MANILA, Philippines - A US-based human rights group yesterday urged President Aquino to order the military to cooperate with civilian authorities in arresting retired general Jovito Palparan and others charged with the enforced disappearance of two activists in 2006.Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said they have information that some sympathetic military personnel were thwarting attempts by civilian authorities to capture Palparan.
“President Aquino should get the message to the military that the years of protecting Palparan for grievous abuses are over. Officers and soldiers alike should be on notice that if they block civilian authorities in arresting Palparan, they, too, will face legal consequences,” Pearson said.
The military, however, yesterday challenged Human Rights Watch to name the soldiers providing protection to Palparan.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said they are ready to work with agencies that would probe the supposed coddlers of the retired general.
“We challenge them (Human Rights Watch) to submit names. You file a complaint and this will be addressed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Burgos said in a press briefing.
“We are willing to cooperate with any agency to help us also in further protection and promotion of human rights,” he added.
Burgos said they will not tolerate any soldier providing safe haven or sanctuary to wanted personalities.
He, however, said sanctions can only be slapped on active soldiers and not the retired ones.
“We don’t have any jurisdiction anymore for those who are retired in the Armed Forces but provide us with the names of those in the active service then we would initiate action,” Burgos said.
Palparan has been on the run since he was charged in December with kidnapping University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006. The two activists remain missing.
Apart from Palparan, the Department of Justice also filed charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against Sgt. Rizal Hilario, who is also on the run, while Lt. Col. Felipe Antado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio have surrendered and transferred to military custody.
For her part, Cadapan’s mother Erlinda said efforts of the government in hunting down Palparan are not enough, adding that it should have issued a shoot-to-kill order for the retired general instead of just offering P1-million reward for his capture.
“I don’t think the government is serious in helping us get justice for our children,” Mrs. Cadapan said in Filipino. – With Alexis Romero, Dino Balabo, AP - By Rhodina Villanueva (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)