4 children among 20 missing persons in Samar
Four children are among some 20 persons reported missing in Samar; 22 others have been summarily executed – all in just four months. Behind these alleged atrocities is Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan whose latest promotion in rank is under intense questioning in Congress.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
CONGRESS – Seated on the same row as they faced members of Congress, Cristina Abalos and 2Lt. Wilbert Basquiñas traded irate glances during the congressional inquiry on May 31. When it was her turn to speak, Cristina could not prevent her emotion from exploding. In tears, she blurted out one question directed at Basquiñas: “Where is my father?”
Cristina, 36, was the surprise witness presented to the House committee on defense headed by Rep. Catalino Figueroa (Samar, 2nd District) last week. The committee has been conducting hearings on the reported spate of military atrocities in Eastern Visayas as the region’s new military commander, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. awaits confirmation by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Cristina is the daughter of Patricio Abalos, 62, who was abducted reportedly by Philippine Army soldiers under the command of Basquiñas on March 28. He has been missing since.
In an interview with Bulatlat later, Critina said soldiers started to make rounds in the villages of Quindaponan, South Road, Km. 2, Catbalogan, Samar in early March. “Nag-survey sila. Sabi sa amin gusto lang daw makipagkaibigan” (They conducted a survey. They said they just wanted to make friends), she recalled.
But the soldiers proved to be unwanted visitors rather than friends. At around 8:30 p.m. of March 28 while Patricio was watching the evening news on TV, Cristina noticed a dark-colored Revo park in front of their house. Patricio went to check the vehicle but as he stepped out of the house, four armed men alighted from the Revo and took the old man at gunpoint.
Cristina said she and relatives followed the Revo as it headed toward the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) at Camp Lucban, the headquarters of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (ID PA) under the command of Geneneral Palparan.
The following day, Cristina and her mother, Rosa, went to the camp to see Patricio but they were denied entry by the guards. They then went to the local Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to seek legal assistance but were turned down because according to the lawyers, they were also being harassed by soldiers. Going back to the camp on March 30, the two were again blocked from entering.
At the House hearing, Palparan, who was present, said he knew nothing about Patricio’s whereabouts.
Cristina also recalled that on March 31, six soldiers led by Basquiñas forced their way into the Abalos home and searched their house without showing any warrant. “Nasa amin ang tatay mo. Makikita nyo lang sya pag may baril kayong nilabas” (We have your father. You’ll only see him if you can show us the firearm), Cristina quoted Basquiñas as saying.
“Kung hindi nyo ilalabas ang baril, ikaw na ang susunod na dudukutin” (If you can’t show us the firearm you will be the next to be abducted), Basquiñas supposedly told Rosa while poking his gun at her.
The soldiers insisted that Patricio is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and that his gun was hidden inside a baul (wooden trunk), she said.
Finding the trunk, the soldiers inspected it but found no firearm inside. The soldiers then took some of Patricio’s clothes and other belongings, including his medicines, put them inside the trunk and took it with them.
Before they left, Basquiñas left his mobile phone number to Cristina telling her to call him if she needed anything.
Cristina also told Bulatlat that in a separate meeting between Figueroa, Cristina and Rosa Abalos and Palparan on April 7 in the congressman’s house in Samar, Palparan had confirmed that his soldiers had her father in their custody.
“Aminin mo na misis na NPA ang asawa mo, para matulungan ko kayo” (Just admit that your husband is an NPA so I can help you), Palparan supposedly told Rosa to which she replied, “Nahihirapan na ngang maglakad iyon eh” (He could hardly even walk).
Palparan also supposedly told the Abaloses that he already gave a “go signal” for them to visit Patricio. But Cristina said the general was lying as the family has yet to see Patricio.
The Abaloses are not alone looking for a loved one.
Since Palparan took over the EV military command on Feb. 10 this year, 20 persons have been reported missing in the region – four of them children. Liza, 8, Marissa, 7, Charisse, 5, and Kulot, 3, were reportedly abducted together with Noni Fabella and Rina Balais-Fabella, a member of the Advocates for Women’s Actions, Rights and Empowerment (AWARE) on March 30 in Barangay 13, also in Catbalogan.
One of those missing is Narciso Parani. Narciso’s wife, Helen, was together with her five-year old son, Gilbert, when they attended the same House inquiry. Reports said her husband was taken by soldiers from the 63rd Infantry Battalion (IB PA) under the command of Col. Maunel Usi.
Narciso was reportedly taken by the soldiers on the same day along with Jovito Velasco, 32 in Barangay (village) Sinantan, Calbayog City in Samar.