CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 October 2018

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Life sentence for infamous Philippine general

Manila (UCAN): Retired army Major-General Jovito Palparan, a decorated Philippine Army veteran, was sentenced to life in prison on September 17 for the “kidnapping and illegal detention” of two university students who went missing in 2006.
 
The Malolos Regional Trial Court found Palaparan guilty of kidnapping university students, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
 
Human rights groups have labelled Palparan The Butcher and accused him of being behind dozens of extra-judicial killings in areas where he was assigned.
 
Among those allegedly ordered killed by Palparan were human rights defender Eden Marcellana; Protestant pastor, Edison Lapuz, and Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church.
 
The general’s co-accused Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt Edgardo Osorio, were also found guilty. They were also each ordered to pay the families of the victims about US$5,550 ($43,563) in damages.
 
As the judge, Alexander Tamayo, handed down the sentence Palparan shouted: “You’re a coward, judge! You are such a coward! You’re such a fool!”
 
“The guilty verdict is justice served. He should be made accountable for his crime,” Father Edwin Gariguez, head of the social action secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said. 
 
The priest, who says he was a target of the former general’s henchmen and was in Mindoro province when Palparan was stationed there, had volunteered to be a prosecution witness during the trial.
 
He said he was able to gather evidence about Palparan’s activities in Mindoro where many killings of activists took place.
 
“We were able to document (the crimes) including how they were done,” said the priest. “Some of the bodies were even mutilated,” he added.
 
In a statement, the Philippine army said it respected the court ruling.
 
Palparan was the commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division at the time of the student kidnappings in the town of Hagonoy, Bulacan province, in June 2006.
 
The general retired three months later and went on to win a seat in Congress. He ran for the Senate while in detention during the 2016 elections but lost.
 
“The military will not tolerate acts detrimental to the well being of everyone, as we always advocate the protection of human rights,” army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva, said.
 
In a statement, the lawyers representing the families of the missing students said they “were extremely elated that justice has finally caught up” with Palparan.
 
“The law and evidence is not only on our side this time around, but we are on the side of truth and justice,” the lawyers said.
 
Palparan’s conviction should be “a signal to all other human rights violators, especially of the worst kind, that rightful retribution will come in time.”
 
Human Rights Watch said the conviction “rekindles hope among the families of many other victims of human rights violations, now and in the past.”
 
It said, “It should also serve as a reminder to state security forces that justice and the law will catch up with them sooner or later.”

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