Jovito Palparan

The Palparan case: Key witness challenges latest acquittal

Jodesz Gavilan

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The Palparan case: Key witness challenges latest acquittal

REVERSE. Raymond Manalo seeks a reversal of retired general Jovito Palparan's acquittal.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers

Raymond Manalo asks a regional trial court to take a second look at the same evidence that already convicted retired major general Jovito Palparan

MANILA, Philippines – Raymond Manalo, the key witness whose testimony led to the conviction of retired major general Jovito Palparan in 2018, filed a motion for reconsideration at the Malolos Regional Trial Court on Monday, October 23, to challenge the general’s acquittal in his own case.

Palparan was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison by a different Malolos court for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who remain missing to this day.

Manalo was the key witness because he claims to have been abducted and kept in the same military camp as the two women, and escaped to tell his story. He sued Palparan for the same charges, but Malolos RTC Branch 19 Judge Francisco Felizmenio acquitted the general earlier this month.

Felizmenio, in his decision on October 6, said that Manalo committed “inconsistencies…on material points relative to the elements of the crimes charged and as to the identity of the accused.”

In the motion for reconsideration filed Monday, Manalo pointed out that his testimony has already been found solid in the Cadapan and Empeño case not just by a trial court but also by the Court of Appeals.

“The Prosecution respectfully seeks the Honorable Court’s painstaking reconsideration of the evidence that were disregarded, taken out of context, misread, or found to be inferior against the self-serving claims of a two-star general who had been convicted, on the basis of the same testimonies from the same eyewitnesses, of the same crime involving his other (and still missing) victims,” said the motion.

“Without relying on the weakness of the defense’s evidence, they can stand on their own and are so credible in and of themselves, they are far more deserving of weight and probative value,” the motion read.

Manalo recalled that his abductors forced him to say he was an armed rebel, part of the intense anti-insurgency campaign of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency. He, Cadapan, and Empeño were abducted in 2006. The two women have not yet been found.

For the 2018 conviction over the Cadapan and Empeño case, Palparan is serving his 40-year sentence at the New Bilibid Prison, but he has been in jail since his arrest in 2014 after a three-year manhunt. Under the rules on pre-trial detention, authorities can consider that Palparan has already served 10 years. If he invokes the Good Conduct Time Allowance, Palparan can reduce that sentence further.

Aside from the Court of Appeals’ affirmation of the 2018 conviction, the Supreme Court in 2008 upheld its decision granting the Manalo brothers a writ of amparo – a protective writ that the Court gives when it is convinced that the subject needs protection from whoever is being accused of harassment. It is not a criminal remedy.

The Supreme Court said in that decision that Manalo narrated their abduction “in a clear and convincing manner,” and that his testimony “is dotted with countless candid details of respondents’ harrowing experience and tenacious will to escape, captured through his different senses and etched in his memory.” –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.