A Malolos Court acquitted retired Major General Jovito Palparan and cohorts in the abduction and torture of two farmers in Bulacan province 17 years ago.
Branch 19 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court said Palparan and Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) troopers under his command are “not guilty” of the charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with serious physical injuries filed by brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo.
The promulgation was held this afternoon without Palparan’s actual presence in the courtroom.
Palparan’s co-accused included M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario of the Philippine Army and Jose Dela Cruz, Randy Mendoza, Roman Dela Cruz, and Rudy Mendoza of the CAFGU.
The brothers said they were abducted on February 14, 2006 from their home in San Ildefonso, Bulacan and were held in various military camps throughout Central Luzon for 18 months.
They eventually escaped from a chicken farm somewhere in Pangasinan province where they suffered forced labor in the hands of their captors.
In their captivity, Raymond said he witnessed the torture of missing University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño by soldiers under the direct command of then 7th Infantry Division commander Palparan.
Raymond added that he also witnessed the murder of farmer Manuel Merino, kidnapped with Cadapan and Empeño, by their captors.
In September 2018, Palparan was convicted for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Cadapan and Empeño, largely on Raymond’s testimony.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the Court’s dismissal of the charges are “[s]imply unbelievable if not disturbingly shocking.”
“It is even a huge challenge to make sense of how he (Palparan) can be earlier convicted mainly on the basis of the testimony of the same witness survivor by one court and years later would be acquitted on the same testimony in a separate case brought by the same said witness survivor in another court,” NUPL chairperson and private prosecution team member Edre Olalia said.
Human rights group Karapatan immediately scheduled an indignation rally this evening in Quezon City against the court’s dismissal of the case.
“Clearly, the case of the Manalo brothers is a dire example of how lopsided the justice system is, making it extremely hard for brave ordinary folks like Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, to pursue justice, and demand accountability from all perpetrators of enforced disappearances, torture, and all other human rights violations,” Karapatan said.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s favorite general, Palparan led a brutal counter-insurgency program between 2004 and 2010 that killed 1,118 civilians and forcibly disappeared 204 others. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)