ACTIVE military officers on Friday took the cudgels for retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, once the poster boy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) anti-insurgency campaign, warning that any unfair treatment against the embattled retired official would be detrimental to the morale of the soldiers.
At the same time, the 800-member Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO), in a statement, denounced the trial by publicity being heaped by military groups against Palparan, who was arrested on August 12 in Manila.
An active officer who holds the rank of a captain lambasted Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for making Palparan a sacrificial lamb without considering the sentiment of the soldiers who risk their lives and limbs fighting the communist New People’s Army.
“The worse of them all is the SND (Secretary of National Defense). He has himself interviewed on television, boosting that he had long wanted to make the arrest of Gen. Palparan as a gift to the President so as to make the President smile,” the officer, who requested anonymity, told The Manila Times.
“It was a very expensive smile by the President. It is equivalent to the frown of more than a hundred thousand soldiers. Do our leaders understand our sentiment, our feeling?” the source said.
He added that Gazmin and other government officials were more preoccupied with external issues, fooling themselves that the NPA is already a spent force.
“The threat of the CNN (Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front) is very much alive. And while we are fooling ourselves that they are no longer a formidable force, we will wake again up one day that we are again on a curative mode, reactionary soldiers,” the source warned.
A parallel case, he pointed out, that of the officers and men who were charged before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the arrest of 43 suspected rebels, more popularly known as the Morong 43, in Morong, Rizal.
The rebels, the source said, were ordered released by the government to appease the communist leadership at the expense of the soldiers who only did their jobs.
“Capture of Palparan, laughing pill for Aquino,” he added.
The source described Palparan as a model soldier, one of the few who has not been involved in any malfeasance while in service, but whose only fault was his dedication to his job as member of the AFP.
“The truth is, the arrest of Palparan will make other generals look bad because Gen, Palparan has not been involved in graft and corruption, no [record of]immorality or issues of excesses. He did not enrich himself while in service,” he pointed out.
Maj. Amado Gutierrez, spokesman for the 8th Infantry Division, also warned that any unfair treatment against Palparan would cause demoralization among soldiers on the frontline.
“For me, Gen. Palparan is a good soldier. The government should see to it that his rights will be respected, that he is still innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, Otherwise, it will cause demoralization among soldiers that look up to him,” Gutierrez said.
On the positive side, he added that Palparan’s arrest would give him the opportunity to air his side of the story.
Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman, Eastern Mindanao Command, said that the case of Palparan is better left to the court for evaluation.
Meanwhile, AGFO Chairman and President Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan (retired) said Palparan should be given his day in court against his accusers and should not be linked to politics.