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Palparan draws support from generals

December 29, 2011 ·  By By Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Norman Bordadora, TJ Burgonio

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Retired Maj.Gen Jovito Palparan was commander of the 7th Infantry Division during former President Gloria Arroyo’s reign, before he unsuccessfully ran for senator in 2010.

Retired Maj.Gen Jovito Palparan was commander of the 7th Infantry Division during former President Gloria Arroyo’s reign, before he unsuccessfully ran for senator in 2010.

Fugitive retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. has finally found succor and comfort from among his own.

The organization of the country’s past and present military and police generals has called for a halt to the “undue trial by publicity” of Palparan who carries a P500,000 bounty on his head, even as they urged him to face the kidnapping charges for the 2006 disappearance of two University of the Philippines student activists.

The Association of General and Flag Officers Inc. (Agfo) on Wednesday denounced Palparan’s projection in the media as a “serial murderer” when he has neither been tried nor convicted by a court.

“We are disturbed by the exploitation of the case of General Palparan, who has not yet been convicted by any court of law, and his projection as a serial murderer, a “berdugo” based on pieces of evidence that are yet to be scrutinized in due process by the court,” said retired Lieutenant General Raul Urgello, a former Army commanding general and Agfo chairman and president, in a statement.

“We believe that he must face the charges against him and equally in his right to be tried fairly based on facts and circumstances devoid of any political or ideological insinuations,” Urgello said.

Demoralization in the ranks

It was the first time that a military group like Agfo has come out openly on the issue since the Malolos City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 issued an arrest warrant against Palparan and three Army personnel on December 19.

The generals warned of “demoralization in the soldiers’ ranks” if “the ideological enemies of the state will capitalize on this issue to support their deadly political-military struggle.”

“The military should not be weakened by the perception of injustice in its ranks,” said Urgello, pointing out that Palparan and the three Army personnel charged with him were charged for alleged acts committed while still in the active service “leading operations against the communist insurgents in Central Luzon.”

“We request that the undue trial by publicity against Major General Palparan, spawned by some media entities, be stopped. Let the courts determine his innocence or guilt, in fair due process. The rule of law should prevail over the demands of interest groups in the courts of public opinion,” he continued.

To Palparan, his fellow generals said: “We hope that Major General Palparan will be enlightened and begin to trust our system of justice and the people appointed to implement it.”

But in a phone interview, Urgello did not press for Palparan’s surrender.

Presumed innocent

“That is his decision, maybe to clarify the issue against him. Maybe that’s one course of action. What we want to emphasize is that we avoid a trial by publicity,” he said.

He said the group spoke out to underscore Palparan’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“Let’s not assume that he’s already guilty and let’s not go into a trial by publicity. We are asking for fairness,” he said.

Urgello, who said he has not spoken to Palparan, said it was possible that Palparan was apprehensive that leftist groups will go after him while he is detained.

“Maybe that is the reason why he is in hiding, but that is speculation. Our point is, it is our stand to see to it that his rights are protected,” said the former Army chief.

Military or civilian custody?

Malacañang on Wednesday said the government would ensure Palparan’s safety.

But presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda could not say categorically whether Palparan would be placed under military custody like his two coaccused soldiers, instead of being detained in an ordinary jail.

Palparan is facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges in connection with the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño who disappeared in Hagonoy, Bulacan province, in 2006 and have not been seen since.

“He sent surrender feelers. Presumably those surrender feelers might carry with them some conditions and we don’t know what (those) surrender feelers are,” Lacierda said.

When his arrest does materialize, Lacierda said the government would make sure that Palparan is kept safe. “We want him to be prosecuted,” he said.

Edre Olalia, the lawyer for the families of the missing students, has criticized the transfer to military custody of Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, the two accused soldiers.

“The transfer of their custody to the Army does not inspire confidence in our justice system. It practically means they will be ‘at home’ in the good company and graces of their own who will coddle and cuddle them,” said Olalia.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday questioned the transfer of the two accused soldiers to a military camp. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she has directed the state prosecutors handling the case to file the appropriate motion in the Malolos court.

De Lima said the soldiers should be detained in a civilian facility like the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame or Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

Anotado and Osorio were taken to the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, from the Bulacan Provincial Jail on Friday after Malolos Judge Teodora Gonzales granted their request for a transfer.

Palparan, Anotado, Osorio and M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario were ordered arrested on December 19. Anotado and Osorio surrendered to authorities a day after Gonzales issued the arrest warrant while Palparan and Hilario went into hiding.

Anotado and Osorio had petitioned to be transferred to military custody out of fear for their safety at the Bulacan provincial jail where criminals and communist rebels are detained.

Strike proper balance

State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, who led the DOJ panel which recommended the filing of criminal charges against Palparan et al., said Anotado and Osorio were brought to the Army headquarters without the panel’s knowledge.

He said the DOJ was not furnished a copy of Gonzales’ order which allowed the pair to be taken under military custody. He said even the Armed Forces Provost Marshal “was looking for a copy” of Gonzales’ order.

“The accused have their own lawyers. The DOJ is hoping the Army is not lawyering for them. We have to strike a balance between the need to avoid any special treatment for the accused with the issue of their personal security while in detention,” Navera said.

With two of his coaccused having been transferred to military custody, it would not be far-fetched for Palparan to avail of the same “special treatment,” the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Wednesday.

“He can make use of the same argument that his life is in danger if detained in a regular jail. Palparan will be like in vacation. He’ll be right at home,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.

Reyes said the transfer of Anotado and Osorio to Fort Bonifacio was an “unfortunate and dangerous precedent.”

‘Unacceptable’

Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers that serves as private counsel for the students’ families, said the transfer would “further enrage the victims, their families, human rights defenders and the public if the same arrangement happens to Palparan should he be arrested, if at all.”

“This is unacceptable. It was done without us being notified at all. We were totally clueless about this. They pulled a fast one again. This will not sit well with a lot of people,” he said in a text message.

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