“At long last, after eight years, the Manalo brothers will finally have an inch towards the path of justice.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The human rights group Karapatan welcomed the long-awaited resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman against retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and eight others on the abduction and torture of Bulacan peasants Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo.
“At long last, after eight years, the Manalo brothers will finally have an inch towards the path of justice,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, told Bulatlat.com.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, in its 28-page joint resolution, found probable cause to indict Palparan and eight others for two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention punishable under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
The Manalo brothers were abducted in their home in Bulacan on Feb. 14, 2006. They were detained and tortured in various military camps in Bulacan, where they met the two University of the Philippines students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino.
Along with Palparan, the Ombudsman also indicted military officials, T/Msgt. Rizal Hilario and M/Sgt. Donald Caigas, and CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAAs) Michael Dela Cruz, Marcelo Dela Cruz, Jose Dela Cruz, Maximo Dela Cruz, Randy Mendoza, Roman Dela Cruz and Rudy Mendoza were found liable for grave misconduct. The Ombudsman ordered their dismissal from service, with forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
The Ombudsman cleared Lt.Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., M/Gen. Juanito Gomez and Palparan of administrative charges “in view of their retirement from government service before the case was filed.”
Hilario and Caigas are also among Palparan’s co-accused in the enforced disappearance of the two UP students. Hilario remains at large as of this writing.
Charges against Caigas and Gomez, both dead, were dropped, while the Ombudsman found insufficient evidence against Esperon.
Palparan is currently detained at the Philippine Army Custodial Center for kidnapping and serious illegal detention on the disappearance of Cadapan and Empeño before a Bulacan court.
Palabay said Palparan’s indictment in relation to the Manalo brothers’ abduction and torture is a reminder of the need to put the retired general in a civilian detention facility, “where he deserves to rot to death.”
“It is also a bitter reminder of the interminable struggle the victims of human rights violations go through. Their fight to be served often last from one regime to another, and there they are not even close to finally attaining justice,” Palabay said.
The Manalo brothers are among the key witnesses to the detention and torture of the two students that paved the way for the filing of charges against ranking military officers. Palparan is the highest military official ever to be indicted for a human rights violations case.