Palparan a ‘disaster’ in a democracy
When I heard for the first time Jovito Palparan speak at a forum as a commanding officer of the military in Laguna, I thought he was a disaster, a man ready to spread terror among activists and progressive organizations.
In that talk before church/civic workers and members of the clergy, which dealt with insurgency and peace and order, he used a simplistic “Aquarium” analogy. He said the New People’s Army (NPA) is like a fish which is dependent on water. Without water, the fish dies. And he likened the water to the social activists and progressive organizations.
He even pointed to legal activists groups like Bayan Muna, human rights advocates like Karapatan, farmers’ organizations like Kasama-TK, religious progressives and their ilk as the water that needed to be flushed out in order to neutralize the fish (armed combatants). Without hesitation, he called the activists as the legal fronts of the NPA rebels.
Hence, when I heard the reports of the series of murders perpetrated against Bayan Muna leaders in the 1990s and other leaders of legal but progressive organizations and the harassment of radical office workers, I was reminded of Palparan.
When Palparan was transferred to Mindoro, the reign of terror there worsened with the abduction and summary execution of the peace-loving activist, wife and mother Eden Marcellana, the regional leader of Karapatan Southern Tagalog; Eddie Gumanoy, the head of a farmers’ group; the peasant farmer couple Expedito and Manuela Albarillo, and several others.
Marcellana and Gumanoy were reportedly marked by the military for their links with armed terrorists or rebels. The accusation was a blatantly ridiculous nonsense. In my interviews with the two, I never had any inkling that they would end up victims of brutal, murderous men.
Yes, I agree that the two were among the activists who were fearless in airing their views and sentiments against military and government excesses, but this did not make them rebels, much less candidates for liquidation. After all, dissent is part and parcel of any democratic project. In fact, freedom of expression is a bedrock of democracy and is a basic human right of every citizen in a democratic society. A democracy where the right to criticize or express one’s ideas and thoughts (even if they are distressful at times to the minds and ears of the authorities) does not exist, is a sham.
I had mixed feelings when I learned that Palparan comes from Cagayan de Oro. I seriously doubt if he is genuinely from CDO. He does not deserve to claim CDO as his place of origin because Cagayanons are a peace-loving and friendly people. For Cagayanons, violence is farthest as an option. In fact, the long tradition and culture of the natives of CDO proudly attest that it is truly a “City of Golden Friendship.”
—ROMULO O. PONTE,
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