MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III should order the military to help civilian authorities in arresting retired Maj Gen Jovito Palparan, among others, in connection with the enforced disappearances of 2 activists in 2006, a human rights watchdog said Wednesday, February 1.
The international organization Human Rights Watch cited reports from civilian officials that some military personnel and business owners could be protecting Palparan as they had benefited from the retired general’s campaign against the communist New People’s Army.
Palparan has thus evaded arrest despite a million-peso reward for his capture, the group said.
“President Aquino should (send) the message to the military that the years of protecting Palparan for grievous abuses are over,” said Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson, “Officers and soldiers alike should be on notice that if they block civilian authorities in arresting Palparan, they too will face legal consequences.”
The group said the President should stress the accountability of anyone, whether within or outside the military, who obstructs the arrest of Palparan and other accused personalities.
For his part, AFP chief of staff Gen Jessie Dellosa has said soldiers may arrest Palparan any time. “To prevent the problem from getting serious, it is better if Gen Palparan would come out and face the charges hurled against him,” Dellosa said in a statement last January 3.
Last December, Palparan and 3 others were ordered arrested in connection with the alleged abduction of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno in 2006.
A witness, Raymond Manalo, has testified that he saw both Cadapan and Empeno in safehouses belonging to the Army’s 7th infantry division, then under Palparan’s command.
Trial by publicity
Human Rights Watch, on the other hand, pointed out that a group of active and retired military officials had also publicly defended Palparan and denounced a supposed “trial by publicity” against him.
In a statement dated December 28, the group also warned of “demoralization in the soldiers’ ranks” as Palparan and his co-accused committed the alleged abuses while “leading operations against the communist insurgents in Central Luzon.”
Pearson said, “Palparan has become a symbol of the widespread lack of accountability for atrocities in the Philippines today… The Aquino administration can show a new direction for the country by ensuring Palparan’s prosecution.”
In an interview with Rappler’s Carmela Fonbuena before he was ordered arrested, Palparan denounced the accusations against him as “injustice.” “What will I do? Wala naman ako magagawa diyan (I cannot do anything about that). They are government. Let them enjoy their power,” he said.
Families of Palparan’s alleged victims, as well as witnesses to the alleged abduction, have appealed for Palparan’s surrender. - Rappler.com