Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the local court’s decision convicting retired army general Jovito Palparan for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of two students from the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2006.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the conviction of Palparan is indeed a welcome respite in the Filipino people’s long and tedious struggle against impunity in the country.
“It is a timely reminder to the masterminds and perpetrators of abuses and crimes – especially those of the heinous and most egregious kind – that the long arm of law and justice reaches everyone,” she said.
The Malolos Regional Trial Court found Palparan, former Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and former Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio guilty of kidnapping and detaining UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in June 2006.
Palparan and his two co-accused were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or a prison term ranging from 20 to 40 years, according to the ruling handed down by Judge Alexander Tamayo of Malolos RTC Branch 15.
It was during De Lima’s term as justice secretary that the case against Palparan — widely tagged as “berdugo” by human rights activists — and other co-accused, were filed and progressed significantly.
Palparan became a fugitive after a Bulacan regional trial court issued a warrant of arrest against him in 2011 and was only caught in 2014 at an apartment in Sta Mesa, Manila.
Although Palparan’s conviction did not result in the recovery of the two victims, De Lima said it has provided some relief to the families and supporters of the two missing activists while reviving the hope that truth and justice always prevail.
“Sa mga nasa kapangyarihan at sa kanilang mga alipores na nag-iisip at kumikilos na animo’y sila na ang batas: pakatandaan nyo na mananagot sa takdang panahon ang lahat ng nagkakasala.
“Sa mga yumuyurak sa karapatan ng kapwa at gumagawa ng mga krimen at pag-abuso: alalahanin ninyo na ang katotohanan at katarungan ay hindi mahahadlangan. Lagi itong mananaig sa kalaunan,” she said. The former justice secretary said the conviction of Palparan should serve as a warning to Mr. Duterte and his minions that justice will catch up on them sooner or later.
“Anuman ang tapang ninyo ngayon at kawalang pakundangan sa mga karapatan ng mga Pilipino – kasama na ang kanilang buhay at kalayaan – huhusgahan at pananagutin kayo sa inyong mga kabuktutan,” she said. De Lima, who has always maintained her innocence from all the politically-motivated trumped-up illegal drug trading charges levelled against her, is the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime.