Palparan and publicity
Last week the Association of General and Flag Officers Inc. called for a halt to the “undue trial by publicity” of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan who faces kidnapping, serious illegal detention and other charges and carries a P500,000 bounty on his head.
Retired Lt. Gen. Raul Urgello, Agfo chair and president, said they were disturbed by “the exploitation of the case of Palparan, who has not yet been convicted by any court of law, and his projection as a serial murderer, a “berdugo” [butcher] based on pieces of evidence that are yet to be scrutinized in due process by the court.”
But Palparan is not being subjected to trial by publicity. If there has been a lot of news stories about him, it is because of the serious charges filed against such a high-ranking military officer. And if the publicity intensified lately, it is because Palparan, after promising that he would face the charges against him, tried to escape from the clutches of the law by trying to board a plane for Singapore. And after formal charges were filed against him, Palparan simply vanished into thin air. Now law enforcement agencies are trying to track him down. What do his fellow generals want the media do, ignore such a big story for fear that they may be subjecting him to “trial by publicity”?
If Palparan had simply turned himself in and agreed to submit himself to the courts, the stories would have died down, or at least, they would not be given the prominence and play that they are getting now.
As for the term “berdugo” [butcher], it was not invented by the media. Review the stories the past three months and you will see that the moniker “The Butcher” was used by activists and militants, many of whose associates were picked up by soldiers under the overall command of Major General Palparan and were detained, tortured, raped, made to disappear or killed.
Everywhere Palparan was assigned, he left a trail of blood and violence. Militant organizations allege that Palparan was responsible for 326 human rights cases, including about 80 killings, in Mindoro during his term as head of the Army’s 204th Infantry Brigade from 2001 to 2003.
In February 2005 he was installed chief of the 8th Infantry Division based in Eastern Visayas. There, he was accused of masterminding 199 cases of killings, disappearances, harassment, torture and other human rights violations. He took command of the 7th Infantry Division in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, in 2006 and within a month, 13 leaders and members of the party-list group Bayan Muna and its affiliate organizations in Central Luzon were reported killed.
Human rights watchdogs counted more than 700 cases of human rights violations in the less than two years that Palparan was assigned to Central Luzon.
This is the man who was commended by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for his “exemplary performance” in the counter-insurgency operations. Arroyo awarded him the “Gawad sa Kaunlaran” and made him a brigadier general in January 2003. The following year he was promoted to major general.
Palparan was singled out for praise by Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address on July 24, 2006. And yet in the same speech she said that “together we will stop extrajudicial executions.”
Palparan also received special mention from Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who said that the principle of command responsibility had not been applied in the human rights violations by state agents. Alston said one proof was the report that Palparan was to be appointed to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. (The appointment was not made.)
Most of Palparan’s alleged victims were non-combatant, unarmed militants and activists. Aren’t there rules of common humanity that should stop military officers from killing, detaining, torturing, disappearing and raping non-combatants?
Lately Palparan has been in the news because of the case of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured and raped by soldiers under his command. Columnist Patricia Evangelista said Palparan’s acts of brutality “have caused grown men to soil themselves and women to bleed chunks of blood into buckets of piss.” Do you now wonder why he has attracted so much publicity? What would his fellow generals do, keep everything under wraps and continue promoting a culture of silence, forgetfulness and impunity?
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