MANILA - Retired major general Jovito Palparan wanted to surrender as early as last year but only to President Aquino, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, Gazmin said Palparan sent surrender feelers sometime last year.
"He wanted to surrender to the President. I told the President 'Why would he surrender to you?' He should surrender to us. When I said he should surrender to us, he went into hiding (again)," said Gazmin.
Authorities arrested Palparan early Tuesday, ending a three-year manhunt for a person human rights groups accuse of massive violations.
Palparan, 63, a two-star general and a one-term congressman, was found hiding in Santa (Sta.) Mesa district, near the presidential palace, by government agents and soldiers.
Gazmin said Palparan's training as a former soldier helped him elude arrest.
"We were trained not to be caught. We know tactics, techniques on escape and evasion. He probably used that. Plus, he may have friends who helped him," he said.
For his part, Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Pio Catapang denied that military officers or personnel coddled Palparan.
He said there was no truth to rumors that the retired major general even hid in Camp Aguinaldo.
"He was a soldier. He knows the intelligence (community). He knows the ins and outs," he said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Palparan would face charges of kidnapping two university students, who remain missing.
The Karapatan human rights group blames Palparan for some 800 documented cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in 2006. Many cases were filed during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but were dismissed, they said.
In an interview, Palparan said he has no regrets in his campaign against the communist insurgency. He said he would face the charges in court.
"I have no regret, regret of what I have done because what I did was for the good of the people. Why should I regret? On the case filed against me, it's only natural for them to file one because they think, with all modesty aside, maybe in their minds I was so successful in my campaign, so they have to put me down, they have to put a stop, and to add to that, nobody else can do what I did to them," the ex-general said. With a report from Reuters