Palparan denies killings

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Escorted by 100 policemen and bomb-sniffing dogs, a retired general whom leftists called “The Butcher” of Mindoro, finally appeared before the Melo Commission yesterday and denied allegations he masterminded the killings of members and leaders of antigovernment groups.

Clad in a civilian suit, retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan said the data showing a rise in the killings of leftist-militants in his areas of assignment were part of a communist propaganda campaign to discredit him and the military.

“I’m not in the position to agree with them,” Palparan said in response to queries of lawyer Rogelio Vinluan, legal counsel of the commission.

The data on the killings came from Karapatan, a nongovernment organization with alleged links to the leftist-militants.

Palparan, who considered the antiinsurgency campaign his unfinished business, said Karapatan fabricated its data on murders of activists.

Based on the records of Karapatan, 25 political murders were recorded in Mindoro, many of the victims were members of Bayan Muna, during Palparan’s stint there as brigade commander.

During Palparan’s tour of duty in Eastern Visayas, 22 incidents of killings of civilians were reported while in Central Luzon, 75 killings were listed during his stint.

Most of the slain activists in this area were members of Anakbayan and Bayan Muna, according to Karapatan.

Palparan was assigned in Mindoro from May 2001 to April 2003; Eastern Visayas from February 2005 to August 2005; and Central Luzon from Sept. 7, 2005 to Sept. 11.

He said there were more incidents of killings in the provinces before he was assigned.

Explaining the dubious title “The Butcher,” Palparan said: “I earned the tag from those who considered me their enemy. The militants and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army are out to discredit me or get rid of me physically.”

Palparan, who retired earlier this month, was cleared of rights abuses by the military, Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon told the commission last week.

Palparan was singled out by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her State-of-the-Nation Address in July and media say he is likely to be rewarded with a senior post in government.

Communist insurgents vowed to kill Palparan and called him “dead man walking.”

Palparan said: “Modesty aside, I have made it quite difficult for the CPP-NPA. They are really out to discredit me.”

Even as he bowed out of service, Palparan said he would pursue the campaign to eliminate insurgency. “I am retired now but my mission is not finished. We must help each other to eliminate insurgency. It’s the duty of every citizen to make this country peaceful.”

Denying the communist claim that he fomented conflict, Palparan said the peace and order situation in the provinces improved when he took command of the military posts in these areas.

But he failed to show documents to prove his claim. He said the police have the records of the killings before his tour of duty in the said provinces.

Palparan said the supposed increase in the incidents of killings were only noticed because of the “reaction, loud voice, and opposition” of the groups against him. “The opposition is stronger. Militants reach to the rural folk through radio and television.”

Palparan said he was singled out by the CPP-NPA because of all the generals, “I think, modesty aside, I’ve been very vocal against the CPP-NPA.”

He took credit for denying the rebels of their lifeblood, which is in the form of revolutionary tax.

Palparan said that despite his retirement, his work “to eliminate a problem as big as insurgency” is not yet finished. He said he would still help to make the country peaceful.

During an interview after his testimony, Palparan said he was positive that he would be cleared by the commission. “I spoke the truth. Truth will not incriminate me. I can’t tell a lie.”