In criminal law, it is believed that “the guilty flee when no one pursueth but the innocent are as bold as a lion.” This dictum has its roots in the Book of Proverbs, which says that “the wicked flee when no man pursueth but the righteous are as bold as a lion. Neither the law nor Proverbs said anything about the guilty being foulmouthed, which was very much in evidence when the Regional Trial Court of Malolos found Jovito Palparan guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Karen Empeño and Sheryl Cadapan, two students of the University of the Philippines, who were abducted by unidentified armed men in June 2006. Karen and Sheryl have not been heard from since.
Found equally guilty were Felipe Anotado, Jr. and Edgardo Osorio, a lieutenant colonel and staff sergeant, and sentenced, along with Palparan, a retired Army major general, to serve 40 years imprisonment and to pay P100,000 as civil indemnity and P200,000 as moral damages.
As the decision was being read in open court, Palparan just lost it. He started shouting at the judge, Alexander Tamayo, “Duwag ka, Judge, napaka-duwag mo!” For good measure, Palparan shouted, “Kahit i-contempt mo kami, makukulong naman kami, eh!” after Tamayo threatened to cite him in contempt of court, finishing with “Napaka-gago mo!” Palparan, Anotado and Osorio are scheduled to be transferred to Muntinlupa from Fort Bonifacio where they are currently
After that display, I am left wondering if Filipinos are capable of eloquence when faced with certain punishment. When Oscar Wilde was released from prison for love that dared not speak its name—that’s a poetic euphemism for homosexuality, and it was Victorian England, after all—he produced Ballad of Reading Gaol, surely one of the classics of prison literature, wherein he spoke of “that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky.” Presumably, the verse conjures images of inmates and beams of light slicing through the tiniest of windows through which they could glimpse a slice of sky. When Wilde wrote his poem, he was in exile in France, so we should consider, perhaps as a better example, our very own Jose Rizal. On the eve of his execution, he wrote an untitled poem which he then hid, it is said, in an oil lamp which he gave to his sister Trinidad. That poem ultimately became Mi Ultimo Adios.
Instead, if we hold Jovito Palparan up as example, we get res gestae. Res gestae are spontaneous statements that are admissible as exceptions to the rule on hearsay evidence, to prove, say, a person’s state of mind during a startling event or occurrence. In Palparan’s case, there is no doubting his state of mind during his sentencing: perhaps it’s too much to expect flights of poetry from someone hearing for the first time Karma rattling his tin cup against metal bars, but the flurry of invectives from a general, no less, betrays a lack of grace under pressure.
Recall that this is the man who eluded the authorities for three years. After the trial court issued a warrant for his arrest in 2011, Palparan went on the lam. In 2014, he was found in the second story of a bakery in Sta. Mesa. Whether he was able to evade capture for that long was due to his sangfroid or the incompetence of the authorities—or their indifference—cannot be determined with certainty, but such derring-do requires not a little cool-headedness, plus a little help. That quality deserted him, when it was most needed, I think, during his sentencing.
To get an idea of Palparan’s guilt, you will have to read the Supreme Court’s decision in Secretary of Defense v. Manalo, wherein Raymond Manalo testified that he was abducted, detained and tortured (for 18 months until he escaped with his brother Reynaldo) with the full
knowledge of Palparan, who he met face-to-face . Manalo also testified that while he was under detention, he met Karen and Sheryl and that both had been tortured and raped. One of their companions, Manuel Merino, was set on fire and killed. Raymond Manalo would testify in the kidnapping case against Palparan, Anotado and Osorio.
These and similar exploits would earn Palparan the nickname “The Butcher.” This is one butcher who fled, while not exactly in keeping with Proverbs 28 as police were in lukewarm pursuit, but still…. I have always thought that people like Palparan lack courage. Not physical courage but the courage of their convictions. If they believed with all sincerity that their actions such as that they inflicted on Raymond Manalo and Karen Empeño and Sheryl Cadapan were for the security of the State, then they should have stood their ground, faced the law squarely, argued their case and accepted punishment in due course. Instead, they ran and hid like, well, guilty people.
Those found guilty curse and the butchers roar as loudly as lions.