By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. has asked the Malolos City Regional Trial Court to recall the arrest warrant and hold-departure order issued against him.
This developed as the government offered a P500,000 reward for information leading to Palparan’s arrest.
In a motion last Monday, Palparan asked the court to stop his prosecution and order another preliminary investigation on the charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
Palparan told Judge Teodora Gonzales that he and his co-accused did not undergo preliminary investigation for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
What they had undergone was preliminary investigation for rape, serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats, grave coercion, violation of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment, he added.
Palparan said he had submitted his counter-affidavit and evidence only in connection with these charges during the preliminary investigation.
He was caught by surprise when the Department of Justice found probable cause to indict him for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, he added.
Palparan said the filing of kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges against him was in violation of the Constitution, which provides that “no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.”
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against him… The Constitution of the Philippines so proscribes,” he added.
Palparan said the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure also echo the same constitutional prohibitions.
“Clearly, the rights of the accused to due process and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them were violated in the instant case,” he said.
“They were not given the opportunity to submit countervailing evidence to squarely refute the charge of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in violation of their rights to due process.”
Palparan said the filing of the information for kidnapping and serious illegal detention against him without the observance of due process can be considered as “persecution” rather than prosecution.
“Obviously, the state not only had to dig deeper into their magic bag, but altogether tossed to the wind established rules of procedure to come up with nonbailable offense of kidnapping to insure that M/Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. is deprived of his temporary liberty during the pendency of the cases,” he said.
Palparan asked the court to set a hearing on his motion on Jan. 2.
Meanwhile, prosecutors belied Palparan’s insinuation that they filed a nonbailable offense upon Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s orders.
Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera told reporters De Lima had no hand in the preliminary investigation (PI) conducted from July to December.
“It was our panel that independently conducted the PI,” he said.
“Our resolution was approved by reviewing authorities, our heads in the National Prosecution Service. The secretary never takes part in the PI because the cases would eventually reach her office once petition for review is filed.”
Navera said nothing was irregular about the filing of the kidnapping charge even if it was not included in the complaint sheet filed by the mothers of the victims.
“We are not bound by the complaint. We’re bound by the facts in the complaint,” he said.
“One of the charges was arbitrary detention, and there is really no legal ground for a military official to arrest anyone.”
Navera belied the claim of Palparan that the DOJ was unfair because he was not given a chance to answer the charges.
“We were very fair,” he said.
“We dismissed the other charges after months of preliminary investigation. We looked at it in the point of view of criminal investigation.”
Reward for Palparan
The government is offering P500,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of Palparan, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said in a text message.
“The DILG-PNP is offering reward money of P.5 M for anyone who will be able to provide information for the capture of RMGen Jovito Palparan,” he said.
Palparan to surrender
Palparan has sent surrender feelers to the government, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief said yesterday.
Director General Nicanor Bartolome said somebody, whom he did not identify, has talked to the police for the surrender of Palparan.
“Yes, we have received surrender feelers (from Palparan),” he said.
“ We are talking with someone, and we welcome every information from the community and from those who would like to negotiate.”
Bartolome is optimistic that Palparan will soon surface to face the charges against him.
“We are always hopeful he will come forward to face the charges,” he said. “If he doesn’t surface we will look for him.”
A reward will help in locating Palparan, who is known for his strong stance against insurgents, he added.
Bartolome said the court will determine where Palparan will be detained once he is arrested.
The Custodial Center in Camp Crame can accommodate Palparan, he added.
Bartolome has formed tracker teams to locate and arrest Palparan, who is wanted for the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006.
Surrender to Gazmin
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expects Palparan to surrender to him.
In a radio interview, Dr. Peter Paul Reuben Galvez, Department of National Defense spokesman, said if Palparan decides to surrender, Gazmin expects the retired general to yield to him.
Several military officials, on the other hand, took offense on the distribution of Palparan’s wanted posters in Metro Manila while still in military uniform.
“Our reading here is that it’s not really retired General Palparan who is being demonized here, but the entire military organization,” one of the military sources at Camp Aguinaldo said.
Palparan’s wanted poster showed him in his one-star upper military uniform and is being tagged as the “butcher” for being a notorious criminal and human rights violator.
Another officer said that the leftist group could have used Palparan’s civilian pictures instead of his photo in military uniform, if they’re really out to help hasten his arrest.
“The subtle message the leftist group wanted to convey here is that the military, as a whole, is a human rights violator,” he said.
He also took note of the leftist group’s tagging Palparan as a notorious criminal, before he could even be convicted in court.
“In a democracy, an accused person is innocent until proven otherwise,” another officer said.
‘Search for Palparan in camps’
The government was asked yesterday to search the military camps for Palparan.
Jigs Clamor, Karapatan secretary-general, said Palparan might be seeking refuge in the same camps where victims of enforced disappearances were held and tortured.
“We won’t be surprised if Palparan’s co-implementers of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) are coddling him as they are like-minded,” he said.
“The AFP admires Palparan for his role in the government’s insurgency program. It is likely that Palparan will seek refuge in the same structure that nurtured his fangs, with people of the same mindset that implemented the OBL and are now implementing the Oplan Bayanihan.
“Palparan brazenly lied when he said that he will face the charges against him. After the Branch 14 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court took cognizance of the case and after the issuance of the warrants of arrest and now the hold departure order, Palparan seemed to have eaten his words.
“He must come out and answer for his crimes. He must rot in jail. However, the apprehension of Palparan does not guarantee
that impunity will no longer exist. As long as this government continues to implement counter-insurgency program, such as the Oplan Bayanihan, human-rights violations persist and the people will surely go after its implementers.” — With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rhodina Villanueva, Sandy Araneta, Jaime Laude