THE National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) asked the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Malolos, Bulacan to reverse and set aside its decision acquitting former Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and three others on charges of kidnapping and torture of farmer brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo in 2006.
In a 35-page motion for reconsideration, the NUPL insisted that the prosecution evidence against Palparan and his co-accused Michael Dela Cruz, Marcelo Dela Cruz and Maximo Dela Cruz, all members of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA), were sufficient to establish alleged conspiracy among the four and their alleged criminal liabilities.
Malolos RTC Branch 19 Presiding Judge Francisco Felizmenio, in its October 6 decision, held that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the alleged conspiracy between Palparan and the three other accused.
It also noted the inconsistencies on the testimonies of the prosecution’s lone witness, Raymond, in connection with his experience when he was kidnapped and detained allegedly by the accused.
Furthermore, the trial court said Raymond failed to sufficiently identify Palparan as the main perpetrator of the crime.
The court expressed doubts on the claim of Raymond that he had an opportunity to see Palparan in a dark basketball court in Barangay Sapang, San Miguel, Bulacan, where they supposedly met between midnight and 3:00 in the morning.
“It is important to note that accused Palparan is a public figure who is notorious for his substantial role in the bloody anti-insurgency campaigns of the government during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration,” the motion read.
“With this, it should not come as a surprise how an average Filipino could be familiar with the face of accused Palparan after having seen him many times on the news is in accord with ordinary human experience,” it added.
The trial court also gave credence to the claim of the defense that the structures near the basketball court described by Raymond were inexistent.
“That Raymond was not completely accurate in his description of the entire compound wherein the barangay court was located only shows that Raymond was fully attentive to the identity of the person he was talking to at the time, who is none other than accused Palparan,” the motion stated.
“What is paramount is that in his sworn statements and oral testimonies, Raymond was consistent in stating that it was accused Palparan whom he met in the middle of the basketball court at the compound of Barangay Sapang. Notably the existence of this basketball court and the compound in which the said court was located was not denied by the defense,” it added.
The Manalo brothers claimed they were abducted by alleged military officers from their respective houses in San Ildefonso, Bulacan in 2006. Raymond said they were detained for more than one year in various military camps in Southern Luzon before managing to escape on August 13, 2007.
During their detention, Raymond said he met and managed to talk to the two missing UP students identified as Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who were also being detained by Palparan’s men.
Raymond further narrated that she saw Cadapan and Empeño being subjected to torture by their captors.
The Court of Appeals (CA) had ruled in 2007 that his testimony was “clear, consistent and convincing” as it ordered the Armed Forces to produce the bodies of the students.
In 2018, the Malolos RTC Branch 15 Presiding Judge Alexander Tamayo found Palparan and his co-accused guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the two missing UP students.
The trial court sentenced them to reclusion perpetua or a maximum of 40 years in prison.
It denied Palparan and co-accused’s motion for reconsideration a month after.
The trial court has directed the Palparan and co-accused to pay P300,000 each in civil indemnity and moral damages to the families of Calapan and Empeño.
Empeño and Cadapan, who are believed to be already dead, were abducted from a house in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006.