NO doubt about it, history was made Monday last week, September 17, 2018, when Judge Alexander Tamayo of Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 15 found Jovito Palparan, the retired Army general dubbed “The Butcher” for the trail of blood that marked his career in the military, and two co-accused guilty for the abduction of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

Palparan, Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Senior Sergeant Edgardo Osorio were sentenced to reclusion perpetua and each ordered to pay P100, 000 in civil indemnity and P200, 000 for moral damages.

To be honest, the verdict came as a total surprise to me and, I have no doubt, many others who have all but despaired of seeing justice and human rights upheld in this country. This and the thought of Palparan finally locked up in Bilibid, makes it quite a remarkable and welcome development.

However, it may be too early for an all-out celebration.

Palparan can still appeal the verdict all the way up to the Supreme Court, as is his right to do so. We cannot begrudge him that.

What is worrisome is the possibility of executive machinations conspiring to spring him, which we should be wary of and vigorously oppose.

After all, Palparan was a favorite general of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Just as the Ampatuans of

Maguindanao, who stand accused of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, were among her closes political allies.

In fact, just short of a month after the abduction of Empeno, Cadapan and farmer Manuel Merino in Bulacan, Arroyo, in her sixth State of the Nation Address, she singled him out for praise: “Sa mga lalawigang sakop ng 7th Division, nakikibaka sa paglaban si Jovito Palparan. Hindi siya aatras hanggang makawala sa gabi ng kilabot ang mga pamayanan at maka-ahon sa bukang-liwayway ng hustisya at kalayaan.”

And Arroyo has, of course, clawed her way back to power, bagging the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives and planting herself solidly beside Rodrigo Duterte, 16th President of the Republic, for whom human rights and rule of law are not principles to live by but impediments to be swept aside as he seeks to impose his demented – and murderous – vision of governance on a long-suffering nation.

This, after all, is a president who thinks nothing of ranting obsessively over his enemies and daring the military to unseat him live on national TV while the nation is bracing for the most powerful storm to hit it this year and then, when the typhoon unleashes death and destruction on a mining village in Itogon, Benguet insensitively and totally senselessly

blurts out: “... kung pinalitan niyo 'yung pari diyan, 'di magbagsak 'yan.Bobo kasi itong mga pari, putang ina.”

Is it then too farfetched to imagine the “presideath” letting The Butcher walk, perhaps with a little prod and wink from his ally in the House?

I sincerely hope I am wrong, that this is just one man’s opinion.