"Not in a military camp, not in some special detention. We want him in jail, like any other criminal. Let him rot in jail," said the mothers of disappeared UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, as cited by Philstar.
The story followed a tragic event on June 2006, when two UP student activists, Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, went missing while doing fieldwork in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Until now, they are still have yet to be found.
Their mothers' wish came true when retired Army General Jovito Palparan Jr. was found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention on Monday (17/9).
The Philippines media reported that Palparan commanded the Philippine Army's 8th and 7th Infantry divisions during the Arroyo administration, where there were 206 victims of enforced disappearances, according to human rights group Karapatan.
Palparan promptly went to hide after an arrest warrant was issued against him for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case. He was said to have sought refuge in Bataan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Cagayan de Oro, before he was caught in Sta. Mesa in 2014.
A Malolos, Bulacan court found him guilty in the disappearances of both students and has sentenced him to reclusion perpetua, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera said.
Reclusion perpetua means imprisonment for between 20 to 30 years, with a chance for parole after 30 years. He has also been ordered to pay a P100,000 (~US$1849) civil indemnity and P200,000 (~US$3698) in moral damages for each count.
Palparan's co-accused, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Jr. and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, were also found guilty and met the same penalties.
"Justice may come a bit late, but it does come. Let’s believe in that," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters.
Palparan can appeal
Linda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, noted that the conviction of Palparan is significant now that the "masterminds" of the counterinsurgency campaign against activists and rights advocates is back in power, particularly House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), former president.
However, Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor added that, "with GMA holding a key position in government, we are called on to remain vigilant. The friendship of Duterte and Arroyo can mean eventual pardon or reprieve for Palparan despite his conviction. After all, Duterte’s support for Arroyo’s resurrection is indicative that he willingly abets plunderers and murderers in his government."
Palparan can still bring the case to the Court of Appeals and, from there, to the Supreme Court.