SC affirms Palparan link to abduction

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:59:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has upheld the findings of the Court of Appeals linking retired Army Gen. Jovito Palparan to the abduction of two brothers, and said it found “convincing” one of the brothers’ accounts of how they were tortured by their captors.

Brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, both farmers in Bulacan province, were detained for 18 months on suspicion of being communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels until they escaped in August last year.

Raymond said in his account that during their captivity in an Army camp in Limay, Bataan, he saw another detainee, Manuel Merino, being “set on fire” (sinisilaban) by their captors and that he later heard Merino’s “screams or moans” (hiyaw o ungol).

Raymond did not identify the people who allegedly torched Merino.

The high court upheld the appellate court’s findings in 2007 that “Palparan’s participation in the abduction [of the brothers] was … established.”

The endorsement of the appellate court’s findings was part of the high tribunal’s ruling released last week, which upheld the latter’s grant of the writ of amparo to the Manalos. The brothers had sought the writ as protection from government harassment.

The high court also supported the appellate court’s ruling linking volunteers of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) to the brothers’ abduction.

“We affirm the factual finding of the appellate court largely based on respondent Raymond Manalo’s affidavit and testimony,” read the decision penned by Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

The appellate court had said in its ruling in 2007 that “[Palparan’s] knowledge of the dire situation of the petitioners … bespoke of his indubitable command policy that unavoidably encouraged and not merely tolerated the abduction of civilians without due process of law and without probable cause.”

The Supreme Court dismissed as “very limited, superficial and one-sided” the investigation and testimony of Lt. Col. Ruben Jimenez, the provost marshall of the 7th Infantry Division. It was Jimenez who took the statements of the CAFGU members denying the Manalos’ allegation.

“After careful perusal of the evidence presented, we affirm the findings of the Court of Appeals that respondents were abducted from their houses in … San Ildefonso, Bulacan, on Feb. 14, 2006, and were continuously detained until they escaped on Aug. 13, 2007,” the high court said.

“The abduction, detention, torture and escape of the respondents were narrated by … Raymond Manalo in a clear and convincing manner,” the tribunal added, referring to Raymond’s affidavit detailing their abduction by CAFGU auxiliaries, their detention and torture, and his encounter later with Palparan.

The Supreme Court rejected the claim of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that Raymond’s statements were baseless.

“With the secret nature of an enforced disappearance and the torture perpetrated on the victim during detention, it logically holds that much of the information and evidence of the ordeal will come from the victims themselves,” the high court said.

Raymond, in his testimony, said Palparan had told them during their detention in a compound in San Miguel, Bulacan, that in exchange for their lives, they must tell their parents to stop attending rallies and to stop going to the human rights group Karapatan and to the Commission on Human Rights.

Raymond’s testimony also included their encounter with the missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. He said Merino arrived at the military camp with Empeno.

“His account is dotted with countless candid details of [their] harrowing experience and tenacious will to escape, captured through his different senses and etched in his memory,” the Supreme Court said of Raymond’s testimony.

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