Col. Pepito Flamenco, warden of Bulacan Provincial Jail, and Sr. Supt. Ferdinand Divina, acting chief of the Bulacan police, admitted that the supposed threats to Palparan’s life are “speculative.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MALOLOS, Bulacan — “If you think your life is important, then so are our daughters’ lives.”
These were the words Mrs. Concepcion Empeño uttered while retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan was being escorted out of the court by nearly a dozen Bulacan jail guards.
Palparan, in a hearing Sept. 15, was allowed to transfer to the Philippine Army Custodial Center in Taguig City by the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14. He was transferred to the Army custodial center later that day.
Mrs. Empeño, mother of missing University of the Philippines student Karen, reminded Palparan that everyone will, at one point or another, die.
“If you will die now, at least you are here, you will be given a decent burial. What about us? Where are our daughters?” she said in tears, “My only wish Palparan: Surface Karen and Sherlyn.”
Palparan was arrested in the wee hours of Aug. 12 by virtue of a standing three-year-old warrant for the abduction of Karen and Sherlyn Cadapan. Both students, along with farmer Manuel Merino, remain missing some eight years now.
During the hearing, Mrs. Empeño said she was not feeling well. One of the court clerks approached her to get her blood pressure as soon as the hearing ended.
Though her blood pressure was normal, she said it must be the pent up emotions while listening to the arguments raised during the hearing. She later on related to Bulatlat.com that she was doing her best to control her emotions.
Judge Teodora Gonzales said her decision is based on the comments submitted before the court and what transpired during the hearing, adding that it would put an end to the anxiety of the public regarding the supposed threat to Palparan’s life.
She said the Bulacan Provincial Jail, where the retired general is detained, is “so open to the public” and that “there are many ways to get inside” compared to other detention centers.
Palparan’s presence would also endanger other detainees and those working for government and private offices near the jail, she added.
The Bulacan Provincial Jail, she said, is also very congested and that a “little move may cause disturbance.”
With this, she said that it would be more practical, resource-wise, to transfer Palparan to the Philippine Army Custodial Center, where his two co-accused Col. Felipe Anotado and Osorio are detained. The resources being poured to provide security to the two, she added, would now be given to all three of them.
Unlike Palparan, however, both Anotado and Osorio are still in military service.
Judge Gonzales said her decision is a “preventive measure.”
Lawyer Edre Olalia, one of the private prosecutors, however, said private complainants are “not conceding that the threats are imminent.”
He added that he could not understand why the government, with all its resources, could not ensure Palparan’s security inside the provincial jail. He said that the transfer is tantamount to special treatment.
The reaction and the response, he added, are also disproportionate much like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
“This is going to be a very sad day for victims of Palparan, the berdugo, your honor,” Olalia said.
Last week, private prosecutors submitted their comment/opposition regarding the retired general’s motion to be transferred. They said that threats to Palparan’s life, “unless credibly and independently proven and validate” will remain “mere excuses to clutch at straws to avoid the Spartan conditions and rigors and limitations of ordinary jails.”
Lawyer Julian Oliva Jr., one of the private prosecutors, told Bulatlat.com that both Col. Pepito Flamenco, warden of Bulacan Provincial Jail, and Sr. Supt. Ferdinand Divina, acting chief of the Bulacan police, admitted that the supposed threats to Palparan’s life are “speculative.”
Flamenco said infiltration by members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who Palparan claimed are after him, is possible due to the influx of visitors in the jail.
He added that he initially received reports that there are nine members of the NPA detained in the Bulacan Provincial Jail. But after verifying the report with a “list” handed to them by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he said only two detainees are “confirmed.”
Asked by Oliva if the two alleged members of the NPA were already convicted, Flamenco said both are still waiting for their respective sentences and are charged with criminal cases.
He added that such claims are speculative, as he does not have the means to verify it.
When asked regarding his basis for claiming that there are threats to Palparan’s life, Divina, too, said it was speculative. Divina said it was only based on an undated certification by Romeo Maraña, adjutant of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
Maraña, in the certification, cited online reports in website news agencies as his source for concluding that there are threats to Palparan’s life. Private prosecutors, however, argued that the certification did not provide a “true and accurate picture of the situation and cannot attest to anything grave, real and imminent.”
Motion to quash denied
In the same hearing, Judge Gonzales denied Palparan’s motion to quash the complaints against him, adding that the second motion for reconsideration remains as a mere rehash of the issues raised and consequently denied by the Court of Appeals back in April 2012.
In his motion for reconsideration, Palparan sought to stop the proceedings at the Malolos court. Oliva earlier said the motion only changed the prayer — adding the transfer of detention — but raised the same grounds.
Judge Gonzales reiterated that she has jurisdiction over Palparan’s case.
Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said she found the moves to coddle Palparan as a “concerted effort” among state security forces.
“Why is the government more determined to allocate big resources for the likes of a berdugo (killer) like Palparan? It is the Filipino people who are arbitrarily being killed and abducted.” Santos said.
“It is a concerted effort. All of them made it appear that they could not accommodate him and that there is no other choice but to send him to Army custodial center,” she said.
Santos added that victim’ families, too, experience threats from state security forces in their effort to find their loved ones.
‘Realignment of the cosmos’
Olalia, in a statement after the hearing, said Palparan’s transfer to a military detention center is a “realignment of the cosmos and tripping over of the government all over itself to suit his convenience and preference.”
Palparan’s transfer, he added, will serve as bad precedent to other human rights violators and would not answer why a civilian would be detained at a military detention.
“Why in heaven’s sake, in all places, will they transfer him to his old stomping grounds, the headquarters of the Army? It just doesn’t make sense. Palparan and his gang, as well as his padrinos in high places, will be having a bacchanalian party tonight and high fives among themselves because the system has again worked in favor of the rich, powerful, influential and with connections,” Olalia said.
“Yet again, what do we seek: justice for the victims or convenience for the accused? Indeed there is so much to be distressed about, yet so much to fight for,” he added.
Mrs. Empeño, after her emotional outrage, asked lawyers and human rights defenders, “Did he hear me?”
“I’m sure he did,” one answered.