Palace: 'No pardon for Jovito Palparan'

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Palace: 'No pardon for Jovito Palparan'
“The government sent Palparan to jail and the government would ensure that the victims would be given justice,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. told radio station dzRH to allay such fears, especially of Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño, the mothers of the two missing.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday described as “baseless” fears that President Duterte would pardon and release retired Army general Jovito Palparan Jr., who was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping and detention of missing University of the Philippines student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

“The government sent Palparan to jail and the government would ensure that the victims would be given justice,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. told radio station dzRH to allay such fears, especially of Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño, the mothers of the two missing.

Dubbed by human rights groups as “The Butcher” for his alleged involvement in the crackdown on activists, Palparan was found guilty for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Cadapan and Empeño. The two were abducted in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006 and have since been missing.

The Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 15 also ordered Palparan and his two co-accused soldiers to indemnify the families of the missing students with P100,000 in civil damages and P200,000 as moral damages.

The elder Cadapan and Empeño welcomed the ruling but were worried that Duterte would pardon Palparan and release him from prison.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, Mrs. Empeño said Palparan is admired by former president and incumbent Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an ally of Duterte. She expressed fear that Arroyo and Duterte might find a way to help Palparan escape accountability.

Palparan transfer

Meanwhile, the two mothers are calling for the transfer of Palparan to the national penitentiary following his conviction.

In a statement, they, together with the advocate group Hustisya, slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for allowing Palparan to remain at the Army Custodial Center at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City instead of enforcing his immediate transfer to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, following his conviction on Monday.

Mrs. Empeño and Mrs. Cadapan recounted that after the decision was read before Palparan on Monday, his counsel asked if the former military general could remain at Fort Bonifacio as there were still pending cases against him, but Malolos RTC Branch 15 Judge Alexander Tamayo denied the plea, saying it would be against the Supreme Court guidelines that upon conviction, inmates should be transferred to national penal institutions such as the NBP.

“We were also informed that the judge has handed over the decision to Palparan’s security from Fort Bonifacio. What commitment order is (the AFP personnel) looking for? What makes Palparan different from ordinary prisoners who were immediately transferred to the NBP upon conviction?” Mrs. Cadapan said.

“The delay of his transfer to the NBP reeks of special treatment. He has been proven guilty, and as long as he remains in an army camp, that is impunity,” she added.

“They have wronged us since the day they took our daughters and made them disappear without a trace. We are calling on all those who supported us in this fight for justice to join the call to jail Palparan at the NBP,” Mrs. Empeño said.

Evangeline Hernandez, chair of Hustisya, said the AFP “is making a fool out of the victims and even the courts” by saying it is still waiting for a commitment order from the Malolos RTC before enforcing Palparan’s transfer of detention.

“The court decision is the order itself. The military is putting themselves above the law again,” Hernandez said.

Hustisya, together with the group Desaparecidos, or Families of the Disappeared for Justice, will hold protest actions this week to demand Palparan’s transfer to the NBP, according to Hernandez.

“The AFP is obviously making excuses whatever they can to keep their beloved general, a criminal and human rights violator, in their turf. The court decision is the commitment order itself,” Hernandez said.

“Palparan should be brought to the NBP the soonest. He has enjoyed years of special treatment at Fort Bonifacio, it’s time that justice be served at the fullest by treating him like a common criminal,” she added.

‘Ball in hands of NBP’

Until such time that the Philippine Army is furnished with an official copy of the commitment order by the Bulacan court, Palparan will remain under its protective custody, according to a military official.

“We were not furnished with the commitment order by the NBP, so the ball now is in the hands of NBP authorities on what to do with General Palparan,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said.

The commitment order, according to Villanueva, should be transmitted by the court’s sheriff or through registered mail. Until such time that the court order is received, Palparan will have to remain at the custodial center.

Villanueva gave assurance that as soon as the Army receives the commitment order for Palparan, he will be immediately moved to the NBP.

Bureau of Corrections chief Ronald dela Rosa, upon learning that Palparan had been convicted, had waited for the former Army general at the NBP’s Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC).

“I am now waiting for him here at the RDC,” Dela Rosa said in a radio interview last Monday.

As a matter of procedure, convicted prisoners ordered committed to the NBP have to initially spend around two months at the RDC to undergo medical check-up and orientation on life inside the country’s main prison facility.

Dela Rosa also said that Palparan, following his stay at the RDC, is likely to be incarcerated at the maximum security compound. – With Elizabeth Marcelo, Jaime Laude

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