HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Palparan's Path: Trail of
Blood, Child Victims
When he exits the military service this Sept. 11, Maj. Gen. Jovito
Palparan, Jr. leaves behind a long list of victims of human rights
violations in the areas where he was assigned. Based on his declarations
in various media interviews, he will perhaps even give a hearty laugh
should his record be described as a trail of blood. But his record speaks
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr.
Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr.,
commanding officer of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division
based in Ft. Ramon Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija, turns 56 this Sept.
11 – reaching the mandatory age of retirement from the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP).
But Palparan, tagged as “butcher” by activist groups and rights
watchdogs for unsolved extra-judicial killings and enforced
disappearances perpetrated in his many areas of assignment, was
immediately appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the
National Security Council (NSC), as deputy for anti-insurgency
operations. At the NSC, Palparan joins its head, National Security
Adviser Norberto Gonzales who, together with Macapagal-Arroyo, has
defended the general's anti-insurgency operations.
Directly attached to the office of the president, the NSC provides
intelligence and national security policy recommendation to the chief
executive. Gonzales is believed to be part of the militarist clique in the
Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COC-IS) which endorsed
the armed forces’ internal security operations plan against the
underground armed Left and legal activists and organizations.
With Palparan’s continuing active role in counter-insurgency this time
directly under Macapagal-Arroyo, it is now fitting to take stock of his
career as a military officer.
Based on a news item from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and
research by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights),
Palparan joined the AFP in 1974, a year after finishing BS Business
Administration at the University of the East (UE).
He would go into graduate studies while in the military, taking up Master
in Management at the Philippine Christian University (PCU) and Master in
National Security Administration at the National Defense College of the
In 1977 he underwent schooling at the Philippine Army's Infantry Basic
Training Command. Twelve years later, he took an Infantry Advanced Course
at the U.S. Army Infantry School. In 1994 he took the Command and General
Staff Course at the AFP Command and Staff College, and two years later he
took a Joint Service Staff Course in Australia.
Long list of victims
When he exits the military service this Sept. 11 – which is also the fifth
commemoration of the 9/11 bombings in the U.S. – he leaves behind a long
list of alleged victims of human rights violations in the areas where he
was assigned. Based on his declarations in various media interviews, he
will perhaps even give a hearty laugh should his record be described as a
trail of blood. But his record speaks for itself.
A close scrutiny of his record shows that many of the more prominent
victims of human rights violations in the areas where he was assigned are
aging men, women, children, and youths barely out of adolescence. Palparan
would partially acknowledge this, as he did in an interview with the
Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Fe Zamora, published last July 2, where he
was quoted as saying that women and children become natural victims in
armed conflicts “because they don't know where to run, how to hide.”
His first assignment was as a second lieutenant with the 24th Infantry
Battalion stationed in Indanan, Sulu, at the height of the revolutionary
armed struggle waged by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). He
claims to have achieved victory against the MNLF at least in Patikul, Sulu.
He himself however admits that children from the Tausug tribe – whence
hail most of the MNLF fighters – were among the victims of his men while
he was stationed in Sulu. There, he said, soldiers saw Tausug children as
“future enemies, so the thinking was to finish them off while they were
still young” – a mode of thinking reminiscent of an American general, Gen.
Jacob Smith, during the Philippine-American War who ordered the killing of
everyone capable of bearing arms – including 10-year-old boys – in Samar.
In the early 1980s, the 24th Infantry Battalion was transferred to Central
Luzon, this time to fight communist revolutionaries. By 1989 he would
assume the post of battalion commander, which he held until 1991.
A fact sheet released by Karapatan in 2004 shows Sta. Cruz, Zambales to
have particularly suffered the brunt of operations by the 24th
Infantry Battalion in 1991. In September that year, while soldiers were
stationed by a chapel there, about 100 townsfolk were arrested,
interrogated, and forced to sign “affidavits of surrender.” From Oct.
13-18, 10 families were forced to evacuate as a result of shelling
operations. Three days later, more than 1,000 residents of the same town
were forced to attend a “peace rally,” in which Palparan claimed that they
were “rebel surrenderees.”
Torture of tribal elder
Karapatan's tally lists at least seven extra-judicial killings, one
incident each of massacre and assault, two grenade bombings, five
harassment cases, and five cases of illegal arrest and detention in
Central Luzon during Palparan’s first assignment there. He was also
implicated in the abduction and torture of peasant organizers and other
activists during his first stint there, Karapatan records show.
After Central Luzon, Palparan was assigned to the Cordillera region. One
of the most prominent cases of human rights violations in the said region
during his stint there was the torture of Marcelo Fakila, a leader of the
Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in Mountain Province and a village elder
Based on combined data from the CPA and Karapatan, in 1992 alone there
were six cases of illegal arrest, five harassment cases, one case of
disappearance, one summary execution, one case of wounding, and two cases
of evacuations– all in Mountain Province during Palparan’s assignment in
After his Cordillera stint, Palparan was given a quick succession of
assignments, including the command of Task Force Banahaw – which holds
jurisdiction over Rizal and Laguna provinces south of Manila. One of the
most prominent victims of human rights violations during Palparan's stint
in Task Force Banahaw was a five-year-old child killed in Laguna in 2001.
Karapatan-Laguna listed seven killings of civilians in the province in
In May 2001, Palparan was deployed to head the 204th Infantry Battalion,
which holds jurisdiction over Oriental Mindoro. It is in Oriental Mindoro,
under Palparan’s command, that some of the most shocking cases of human
rights violations under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration were
On April 8, 2002, Expedito Albarillo, 48, a Bayan Muna (People First)
coordinator in San Teodoro was dragged by some 10 soldiers from his hut,
with his hands tied behind his back. Clinging to him and begging the
soldiers for mercy was wife Manuela, 45, also a Bayan Muna coordinator in
the same town. Shots rang out some 200 meters away, and relatives who
rushed to the scene found the couple lying on their faces, bathed in their
own blood. Expedito’s left eye was drooping from its socket.
On May 20 that same year, the Apolinar family – Ruben, 54, a retired
policeman; his wife, Rodriga, 54, a teacher; and their adopted child Niña
Angela, 8 – were gunned down also by soldiers. Ruben and Rodriga were
Bayan Muna leaders in San Teodoro.
Eight days after, it was the turn of activist Edilberto Napoles, Jr., 26,
to be killed. He was gunned down near the Bayan Muna office in Calapan
The cases of the Albarillo couple, the Apolinar family, and Napoles were
among those that prompted a fact-finding mission into human rights
violations in Oriental Mindoro in April 2003.
Among the leaders of the said mission were Eden Marcellana,
secretary-general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog; and peasant leader Eddie
Gumanoy. They themselves would end up losing their lives in the hands of
soldiers from the 204th Infantry Battalion. The photos of the two that
were used for Terror in Mindoro – a book on the Mindoro killings
published by Justice for Eden and Eddie, Justice for All in cooperation
with the Ecumenical Consortium for a Just Peace – showed their bodies
bearing marks of torture.
The killings of Marcellana and Gumanoy stirred public outrage enough to
get Palparan relieved from the 204th Infantry Battalion and transferred to
Rizal. His Oriental Mindoro record, based on Karapatan data, totaled 326
human rights violations involving 1,219 individual victims.
In the very week of Palparan's transfer to Rizal, based on an article by
Bulatlat’s Aubrey Makilan, the chief of a barangay (village)
security force in Antipolo City was killed. Before that he was repeatedly
questioned by the military on his alleged connections with the New
People's Army (NPA).
In February 2004, Palparan was assigned to head an AFP contingent sent on
a “humanitarian” mission to Iraq. He returned seven months later, was
given a Medal of Valor, and appointed chief of staff of the Philippine
In February 2005 he was called back into the field as commanding officer
of the 8th Infantry Division, which covers Eastern Visayas. The most
prominent victims of human rights violations in the region during
Palparan’s stint there are lawyer Felidito Dacut, youth organizer Marvin
Montabon, and Rev. Edison Lapuz.
Dacut, 51, a leader of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and
Bayan Muna in Eastern Visayas, was on his way home aboard a jeepney when
killed March 14, 2005. As the jeepney cruised along Arellano Street in
Tacloban City, Leyte, two men aboard a motorcycle drove near the victim,
and one fired a shot behind him. The bullet pierced through his heart and
instantly killed him.
Earlier that day, soldiers had gone to Montabon’s home in Tarangnan, Samar
and shot him before burning the house. The young man was burned inside the
Lapuz, Eastern Visayas conference minister of the United Church of Christ
in the Philippines (UCCP) and chairman of Katungod-Sinirangang Bisayas,
the Eastern Visayas chapter of Karapatan, had just come from the burial of
his father when he was killed May 12, 2005. He was then busy organizing a
mining conference for church people in the region.
Palparan's record in Eastern Visayas shows a total of 570 human rights
violations involving 7,561 individuals, 1,773 families, 110 communities
and ten organizations all in a span of six months – based on Karapatan
In September last year, Palparan was assigned to head the 7th Infantry
Division – thus bringing him back to Central Luzon more than 20 years
after he was first deployed there.
Aging men, women, children, and youths as victims
Among the more prominent victims of human rights violations in Central
Luzon under Palparan’s command are Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, both
students of the University of the Philippines (UP); and peasant organizer
Manuel Merino – who were abducted by soldiers on June 26 in Hagonoy,
Bulacan and are still missing.
Empeño, a graduating BA Sociology student, was in Hagonoy doing research
on a peasant community for her thesis.
It was dawn and she and Cadapan, a youth organizer in the same town, were
asleep when soldiers barged into the hut they were staying in. The fact
that Cadapan was then five months pregnant did not protect her from a
punch in the stomach. Both were blindfolded; in Empeño’s case, her eyes
were covered with a shirt that had been forcibly removed from her.
The soldiers then proceeded to Merino’s hut a few steps away and took him
A Sept. 3 report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer cited Karapatan
data pointing to 136 cases of human rights violations in Central Luzon
under Palparan's command from September 2005 to August 2006. Of these,
there were 71 summary executions, five massacres, 14 frustrated killings,
and 46 enforced disappearances.
From the various interviews that Palparan
has given to the media all these years, he has come across as one who is
wont to boast of his accomplishments. He claimed victory against the Moro
“rebels” in Patikul, Sulu and he has been claiming victory after victory
against the communist “rebels” after that.
Whenever he exits from an assignment,
however, he leaves behind a list of victims of human rights violations –
civilians at that, and many of the more prominent ones being aging men,
women, children, and youths barely out of adolescence.
Thus is the trail that Palparan leaves behind when he retires this Sept.
11. He exits from the military in the very good graces of the Arroyo
administration, which conferred awards on him – first the Medal of Valor
in 2004 and then the Distinguished Service Star Award earlier this year –
and heaps lavish praises on him, as Macapagal-Arroyo did during her State
of the Nation Address (SoNA) last July, and has now even given him a new
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© 2006 Bulatlat
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