HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
‘Where’s My Father?’
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
VICTIM: Five-year old Gilbert
Parani (left photo) shows his left forefinger crushed by soldiers who
took his father in April as a hard-nosed Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.
(extreme left) faces the House inquiry.
Photos by Dabet Castañeda (extreme
left) and Katungod-SB
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
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.
Wilbert Basquiñas takes accusations against him in jest.
Photo by Dabet Castañeda
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
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
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
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.
At around 2 a.m. of April 22, the
soldiers with their arms drawn barged into the homes of the Paranis and
the Velascos. Elena was able to follow her husband and the
soldier-abductors until they reached the army detachment at the elementary
school in Barangay Hamorawon, a 30-minute ride from Barangay Sinantan.
Helen, on the other hand, passed out
when the soldiers dragged her husband into a multicab and brought him to
the same detachment.
That was the last time the two women
saw their husbands.
In a separate interview with Bulatlat,
Helen and Elena, 38, said their husbands were also tagged by the military
as NPA members. “May nagturo daw na NPA yung mga asawa namin” (Somebody
reportedly fingered at our husbands as NPA members), the two told
Denying angrily the military
allegations, Helen said her husband is a farmer. Elena’s husband is a
construction worker. In fact, Elena said, they had lived in Manila for
almost eight years and only went back to Samar in June last year for the
Meanwhile, the cases of disappearances
have reached alarming proportions in Samar. The human rights group
Katungod-SB (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights-Eastern
Visayas) has documented at least 20 cases of forced disappearances since
The desaparecidos include Oscar
Cabacang, Anakpawis party-list group provincial coordinator; Amy Cabarles
and a certain Ejercito, both employees of the Samar Provincial Supply
Office (SPSO) in Catbalogan; and Roberto Babas, 43, barangay captain of
Katungod-SB has also documented 22
cases of extra-judicial killings covering the period Feb. 10 to May 12.
The report noted that six of these cases involved officers of party-list
groups Bayan Muna (people first) and Anakpawis (toiling masses). The
killings of lawyer Felidito Dacut and Rev. Edison Lapuz, a prominent
member of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines, also drew public
The Katungod-SB report said “the rest
(of the victims) were farmers killed in their communities and were later
alleged as being members of the NPA.”
Likewise, there have been 36 victims
of strafing, bombing and indiscriminate firing; 13 victims of torture; 16
victims of physical assault and arbitrary arrest; and 17 individuals
Meanwhile, the report added, 979
individuals have been victims of forcible evacuation affecting 21
communities in the towns of Calbiga, Tarangan, Motiong, Jiabong,
Catbalogan and Paranas.
In a sworn statement given to the
House inquiry, Alex Lagunzad, Katungod-SB secretary general, put on record
the organization’s opposition to Palparan’s impending promotion and his
continued deployment in Eastern Visayas. The general’s promotion and stay
in the region, he said, would send signals that the state’s military and
police forces can commit atrocities with impunity.
Some legislators have also voiced
their opposition to the general’s promotion from brigadier general to
major general, vowing to throw the controversial army officer out of the
region and block his confirmation at the CA.
It was a privilege speech given by
Rep. Figueroa on the alarming human rights situation in the province that
prompted the House to begin an inquiry into the matter.
Meanwhile, another Samar congressman,
Reynaldo Uy (1st District) submitted to the CA his strong opposition to
the Palparan’s promotion. (Palparan had been promoted by President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo from colonel while assigned in Oriental Mindoro to
brigadier and then to major general - all in of two years.)
In a sworn statement, Uy called
Palparan a “notorious and remorseless human rights violator.”
With the rate human rights violations
are perpetrated in Samar, the congressman added, Palparan could surpass
his record in his two-year stint as brigade commander of the 204th
Infantry Brigade of the PA (IBPA) in Oriental Mindoro.
Uy assailed the CA for confirming
Palparan’s past promotion despite accusations hurled against him when he
was still in Mindoro. “The promotion of Palparan would send the wrong
message that human rights violations are rewarded with promotion,” Uy
The two Samar representatives also
said they themselves have received death threats for trying to expose the
military’s abuses in the province. Figueroa specifically said he had
received reliable information he and three other high officials from Samar
are marked for liquidation by military elements for their alleged leanings
with the NPA. They have denied the military allegations.
But Palparan, facing the House
committee on national defense, seemed not worried at all being in the hot
seat. Clad in his moss green army officer uniform and black jacket,
Palparan came to Congress all the way from Samar with a script for the
He began by attacking Bayan Muna for
“launching a smear campaign against his person” and “demonizing” him even
before his deployment to the 8th ID in Eastern Visayas. “This was done
obviously to block my assignment to the region,” he said.
When a congressman asked about his
alleged human rights violations, Palparan said he was into
counter-insurgency campaign which, he added, entails “great sacrifices
foremost from the soldiers and to many affected people especially those
involved in the insurgency.”
Such sacrifices, the general said,
persist because the communist insurgency in Samar is at a more advance
stage than anywhere in the country. He estimated that 50-60 percent of the
people in the region are either involved or influenced by the NPA. Those
influenced, he said surprisingly, included soldiers from the Armed Forces
of the Philippines.
The top army officer said NPA
guerrillas can “roam freely” in the communities even in the presence of
soldiers. To date, he said, there are 17 soldiers who have been reassigned
elsewhere on suspicions of colluding with the NPA. One soldier was
discharged while another is under investigation, he told the House
Joining the committee hearing, Rep.
Prospero Pichay chided Palparan for his unfounded statement and
irresponsible accusations about soldiers’ connivance with the NPA.
“If you want to win the war, first you
have to win the hearts of the people in Samar,” Pichay told the general.
“Now, probably you are making the wrong approach.”
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© 2004 Bulatlat
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