By JOEY NACALABAN
HUMAN rights advocates here and elsewhere yesterday hailed the decision of a regional court to convict former major general Jovito Palparan Jr. and two others in connection with the disappearance of two University of the Philippines students suspected to have links with the New People’s Army.
Palparan, called “The Butcher,” faces life imprisonment along with Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado Jr. and Sgt. Edgardo Osorio for kidnapping and serious detention of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. The two have remained missing since 2006.
Karapatan has blamed Palparan for 206 cases of forced disappearances when he was commander of various Army units during the Arroyo administration.
Human rights advocates in the city said the decision of the Regional Trial Court in Malolos, Bulacan, should serve as a warning to human rights violators that they cannot get away with their abuses all the time.
In a statement, the American-based Human Rights Watch said Palparan’s conviction “is a big blow against impunity in the Philippines.”
Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor said, “This ruling by a Philippine court came after a long and agonizing struggle for justice by the families and supporters of the two activists, who remain missing. It rekindles hope among the families of many other victims human rights violations, now and in the past. It should also serve as a reminder to state security forces that justice and the law will catch up with them sooner or later.
“We welcome the court’s decision, but we remain conscious of the changing political situation that is beneficial for fascists like Palparan to thrive and escape accountability. The Duterte regime has shown his contempt for human rights, its brazen use of the law to run after critics while shielding the real criminals. The butcher is convicted, but the fight for justice is far from over,” Clamor said.
He noted that Arroyo, who had praised Palparan, is now Speaker of the House.
“We are only two of the many families who are happy with the court’s decision to convict Palparan. We are thankful that the courts recognized the truth in the testimonies of our witnesses, who have likewise suffered the same fate as our daughters,” said Concepcion Empeno, mother of Karen.
Linda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, said it was a victory for “all the victims of Palparan.”
She stressed that the conviction is significant now that the “masterminds of the government’s bloody counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2 are back in power.” (with reports from Mindanews)