Palparan’s biggest mistake | ‘He should have never let me live,’ says torture victim

SPECIAL REPORT:

His eyewitness account, lauded by the Supreme Court for being clear, categorical, consistent and credible, served as among the evidences that led to the filing of charges of two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the enforced disappearance of the two students of the University of the Philippines Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, along with farmer Manuel Merino, on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Retired Maj. Jovito Palparan said he committed a lapse in his security that led to his arrest in the wee hours of Aug. 12. But for Raymond Manalo, once abducted and tortured by Palparan’s men, the former general’s biggest mistake was to allow him to leave the military camp alive.

“(Palparan) should have never let me live,” Manalo told Bulatlat.com, “Did he really think I would not testify against him and the atrocities he and his men committed?”

Manalo once again recounted in a series of media interviews in the afternoon of Aug. 12 the torture he and his brother Reynaldo endured from the hands of Palparan and his men. Though there are hardly physical marks now left by the prolonged beating he experienced from soldiers, there was a hint of exhaustion and effort to fight back tears while he relived and narrated his ordeal.

His eyewitness account, lauded by the Supreme Court for being clear, categorical, consistent and credible, served as among the evidences that led to the filing of charges of two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the enforced disappearance of the two students of the University of the Philippines Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, along with farmer Manuel Merino, on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

In court hearings, Manalo had positively identified Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Col. Felipe Anotado, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario and 2nd Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson as among those he saw at Fort Magsaysay and other safehouses where they were brought to. He also said in his testimony that he saw soldiers rape the two UP students and burn farmer Merino alive.

Wearing a shirt printed with Palparan’s face with words “Wanted,” Manalo said he was very happy with the general’s arrest.

Raymond Manalo demands speedy prosecution of Palparan. (Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
Raymond Manalo demands speedy prosecution of Palparan. (Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

“At last, after a very long time, he has finally been arrested,” he said, “I longed for his arrest. I want to see him in person too and see him be held accountable for the things he did to me and to the UP students.”

Palparan, dubbed as “the butcher” for gross human rights violations he is accused of, was arrested by virtue of a standing three-year-old warrant issued by the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14.

Torture

Manalo, along with brother Reynaldo, was abducted on Feb. 14, 2006 in their home in Buhol na Mangga village in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. The soldiers were after Rolando, their brother who was a rebel returnee, but continued to be harassed by soldiers.

When they were abducted, the two were hogtied and thrown inside a L3 van as if they were animals. Manalo said he lost count of the number of times he was punched. But it did not stop until they reached Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

Asked what he remembers most from the torture, he said it was the blinding pain he experienced when he was repeatedly whipped with chains.

“We were given food only once a day. The food was spoiled,” he recalled.

And when the soldiers got drunk, they were summoned and beaten up. “Then they would make us crawl our way back to our detention cells,” he said.

The Manalo brothers were tortured heavily to force to admit that they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and to divulge where they were allegedly hiding their guns. Apart from being hit with chains, Manalo also remembered how soldiers poured gasoline on him and threatened to burn him alive.

“I really thought it was my end. I begged them to spare me,” he said. From then on, he worked at gaining the sympathy of the soldiers and promised them his cooperation.

This, he said, included telling his family not to attend hearings or talk to people working with the human rights group Karapatan. Such instructions, he said, came from no less than Palparan himself who even gave him a food supplement, ironically called Alive, to strengthen his immunity.

While in detention, Manalo met Karen and Sherlyn twice.

“I saw how they were tortured and treated like animals,” Manalo said, adding that the students were electrocuted, poured with water and their genitals toyed with. Like them, the students were being forced to admit that they were members of the NPA. He also witnessed how Palparan, himself, slapped Sherlyn.

The Manalo brothers managed to escape on Aug. 13, 2007.

While justice Has yet to be served, Manalo said another atrocity was committed against his family when his brother Ronaldo, who was living in Norzagaray, Bulacan, was shot dead in 2012. Police claimed that he resisted when they tried to serve an arrest warrant.

Sense of relief

For Orly Marcellana, the pain of losing his wife Eden Marcellana, a human rights defender, has not faded.

Orly Marcellana holds photo of slain wife Eden. (Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)
Orly Marcellana holds photo of slain wife Eden. (Photo by J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

“I waited for 11 long years for justice to come. I waited that long to see him in jail,” Marcellana told Bulatlat.com in a protest action in front of the NBI office along Taft Avenue in Manila.

Eden, the Karapatan-Southern Tagalog secretary general, along with regional peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, led a fact-finding mission to investigate the reported killings in the towns of Gloria and Pinamalayan in Mindoro Oriental on April 21, 2003. On their way to Calapan City, the team was abducted by the so-called Bonnet Gang, which, human rights groups said, was under the command of the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion, led by Palparan.

Though the retired general was being arrested for another crime he allegedly committed, Marcellana said, there is a sense of relief to him and to his family when they learned of his arrest through television news early morning of Aug. 12.

Marcellana said it is the closest sense of justice they could get for now as their case against Palparan was dismissed twice. They also submitted a motion for reconsideration twice.

In 2008, The United Nations Human Rights Council ruled that the Philippine government is under obligation to resolve the case and provide victims with due appropriation. The government was also tasked to ensure that such would not happen again in the future. Marcellana, however, said the Philippine government did not heed it.

In Mindoro alone, Marcellana said 69 were killed, 50 tortured, 10 abducted and three were victims of a massacre.

“The pain of losing of Eden does not really go away even if it was a long time ago since she was killed. The pain even grows stronger every time I hear news of new cases of human rights violations,” Marcellana said.

“The witnesses (on the Karen-Sherlyn abduction case) are enough evidence to prove that he is implicated. (Palparan) is a coward when it comes to facing the charges filed against him. He is only a bully when it comes to attacking activists who cannot fight back,” Marcellana said.

Special treatment?

Though the Philippine government has repeatedly assured the public that no special treatment would be given to Palparan, his victims do not believe it would be so.

Manalo said that unlike how political prisoners like Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria were arrested or when he and his brother were thrown into the van when they were abducted, Palparan was not even handcuffed when he was arrested.

King Catoy, a filmmaker who was abducted along with Eden Marcellana but was released, told Bulatlat.com that he was infuriated when he learned that Palparan, known for his public red-tagging of activists as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, managed to hold a press conference at the NBI.

“I could not help but think that he was tasked to become a mouthpiece of Malacañang against progressive groups and activists,” Catoy said.

He said he also doubts the timing and motive behind the arrest of the fugitive general as it occurred at a time when Aquino’s satisfactory ratings were down and there is a clamor for his ouster.

“General Palparan’s arrest is a step forward to holding him accountable for the crimes he committed. His world is growing smaller because the ‘enemies’ he is referring to are growing stronger,” Catoy said.

Marcellana, during the protest action outside NBI, said Palparan should be “sent to a regular jail where he would get no special treatment. He deserves so because of the lives he took in the places where he was assigned (as a commanding officer).”

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the NBI, an attached agency under the Department of Justice, would heed the Malolos local court’s decision on Palparan’s custody. At around 1 p.m. on Aug. 13, the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 ordered the NBI to bring Palparan to the Bulacan Provincial Jail.

As of this writing, however, Palparan is still detained at the NBI, which cited information about threats to his life. The agency had earlier said they do not have enough agents to ensure Palparan’s security and that he would still have to go through blood tests.

Rights violations continue

Manalo said that while Palparan has already been arrested, he does not, in any way, feel safer. His life, he added, is far from returning to what people would refer to as “normal” as human rights violations continue even under President Aquino.

During the protest action outside the National Bureau of Investigation on Aug. 12, Aya Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, carried a three-page list of victims of human rights violations perpetrated by Palparan, main implementor of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya.

Marcellana said Arroyo, currently in hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City, should be put to jail next to Palparan.

He added that under President Aquino, who, during the election campaign promised the proverbial straight path, 22 activists have been killed while four have gone missing in Southern Tagalog alone.

Next moves

In an interview with Bulatlat.com, lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, one of the counsels of the mothers of the missing UP students, said a team would thoroughly and comprehensively review the status of other cases of human rights violations committed by Palparan.

Some of the cases, he said, have not yet been filed before courts, others are hardly progressing and some had been dismissed.

Manalo’s case filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, for one, is hardly progressing.

“But as far as the disappearance of the two women is concerned,” Olalia said referring to Empeño and Cadapan, “we are looking into the possibility of filing a separate case for the violation of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law.”

Manalo last saw Palparan at a DOJ hearing on the abduction of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, he hurled the words, “You son of a bitch! You had me abducted.”

If they meet again, Manalo told Bulatlat.com he would not think twice about shouting invectives at Palparan. If he had a choice, he would peel off his skin, put him near an anthill for him to slowly and painfully die. But for now, Manalo said, Palparan would have to face the bar of justice. ()

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  1. you should also feel the extreme pains that you made to your victims., you are not human based on the people’s comments about you.. you should also be branded as “WILD BEAST” and wild beast don’t deserve to have human jail. no need to put you into jail.. better let you experience the tortures you made before the people bury you alive!

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