendoza are either still at large or already dead, said NUPL.
In a phone interview, Julian Oliva of the NUPL told Bulatlat that he is “very positive that Palparan will be convicted again because Raymond Manalo’s testimony already led to his conviction.”
“We are more certain now that they are the complainants themselves,” he said.
What Raymond said
In his testimony, Raymond identified Palparan, the Dela Cruz brothers and other paramilitary members who abducted, tortured, and detained them. He also narrated how they are tortured and moved from one military camp to another.
Manalo said he met Palparan himself on a basketball court in Sapang village, Bulacan while in the custody of soldiers there.
“Now that I am in front of you, are you afraid of me?” Palparan was quoted as saying in Raymond’s testimony. To which Raymond told the court in Filipino, “Of course, I was afraid.”
In the said meeting, Raymond said he was told by Palparan not to approach human rights groups like Karapatan and even the government’s rights body, the Commission on Human Rights. He was also told to tell his parents not to attend rallies and hearings.
“Among the men who came to take him, Raymond recognized brothers Michael de la Cruz, Madning de la Cruz, “Puti” de la Cruz, and “Pula” de la Cruz, who all acted as a lookout. They were all members of the CAFGU and residing in Manuzon, San Ildefonso, Bulacan. He also recognized brothers Randy Mendoza and Rudy Mendoza, also members of the CAFGU,” according to a decision on the case involving the Manalo brothers.
Palparan, in his testimony before the Bulacan court, accused Manalo of lying, saying that there is no reason for him to meet him in a basketball court in San Miguel town during the time that the farmer was in the custody of soldiers.
The now convicted general served until his retirement as the commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division, which covers seven provinces namely, Bulacan, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales and Aurora.
Raymond’s testimony, however, was once hailed for being “clear, consistent, and convincing” by the Supreme Court en banc when it affirmed the appellate court’s decision in the habeas corpus proceeding for the two UP students.
On the kidnapping raps
The NUPL said they were able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Palparan and the three CAA units are liable for kidnapping and serious illegal detention with serious physical injuries. This despite Palparan and the rest of the accused still being active military officers at the time of the abduction and illegal detention of the Manalo brothers.
The NUPL said in the memorandum that per a previous Supreme Court ruling, a public officer may still be held liable for kidnapping charges (of which an element should be perpetrated by a private individual) if she or he “acted beyond the scope of his authority.”
“Clearly in these cases, these accused public officers, who are all military personnel, do not have the duty to apprehend and the correlative power to detain individuals. Worse, they do not have the authority to abduct and unlawfully detain individuals,” the memorandum read.
Citing Republic Act No. 7055 or the law that seeks to strengthen civilian supremacy over armed personnel, Manalo’s lawyers said a crime punishable by the Revised Penal Code and other government ordinances shall be tried by the proper civilian court.
The NUPL added that “there is no question that Raymond Manalo and Reynaldo Manalo were arrested or abducted by armed men who are military personnel, assisted by members of the CAFGU in Barangay Buhol na Mangga without lawful cause.”
The Manalo brothers, through their NUPL lawyers, also alleged conspiracy between and among the accused. While Palparan may have denied the testimony of Raymond, they said in their memorandum that such denial and pretension “lose credence in the face of positive identification by the prosecution witness.”
“Denial cannot prevail over the positive testimony of prosecution witnesses who were not shown to have any ill-motive to testify against the appellants,” the memorandum read.
Hopes for cases of other disappeared
NUPL’s Oliva said the case has an advantage of having strong evidence and witness, compared to other cases of disappeared activists, farmers, and ordinary folk who remain missing to this day.
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He hopes that like the case of the Manalo brothers, they may be able to seek accountability for such gross human rights violation. With the memorandum submitted last week before the Bulacan court, the case is now deemed up for resolution.