Increasing the bounty for the arrest of high-profile fugitives is “an exercise in futility, unless the Aquino government genuinely resolves to go after and arrest the notorious rights violators.” – human rights group Karapatan
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Though President Benigno Aquino III increased the reward money for the arrest of high-profile fugitives accused of human rights violations, relatives of the victims were not so pleased.
Aquino has doubled the reward from P1- to P2-million for information leading to the arrest of retired Army general Jovito Palparan Jr. He also increased the reward money from P1.55 million to P2 million for information leading to the arrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and another P2 million for the arrest of Reyes’s brother, Coron town Mayor Mario Reyes Jr.
Palparan has been charged with kidnapping and illegal detention in relation to the enforced disappearance of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. The Reyes brothers, meanwhile, are main suspects in the killing of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega.
Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, was not impressed. “They do not need to raise the reward. What they need to do is to arrest him immediately,” Mrs. Cadapan said.
“If Malacañang [officials] said they are not happy the fugitives have not been arrested, we are even more dismayed. We think the raise in the bounty is useless if they will not hunt for them,” Empeño said, referring to Palparan and the Reyes brothers.
The two mothers filed the criminal charges against the retired military general.
Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo admitted that authorities are finding it difficult to find Palparan because the latter is “being coddled by several influential people.”
“It looks like they are just playing around. It seems they really do not want to arrest him,” Empeño said.
Similarly, Michaella Ortega, daughter of Gerry Ortega, said the raise in reward money “may hasten their arrest, but unless they [the suspects] are captured and tried fairly, they will never see justice done.”
Edre Olalia, one of the lawyers of Mrs. Cadapan and Mrs. Empeno and secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said in a statement that the hike in reward “seems to be a positive step and should be welcomed by everyone desperate to see that justice is done.” But Olalia quickly added that the increase in bounty is not at all “decisive.”
Olalia said that as long as Palparan is being coddled by the people who sympathize with his warped sense of duty and as long as Aquino desists or defaults from clear, strong and decisive use of its broad and extensive powers and resources to seriously run after rights violators, Palparan will continue to roam free.
The human rights lawyer added that the rise in reward is still “too little and too late and is tokenism.”
Increasing the bounty for the high-profile fugitives is “an exercise in futility unless the Aquino government genuinely resolves to go after and arrest the notorious rights violators,” said the human rights group Karapatan.
“Who are the most obvious coddlers of these criminals than the institutions which benefitted from their heinous acts?” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, asked.
Palabay described the announcement as just another public relations stunt of Malacañang. She told Aquino that what he needs to do is order the Armed Forces of the Philippines to produce Palparan. She warned Aquino: “Do not fool the families of victims. The Filipino people and the victims need justice.”