THE military yesterday denied allegations by an international human rights watchdog that the armed forces are protecting a fugitive former general wanted for kidnapping and illegal detention of two female students in 2006.
In a report posted on its website on Tuesday, US-based Human Rights Watch urged President Benigno Aquino to order his armed forces to cooperate with civilian authorities in arresting retired Major General Jovito Palparan, called “The Butcher” by activists.
“President Aquino should get the message to the military that the years of protecting Palparan for grievous abuses are over,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The report said a group of active and retired military officials has publicly defended Palparan, denouncing what it called his “trial by publicity.” In a public statement on December 28, the military group said “it is not difficult to comprehend … the consequent demoralization in the soldiers’ ranks if this is allowed to happen.”
Pearson said there are concerns that the military may be interfering in the civilian judicial process.
Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, however, disputed this, saying “We are willing to cooperate with any agency … to help us also in further protection and promotion of human rights.”
“We challenge them to submit names; file a complaint and this will be addressed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We have the human rights office that can take charge of such complaints,” he said.
On the justice department’s complaint that the military transferred Palparan’s two co-accused from civilian jail to a military camp without due process, Burgos said they had to do that because the two are in “active service.”
The two co-accused, Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Antado and Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio, were transferred to military custody in December last year by order of a provincial court.
However on January 9, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima asked the defense secretary and the armed forces to account for the detainees, saying that the lawyer who made the petition on behalf of an unnamed intelligence and security group commanding officer is not the lawyer who represented Antado and Osorio during the preliminary investigation and in the initial hearings.
Burgos explained that “we have custody [because they are in active service]. It’s a matter of policy. We will not tolerate personnel who are coddling or providing safe haven, sanctuary, to personalities wanted by the law.”
Report from ucanews.com