Palparan ‘self-destructs’ at final hearing of Cadapan-Empeno disappearance case – lawyers

February 15, 2018 - 2:54 PM
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Activists stage a rally to demand the conviction of retired Army general Jovito Palparan, whose image is seen on a banner, outside the Bulacan Regional Trial Court where the last hearing of his trial for the disappearance of UP students Sheryn Cadapan and Karen Empeno was held Thursday, February 15. (photo courtesy of Bayan)

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights lawyers acting as private prosecutors in the trial of retired general Jovito Palparan for the disappearance of two University of the Philippines students said he “self-destructed” when he took the stand on the last hearing of the case Thursday, February 15.

After the hearing, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia told InterAksyon: “From the point of view of prosecution, we have satisfactorily met the standard of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

The NUPL president said they expect Judge Alexander Tamayo of Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 16 to hand down a verdict within the next few months.

The charges against Palparan and his co-accused were filed in 2011 and the trial began the next year.

Palparan was not around at the start of the trial, having gone into hiding after a foiled attempt to slip out of the country. He was captured in Manila in 2014.

The former Army officer, nicknamed “The Butcher” by activists for the human rights abuses that took place in areas he was assigned to, was tried along with two co-accused — Sergeant Edgardo Osorio and Colonel Felipe Anotadoon — on charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention over the 2006 abduction of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno from a farmhouse in Bulacan province.

Another co-accused, Sergeant Rizal Hilario, remains at large.

Cadapan and Empeno, along with farmer Manuel Merino, who was seized along with them, have never been found. But a prosecution witness in the trial, farmer Raymond Manalo, who with his brother was abducted, also in 2006, but managed to escape more than a year later, testified seeing the students being tortured in a military camp under Palparan’s command.

At Thursday’s hearing Palparan took the stand where, Olalia said, his “improper testimony,” based on the judicial affidavit he submitted, “harvested a buffet of practically all grounds for legal objections in the book, many of which were rightfully stricken off by the court.”

The former general “confirmed his prepared judicial affidavit on the witness stand. This would constitute his direct testimony. But we objected to most of these, many of which were stricken off the record,” Olalia said.

“Instead of wriggling his way out, he painted himself in a corner,” he added.

The human rights lawyer said he himself was the target of an innuendo in the affidavit, “which I asked to be stricken off as immaterial, irrelevant, reckless, vicious and malicious, which the court did.”

An excerpt from Palparan’s affidavit where he tags the NUPL and its president, Edre Olalia, as ‘communist fronts.’

In this part of his affidavit, Palparan also described now Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te and an “Atty. Diokno” who is apparently De La Salle University law dean Jose Manuel Diokno, who the former general said helped Manalo prepare his affidavit, as “activist lawyers” and that he was “quite apprehensive” over Te’s current position.

The human rights group Karapatan described Palparan’s claims in his affidavit — in which he labeled the group and the NUPL as “legal fronts” of the Communist Pary of the Philippines and of “influencing” witnesses to “achieve an objective of permanently silencing” through a conviction — as “the desperation of the guilty.”

Olalia also noted in Palparan “a persecution complex that does not inspire credence. He sees red everywhere and recklessly, maliciously and baselessly blames his present woes to what he stubbornly refers to as ‘enemies of the State,’ including human rights lawyers, human rights organizations, farmers’ groups, and the Left.”