WHILE retired general Jovito Palparan was charged and is now prosecuted for the disappearance of two women activists, he is yet to be prosecuted for the killings of more than 200 activists during the Arroyo regime. We call on President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Justice (DoJ) to hold Palparan accountable for these crimes and junk US-directed counter-insurgency programs in the Philippines through which these crimes are perpetrated.
Fourteen years ago, on April 22, 2003, the secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, Eden Marcellana, and chairperson of Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), Eddie Gumanoy, were killed, their bodies found in a ditch in Bansud, Mindoro Oriental. The two human rights workers led an 11-person fact finding mission in Gloria town in Mindoro before the group was taken by soldiers.
Kin of victims and Karapatan filed murder cases in the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the perpetrators, of which Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan was among the accused. The case was dismissed three times. This prompted the victims’ relatives to file a complaint in the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in March 2006.
Palparan is also currently undergoing trial for charges of kidnapping and illegal detention of disappeared students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan. Palparan, however, is detained in a military facility, instead of imprisonment in a civilian detention center.
There were 1,206 victims of political killings during the Arroyo regime, 332 during the Benigno S. Aquino regime, and 50 politically-motivated killings documented in the current administration.
Majority of these cases are left without resolution, with perpetrators still free from persecution. The climate of impunity persists, with State security forces shielded from punishment and oftentimes, even promoted.
Despite such tragedies, they live. The legacies of Marcellana, Gumanoy, etc. are embedded in the communities they have organized, in the peasants they have worked alongside with, and with the indigenous people they both taught and learned from. For us, the death of fellow rights defenders can only strengthen our resolve to change this oppressive and repressive system. With them in mind, we will never tire to demand accountability and justice.--Cristina Palabay, secretary general, Karapatan