Desaparecidos' kin fear Duterte pardon for Palparan
MANILA - The mothers of two abducted University of the Philippines students said Tuesday they fear President Rodrigo Duterte will pardon retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. who was convicted for kidnapping and illegal detention.
Students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan were branded as rebels, abducted, and tortured by Palparan's men during the height of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's anti-communist insurgency drive "Oplan Bantay Laya.
Empeño's mother, Concepcion, said they fear a possible pardon for Palparan especially now that incumbent House Speaker Arroyo, whom she said "idolized" her general, has risen to power once again.
"May fear ako ngayon baka sakaling, ayun nga. Guilty siya. Pero nandiyan na naman sa power si Gloria at ito pang ating Presidente, baka gagawa sila ng paraan para makawala sa krimen na nakaatang sa kanya," Empeño said.
In her State of the Nation Address in 2006, a month after the students went missing, Arroyo lauded Palparan for leading the fight against communists, saying the general will "not back down until the regions under the terror of darkness see the dawn of light."
Their lawyer, Josa Deinla, said granting pardon is well within the powers of President Rodrigo Duterte. But their camp hopes that the President wouldn't use it to free Palparan, who has been labeled by activists as the "Butcher."
Cadapan's mother, Erlinda, appealed to President Duterte, an ally of Arroyo, to let Palparan stay in jail and serve his sentence, especially because it took them over a decade to get justice for the abduction of their children.
"Sa nakikita ko ang ating Presidente, mas mahal niya ang militar kaysa ating mamamayan... Sa pagkakataong ito hihilingin ko sa Presidente Duterte na sana, itong nangyari, sana pagbigyan niya ang taumbayan na magdusa ang salarin na ito," said Cadapan.
A Malolos City court on Monday had sentenced Palparan to life imprisonment for the abduction of Empeño and Cadapan in 2006. The retired general will be detained at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.