Why the conviction of Gloria Arroyo’s favorite general Palparan matters to the Filipino people

MANILA – A day before the scheduled promulgation of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s favorite general, the posterboy of one of the bloodiest counterinsurgency programs in the country’s history, Bulatlat looks back with both hope and prudence on why a conviction of a retired general matters to the Filipino people.

Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and several other military officials are facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges before a Bulacan court over the enforced disappearance of two University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

Both students were in Hagonoy, Bulacan, a province north of Manila, when they were abducted by suspected military agents on June 26, 2006. However, it was not until 2012 that the hearings on the kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges against Palparan and several other military officials began in a Bulacan court.

Palparan, who portrayed himself as invincible, turned out to be a coward when he went into hiding until he was arrested on August 12, 2014.

He remains, to this day, the highest military official to ever been indicted for a human rights violation.

Will he be the first to ever be convicted?

Here are some reasons why Palparan should not escape accountability:

Justice still eludes thousands other more victims

Under Arroyo, there was virtually a trail of blood wherever Palparan was assigned. He wreaked havoc in Oriental Mindoro, Central Luzon and, of course, Eastern Visayas, resulting in thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other rights abuses.

BACKSTORY | The Trail of Blood: Following Army Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.

BACKSTORY | Palparan’s Path: Trail of Blood, Child Victims

BACKSTORY | Central Luzon: From Rice Fields into ‘Killing Fields’?

BACKSTORY | Palparan’s Legacy in CL: Lives Disrupted, Reign of Fear

BACKSTORY | New Killings, Abductions Blamed on Palparan

BACKSTORY | Church people among Palparan’s victims

The two UP students are still missing

Eyewitnesses point to Palparan’s men as among those who abducted, tortured, and raped Sherlyn and Karen while their companion, farmer Manuel Merino, was shot and burned alive.

Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan: Fates Intertwined by a Desire to Serve the Masses

Today, their families and supporters continue to look for the two disappeared students. Their cries to have them surfaced fell on deaf ears.

Arroyo is back within the corridors of power

The butcher, as Palparan is often referred to in media reports, rose to military ranks under Arroyo and earned her favor. He was constantly being promoted up in the military hierarchy while his record was turning bloodier each passing day.

In the midst of all the cries for justice during the height of human rights violations under her administration, Arroyo instead hailed Palparan during her state of the nation address. Arroyo praised Palparan as one who “will not stop until the communities are free from the night of terror and awaken to the dawning of peace."

Today, Arroyo has been politically rehabilitated – a sitting House Speaker who reportedly have dreams of becoming the country’s prime minister should the proposed shift to a federal form of government pushes through.

Will Palparan join Arroyo and the rest of retired (human rights violator) generals who are once again in power?

Gross killings, human rights violations continue under Duterte

Most importantly, how the promulgation will go on Monday, Sept. 17, matters to the Filipino people especially in light of the widespread, gross, and brutal killings under President Rodrigo Duterte, who virtually promised to absolve involved erring state security officers, particularly the police.

Though Duterte has earlier been critical of the retired general during the presidential campaign, the military has already hinted if not explicitly expressed back in 2017 that soldiers will be delighted if Palparan, who is facing a “very hard case,” will be released.

For sure, Palparan’s promulgation will yet be another political statement for the Duterte administration.

Text by JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
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