New Alliance to Hold Palparan Liable for Rights Abuses

“Stop Palparan” is a newly formed group that aims to consolidate and coordinate moves to remove, investigate, prosecute and arrest the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.

By Jhong dela Cruz

Maxima Punzal, 64, of Norzagaray, Bulacan was among the many women and men who had joined together to seek the prosecution of Maj.Gen. Jovito Palparan, alleged brain of human rights violations in Mindoro, Eastern Visayas and now in Central Luzon.

Punzal’s 41 year-old son Leo was felled by two shots from a .45 caliber pistol by two suspected military men on Sept. 13 while finishing a banner for a client in his shop. She recalled watching an afternoon television show when the perpetrators, wearing bonnets, barged in the house and fired at Leo. Leo died shortly after from a bullet that pierced his head, just under the ear.

Punzal knew that her son was an active member of the Anakpawis party-list group, but she was unaware of the widespread killings and other attacks against activists. Until her son became one of the victims.

Called “Stop Palparan”, the alliance aims to fortify moves to remove, investigate, prosecute and arrest the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. Stop Palparan aims to work for justice and indemnification of all human rights victims.

Dangerous mind

In less than two months since Palparan assumed post, the number of activists and civilians killed in Central Luzon has reached 19, based on reports.

Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) deputy secretary-general Lovella de Castro called Palparan a “dangerous mind” under the present administration, as allegedly shown by the string of killings in Central Luzon, in Mindoro and Eastern Visayas where Palparan was assigned to head the military.

De Castro pointed to some pronouncements of Palparan during past Congress hearings and interviews with the press. She quoted the general as saying that, “Bayan, Karapatan, Gabriela, Anak ng Bayan are all front organization of the CPP-NPA-NDF with Bayan Muna (partylist) as the umbrella organization,” during a September 2004 hearing of the Committee on Civil and Political Rights at the congress.

Back in Eastern Visayas while commanding the 8th Infantry Division of the army, Palparan openly pledged “to end anti-government rallies in Samar island within six months” adding, “It should be complete. Clearing – dapat mawala sila talaga completely rito at the fastest means available. So sa pinakamaiksing panahon na puwede natin maayos ito…sila ang inuuna, ang mga lider, kasi sila ang pasimuno ng gulo,” (They should be removed completely from here at the fastest means available, in the shortest possible time… They should be targeted first, the leaders, because they are the initiators) he said in the radio program, “Express it at the Park.”

De Castro noted that Palparan’s alleged “butcher’s character” (sic) shows whenever he opens his mouth. During his stint in Eastern Visayas, Palparan announced the military would be abducting one peasant every month from “rebel-infested” barrios: “Pasensya na kayo sa paisa-isang kinukuha at ninunyutralisa natin sa mga baryo…yung masasamang tao na nawawala, mabuti naman na mawala sila. These are bad eggs. Gumagawa sila ng kagaguhan.” (Please excuse us if we have to take and neutralize those in the barrios one by one. It is good for the bad elements to disappear. These are the bad eggs. They promote chaos.)

De Castro denounced Palparan’s all-out support and leadership in forming vigilante groups: “Nabuo yung Alsa Masa sa Mindoro noong dumating ako. Kumikilos ang mga ito sa alanganing oras. Nakakatulong naman sila sa paglaban sa NPA. Gayundin ang mga katulad ng RHB” (The Alsa Masa in Mindoro was set up when I got there. It works during odd hours. They help in fighting the NPA, even the likes of the RHB).

In an interview, Palparan claimed the rebel groups he tagged as enemy “is just within the civilian populace” which “allows it to move against us”.

Brutal facts

On Oct. 25, barely three hours after a forum on the rash of killings, Ricardo Ramos, president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union, was killed by sniper bullets near his home in Mapalacsiao village, inside Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. The next day, four others were killed by suspected military men.

In the morning of Oct. 26, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance or Bayan) leader Francisco Rivera and his companions Dr. Angel David and Van John Maniti were killed by van-riding men who sprayed bullets on the three as they rested after jogging. Before the day ended, at 5 pm, Anakpawis Bulacan chair Federico de Leon was shot dead in Malolos City, Bulacan.

De Castro said that even as cases of human rights violations blamed on Palparan were still being documented and investigated, new victims were already being felled.

In Mindoro Oriental, there were 30 victims of killings from May 2001 to April 2003, 25 victims in Eastern Visayas from February to August 2005, and 19 from September up to present in Central Luzon.

There were 12 victims of frustrated murder, four in Mindoro Oriental and eight in Eastern Visayas. There were 36 victims of forced disappearances, with five persons abducted in Mindoro Oriental and 31 in Eastern Visayas. There were 66 cases of evacuation following a series of military operations, with 26 in Mindoro and 40 cases in Eastern Visayas. In Mindoro island a total of 3,026 individuals and 1,559 families were affected while in Eastern Visayas, 7,250 individuals and 5,223 families were affected.

Enjoying power

Palparan was appointed an ad interim major general while he was commanding officer in Eastern Visayas in February this year. EMJP charged that his confirmation as brigadier general was railroaded with the Commission on Appointments in January 2004 to deny petitioners from filing their opposition.

Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative Liza Masa was one of the lawmakers who filed a petition against Palparan’s confirmation. Masa vowed to block a pending motion announcing Palparan as major general at the CA. Masa said they will continue to urge fellow lawmakers to support moves to unseat and prosecute Arroyo’s “hatchet man” saying there is a “general sympathy” among the legislators for the victims, she told Bulatlat.

De Castro said Palparan continues to enjoy his position of power because no less than President Arroyo “allows him to do so”. In August last year, Palparan was awarded a medal of valor for “exemplary performance” in his counter-insurgency programs in Mindoro, and for serving the third highest position in the armed forces as army chief of staff.

She said Palparan’s deferred promotion, following orders by Sen. Sergio Osmena III to look into the general’s performance of which rights groups and a handful of lawmakers deemed questionable, has not quelled the general in his pursuit to eliminate “enemies of the state”.

Growing resistance

The newly-formed alliance, led by victims in Mindoro, Eastern Visayas and Central Luzon, rights groups and civil libertarians, has declared Palparan a “failure as an army officer.”

Cecilia Ruiz, chairperson of Karapatan-Central Luzon, told Bulatlat the attacks targeting progressive leaders in the region were aimed at suppressing what she described as a growing resistance against the present regime.

She claimed there has been an increase in the membership of progressive organizations which lead the protest against two major issues in Central Luzon: the wage and land issues in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, and the impending dislocation of thousands of families in Bulacan to give way to the North Rail project.

She said that there is a need for measures to protect their ranks, and that the new alliance could serve as a “sanctuary for families of victims or those getting threats.”

According to De Castro, the alliance will also participate in filing a complaint against Palparan with the United Nation Human Rights Commission this November.

Also, Palparan will face the class suit to be filed by victims’ relatives this December following an indictment of an August tribunal by the International Solidarity Mission finding President Arroyo, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, guilty of gross human rights abuses.

On Friday, rights advocates and relatives of victims delivered a letter to Department of National Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, containing their demands for a thorough investigation into the estimated 416 killings committed under the present administration since 2001.

The letter was received by Maj. Ernesto Cruz of the Headquarters Support Command, but the group was barred from entering Camp Aguinaldo.

Karapatan Eastern Visayas reported that simultaneous rallies were also held to protest the politically-motivated killings in Catarman, Catubig, Lao-ang towns in Northern Samar. the rallies pushed through inspite of army blockades in the region. (Bulatlat.com)

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