The student activists went missing while doing fieldwork in Hagonoy, Bulacan in June 2006. The two have yet to be found.
Boy Santos, file
Palparan guilty of kidnapping UP students Empeño, Cadapan
(philstar.com) - September 17, 2018 - 9:55am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:01 p.m.) — Jovito Palparan Jr., a retired Army general whom activists had accused of abuse and extrajudicial killings as part of a government counterinsurgency campaign, was found guilty Monday of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, a government prosecutor said.

Palparan, a former commander of the Army's 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon, had been tagged as being behind the abduction and disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.

The student activists went missing while doing fieldwork in Hagonoy, Bulacan in June 2006. The two have yet to be found.

A Malolos, Bulacan court found him guilty in the disappearances of both students and has sentenced him to reclusion perpetua, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said.

Reclusion perpetua means imprisonment for between 20 to 30 years, with a chance for parole after 30 years.

RELATED: Victims' kin: Let 'The Butcher' Palparan rot in jail

Palparan has also been ordered to pay a P100,000 civil indemnity and P200,000 in moral damages for each count.

Palparan's co-accused, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Jr. and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, were also found guilty and were meted the same penalties.

"Justice may come a bit late, but it does come. Let’s believe in that," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters.

In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace respects the court's decision. "We would want justice to be done to the victims," he said.

'Our hopes are based on facts, real-life testimonies'

Over the weekend, Hustisya—an organization for the victims of human rights violations, political prisoners and their relatives—said it was hopeful for a guilty verdict.

"Our hopes are based on facts, real-life testimonies, and more importantly, our thirst for justice," it said as it announced a picket outside the Malolos court.

"We have held actions in every single court hearing since Palparan was arrested in August 2014. We only hope that the courts will not be deafened by our cries for justice," said Evangeline Hernandez, Hustisya chairperson said.

Hernandez' daughter Benjaline was killed in 2002 while deputy secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao.

The verdict comes at a time of increasing animosity against activists and human rights advocates and defenders, especially those affiliated with the national democratic movement.

Fugitive for three years

Palparan, one of the "Big 5" fugitives during the Aquino administration, was captured in Sta. Mesa in 2014. He had gone into hiding when an arrest warrant was issued against him for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases.

Prior to his arrest, Palparan was said to have sought refuge in Bataan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Cagayan de Oro.

"There were many attempts that were made in the past together with the NBI but we failed and finally, there was a breakthrough with the splendid effort of our NISF (Naval Intelligence and Security Force)," Eduardo Año, now OIC of the Deaprtment of the Interior and Local Government, said at the time of Palparan's arrest.

He had been chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the time. — with a report by Kristine Joy Patag

JOVITO PALPARAN KAREN EMPENO SHERLYN CADAPAN
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