Philippine judiciary

Court acquits Palparan, 5 others of kidnapping, illegal detention of Manalo brothers

Joann Manabat

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Court acquits Palparan, 5 others of kidnapping, illegal detention of Manalo brothers

General Jovito Palparan inside his cell at Recreational and Diagnostic Center of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City on 4 October 2018.

Rappler

Judge Francisco Felizmenio of the Malolos RTC Branch 19 says the Manalo brothers failed to clearly identify the men who abducted them from their farm in San Idelfonso, Bulacan, in February 2006

BULACAN, Philippines – The Malolos Regional Trial Court acquitted retired major general Jovito Palparan and five auxiliary forces of the military on Friday afternoon, October 6, for the 2006 kidnapping and serious illegal detention with physical injuries of brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo.

Court acquits Palparan, 5 others of kidnapping, illegal detention of Manalo brothers

According to Manalo’s lawyer Julian Oliva Jr., Judge Francisco Felizmenio of the Malolos RTC Branch 19 said the Manalo brothers had failed to clearly identify the men who abducted them from their farm in San Idelfonso, Bulacan, in February 2006.

A distraught Raymond rushed out of the courtroom following the reading of the verdict.

“Paano nangyari?” he wailed as kin and human rights advocates comforted him. (How did that happen?)

DISTRAUGHT. Human rights advocates Edith Burgos and Cristina Palabay comfort Raymond Manalo following the acquittal of former general Jovito Palparan and five others of the kidnapping and illegal detention with serious physical injuries cases filed by Raymond and his brother, Reynaldo.

Aside from Palparan, the others acquitted are Technical Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario, Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit auxiliaries Michael dela Cruz, Jose dela Cruz, Maximo dela Cruz, Roman dela Cruz, Randy Mendoza, and Rudy Mendoza.

Quoting the decision as it was read in the courtroom, Oliva said the judge also found Raymond’s recollection of his meeting in Bulacan with Palparan was flawed.

In Filipino, Oliva said the judge said the nighttime meeting between Raymond and Palparan in a Bulacan military camp also did not show clear identification.

The judge noted the dark environs of the meeting. He also said that when Palparan asked Raymond if he recognized him, the latter said, no.

“Of course, if you were being asked in his place, you would reply, no,” Oliva said in Filipino. “But the truth was that Rayond said he recognized Palparan.

The judge said the description of the place where they talked, which Raymond had sketched, was disputed by the former barangay chairman.

“Of course, after 15 years or 10 years, the place would have changed,” said the lawyer, adding that the chairman also confirmed other parts of Raymond’s description.

AFTERMATH OF ACQUITTAL. Raymond Manalo’s lawyer, Julian Oliva Jr, explains why the Malolos Regional Court Branch 19 acquitted former general Jovito Palparan and five others on October 6, 2023, of kidnapping and illegal detention with serious physical injuries charges.

Raymond managed to pull himself together within half an hour.

“Tuloy ang laban,” he told supporters. “Hindi ako titigil hanggat di ko nakakamit ang hustisya.” (The fight continues. I won’t stop until justice is served.)

The Manalo brothers filed the case in 2016, a decade after they were abducted at gunpoint from their farm in Bulacan on February 14, 2006. Raymond was then 22 years old; his brother, 38. The military suspected them to be members of the communist New People’s Army.

On July 24, 2015, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said her office found probable cause to indict Palparan and nine others for kidnapping and torturing the Manalo brothers.

Prolonged torture

In their testimonies, the brothers said they experienced torture while military personnel interrogated them over 18 months at various military camps across the country, beginning at Fort Magsaysay.

Raymond said he met Palparan in San Miguel, Bulacan. The military officer offered to release him to his family if his mother dropped the habeas corpus case filed on his and his brother’s behalf.

By then, the farmer was almost crippled after spending months in a metal cage four feet long and two feet wide.

Raymond had tried to escape his captors but failed. After the incident, Palparan told him that another escape attempt would mean the murder of his parents in San Ildefonso.

Important witness

Raymond was a key witness in the 2006 kidnapping of two University of the Philippines students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

His testimony led to Palparan’s first conviction in September 2018.

In 2012, Rappler reported:

Manalo testified that he met Cadapan, Empeño, and Merino at Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. He claimed Cadapan told him that she had been raped by soldiers, and that she and Empeño had been beaten by Palparan himself.

Manalo also claimed to have personally witnessed the torture of the two girls, which included beating while they were naked, cigarettes held against their skin, and various implements shoved into their vaginas by a number of soldiers.

Raymond saw Cadapan and Empeño in April 2007. In August of the same year, he and Reynaldo finally managed to escape.

The Supreme Court, describing Raymond’s testimony as harrowing and “clear and convincing,” granted his petition for a writ of amparo.

Flight, arrest

Palparan went into hiding in December 2011, when a Bulacan regional trial court issued a warrant of arrest against him in connection with the Cadapan and Empeno cases.

The government of then-president Benigno Aquino III issued a P2-million bounty for Palparan, who was arrested in Manila on August 12, 2014.

Human rights defenders called Palparan “Berdugo” or “The Butcher,” but then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promoted him twice and called him “my hero.”

Following Palparan’s arrest, Rappler published a timeline of his tour of duties – and the bodies left in his wake.

Palparan is currently detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Cadapan and Empeno remain missing. – Rappler.com

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