Palparan trial delayed yet again
CITY OF MALOLOS, Philippines—The new judge hearing the kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases against retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and two other soldiers has further delayed the proceedings after he asked for more time to prepare and go over court records.
Judge Alexander Tamayo of Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 15, who took over after RTC Branch 14 Judge Teodora Gonzales inhibited herself from the case last month, had set the next hearing to Sept. 10.
The hearing would have resumed Monday. The case was re-raffled to Tamayo on Aug. 3 before the defense could file a motion for reconsideration.
In an order on July 13, Gonzales, who handled the case starting in 2011, granted the motion for inhibition filed on June 22 by lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan, who represents S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, one of those accused in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
Palparan, Osorio, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario have been charged in connection with the disappearance of Cadapan and Empeño, who were last seen in Hagonoy, Bulacan, in 2006. Only Osorio, Palparan and Anotado have been standing trial as Hilario has yet to be arrested.
Alentajan’s petition said Gonzales “was no longer qualified to participate in the instant case because she has lost the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.”
But Gonzales, in her order, said Alentajan’s fears were baseless.
“The court vehemently denies such perceived bias, partiality, bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence since her action is within the ambit of the law. However… to preserve and promote public confidence in the integrity and respect for the judiciary, the presiding judge is voluntarily inhibiting herself from further taking cognizance of the instant cases,” she said.
Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and who represents the families of Empeño and Cadapan, had asked Gonzales to reconsider her decision. Olalia said Gonzales had been fair to all the parties.
Olalia said the motion would be filed even if Gonzales had scheduled no hearing and even if the case had already been re-raffled to Tamayo.
“Our firm position is that the [decision] is not yet final and therefore Judge Gonzales, who has heard the 2006 disappearance for four years from the very start, is duty-bound to hear us out, especially since we were not given a chance to comment or oppose [the] anomalous, dubious and groundless motion for inhibition,” Olalia said.
“The rules teach us that Judge Gonzales still has jurisdiction over our timely motion for reconsideration and cannot pass the burden to the next judge,” Olalia said, adding that public prosecutors from the Department of Justice would be joining the filing of the motion.
“Such claim [that Gonzales was biased] was baseless and hollow. Accused Osorio has not advanced any just and valid reason in his motion for the presiding judge (Gonzales) to voluntarily inhibit herself from conducting further proceedings,” Olalia said in a statement.
He said there was no other judge who knew the case better than Gonzales.
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