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Fear of pardon for Palparan baseless, Palace says

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Fear of pardon for Palparan baseless, Palace says
Erlinda Cadapan, minutes after the Malolos court convicted Jovito Palparan and two of his men on kidnapping of her daughter Sherlyn and fellow student Karen Empeño.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:03 p.m.) — Malacañang said there is no basis to the fear of Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño—mothers of students whose disappearance retired general Jovito Palparan has been convicted over—that the former Army officer will get a pardon.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a radio interview over DZRH, said their worries are baseless.

“The government jailed Palparan and the government would also ensure that justice will be served to the victims,” Roque said in Filipino.

A day after Cadapan and Empeño received the court's decision finding Palparan and two others guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the disappearance of their daughters, they said they are afraid the man whom human rights advocates have dubbed “The Butcher” may still walk free.

READ: Moms of Palparan's victims fear pardon for 'The Butcher'

Palparan commanded different units in the Philippine Army while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—now House speaker— was commander-in-chief, including the 7th Infantry Division that operates in Central Luzon, where students Cadapan and Empeño disappeared in 2006.

He has been blamed for 206 cases of enforced disappearances.

The Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15 on September 17 convicted Palparan, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio on kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges on Monday.

Mothers wary Palparan might still walk free

In an interview on ANC’s “Early Edition” on Tuesday, Empeño said on Tuesday the return to power of Arroyo, who had called Palparan her hero, is a cause for worry. “Ito pang ating President Duterte, baka gagawa sila ng paraan para makawala sa krimen na nakaatang sa kanya,” she added.

(President Duterte as well. They might make a way for Palparan to walk away from his crime.)

Duterte has repeatedly said that he would pardon military and police personnel who are jailed for doing their jobs. The government has also repeatedly stressed, however, that it upholds human rights, due process and the rule of law.

Lawyer Josalee Deinla of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers said that granting a pardon is well within President Duterte's powers. NUPL lawyers were private prosecutors in the case.

The two mothers waited 12 years for their victory in court, a time that was too long to wait for justice for most, but they said the conviction is welcomed nonetheless. Human rights activitists also hailed the conviction as an "important step for justice" in the Philippines.

The two mothers' wait to see their daughters again will take longer, however,  as they have yet to be found.

Empeño said that so long as she is alive, she would wait for the return of her child.

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

Palparan still in military custody 

Hustisya, a rights group whose members include relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and rights violations, meanwhile accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines of coddling Palparan by keeping him in the Army custodial center in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.

According to an Army spokesperson on Tuesday, the military is still waiting for a commitment order from the Malolos court that convicted Palparan before he is sent to the New Bilibid Prisons.

"The court decision is the order itself. The military is making themselves above the law again," Hustisya chairperson Evangeline Hernandez said.

Hustisya said that Cadapan and Empeño had told them that Palparan had asked to be allowed to stay at Fort Bonifacio since there are other pending cases against him, which Judge Alexander Tamayo said would go against Supreme Court guidelines.

"We were also informed that the judge has handed over the decision to Palparan’s security from Fort Bonifacio. What commitment order are they looking for? What makes Palparan different from ordinary prisoners who were immediately transferred to NBP upon conviction?" Cadapan said in a press statement.

HARRY ROQUE

JOVITO PALPARAN

KAREN EMPENO

SHERLYN CADAPAN

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