MANILA (1st UPDATE) – Retired major general Jovito Palparan Jr. refused to enter a plea on his serious illegal detention and kidnapping charges during his arraignment before the Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Monday.
As a result, Malolos RTC Branch 14 Judge Teodora Gonzales entered a not guilty plea for Palparan, who was indicted for the 2006 disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Gonzales also stood pat on her earlier order that Palparan be detained at the Bulacan Provincial Jail.
Although the judge already decided where he should be detained, Palparan continued to argue that the threats to his life are real. Palparan wants to remain under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
During his arraignment, Palparan's lawyer told the court that the accused is ready to present an intelligence report that a ''liquidation squad'' has been hired to kill the retired general.
Palparan also cited incidents of violence at the Bulacan Provincial Jail.
The prosecution panel, for its part, cited the assurances given by Bulacan Provincial Jail warden Pepito Plamenco that Palparan will be safe in the provincial facility.
Despite Palparan's insistence during the court proceedings, Gonzales remained firm on her decision and told the retired general that he will have to stay in the provincial jail while his motions are being deliberated.
Palparan, tagged as ''berdugo'' or butcher by militant groups, claims that communist rebels are out to kill him, even as he denied allegations that he was behind the forced disappearances of several activists during his time in the Armed Forces.
He was arrested last August 12 after about 3 years of hiding.
Private prosecutor Edre Olalia, meanwhile, welcomed the decision of the court.
"Siyempre based on the law and facts naman iyan. We appreciate the ruling of the court,'' Olalia told dzMM.
As of posting, Palparan was already inside the provincial jail. In a footage by ABS-CBN News, members of militant groups are seen getting near Palparan as the latter was being escorted to the jail.
The angry protesters are seen in the footage shouting at Palparan, with one of them trying to hit the retired general with a wooden flagpole.
The court, meanwhile, has set the pre-trial on Palparan's case on September 1. – report from Dexter Ganibe, dzMM