By CHITO A. CHAVEZ
Retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan and two others were found guilty on Monday by a Bulacan Regional Trial Court Monday for kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.
Palparan’s co-accused, Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Sargeant Edgardo Osorio, were also found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.Another co-accused, Sergeant Rizal Hilario, remains at large.
The three were given life sentences and were each ordered to pay P100,000 in civil indemnity and P200,000 for moral damages.
Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 115 Judge Alexander Tamayo ordered the detention of Palparan, Anotado, and Osorio at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
However, their counsels appealed in open court to allow them to remain at the custodial center of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig due to another pending case at the Malolos RTC.
Relatives of the victims and other human rights advocates hailed the conviction and want them imprisoned in regular jail facilities in the company of common criminals and not in military camps or any special cell.
Concepcion Empeno and ErlindaCadapan, the mothers of Karen and Sherlyn, respectively, and other human rights groups said that Palparan, whom they called the “butcher,’’ will now “rot in jail’’ after long years of impunity and special treatment.
“We are only two of the many families who are happy with the court’s decision to convict Palparan. We are thankful that the courts recognized the truth in the testimonies of our witnesses who have likewise suffered the same fate as our daughters,” said Empeno.
Empeno said there remains to be justice for the poor and ordinary people, but only because of the untiring call for justice and accountability from the victims themselves.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we sincerely thank everyone who has supported us in the past four years of this ordeal,” said Empeno.
Cadapan added: “this is a victory for all the victims of Palparan.’’
“All victims and relatives from Southern Tagalog to Eastern Visayas, to Central Luzon where our daughters were abducted and disappeared, share this victory. However, this remains partial because the next question has always been ‘where are our children?’” said Cadapan.
“We hope that Palparan’s conviction will be used to shed light on the fate of desaparecidos under his watch. Until then, we shall continue searching for our daughters, and together with the families of all those killed and disappeared, we shall continue searching for justice,” said Cadapan.
The two UP students went missing on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
The court ordered Palparan’s arrest in December 2011.
But Palparan went missing and was later found hiding in an apartment above a bakery in Sta. Mesa, Manila on August 2014.
Palparan was later detained at the custodial center in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig up to the day of his court appearance. (With a report from Freddie C. Velez)