‘Coward,’ missing students’ moms call Palparan after ex-general seeks to remain at NBI

"I wonder where Palparan gets his arrogance. What victory has he achieved in the battlefield against the New People's Army? All those areas where he was assigned as commander are still considered by the military as strongholds of the NPA."  - Aya Santos, Secretary General, Desaparecidos

InterAksyon.com | Philippine News Agency
August 14, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — The mothers of two University of the Philippines students whose abduction and disappearance retired Army general Jovito Palparan is charged with called him a “coward” on Thursday after he sought to remain in detention at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila.

Duwag si Palparan, sinungaling pa (Palparan is a coward and a liar),” Linda Cadapan and Connie Empeno said in a statement.

Palparan is facing kidnapping with serious illegal detention charges for the 2006 abduction of their daughters Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno in Bulacan.

The former general, dubbed the “Butcher” by human rights activists who accuse him of the rash of human rights abuses in areas where he served as military commander, was captured by the NBI and naval intelligence in Sta. Mesa, Manila on Tuesday after almost three years in hiding.

Soon after his arrest, he said he was willing to be jailed anywhere and would not seek special treatment as he maintained he was innocent of the charges against him.

Despite his controversial reputation, top military officials were quick to praise him after his arrest, citing his exploits in the service, and said soldiers even call Palparan “idol.”

On Wednesday, Judge Teodora Gonzales of Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 ordered the NBI to present Palparan personally and for him to be detained at the Bulacan provincial jail.

However, on Thursday, Palparan’s lawyer, Narzal Mallares, filed the “urgent ex parte” asking that the former general be allowed to remain at the NBI because of alleged plans by the New People’s Army to assassinate him.

Reacting to Palparan’s bid, the two mothers said: “Sinabi niyang handa siyang makulong kahit saan. Pero ngayon, gusto na naman niyang suwayin ang korte (He said he was prepared to be jailed anywhere. But now he is again defying the court).

They also recalled that, before the warrant for his arrest was issued, “sinabi rin niyang handa siyang harapin ang mga kasong isinampa. Sa halip pinagtaguan niya ito nang tatlong taon (he said he was ready to face the charges against him. Instead, he hid for almost three years).”

In the event the court grants Palparan his motion, they said, “mukhang lumalabo na naman ang hustisyang hinahangad naming (it would seem the justice we have been seeking will dim again).”

Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which is helping prosecute Palparan, said they would oppose the motion during the former general’s arraignment on Monday, August 18.

Olalia said the law requires an accused person to be detained at the police station detention cell or jail nearest the court trying the case.

He said the NBI, the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology are capable of protecting Palparan in detention.

Olalia also added that it would be more difficult to secure Palparan every time he has to travel from the NBI headquarters to Bulacan for hearings instead of if he is detained at the Bulacan jail, which is just a stone’s throw from the court.

EDITORIAL – Saved from disappearing


 (The Philippine Star) | continuing abductions of activists

This time at least the students did not disappear, never to be found again.

A student and a graduate of the University of the Philippines were taken by Army soldiers last Saturday in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija on suspicion that they were members of the New People’s Army. The story of UP psychology student Gerard Salonga and business management graduate Guiller Martin Cadano raised fears among their friends that they would suffer the fate of UP coeds Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. The two girls were taken by soldiers in 2006 also in Nueva Ecija. A witness said the two were tortured before they disappeared. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The failure to establish what happened to the two coeds – and to the many other Filipino desaparecidos – surely emboldens soldiers with a certain mindset to continue resorting to such methods in their operations. After a United Nations rapporteur on human rights said the military was in denial about rights violations attributed to state forces in this country, the Armed Forces insisted that all the questionable activities were part of legitimate counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.

The military general accused of involvement in the kidnapping and torture of Empeño and Cadapan, Jovito Palparan, is at large and is believed to be enjoying the protection of certain military elements that believe his methods are necessary evils in the name of national security.

This mindset can again be felt in the case of Salonga and Cadano who say they were framed by the military on charges of illegal possession of weapons and explosives. Colleagues at least searched relentlessly for the two students until they were found. Unless sanctions are imposed on those who engage in these activities, however, the nation is likely to see more desaparecidos like Empeño and Cadapan.

Why didn’t gov’t see the disappeared?

President Aquino: ‘You would be judged.’ Inset Desaparecido Jonas Burgos, whose case remains unresolved. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/622438/why-didnt-govt-see-the-disappeared#ixzz38G903r4B  Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

President Aquino: ‘You would be judged.’ Inset Desaparecido Jonas Burgos, whose case remains unresolved. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Kate Pedroso, Marielle Medina | Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines–It has been seven years since Edita Burgos’ son, farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, was abducted in Quezon City, and despite losing hope that she will find justice under the Aquino administration, she continues to draw strength from family and friends.

“One can never underestimate the strength of a united family,” Burgos told the Inquirer in an e-mail interview, adding that she also finds emotional and spiritual support from members of the group “Desaparecidos, Families of the Disappeared,” as well as relatives and friends of Jonas who make up the “Free Jonas Burgos Movement.”

“I am in touch with some members [of Desaparecidos], especially mothers, and we try to provide support to each other. Yes, I find comfort in these fellow victims. Yes, I can see how blessed I am when I am with them,” she added.

“The strength to continue the search comes from grace. Grace in accepting reality and grace in knowing that there is something we can still do to continue the search, to help other victims and to work for peace,” Burgos said.

She recalled how her family coped, especially during the first few months of her son’s disappearance.

“Living in the hands of God made us live from day to day especially during the early days. Whatever came, we accepted as grace. No clue was rejected, no person was ignored. Yet at the back of our minds we knew that it was possible [that] the clue was floated just to confuse us. We simply pursued the clue and if we hit a blank wall, which always happened, then we looked at other means,” she said.

Not on Aquino’s watch

Photo of Jonas taken right after his abduction on April 27, 2007. An informant sent a copy to his family on 2013.

Photo of Jonas taken right after his abduction on April 27, 2007. An informant sent a this to Burgos family on 2013.

“I don’t think that this administration will be the deciding factor on whether I will find Jonas or not. I do not believe either that justice will be served [on] Mr. Aquino’s watch. Our family has experienced how slow the wheels of justice move in our country,” she said.

In April, in time for the seventh anniversary of her son’s abduction, Burgos wrote an open letter to President Aquino and reminded him of his promise of a “dedicated and exhaustive investigation” into the incident.

“Our hope was anchored on your promise to do what you could ‘on the basis of evidence’ when I, accompanied by my son, personally pleaded for your help. This was almost four years ago, May 2010,” Burgos wrote.

“There has been no action since I wrote the open letter,” Burgos said. “The executive, judicial and military branches of government have been [silent]. This makes me wonder: What must a victim of the continued torture of not finding a disappeared do to get the attention of [the] government?”

Rights violations continue

Burgos lamented that human rights violations continued to happen under the Aquino administration.

“What is dangerous is that the government seems to be oblivious of these violations,” she said.

“Whereas before I was truly hopeful that [I would find] closure, that I would obtain justice during this administration, now, I know that [the] lost and stolen lives of victims of disappearances and all human rights violations as well have never been a priority of this administration.”

“It took more than six years for the courts to conclude that Jonas’ case was indeed an enforced disappearance and that he was abducted by the military,” Burgos said.

Frustrations shared

“Yet even after finding Harry Baliaga Jr., a military officer, as accountable and the Philippine Army as responsible for Jonas’ disappearance, nothing came out of the Supreme Court’s order for the military to surface my son. To this date, no one has been punished for the crime,” she said.

Burgos’s frustration is shared by various groups that have criticized the Aquino administration for inaction.

Human rights group Karapatan, which recorded close to 200 cases of extrajudicial killings from July 2010 to March 2014, said the President’s inaction on human rights violations committed during his administration was comparable to his reaction to the controversy involving the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), an economic stimulus plan that the Supreme Court struck down on July 1.

“[The President’s] tactic of sweeping under the rug human rights violations committed [on] his watch is the same scheme he is now using to cover up his accountability for carting away billions of [pesos in] people’s money under the Disbursement Acceleration Program. If the use of [the] DAP is unconstitutional and an impeachable offense, so are human rights violations committed during his four years in office,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

Journalist killings

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Philippines is among the top three countries where the murder of journalists is most likely to go unpunished, ranking third after Iraq and Somalia.

In its latest Global Impunity Index, released in May, CPJ said: “Fresh violence and a failure to prosecute old cases kept Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines in the three worst slots on the index.”

According to the CPJ report, “more than 50 journalist murders that took place from 2004 to 2013 remain unsolved, belying the claim made in November 2013 by Malacañang that ‘there is no more impunity’ in the Philippines.”

On June 9, veteran radio commentator Nilo Baculo Sr. became the latest journalist to be killed under the Aquino administration.

Baculo was shot dead near his home in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro province, by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

He became the 24th journalist to be killed on President Aquino’s watch.

Five years ago, Baculo, who hosted the hard-hitting program “Isumbong Mo kay Ka Nilo” on dwIM radio in Calapan, was denied by a court a protection order following alleged threats from elected officials in the province. He was no longer a practicing journalist at the time of his assassination.

More than 160 journalists have been killed since 1986, including the 32 who were killed in election violence in Maguindanao province in November 2009. That atrocity is now known as the Maguindanao massacre.

Families of Desaparecidos and Karapatan gather at the gate of Department of Justice in Manila to oppose DOJ decosion to drop Brig. Gen.Eduardo Ano and other military officials from the list of respondents of the criminal case on the diappearance of Jonas Burgos. INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/622438/why-didnt-govt-see-the-disappeared#ixzz38G8p3Njq  Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Families of Desaparecidos and Karapatan gather at the gate of Department of Justice in Manila to oppose DOJ decosion to drop Brig. Gen.Eduardo Ano and other military officials from the list of respondents of the criminal case on the diappearance of Jonas Burgos. INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

US rights report

Earlier in March, the US state department’s 2014 Human Rights Report also noted that human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances by government security forces, have continued unabated in the Philippines for the past year.

The report, which documents human rights conditions in the Philippines and more than 200 other countries, also cited widespread corruption and abuse of power among government officials and a “dysfunctional criminal justice system” as some of the most significant problems abetting human rights violations in the country.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) agreed with the state department’s findings, saying extrajudicial killings have persisted in the Philippines, and that the country’s criminal justice system has remained problematic.

“While there are efforts [by] the Armed Forces of the Philippines to try and improve, it’s true that there are still extrajudicial killings. [Though] they have been reduced, they’re still around and not yet eradicated,” CHR Chair Etta Rosales said.

Rights violations continued to hound President Aquino even during US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines in late April. A foreign correspondent raised the issue during their joint press conference with Obama.

Aquino told Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry: “As far as journalists are concerned, perhaps the track record speaks for itself. The Maguindanao massacre involved something like 32 journalists. There are presently something like over a hundred people who are indicted for this crime and are undergoing trial.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines criticized President Aquino’s response. “[President Aquino’s] reply to an American reporter during his joint press conference with US President Barack Obama clearly illustrates how much our illustrious leader really cares about media murders and extrajudicial killings in general—zilch,” the NUJP said in a statement released after the press conference.

Last year, international human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch urged the Aquino administration to declare deadly attacks on Filipino journalists a “national catastrophe,” while two other groups—Reporters Without Borders and the European Union delegation to the Philippines—condemned attacks on journalists and urged the government to take “decisive action.”

‘Higher court’

In the absence of action from the Aquino administration, Burgos said she just pinned her hope on a “higher court.”

“Prayer and belief in a higher court has been the family’s source of hope, not this administration’s actions. We pray that they—those in power (who could have made a difference but haven’t done anything)—would remember that they, too, [would] be judged,” she said.