VARIOUS civil society groups in northern Mindanao see the arrest of retired Major General Jovito Palparan as a cover up to the major issues the government officials are facing today.
“The manner of his arrest and the [length] of the manhunt operation are not that convincing to us. Why is it only now? Why is the arrest timely when the country is facing endless issues that are like popping out from cans? We do not want to think that it is ‘scripted’ but yes, we are thinking it is,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-10 (KMP-10) secretary general Richard Colao said Thursday.
Palparan, dubbed as “The Butcher,” went into hiding in 2011 when a warrant was issued for him and three other Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers by Bulacan Regional Trial Court for the disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan on June 26, 2006.
Palparan was arrested in Sta. Mesa, Manila on Tuesday by a team composed of the members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), AFP’s Philippines Naval Intelligence, and Security Force/Counter Intelligence Group.
His known hideouts were in Cagayan de Oro and in Manila near Polytechnic University of the Philippines beside a barangay hall which student activists likely believe the arrest was “well-planned” by the government.
“If he is really the most wanted man in the country for the many cases of extra-judicial killings during Gloria Arroyo’s term, why did it take long to find him? It is an insult when his hideout is just beside a barangay hall,” Student Christian Movement-10 coordinator Rommel Limjoco said.
“There are so many problems the country is facing now. Two of those are the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program and the Priority Development Assistance Fund where government officials are involved in alleged anomalous transactions. Maybe, for the public to drift away from these issues, they try to ‘present’ Palparan,” he said.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) northern Mindanao coordinator Rocha Bihag added that even with Palparan’s arrest, justice still has not been served yet.
“Even with his captivity, there are still other extra-judicial killings happening and ongoing in the country. It is already expected that after Palparan, it still won’t end there. There is even Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) where it calls for more future killings,” Bihag said.
While Palparan’s apprehension raised eyebrows and caused protests, Bihag said they are happy that justice is making progress.
In Bangkok, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) welcomes the arrest of Palparan, which represents an important step toward addressing impunity for serious human rights abuses in the Philippines.
In early 2007, after his official mission to the Philippines, the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions recommended that "as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations."
OHCHR recognizes the current efforts of the Aquino administration to follow-up on the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur, and further encourages the Government to take additional steps to strengthen the rule of law and accountability mechanisms.
“Ensuring justice in this case will set an important precedent for the Philippines and South East Asia region, where impunity remains an issue of serious concern,” the statement read.