Groups welcome ex-general’s conviction for kidnapping of UP students

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 17 September) – Various groups on Monday welcomed the decision of the regional trial court in Malolos in Bulacan convicting former major general Jovito Palparan Jr.  and two others for the kidnapping and serious detention of two University of the Philippines students who remain missing.

Palparan, who was praised by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in one of her state of the nation addresses, was accused of kidnapping Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.

“This is a step forward for justice, though partial for so long as Karen and Sherlyn remain missing and numerous other violations remain unresolved,” Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor said in a statement.

Palparan was convicted along with Lt Col Felipe G. Anotado Jr., and Sgt Edgardo Osorio.

The court released its decision on Monday.

Palparan, called “the butcher” by human rights groups for his alleged role in several cases of killings of activists, went into hiding in 2011 after a regional court in Bulacan issued a warrant of arrest against him. He was captured in August 2014 but was detained in Fort Bonifacio instead of in a civilian jail.

“This case has dragged on for so long, adding to the pain of the victims’ relatives and to the benefit of Palparan who is detained with his barkadas at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. It has been 12 years, and though we welcome this decision, justice delayed is still justice denied. We want to see him rot in jail, not in the company of fellow butchers who share the same contempt for human rights,” Clamor said.

“Among Palparan’s victims is Karapatan’s own regional coordinator in Southern Tagalog. Eden Marcellana, along with peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, were killed while conducting a fact-finding mission in Mindoro. Marcellana and Gumanoy’s bodies were later found in a ditch in Bansud, Mindoro Oriental,” he said.

“Palparan is known not just for the killings and disappearances, but the utter cruelty and inhumanity with which these crimes were done. Testimonies of witnesses attest to the beatings, rape, and torture that Karen and Sherlyn were subjected to. He is a psychopath who enjoys inflicting pain on others, and should therefore be in jail, far away from any position that can give him any power to victimize more people,” he added.

Karapatan blamed Palparan for 206 cases of forced disappearances when he was commander of various Philippine Army units under the Arroyo administration.

In a statement, the American-based Human Rights Watch said Palparan’s conviction “is a big blow against impunity in the Philippines.”

“This ruling by a Philippine court came after a long and agonizing struggle for justice by the families and supporters of the two activists, who remain missing. It rekindles hope among the families of many other victims of human rights violations, now and in the past. It should also serve as a reminder to state security forces that justice and the law will catch up with them sooner or later,” it added.

But Clamor warned that with Arroyo’s return to power [as House Speaker] could mean “eventual pardon or reprieve for Palparan despite his conviction. After all, Duterte’s support for Arroyo’s resurrection is indicative that he willingly abets plunderers and murderers in his government.”

“We welcome the court’s decision, but we remain conscious of the changing political situation that is beneficial for fascists like Palparan to thrive and escape accountability. The Duterte regime has shown his contempt for human rights, its brazen use of the law to run after critics while shielding the real criminals. The butcher is convicted, but the fight for justice is far from over,” he said. (MindaNews)