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'Big blow against impunity': Human rights groups welcome Palparan conviction

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights groups on Monday, September 17, welcomed the guilty verdict handed down to retired army major general Jovito Palparan, the man they call berdugo (The Butcher). 

Palparan was found guilty of kidnapping and illegal detention by the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15 in relation with the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006. (READ: People of the Philippines vs Jovito Palparan)

“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. 

The group called for Palparan to spend his time away from a military detention.

"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," Clamor said. 

Also convicted were Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt Edgardo Osorio. The conviction comes 4 years since Palparan was arrested after going into hiding in response to Malolos RTC's arrest order. (TIMELINE: The search for Jovito Palparan)

VICTIMS. Sherlyn and Karen are two of the many victims of enforced disappearances in the Philippines. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

VICTIMS. Sherlyn and Karen are two of the many victims of enforced disappearances in the Philippines.

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

A decorated general, Palparan was notorious for his handling of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's counter-insurgency program and the several human rights violations he alleged committed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), meanwhile, called the conviction 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 and it rekindles hope among the families of many other victims human rights violations, now and in the past," HRW's Carlos Conde said.

"It should also serve as a reminder to state security forces that justice and the law will catch up with them sooner or later," he added. 

Capadan and Empeno are among the 1,996 documented cases of enforced disappearance in the Philippines. At least 1,165 remain missing from this list, while 244 were found dead. (READ: What you need to know about enforced disappearances in the Philippines)

Karapatan Southern Tagalog said that the legal victory is a reminder to further the cause for justice for other victims of human rights violations.

"While we celebrate the guilty verdict on these charges, we also recognize that the battle to bring justice to the victims of the bloodbath ensued by ‘The Butcher of Southern Luzon’ during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s regime has not come to an end.” Rev Erwin Egar of Karapatan Southern Tagalog said.

Father Edu Gariguez of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NSSA), meanwhile, said that the guilty verdict on Palparan is "justice served."

"Palparan deserves a guilty verdict for his monstrous crime in killing and torturing those who are in progressive movements working to defend the rights of the poor," he said. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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