The “butcher” whom leftist activists feared the most and suspect of being the military brass behind many human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, including extrajudicial killings and disappearances, seeks to be protected from communists.
“I don’t want special treatment,” said captured fugitive Maj. Gen. (ret.) Jovito Palparan on Tuesday, “but the government must give me adequate security because I don’t want to be killed by ‘the enemy.’ “
By “the enemy” he meant the communist New People’s Army operatives whom he hunted down as an AFP officer until he retired.
He then entered politics, became a congressman, and fled when he was going to be arrested to face charges on two counts of kidnapping, serious illegal detention in connection with the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
Palparan became one of the most publicized wanted fugitives since he went into hiding in 2011.
Shortly after his arrest early on Tuesday, Palparan repeatedly said — to print, radio-TV reporters and news anchors interviewing him — that he did not wish to die in the hands of “the enemy.”
Palparan, gaunt, long haired and wearing a beard, did not resist arrest when agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and intelligence agents of the Philippine Navy swooped down on the house in Barangay 626, Old Sta. Mesa, Manila, where he had been hiding since May.
The retired general turned lawmaker was taken to the NBI headquarters for temporary detention while authorities waited for his commitment order from the courts.
He said the arresting team had treated him professionally and that he was grateful his arrest had no untoward incidents.
“I feel secure here [at the NBI]. I don’t want special treatment. Or hospital arrest. I just don’t want to be killed by ‘the enemy’,” he said, explaining that he wanted to be kept secure because he did not want his family to be constantly worried about his safety.
He had already been given a shave when the NBI allowed him to face the media.
Although he had lost a lot of weight, Palparan, who spoke mostly in Tagalog to the reporters, claimed to be physically fit. He admitted “having a heart problem that’s really nothing that I can’t deal with.” He spoke in English when he said, “my weight loss should be addressed.”
“He is just asking for security assurance,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said when asked if Palparan would be given special treatment.
“I should have surrendered a long time ago. But my family relayed a message that they were against it. They were afraid for my security. I know that if only the court would be impartial, I could win this case,” the former general said.
Palparan said he had tried and failed several times to reach former President, now Pampanga Rep., Gloria Arroyo.
“I had no contact with the outside world,” he said.
Palparan denied any involvement in the abduction of Cadapan and Empeño, saying the military was not in any way involved in their alleged kidnapping.
“Wala namang na-involve o nag-move na military at that time (there were no military movements at that time),” he said. “Marami rin silang kalaban, nasagasaan . . . Basta, I’m sure walang na-involve na mga tao ko dun [they also had enemies, people they crossed.
I’m sure my men were not involved],” he added.
Palparan maintained that Cadapan and Empeño were not students but members of the NPA.
The former general was also implicated in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, who was abducted on April 28, 2007 in an eatery in Quezon City.
Unlikely hiding place
Two other persons were arrested with Palparan yesterday— Reynaldo Ladao and Grace Roa. Ladao, believed to be a security guard of the Bantay Security Agency owned by the Palparan family, owns the house where the former general hid for months.
Justice Secretary de Lima said the NBI is readying charges against Ladao and Roa for harboring a fugitive.
Palparan said he never left Metro Manila since he went into hiding in 2011. He did not say where he stayed before moving to Ladao’s house, which is just two blocks away from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), a university known to be the home ground of militant youth groups.
“I even saw [students]marching in front of the house where I was hiding,” he said.
He said he did not really disguise himself while he was moving around, even after the government offered a P2 million bounty for his head. His hair and beard grew because he could not afford to go to a barbershop for a trim.
Rommel Vallejo, head of the NBI’s Anti-Organized Crime Division, said his men scoured the provinces of Zambales, Pampanga and Bataan in their hunt for Palparan.