BY: MART D. SAMBALUD
DAVAO CITY—Human rights activists said that former military General Jovito Palpatan is the country’s icon of “military brutality and state fascism.”
“Palparan did not bother to differentiate unarmed civilians from armed rebels. Anyone who criticized the national government’s anti-people and anti-environment policies and programs seemed to be legitimate targets of militarization in his eyes,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, in text message to DavaoToday.
Dulce said Palparan’s legacy of military brutality, up to now, has remained up and scary. For instance, he said, was the arrest and detention in Davao Oriental of University of the Philippines physicist Kim Gargar who was recently released on bail, among other scientists.
According to Dulce, Gargar, 34, was conducting a research in areas affected by Typhoon Pablo when he was arrested by soldiers of the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion in October 1 last year, in Barangay Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental.
Dulce said it was lamentable “that field scientists who are conducting serious research and advocacies for the protection and conservation of the environment were targeted and killed for an unfounded, baseless and ill-motive perception that these peoples’ scientist are rebels”.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, an environmental advocacy group, claimed that 78 percent of all politically-motivated killings of environmentalists that we have recorded since 2001 involved anti-mining activists.
“Wherever Palparan and his military troops go, their assigned areas become “killing fields”—and this bloody legacy continues on in the Oplan Bayanihan,” Dulce said.
During his tenure as a military officer in Luzon and the Visayas in 2001-2006, the Karapatan office listed 332 human rights violations, from extrajudicial killings and forced disappearance to frustrated murders and torture, especially in Mindoro.
Karapatan also said that from 2005 to 2006 alone, under Palparan—who was then the commanding officer of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division—there were “71 victims of extrajudicial killings, 14 victims of frustrated killing, and five incidents of massacre.”
In his statement published at Rappler, Dulce said:”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.”
Carlos Conde, Philippine human rights researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, described Palparan as the “nation’s symbol of impunity.”
“Palparan had been a symbol of that impunity by evading arrest for the past three years and thumbing his nose at the authorities with the alleged help of former military colleagues,” Conde said.
He said that “Palparan’s reputation for abuses made him a visible symbol of military brutality during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
According to Conde, among the strings of human rights cases linked to Palparan, was the latter’s “alleged role in the abduction, torture, and enforced disappearance of University of the Philippines farmers’ rights activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006.”
“There is also evidence linking his unit to the torture of Raymond Manalo, who later testified that he witnessed soldiers under Palparan’s command torture Cadapan and Empeño,” he said.
But Conde stressed that “the arrest of Palparan marks a rare challenge to the country’s rampant impunity, which the government of President Benigno Aquino III has failed to adequately address.”
During the previous administration and during the peak of his anti-communist campaign, the Armed Forces accorded him also with honors and distinctions, such as the Service Star (December 2002, March 2006), Military Merit Medals (1974—his first one), the Campaign Medals, the Gold Cross Medal (1978), the Bronze Cross Medal and the Gawad sa Kaunlaran Medal Medal of Valor (2004), the last being the millitary’s highest distinction.
Palparan was said to be favored by the Arroyo administration when he was promoted twice during her term: in 2003, from colonel to brigadier general, and in 2004 from brigadier general to major general. He was also mentioned in Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address speech in 2006 when she praised Palparan for his efforts in the counter-insurgency campaign.
Conde urged the government to “follow-up Palparan’s arrest by bringing to justice other high-profile rights abusers, such as former Mayor Rey Uy, the alleged mastermind of the Tagum City “death squad.”
Meanwhile, the Asia Pacific Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCCHRP), is also urging the government to speedily prosecute Palparan.
“We are calling on the Aquino government to prosecute Palparan case rigorously, but even more importantly, to bring to justice other perpetrators of human rights violations under the Arroyo regime as well as those under his own watch,” the group said.
Eman Villanueva, co-convenor of Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) said “the apprehension alone of Palparan, while a positive first step, falls short of the redress expected by the victims’ families as well as the recommendations of erstwhile UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.”
“The culture of impunity that has been in place since Arroyo’s term has created military monsters such as Palparan, but it is also deeply entrenched in the dominant, US-influenced mindset of the AFP that is underpinned by the National Security doctrine. It is the same mindset that has led to the derailing of the peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH).”
As of June 30, 2014, Karapatan documented 204 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino government. There have also been 21 victims of enforced disappearances, 99 cases of torture, 664 illegal arrests and detention, and 39,800 victims of forced evacuation.
It warned that “this showcased apprehension of such a high-profile human rights violator will be used as a smokescreen for the continuing extrajudicial killings and abductions under the government of President Benigno Aquino III.”
“(W)e also cannot but be troubled by recent developments in the country’s human rights situation. In the first quarter of this year alone, 22 people have already fallen victim to extrajudicial killings and massacres. This includes William Bugatti, a staff-member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), a member organization of human rights alliance Karapatan,” Villanueva said.
“We urge the Philippine government to return to the negotiating table with the NDFP and resume the stalled peace talks, a move that should significantly improve human rights prospects in the country,” the group said –
MART D. SAMBALUD/davaotoday.com