THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday vowed to fully cooperate with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the bureau opens a probe aimed at identifying private individuals and military personnel who may have helped and provided refuge to retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.
AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, however, clarified that Palparan, dubbed “The Butcher” by militants, is already retired and the military organization no longer has authority over him.
Zagala said the AFP will give its full support to the NBI if requested “because the AFP has a standing policy of upholding the law at all times, and therefore it will not coddle erring active or even retired military personnel.”
Rommel Vallejo, chief of the transnational crimes division of the NBI, earlier said they had started an investigation that seeks to identify personalities who supported Palparan.
“It is not only limited [to]military personnel, everybody else. Whoever will come out in the investigation, we will charge them with obstruction of justice and harboring a criminal,” Vallejo added.
AFP chief Gen. Catalino Pio Catapang, however, believes that no military personnel helped Palparan while the retired officer was on the lam.
“I firmly believe that nobody in our ranks coddled Gen. Palparan. So there’s no need for an investigation,” Catapang said.
He, however, added that he will immediately order an investigation if there is evidence showing that some men in uniform provided support to the controversial retired general.
Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano, the AFP’s intelligence chief, meanwhile, admitted that Palparan still has a lot of friends in the military.
But Ano dispelled any notion that anybody from their organization assisted Palparan.
Priest to testify
Meanwhile, Fr. Edu Gariguez, an associate priest of Tondo Parish in Manila, expressed his willingness to testify against Palparan “so that he will be made answerable for the abuses he committed in the past.”
The priest explained that most of his testimonies would center on the extra-judicial killings that happened during Palparan’s time in Mindoro.
Gariguez, the executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said he was among those “marked” for liquidation by Palparan.
He explained that his involvement in environmental issues and agrarian reform was the reason why Palparan wanted to silence him.
But Gariguez clarified that he can only provide circumstantial evidence, not direct testimonies.
He noted that during the time of Palparan, there were rampant extra-judicial killings in Mindoro.
Also on Wednesday, militants who staged a rally in front of the NBI headquarters in Manila assured Palparan that they are not out to kill him.
“What we want is for him to be transferred to a regular jail and that they stop giving him special treatment,” Karapatan spokesman June Ver Mangao told The Manila Times.
Mangao also urged Palparan to admit to the charges slapped against him.
Palparan was accused of masterminding the abduction of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in June 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
The two victims remain missing.
Palparan was commander of the 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, which has jurisdiction over Hagonoy, when the twin abductions happened.
“We will not hurt him. We believe in due process. All we want is fast prosecution and speedy disposition of justice,” Mangao said.
The retired general, in a news conference on Tuesday, admitted that he feared for his life because his enemies, supposedly communists, are out to get him.
Aside from the abductions of Empeno and Cadapan, Palparan was also accused of masterminding the killings of Eddie Gumanoy and Eden Mardella in Oriental Mindoro.
His other alleged victims were lawyer Juvy Magsino, Isaias Manano Jr. and Expedito and Manuela Albarillo, including three members of the Apolinar family in San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro.
Karapatan claimed that before Palparan’s transfer to Mindoro, he was held responsible for the killings of Milagros Belga and eight other activists in Laguna province under his Task Force Banahaw command.