AFTER almost three years in hiding, agents of naval intelligence and the National Bureau of Investigation finally arrested retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan on Tuesday after surrender feelers he sent through his wife did not push through because of his family’s doubts.
“Palparan, through his wife, sent surrender feelers which I said can be accommodated,” said Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “But the surrender did not push through because the family had doubts.”
Año said Palparan’s family was afraid for the retired general’s personal safety because the communist New People’s Army had already ordered his liquidation and Palparan has already had three brushes with supposed assassins.
Año said Palparan intended to surrender to President Benigno S. Benigno III, but the plan was aborted due to the family’s reservations.
So Palparan continued to hide in several places in the country, Año said, but whenever the military mounted an operation to capture him, the former army division commander was able to elude arrest.
Año said Palparan was sighted in Bataan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Leyte and Cagayan de Oro, before he returned to Metro Manila a few months ago.
He said the military almost captured him in Angat, Bulacan, but the military again lost track of him.
The ISAFP chief said Palparan is very adept at escape and evasion tactics.
“General Palparan can hide inside the house for days without even getting sunshine. He is that patient. He can be very patient not to contact or communicate with his family,” he said “He is also very aware of the surroundings.”
He said Palparan returned to Metro Manila and stayed in several places, but the military could not pin him down because his calls to wife were infrequent.
“Finally, there was a breakthrough with the splendid effort of our Naval Intelligence and Security Force. They were able to pinpoint the house in Sta. Mesa where General Palparan had been staying there for almost three months already ,” Ano said.
“Our NISF operatives and joined later by elements of the National Bureau of Investigation were able to have a glimpse of General Palparan and then they served the warrant in the house of certain Grace Roa,” he said.
Finally, the chief of the NBI Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division, Rommel Vallejo, said they were tipped off last Aug. 10 by an informant that Palparan was at the house on Valenzuela and Teresa streets in Sta. Mesa.
Palparan, who carries a P2 million bounty on his head, did not resist arrest and was immediately taken to the NBI headquarters on Taft Avenue where he is temporarily detained, Vallejo said.
Palparan, 64, has a pending warrant of arrest issued in 2011 by a Bulacan court for two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the alleged abduction of Cadapan and Empeño.
But Palparan, who won a congressional seat in 2007 under the Bantay party list, denied any involvement in the abductions.
He also insisted the military has no involvement in the disappearances, saying that the students had “many enemies.”
“I’m sure my men were never involved,” Palparan said after his arrest.
He claimed that the two victims were no longer students when they were abducted, but members of the communist New People’s Army. They were described as students for propaganda purposes, he added.
Palparan said he went into hiding because he feared for his security, not out of guilt.
“I will face my charges. I will look for a lawyer. The expenses and security are my concerns (now),” he said.
Palparan said he had a serious heart condition but said he was more worried about threats to his life.
“I would rather die from my illness but not at the hands of my enemies,” Palparan said in a press conference.
He said preferred an ordinary but well-secured jail.
Palparan said he was able to elude arrest by moving from one place to another since he went into hiding almost three years ago.
But he denied reports that he stayed in Camp Aguinaldo with the help of his colleagues.
He also denied knowing the whereabouts of his co-accused, Rizal Hilario.
Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo urged authorities not to give Palparan special treatment, and insisted that he be jailed and held accountable for his crimes.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the arresting officers presented Palparan, who looked haggard, to journalists at a news conference.
De Lima said they would ensure Palparan’s security while he was detained, but brushed aside any suggestion of VIP treatment.
“He wants to ensure his security and quite understandably, we will give that to him. We will secure him but there will be no special treatment. Just fair, just and humane treatment,” De Lima said.
She said Palparan would be given a fair trial before the Bulacan court.
The arrest of Palparan should ease relations between the Aquino administration and leftist groups, which have repeatedly criticized the government for its failure to solve summary executions and forced disappearances of suspected communists.
“This shows that this government is determined to remove the culture of impunity,” she said.
De Lima called on the rest of the “Big Five” fugitives – former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, Dinagat Rep. Ruben Ecleo and New People’s Army leader Jorge Madlos—to surrender.
De Lima said investigators would dig deeper to determine who helped Palparan evade arrest.
“Those who helped and coddled him will be investigated because... obstruction of justice and harboring of fugitives [is a criminal offense],” she said.
Arrested with Palparan were Grace Roa and Reynaldo Ladao.
When he was arrested, Palparan was wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts. His hair was long and he wore a mustache and beard.
Military public affairs head Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the arresting team was composed of military, police and NBI agents.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, welcomed the arrest of Palparan so that justice may be served to all the victims that he allegedly ordered abducted and who remain missing to this day.
Palparan, who was nicknamed “The Butcher” when he was in active service, was deeply involved the government’s counter-insurgency program.
“Karapatan welcomes the long overdue arrest of Palparan. Those who harbored and kept Palparan from being arrested the past years should be held accountable as well. Palparan’s arrest is due to the
persistent and untiring struggle for justice of victims and kin, and the Filipino people against state repression,” Palabay said.
But she also said Palparan’s arrest would not absolve President Benigno Aquino III of accountability for human rights violations – killings, torture and enforced disappearances – committed by Palparan during his administration.
Palparan was a commander of 203rd Brigade based in Mindoro for almost two years beginning in 2003 before becoming commander of the 7th Infantry Division based in Nueva Ecija in September 2005.
He was also commander of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Bataan in 1981 to 1991 and Chief of the 8th Infantry Division based in Samar and Leyte in February to April of 2005. – With Jerrylyn B. Damaso
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