Bring 'the Butcher' to justice!

Why wouldn’t we? Retired general Jovito Palparan, notoriously known as the Butcher, was the reason why we started counting the alarmingly increasing dead among our ranks in the environmental movement in the first place. (READ: TIMELINE: The search for Jovito Palparan)

When Palparan was assigned to the province of Mindoro Oriental, it became a literal killing field. It began with Ramon Ternida, the coordinator of Bayan Muna Party-list and a staunch anti-mining activist in the province, who was killed by suspected elements of the 204th Infantry Brigade on April 15, 2001.

Within a year, Ternida was followed by the killings of Erwin Bacarra, Roger Fernando, and Manuela and Expedito Albarillo. All of them were community leaders opposed to the destructive mining operations of Mindex Crew Minerals. By the end of Palparan’s stint in Mindoro, he had mustered a record of 326 human rights violations involving 1,219 victims under his belt.

Wherever Palparan went, death followed—the people of the Eastern Visayas, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog regions can attest to that. His ruthless counter-insurgency campaigns targeted scores of unarmed civilians, including our fellow environmental activists, labelled as ‘supporters’ of revolutionary groups.

It did not come as a surprise for us when Palparan, after retiring from military service, served as a consultant in various private security agencies that served large-scale mining operations mostly in Central Luzon. After all, 78 percent of all politically-motivated killings of environmentalists that we have recorded since 2001 involved anti-mining activists.

Even after going into hiding, Palparan’s enduring legacy can be seen in the various communities besieged by development aggression. Thousands have been displaced from their farmlands and ancestral lands, subjected to torture and other forms of human rights violations, and ultimately killed for opposing big mines, legal logging, and agricultural plantations.

Palparan’s example contributed to the pervading culture of impunity that emboldened the likes of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and Coron mayor Mario Reyes, politicians who masterminded the murder of anti-mining advocate Dr. Gerry Ortega in 2011. Military and paramilitary groups seem bent on pursuing ethnocide against indigenous B’laans opposing the big mining project of Glencore-Xstrata, massacring leaders and their families from the Capion and Freay clans.

His military doctrine rendered soldiers unable to distinguish civilians—even field scientists engaged in environmental research and advocacy—from armed revolutionaries, as in their killing of renowned botanist Leonard Co and his two guides Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo, and the recent illegal detention of physicist Kim Gargar. Both were suspected by the military as New People’s Army revolutionaries.

The fall of Palparan, the fanged face of state fascism, is a long overdue step towards defeating the culture of impunity that has caused many an environmental activist to be repressed, disappeared, and even murdered.

We have to vigilantly monitor the developments in Palparan’s case, lest he be allowed to run scot-free yet again from the various crimes he has committed against humanity. Remember how an official under the Arroyo regime’s Commission on Human Rights cleared Palparan of the various rights violation charges filed against him in 2007? 

Palparan’s arrest should not be the end, but the beginning. His name should be followed by the likes of Joel and Mario Reyes, and the top military brass that continued Palparan’s tyranny. By virtue of command responsibility, even Pres. Noynoy Aquino should likewise be held to account.

Palparan’s arrest should be transformed into a ripple effect that will topple the government’s tools of militarization and rights violation: corporate-funded SCAAs and other paramilitary groups; Military units assigned as so-called investment defense forces securing environmentally destructive projects; and the successor of Palparan’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, the Oplan Bayanihan.

The fall of Palparan should be the beginning of the end for this system of wolves governing the sheep. The meek shall rise and make sure that the Butcher is brought to justice. - 

Leon Dulce is the campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, a national network. He is also a convener of the Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders, a national supporter network to defend the rights of environmental defenders.

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Leon Dulce

Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment