Various human rights group staged protests at the back of the Bulacan Regional Trial Court (RTC) demanding for the conviction of retired PA MGen Jovito Palparan and his three co-accused CAFGU brothers Michael, Marcelo and Maximo Dela Cruz who are incarcerated inside the Bulacan Provincial Jail (white building far back). Photo by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

CITY OF MALOLOS—Three acquitted co-accused of retired PA MGen Jovito Palparan who were former Citizen Armed Force and Geographical Unit (CAFGU) members remain inside the Bulacan Provincial Jail due to pending clearances from four other city courts in the province, officials said on Saturday.

Bulacan Provincial Jail Warden Marcos Rivero told NEWS CORE on Saturday that brothers Michael, Marcelo and Maximo Dela Cruz have yet to be sent home despite a release order by Bulacan RTC Judge Francisco Felizmenio of Branch 19 who acquitted them and Palparan on Friday.

Rivero said other city courts—San Jose del Monte, Malolos, Meycauayan and Baliwag have to issue its respective clearances of no pending case against the the Dela Cruz brothers who hail from San Ildefonso town.

The three brothers were co-accused of Palparan in two counts of kidnapping, illegal detention and serious physical injuries filed by brothers Raymond and Reynaldo, also of San Ildefonso town. They allegedly assisted Palparan’s men in their abduction noon time on February 14, 2006.

Felizmenio dismissed the charges against them due to failure to strongly link and pinpoint Palparan as behind the abduction after they could not clearly identify him as the army official they met during their captivity in San Miguel town.

There were also inconsistencies in the written and oral testimonies of the Manalo brothers and their witnesses.

Raymond burst in tears as he went outside of the court. “Walang hustisya,” he said in a clenched fist. He said he will not stop, he will not give up until he and other victims of human rights obtain justice.

Karapatan strongly condemns dismissal of kidnapping charges vs Palparan

Human rights group Karapatan had strongly condemns Felizmenio’s dismissal of the said charges against Palparan and the Dela Cruz brothers.

“We are enraged at how this “dishonourable” court junked the truthful, credible and consistent accounts of the Manalo brothers, which have been affirmed many times over by several courts including the Supreme Court, when they stood as key witnesses against Palparan in the abduction and disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said in a statement released few hours after the acquittal.

Palparan and other co-accused were found guilty, convicted and sentenced with reclusion perpetua in a Malolos court in 2018 on the said Cadapan and Empeno case.

“We are appalled at how this court crassly disregarded the history and legal battle that the case of the Manalo brothers have gone through for 16 years since he was abducted by Palparan’s men in 2007. This court’s unspeakable, dastardly act invalidated the abduction, enforced disappearance, torture, and sufferings endured by the Manalo brothers. Is this part of a grand scheme that will enable Palparan’s pardon in the near future?,” the statment said.

“Clearly, the case of the Manalo brothers is a dire example of how lopsided the justice system is, making it extremely hard for brave ordinary folks like Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, to pursue justice, and demand accountability from all perpetrators of enforced disappearances, torture, and all other human rights violations”.

“We will continue to hold accountable State agents who are perpetrators of such crimes, however way they spin the convoluted narratives against the victims and try to hoodwink the public,” it further said.

Atty. Jun Oliva of the (National Union of Lawyers of the Philippines) said that they will file a motion for reconsideration and will elevate the case to higher courts.