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MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED] – A court in Bulacan province issued an arrest warrant Tuesday, December 20, against retired Army general Jovito Palparan.
Branch 14 of the Bulacan RTC issued the warrant days after the justice department approved two cases of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against the general and three others over the 2006 disappearance of students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.
The case is historic. Palparan, a retired two-star general, is the highest ranking military official to be charged with human rights abuses, although technically he’s facing a kidnapping case. Not even the mother of President Benigno Aquino III, the late President Corazon Aquino, who was brought to power by an anti-dictatorship movement, was able to hold a general to account for the abuses of the military under Ferdinand Marcos.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said a team jointly composed by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (under the justice department) and the Philippine National Police (under DILG) have been formed to arrest Palparan. The team is now trying to locate the retired general, according to Robredo.
In a phone interview, Palparan claimed he is in Manila. He said he will consult with his lawyer to see if there is a “legal remedy.” He adds, “Wala ka namang magagawa kung aarestuhin ka.” (There is really nothing you can do if you are under arrest.)
Earlier, Palparan reportedly tried to leave the country for Singapore shortly after he was indicted of the charges. He was, however, intercepted by immigration authorities at the Clark International airport.
Judge Teodora Gonzales of Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14, issued the arrest warrant dated Dec.19, directing the respective station commanders of the Philippine National Police in Taguig, Quezon City, Biñan, Laguna and Palanan City, Nueva Ecija to take into custody Palparan, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio and Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario.
The four were charged with two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the alleged abduction of Cadapan and Empeño in 2006.
Witness Raymond Manalo testified that Palparan “visited and threatened” him at the barangay hall in Sapang, San Miguel, Bulacan, in August 2006. He added that he was detained in several safehouses with Cadapan and Empeño, all of which belonged to the Army’s 7th infantry division, then under the command of Maj. Gen. Palparan.
Anotado, then the battalion commander of the 24th Infantry Battalion, was identified by witness Raymond Manalo as one of those who visited them while he was detained in a military camp in Limay, Bataan along with Cadapan and Empeño.
Presence not established
The Department of Justice prosecutors said that “although his presence during the abduction is not clearly shown, his knowledge of their continued illegal detention and his acquiescence thereto is established by his visit to Limay, Bataan and his conversation with the victims.”
Manalo also pointed to Hilario – who he claimed brought him to Camp Tecson in Tarlac – as one of those present in one of the detention sites of Cadapan and Empeño.
Another witness, Wilfredo Ramos, identified Osorio as one of those who seized the two UP students on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Cadapan and Empeño were allegedly abducted on suspicion that they are members of the communist New People’s Army. – with reports from Patricia Evangelista, Carmela Fonbuena and Purple Romero/Rappler.com