Human rights groups and activist leaders are hailing the guilty verdict passed on retired Army general Jovito Palparan, who was charged with serious illegal detention and kidnapping in relation to the disappearance of student-activists Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006.
Judge Alexander Tamayo of the Malolos Regional Trial Court found the retired Army officer guilty of serious illegal detention and kidnapping.
He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua or 20 to 30 years of imprisonment and ordered to pay P100,000 civil indemnity and P200,000 in moral damages.
Palparan was dubbed ‘berdugo’ or “The Butcher” by critics following accusations of his involvement in the persecution of activists and dissidents as the head of the military’s anti-insurgency campaign during his career.
"The Butcher" Gen. Jovito Palparan has been found guilty for the abduction of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan. This is a stern warning to all human rights violators. Impunity is not forever. The time of reckoning has come. #Hustisya
— Renato Reyes, Jr. (@natoreyes) September 17, 2018
It must have taken an enormous amount of courage for the judge to decide against Gen. Palparan, Gloria Arroyo's favored general called "The Butcher".
"The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Hoping this happens soon for the butchers of this admin. https://t.co/W2INoAAB0n
— florin hilbay (@fthilbay) September 17, 2018
The National Union of People’s Lawyers, who provided counsel for the families of the two students in a statement praised the conviction and called Palparan “a cowardly butcher.”
Palparan has also been accused by some critics of using public relations strategies to paint himself as innocent and briefly entering politics to cleanse his name.
Palparan presided over a reign of terror in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and everywhere he was assigned. He terrorized communities and cheered EJKs of activists. He was the merciless and brutal face and enforcer of Red-tagging.
— Tonyo Cruz (@tonyocruz) September 17, 2018
Empeño and Cadapan, known student-activists enrolled at the University of the Philippines, were abducted from a house in Hagonoy, Bulacan where they were staying in for a field research in June 2006, according to witnesses.
A warrant of arrest was issued against Palparan, the former commander of the 7th infantry battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in December 2011, after years of accusations from the two missing students’ family and colleagues. He went into hiding after the warrant was issued.
He was arrested in August 2014 after being spotted in Sta. Mesa, Manila, where he had been hiding at the time. He reportedly also hid in Bulacan, Pampanga and Cagayan de Oro during his three years eluding the authorities.
Brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, who also accused Palparan of ordering their abduction, in July 2015 testified to seeing Empeño and Capadan tortured during the time they were allegedly detained.
Palparan filed a motion to quash the charges against in 2017, but both the trial court and the Court of Appeals denied his motion.
Palparan, also a former chief of the AFP’s Intelligence Service, has maintained his innocence even after the sentence.
“We want him in jail, like any other criminal. Let him rot in jail,” the mothers of Empeño and Cadapan reportedly said after the reading of the sentence.
The two students remain missing to this day.
He is expected to be committed to the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison.