December 09, 2005

A small victory for human rights

Maj. General Jovito Palparan’s bypassing at the Commission on Appointments, a few days before Human Rights Day on December 10, is a small victory for the human rights organizations and the families, co-workers and friends of those killed, abducted and/or harassed in the regions where he has been assigned to lead counter-insurgency campaigns.

In Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas and Central Luzon, Mr. Palparan has gained well-deserved notoriety as the “Butcher” because of the rash of killings of progressive leaders, activists and common folk who the military claims to be supporting the New People’s Army (NPA).

However the clamor to make him accountable for his crimes against the people has fallen on deaf ears as Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) keeps on rewarding him by not paying any attention to the complaints against him and continuing to recommend his promotion to Congress. On the other hand, the justice department keeps on dismissing the criminal complaints lodged against him and his men despite compelling evidence of his complicity in these murders.

What is utterly condemnable about Mr. Palparan’s track record is not just what one broadsheet bannered as a “fiesta of political killings” and other human rights violations that military units under his command stand accused of . What is infuriating is the man’s unabashed justification for his bloody, iron-hand rule (in most instances, superseding that of local civilian authorities) by means of his fascist mindset.

For example, Mr. Palparan does not distinguish between armed combatants of the NPA and unarmed activists with Left-leaning politics; to him they are both legitimate targets of military operations and should be “neutralized”. He considers terror tactics such as rounding up suspected NPA or NPA-sympathizers, arbitrarily detaining them or torturing them into admitting their guilt, and even making them “disappear” as all within the bounds of permissible methods in countering the alleged “communist-terrorists”. He spouts his rabid, anti-communist tirade against prominent party list congresspersons accusing them of funneling their pork barrel to the NPA or support for the NPA without feeling obliged to show an iota of proof.

He glowered at witnesses testifying against him in outstanding cases of human rights violations such as the abduction and murder of Eden Marcellana, a staunch and fearless human rights worker, and Eddie Gumanoy, well-loved peasant leader from Mindoro Oriental in 2003. His men tried to intimidate the grieving relatives and fellow activists of the slain leaders by taking their photographs during the preliminary investigation while his other underlings strut around with their bulging handguns at their waist.

Mr. Palparan prides himself in his psywar tactics including how he thinks he is able to unmask the leaders of the national democratic movement by simply smearing them “red”.

The outcome of the Congressional confirmation of Mr. Palparan’s promotion will be a litmus test of where human rights is headed in this country especially in the light of another piece of fascist legislation waiting to be enacted – the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) – a bill that takes inspiration from the US Patriot Act.

One would wish that such a crucial test were not lodged with the Lower House, that prostituted institution that is still earning the ire of many of our fellow Filipinos for another kind of murder; that is, the killing of the impeachment complaint against GMA. ###

Dec. 8-9, 2005


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