“He spoke with a forked tongue even on the witness stand, and remorselessly justified his worn-out anti-communist bigotry to sanction his and his men’s actions amounting to heinous rights violations and crimes against humanity.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. admitted making state enemies “physically disappear” as part of the government counterinsurgency program, as he took the witness stand for his bail proceedings before the Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 15, today, Nov. 5.
During the cross examination by Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera and private prosecutor Julian Oliva Jr., Palparan said “clearing” villages “infested” with the New People’s Army (NPA) is part of the counterinsurgency program. When asked if this means that “the infestation must disappear,” Palparan said “yes.”
Navera asked again if that meant to “physically disappear” government enemies, the accused general said “yes.”
In a joint statement, private prosecutors Edre Olalia and Oliva said no less than Palparan himself validated his key role in the heinous crime by admitting “he was the one in command of the troops,”made “friendly” visits to places and military camps in question and conducted so-called anti-insurgency “clearing operations” that aimed to “physically disappear the infestation,” including alleged unarmed supporters of the NPA, like militant and student organizations.
Olalia and Oliva, both from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said Palparan looked irritated and at times, exasperated and “spoke with a forked tongue even on the witness stand, and remorselessly justified his worn-out anti-communist bigotry to sanction his and his men’s actions amounting to heinous rights violations and crimes against humanity.”
Palparan is charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Karen Empeno and Shelyn Cadapan, who disappeared nine years ago along with farmer Manuel Merino.
‘Engaging’ militant groups
When asked if so-called “militant and front organizations” fall under the counterinsurgency program, Palparan answered, “partly yes.”
“It may connote something, but we want to talk and engage them,” he said.
Palparan said they hold dialogues with activist groups, which he branded as front organizations and supporters of the NPAs. He added that these dialogues are part of the “developmental efforts” of the counterinsurgency program and that they “want to make friends with them.”
But Sr. Cecilia Ruiz of Karapatan-Gitnang Luson said she is at a loss on what Palparan referred to as “dialogue.”
“Perhaps he is referring to the interrogations he did?” she quipped.
At the top of the chain of command
During his direct testimony, Palparan said that as part of his duties as commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division is to hand out missions for the brigades under him and look after the welfare of his troops.
He also said that he would delegate tasks to officers under his command and that the buck stops with him under the chain of command.
As part of his duties, Palparan said he conducted weekly routine visits to various camps and detachments. But he denied ever visiting Camp Tecson, in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan, where torture victim Raymond Manalo said he and the two UP students were brought.
Palparan later clarified that he made only “friendly visits” as it was not under his command.
Palparan said, the missing UP students’ “mothers may be truly looking for their daughters and I pity them for that. But this was orchestrated by enemies of the state against me and this is the communist movement.”
“Pity us? Perhaps it is a wrong choice of words. He is really irritated with us,” Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, told Bulatlat.com.
He doesn’t know his bodyguard
Palparan denied ever knowing Manalo, who said in his Feb. 16 testimony that the accused general met him at a basketball court in Sapang village in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. Palparan said the first time he saw Manalo was during the preliminary investigation of the case before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“That is not true, as far as I am concerned,” Palparan said.
He added that he will “not go to the hinterlands at midnight just to meet that person. I am the commanding general. Other people can do that.”
Palparan also denied ever knowing his co-accused Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, who was deployed to be part of his security during a DOJ hearing. At that time, Osorio was identified by Wilfredo Ramos as one of those who abducted the victims at his home.
Palparan retired from the Philippine Army on Sept. 11, 2006, just three months after the enforced disappearance, which, he added, is the same period when he began to prepare for his retirement.