Arrest Order Turned Manhunt Against Palparan is a Result of Filipino People’s Struggle for Human Rights
The recent failed attempt of former Philippine military leader Jovito Palparan to flee the Philippines for Singapore turned all-out manhunt to arrest the retired major general who remains in hiding is not only a clear admission of guilt for the heinous crimes committed against scores of innocent civilians under the former Arroyo administration, but a product of arduous, continuous peoples struggle for the recognition and respect of human rights against an impotent justice system wallowing in a culture of impunity. Filipino-Americans in the US, under the banner of BAYAN USA, and their supporters echo the call for Jovito Palparan to immediately surrender himself to the state authorities and face the law.
“Palparan is responsible for hundreds of cases of human rights violations including the enforced disappearance and torture of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. These are crimes of such heinous nature that he should not be granted any leniency and be immediately arrested and jailed along with his men,” states BAYAN USA founding member Melissa Roxas, a community health worker from the US who traveled to the Philippines and survived violent abduction and torture by Philippine military elements in 2009, in response to the news of the manhunt for Palparan.
Before his stint as a Philippine Congressman representing the Bantay Party-List, Palparan was a decorated military general under the former Arroyo administration. He was notoriously known as “Berdugo” (the Butcher) by human rights groups and their supporters for the lead role he played in crafting one of the bloodiest counter-insurgency campaigns in the country’s history– Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL)– with the blessing and support of Washington and tens of millions of dollars annually in US military aid. According to human rights groupKarapatan, nine years of OBL under the Arroyo government claimed 1,206 civilian lives through extrajudicial killings and another 206 inenforced disappearances. Justice for the victims remains painfully absent as an overwhelming majority of these cases are unresolved and the perpetrators still at large. Families of the victims still have to contend with a justice system that grants the Philippine military as well as private armies of corrupt politicians a free pass to terrorize civilians, particularly open critics of the government, in order to quell dissent and protect the interests of a ruling landlord bureaucracy.
Against this current, it is principally the unflinching perseverance of the victims and their families, along with human rights advocates such as Karapatan, the peoples’ organizations under BAYAN Philippines,churches, lawyers, and progressive partylists to gather evidence and file cases in the domestic and international courts, reach out to human rights groups abroad to shape broad worldwide solidarity against impunity, and build a strong, dynamic people’s movement for human rights and for justice. Nearly a decade later, the fruits of this labor are beginning to appear with the issuance of an arrest order by the Regional Trial Court in Bulacan against Palparan and 3 co-accused in the 2006 dual abduction of University of the Philippines students Cadapan and Empeno.
BAYAN USA and its supporters welcome the recent and uncharacteristic turn of the Philippine state authorities to pursue an arrest of Palparan and his cohorts, following the arrest of his former commander-in-chief Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for electoral sabotage. But there remains no reason to assume the struggle for human rights can rest. Now more than ever, the people must stay vigilant in their pressure to the current Aquino administration to exact the full extent of the law on Palparan and his co-accused and ensure due payment for their crimes. This is but a fraction of what the victims and their families truly deserve.
“The families have suffered so much and the Philippine government has done very little to help them,” Roxas adds. “The burden has been upon the families, human rights defenders, and people’s organizations to pursue justice. Finally there is an issue of warrant for Palparan’s arrest. But as long as Palparan is still at large, trying to evade the law, as long as Sherlyn and Karen still remain missing, the fight for justice will continue.” ###
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 15 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org