Filipino Americans under the banner of the national alliance BAYAN-USA hailed the news of the arrest of Retired General Jovito Palparan. A fugitive for over two years, Palparan was notoriously known as “Berdugo” (the Butcher) by human rights groups and their supporters for the lead role he played in crafting one of the bloodiest counterinsurgency campaigns in Philippine history—Operation Plan Bantay Laya (OBL)– with the political blessing and economic support of US imperialism and tens of millions of dollars annually in US military aid.
“We welcome the news of the arrest of the despicable human rights violator Jovito Palparan. Most of all, we salute the courage of the survivors, victims’ families and their supporters, who brought about this arrest through their sheer perseverance in gathering evidence and filing cases in the domestic and international courts and building a strong people’s movement for human rights and for justice,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General Jessica Antonio.
Before his stint as a Philippine Congressman representing the Bantay Party-List, Palparan was a decorated military general under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. According to human rights group Karapatan, nine years of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya under Arroyo claimed 1,206 civilian lives through extrajudicial killings and another 206 in enforced disappearances. Among the survivors of the Palparan-Arroyo reign of terror is BAYAN-USA founding member Melissa Roxas, a community health worker from the US who traveled to the Philippines in 2009 and survived a violent abduction and torture by Philippine military elements before being surfaced six days later. While a Congressman, Palparan along with ANAD Party-list representative Jun Alcover led the rabid communist-branding campaign of Roxas and other victims of the military’s human rights abuses in a failed attempt to discredit the brave survivors who came forward to tell their stories.
Justice for the victims, including Roxas, remains painfully absent as an overwhelming majority of these cases remain unresolved and the perpetrators still at large. Survivors and families of the victims still have to contend with a justice system that grants the Philippine military as well as private armies of corrupt politicians a free pass to terrorize civilians, particularly open critics of the government, in order to quell dissent and protect the interests of a ruling landlord bureaucracy.
“Up to now, the Aquino administration has shown no will to stop the culture of impunity that became widespread under Arroyo and Palparan and continues through today. We challenge the Aquino government to finally live up to its promises and take swift action to bring Palparan and his minions to justice,” said Antonio.
“Even if Palparan is convicted, BAYAN-USA will continue to advocate for the prosecution of people in higher positions than Palparan, including former President Macapagal Arroyo,” continued Antonio. “We will continue fighting for the end of bloody counterinsurgency programs like Aquino’s Operation Plan Bayanihan, which is just a sugar coated version of the Palparan-Arroyo Oplan Bantay Laya.”
“We will also protest against any attempts by Aquino to use Palparan’s arrest to divert attention from the president’s own crimes against the people, including his desperate effort to cling to his personal pork barrel pot the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The DAP and human rights abuses spring from the same source: an unjust, corrupt-to-the core ruling system that benefits and protects the interests of the ruling landlord bureaucracy and U.S. imperialism. It is time for this culture of impunity to be stopped in its tracks and pulled up from its roots,” ended Antonio.