CITY OF MALOLOS—The families of missing University of the Philippines students Sherilyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño said the latest legal maneuver of fugitive retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan is making a mockery of the justice system.
Palparan’s lawyers petitioned the Court of Appeals on Oct. 24 to stop the kidnapping trial being heard by Bulacan Judge Teodora Gonzales, claiming it would render their client vulnerable to persecution.
Gonzales proceeded with the trial for kidnapping and illegal detention charges filed against Palparan and three military officials but the judge ruled that it covered only Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, who surrendered to the court.
She said Palparan and another missing soldier, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, would need to surrender to the authorities first before they could stand trial.
Edre Olalia, lawyer of the Cadapan and Empeño families, said Palparan “is clutching at the remaining thin straws of legal maneuvers that he could futilely resort to.”
“Probably, his world is getting smaller every day because he is desperately trying to preempt and delay the inevitable,” said Olalia, who is secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
“[Palparan] has the gall to cry persecution when he had actively participated in and gloated about his innocence during the preliminary investigation [of the charges filed against him], only to run away and hide as soon as the cosmos had turned against him,” he said.
Palparan disappeared shortly after the court issued the arrest warrant against him and three other military officials. He, however, is very visible on the social networking site, Facebook, where he has 5,210 friends.
The trial of Anotado and Osorio proceeded on Oct. 29, where one of the prosecution’s witnesses was grilled during cross-examination.
Lawyer Joey Cruz, Osorio’s counsel, and lawyer Abner Torres, Anotado’s counsel, had challenged the credibility of state witness Raymond Manalo by questioning his association with the human rights group, Karapatan.
“What we were trying to establish here is that Manalo—in one way or another—could have been a coached witness by the Karapatan lawyers,” Cruz told the Inquirer.
Manalo claimed he and his sibling were captured and detained by soldiers on Feb. 14, 2006.
At one point during his cross-examination, Manalo pulled up his shirt to show the court the burns he allegedly suffered from torture. “I was also bashed on the legs and feet by a piece of burning wood,” he said.
Cruz said: “There are inconsistencies [in Manalo’s narrative] and that will prove Manalo’s shattered credibility.”
Olalia, however, said Manalo’s testimony strengthened their argument that the military had been abducting and torturing people in Bulacan. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon