Senior Assistant State Prosecutor (SASP) Juan Pedro “JP” Navera died at the age of 49, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed.
“We are saddened by SASP Navera’s demise. He was one of our best,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday, November 24. Navera died the night before.
“He was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas a few months ago,” said Guevarra.
Navera, who had served under different secretaries, handled some of DOJ’s biggest and toughest cases, including the kidnapping case against retired Major General Jovito Palparan which resulted in a conviction.
The Palparan conviction was hailed as a huge victory for human rights in the Philippines, as lawyers vowed to run after more state officials involved in abuses. Palparan, dubbed “The Butcher,” was convicted of kidnapping student activists Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who are still missing to this day.
“From where we stand, he was at once an embodiment of a principled, fair, no-nonsense, brilliant, and diligent lawyer. He was a quintessential professional,” said Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), who served as private prosecutors in the Palparan case.
“He can be unforgiving and even cocky in his hard questions and grueling cross-examination. We were awed how he shattered General Palparan’s testimony to smithereens on cross. It was a model even contrived moot courts in law school cannot match,” said Olalia.
When Palparan was convicted in September 2018, the fuming former general lashed out at Navera, telling him, “Pananagutan mo itong si Osorio, napakagago mo (Osorio is on you, you’re such a fool),” referring to Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio, who was also convicted.
Navera told Palparan, “You cannot threaten me.” He told this reporter afterwards that such threats are all “part of the job.”
“He was very amiable and self-effacing, reluctant to be in the spotlight. He was humorous in his own right and self-deprecating yet can throw a teasing jest at his colleagues…. Yes, there are still a few good men. We need more JPs,” said Olalia.
The Ampatuan walkout
Navera was also part of the DOJ panel that was quick to the draw in charging the suspects of the Ampatuan massacre in 2009, together with lead prosecutor Leo Dacera. Dacera died in 2010.
In April 2010, Navera was among the prosecutors who walked out of the DOJ to protest the decision of their boss – former justice secretary Alberto Agra – who absolved Zaldy Ampatuan over the massacre. Zaldy was convicted in 2019.
In that walkout, Navera was with Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon, also one the most senior career officials of the DOJ. Fadullon said Navera was the Robin to his Batman.
“(We) stood up and walked out together on former Secretary Agra when he wanted to dismiss the cases against Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan at the risk of losing our jobs, together we bravely went up against the Ampatuans in the Maguindanao Massacre case only to be removed unceremoniously together by former Secretary (Leila) De Lima,” Fadullon told reporters.
Fadullon was referring to the 2011 shakeup when De Lima removed some prosecutors in the panel that handled the massacre case.
“To me, he will always be my go to guy, my ever reliable partner and my Robin. We will miss him but what he has done and the lives he has touched will make his memory live on in our hearts forever,” said Fadullon.
Fadullon and Navera prosecuted the Oakwood mutiny cases against former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and “together we experienced frustration when they were granted amnesty.”
‘Competence and brilliance without question’
Fadullon and Navera also worked together for the conviction of the gunman in the killing of Olongapo businessman Dominic Sytin.
“All told, his competence and brilliance is without question. Others who don’t know him may dismiss him as arrogant but I guess that’s just how he is to people who he doesn’t know,” said Fadullon.
Navera was also one of the lead prosecutors in the case that convicted Ozamis City’s Reynaldo Parojinog Jr of illegal drug possession in 2019.
Before his death, Navera was also handling the case in Olongapo against the suspected killers of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.
“JP Navera was one of those who related to people as walang masamang tinapay. He was always professional in the courtroom and, as one fortunate to know him outside the courtroom, one of the nicest – and funniest – persons working in that building along Padre Faura,” said former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te in a tweet. – Rappler.com