People of the Philippines vs Jovito Palparan

PALPARAN. Jovito Palparan being interviewed after a hearing in 2011. Photo by Geloy Concepcion

PALPARAN. Jovito Palparan being interviewed after a hearing in 2011.

Photo by Geloy Concepcion

 

(Editor's Note: First published in 2012, we are republishing this story after retired major general Jovito Palparan was found guilty in September 2018, of kidnapping and serious illegal detention by Judge Alexander Tamayo of Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15. The video provides a case brief.)

 

The Cadapan-Empeño Case

THE DISAPPEARED

MANILA, Philippines – In a resolution released 15 December 2011, prosecutors from the Panel of National Prosecution Service found probable cause to charge retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr., retired Lieutenant Colonel Felipe G. Anotado, retired Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario, and Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio with two counts of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention in connection with the abduction of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

Cadapan, 27, and Empeño, 20, were abducted on June 26, 2006 from a farming community in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

Empeño was a member of the left-wing League of Filipino Students. Cadapan was a member of Anakbayan. Both were students of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

STILL SEARCHING. The mothers of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeu00f1o wait outside the Department of Justice. Photo by Geric Cruz

STILL SEARCHING. The mothers of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeu00f1o wait outside the Department of Justice.

Photo by Geric Cruz

A 57-year-old farmer named Manuel Merino responded to their screams. He was abducted as well.

On July 7, after five years of campaigning by the mothers of Cadapan and Empeño, several military personal were called to appear before the Department of Justice to face accusations of rape, serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats, grave coercion, and torture, among other charges, against the University of the Philippines students.

The charges against the other respondents were dismissed, as well as charges of rape and enforced disappearance. The information to charge the indicted respondents was filed on 16 December 2011. Warrants for the four were issued on December 11, 2011.

THE WITNESSES

Raymond Manalo

On February 14, 2006, a 22-year-old farmer named Raymond Manalo and his 38-year-old brother Reynaldo were abducted at gunpoint from their farm in Bulacan. Their brother Bestre had left for the mountains, had been accused of associating wiht the NPA. According to Manalo, he and his brother were interrogated, tortured, and taken to various AFP camps across the country, beginning with Fort Magsaysay.

Manalo testified at the habeas corpus hearing of Cadapan and Empeño. He claimed that he had been met by then Major-General Jovito Palparan at San Miguel, Bulacan, who told him that he would be brought home to see his family on the condition that he convince his mother to drop the habeas corpus case filed on his and his brother's behalf. Manolo, nearly crippled from being caged for months, was then shown to his mother, and taken away.

WITNESS. Raymond Manalo prepares for his testimony on the way to court. Photo by Carlo Gabuco

WITNESS. Raymond Manalo prepares for his testimony on the way to court.

Photo by Carlo Gabuco

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.

TESTIMONY. Wilfredo Ramos, 14 years old at the kidnapping, continues to speak for the disappeared. Photo by Geric Cruz

TESTIMONY. Wilfredo Ramos, 14 years old at the kidnapping, continues to speak for the disappeared.

Photo by Geric Cruz

Before he escaped with his brother, Manalo claimed to have seen soldiers execute Merino.

The Supreme Court, in granting him the writ of amparo, called his testimony harrowing, as well as “clear and convincing.”

Wilfredo Ramos

Ramos, nicknamed Jollibee, was fourteen when he testified at the Court of Appeals that he had seen several armed men drag the screaming girls to a parked jeep along with Merino.

“When the armed men caught sight of him, they rammed a rifle at his throat that caused him to fall to his knees. The armed men brought him along and put him in the jeep.”

He said the three were driven away towards the direction of Iba, Hagonoy, Bulacan in a jeep with plate number RTF 597. A fact-finding team from human rights group Karapatan later claimed the jeep was spotted inside the military compound.

The young women had been living with the family at the time of the incident. Ramos initially signed a joint statement with his father. Ramos said he was bound during the incident, while his father was beaten and water-tortured.

The elder Ramos refused to stand by their joint testimony at the Court of Appeals, but the younger Ramos has repeatedly verified the statements in spite of incidents of alleged harassment by armed men.

Oscar Leuterio

Leuterio, a laborer for the Metal Ore Mining Company of Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, was abducted along with four others on April 17, 2006. He claimed members of the AFP’s 56th Infantry Battalion and five known members of the Citizens’ Armed Forces Group stormed out of a nearby forest.

“They began to beat us, kick us, and hit us with the butts of M16s and M14s, while asking who and where the NPAs were. They had us on the ground from 10:25 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.”

Leuterio said they were taken to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. He claimed he was walloped to unconsciousness by planks of wood, his toes and fingers beaten until they burst. He said they were loaded into a van, taken to Fort Magsaysay, and put inside cells 3 feet by 5 feet with walls five feet high. This is where he claimed to have met Raymond Manalo. He narrated weeks of beating, and said he witnessed the suicide of one detainee.

On August 29, 2006, Oscar was moved to the Office of the Commanding General. Three weeks before they let him go, he was blindfolded and taken to speak to the man the soldiers called Lolo, grandfather, whom he discovered was Major General Jovito Palparan Jr.

“He told me that they would let me live for as long as I helped them.”

UNITED FRONT. Oscar Leuterio, Linda Cadapan and Raymond Manalo at the file a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman. Photo by Geloy Concepcion

UNITED FRONT. Oscar Leuterio, Linda Cadapan and Raymond Manalo at the file a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Photo by Geloy Concepcion

Leuterio was released on September 14, 2006. In early November of 2006, he testified in court for Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. Asked about the military’s denials that the girls were in their possession, Oscar, then 48, called the military statements all lies.

THE RESPONDENTS

Ret. Major General Jovito Palparan

Palparan, an accounting graduate turned commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions, is a holder of Distinguished Service Stars and a Gold Cross Medal. He is the former party list representative of security group Bantay, and has been tagged butcher and hangman by a number of human rights and left-wing organizations. He has publicly been acknowledged as a favorite of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and was acclaimed for his work against the New People’s Army in her 2006 State of the Nation Address.

He has called all accusations against him propaganda, although he has openly described communism and its supporters evil, and once said his senatorial campaign—one he lost—was spurred by the intent to balance out the dangerous left-wing politicians who now populate the legislature.

 

The DOJ, in its decision to file probable cause against Palparan, said it recognized “Manalo's proven positive testimony” that he was visited and threatened by Palparan. The panel included their belief in “his subsequent sharing of detention places with the two victims” and that these detention places are “facilities and safehouses of men belonging to units of the 7th Infrantry Division, the commanding General of which is none other than respondent Palparan.”

The Panel found probable cause to conclude "that Palparan had a direct hand in the detention of Sherlyn and Karen and that through his men, he had knowledge and control of the places where the women were held."

Ret. Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado

Anotado, battalion commander of the 24th Infantry Battalion at the time of Manalo’s stay in its Limay, Bataan headquarters, was accused by Manalo of having visited them at the camp. Manalo said Anotado conversed with the two women for about an hour. The DOJ in its decision to file probable cause, said that although his presence during the abduction of the women is not clearly shown, “his knowledge of their continued illegal detention and his acquiescence thereto is established by his visit to Limay, Bataan and his conversation with the victims.”

DEFENSE. Retired Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado testifies in court. Photo by Geloy Concepcion

DEFENSE. Retired Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado testifies in court.

Photo by Geloy Concepcion

Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario

Hilario was identified by witness Manalo as present during Palparan’s visit, and as the man who brought him to Camp Tecson, and was physically placed in the scene of Sherlyn's and Karen's detention, “thus laying the basis for charging him as a co-conspirator in the kidnapping of the two women,” according to the DOJ’s recent decision. Hilario is still at large and is assumed to be with Palparan.

ACCUSED. Osorio (far left), Palparan (fourth from left) and Hilario (far right) wait at the Department of Justice after a hearing. Photo by Carlo Gabuco

ACCUSED. Osorio (far left), Palparan (fourth from left) and Hilario (far right) wait at the Department of Justice after a hearing.

Photo by Carlo Gabuco

Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio

At the July 19 preliminary investigation on the charges filed against Palparan and other military officials, witness Wilfredo Ramos Jr. claimed the man who was wearing a blue shirt and dark sunglasses assisting Palparan was in fact part of the armed group that abducted Cadapan, Empeño and Merino in 2006.

MAN IN BLUE. S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio performs his role as Palparan's bodyguard, before he was charged with abduction. Photo by Carlo Gabuco

MAN IN BLUE. S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio performs his role as Palparan's bodyguard, before he was charged with abduction.

Photo by Carlo Gabuco

The DOJ panel did not permit the man’s immediate identification, saying that the court was not in the business of investigation. They recommended instead the filing of a supplemental affidavit. Palparan’s camp initially claimed they were unaware of the soldier’s name, and took two hearings until the man was identified as S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio.

Palparan claimed he had never met Osorio before the DOJ hearing. Osorio, employed by the AFP’s Headquarters Service Group, presented documentary evidence he was in training for overseas deployment at the time of the abduction.

The DOJ Panel stated that “such is but an alibi that cannot prevail over his positive identification by witness Wilfredo.” Although it is proof of his assignment, “it is not necessarily proof that he was at a place far away from the area of Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan at about 2:00 o'clock in the morning of 26 June 2006.” – Rappler.com