MANILA, Philippines – The mothers of disappeared students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan on Thursday, March 31, condemned National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Spokesperson Lorraine Badoy over an interview aimed at “vindicating” convicted military general Jovito Palparan.
Palparan in 2018 was found guilty of kidnapping and illegal detention in relation with the 2006 disappearance of the two University of the Philippines students. (READ: People of the Philippines vs Jovito Palparan)
Badoy said the two-hour interview, which aired on Wednesday, March 30, at the Apollo Quiboloy-owned SMNI intended to “to honor” and “to vindicate” Palparan, nicknamed berdugo (The Butcher) for the human rights abuses he allegedly committed while in service.
Erlinda Cadapan, Sherlyn’s mother, called the interview “a cheap, desperate work of thieves.”
“The NTF-ELCAC is mocking the partial justice we attained by holding accountable Palparan on the disappearance of Karen and Sherlyn,” she said.
“They stole our daughters, and those who continue to employ abduction and enforced disappearances should be held accountable for the rest of their lives, like what they did to us, as we remain searching for our missing loved ones,” Cadapan added.
Karen and Sherlyn are among the thousands documented cases of enforced disappearance in the Philippines. (READ: What you need to know about enforced disappearances in the Philippines)
Concepcion Empeño, Karen’s mother, said allowing Palparan to speak publicly to try to “salvage the face of the ‘berdugo'” is a “travesty of justice.”
“How about our daughters, did he give them a chance to speak and defend themselves? No! They remain missing to this day, for 15 years, while Palparan is alive and well,” she said in a statement.
Palparan, a decorated Philippine Army major general, was notorious for being a key figure in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program, which was criticized for documented human rights violations. His conviction in 2018 came four years since he was arrested after going into hiding. (TIMELINE: The search for Jovito Palparan)
Questioning the interview
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia, who served as private prosecutor in the case, questioned how Palparan, who is at the New Bilibid Prison, was able to grant media interviews.
“Do the courts, Bureau of Corrections, and Department of Justice (DOJ) know this? This is not only thumbing one’s nose at our justice and penal system but mocks equal protection of the law and may be laying the predicate to make him walk soon,” he said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Rappler that the DOJ has no knowledge of the interview. He also told reporters on Thursday that he is “still checking if any request for permission was filed by [Palparan] with the court.”
The interview with Palparan, where his record in the military was highlighted, was an extension of the Duterte government’s widespread red-tagging efforts as part of its crackdown on communist insurgency.
NTF-ELCAC’s Badoy, who is also an undersecretary at the Presidential Communications Operations Office, is facing complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman over her serial red-tagging of civil society groups, critics of the administration, and even Vice President Leni Robredo herself. – Rappler.com