“He has sinned against civilians and he must be treated like any ordinary suspect charged with heinous crimes.” – Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, UCCP general secretary
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Leaders and members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) are among the victims of extrajudicial killings and other rights abuses linked to retired Army Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.
More than 18 UCCP members were killed, one disappeared, three ambushed and wounded and four arrested, detained and tortured during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Six of these incidents, involving eight victims, were associated with Palparan and his men.
Two pastors and a member were killed, three survived assassination attempts and two others were abducted, heavily tortured and eventually released.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, UCCP general secretary, said that while they welcome Palparan’s arrest, they remain vigilant that the wheels of justice would grind.
Marigza said Palparan is but one of the implementers of Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program that resulted in extrajudicial killings and other gross human rights violations. He said while the UCCP filed a damage suit against Arroyo to make the former president liable under the principle of command responsibility, the UCCP is still considering the possibility of filing criminal charges against Palparan. “Palparan must be made accountable for all his crimes, including the killings of UCCP members,” Marigza said.
Church people were never spared from Palparan’s terror in Eastern Visayas, Central Luzon and Mindoro.
Pastor Edison Lapuz, conference minister of the North East Leyte Conference of the UCCP and chairman of Katungod, the Eastern Visayas chapter of the human rights group Karapatan, was assassinated on May 12, 2005. At that time, Palparan was the commanding general of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division.
A month before Lapuz’s murder, Alden Ambida, a UCCP leader and coordinator of Bayan Muna-Eastern Visayas was ambushed and wounded on April 9, 2005. Six days later, couple Alfredo and Evelyn Davis, both UCCP members were shot at by suspected soldiers on April 15, 2005 in Mahaplay, Leyte. Both survived the assassination attempt.
When Palparan was assigned in Central Luzon, another UCCP pastor, Andy Pawican was murdered in Pantabangan Nueva Ecija on May 21, 2006. Two other UCCP members, Ruel Marcila and Rodel Paltig were abducted, tortured and eventually released.
A young UCCP member, Isaias Manano Jr. /news/4-16/4-16-braveheart.html was shot dead by alleged Palparan’s men in Mindoro Oriental on April 28, 2004.
Marigza opposed the proposals for military detention for Palparan.
“He has sinned against civilians and he must be treated like any ordinary suspect charged with heinous crimes,” Marigza said.
Marigza expressed disappointment on President Aquino. The church leader said that during the early part of his term, President Aquino has promised to punish the perpetrators of human rights violations but not even one has been brought to the bar of justice.
The UCCP leader noted that until now, extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations continue under the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. “It seems that the civilian government headed by Aquino is unable to control the military’s way of dealing with the insurgency,” he said.