MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – The oldest detainee in the Bulacan provincial jail will have “The Butcher” as his cellmate.
Edgardo Francisco, 72, said he is excited and privileged to have retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as cellmate.
Francisco would not say why he is detained. He said he would encourage Palparan to read the Bible.
He also assured Palparan that their cell is clean and comfortable.
Palparan, 64, is expected to be transferred to the provincial jail from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila.
Through his lawyer Narzan Mallares, Palparan has asked the court to allow him to remain in NBI custody.
Mallares argued Palparan would be safer in NBI custody, considering the threats on the life of the retired general who is accused of gross human rights violations targeting left-wing militants.
The NBI has also cited the risks of immediately taking Palparan to the provincial jail without security arrangements in place.
Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Teodora Gonzales has ordered the NBI, the provincial jail warden and the prosecution to comment on Palparan’s motion to remain in NBI custody.
Palparan is charged with two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the abduction of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherilyn Cadapan in Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006.
After the court issued the arrest warrant in 2011, Palparan went into hiding. NBI and military intelligence operatives caught him early Tuesday in a dilapidated house in Manila.
Palparan, called “The Butcher” by militant groups, claimed he wanted to surrender but could not because of the threat on his life by the communist New People’s Army, which has described him as a “dead man walking.”
Palparan, who had a P2-million bounty for his arrest, claimed he did not go into hiding because he was guilty but rather because he feared for his safety.
The NBI could not immediately present Palparan before the court because of the threats.
Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado has ordered increased security at the provincial jail. Warden Pepito Plamenco said they have implemented the order.
AGFO: Trial by publicity
Meanwhile, retired generals decried what they described as the “trial by publicity” of Palparan.
The Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO), through its president Edilberto Adan, said Palparan has the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by the court.
“Let him have his day in court and defend himself against his accusers. He is entitled to due process,” Adan said in a statement forwarded by the Armed Forces public affairs office.
“If he had abused his power and authority or committed any crime against anyone as the militants claim, then allow him to face his accusers, and they should present evidence for evaluation by competent authorities so that justice may be served,” Adan said.
AGFO, which claims to have 800 members, also frowned on the labeling of Palparan as a berdugo or butcher.
“We sympathize with the families of the victims of this long-running insurgency, whether they are civilians or soldiers. But branding Maj. Gen. Palparan a berdugo and playing it up in the media does not help the quest for justice,” Adan said.
While activists regard Palparan as the face of human rights violations, AGFO views him as a courageous leader who has saved lives.
“Professional soldiers like Maj. Gen. Palparan faced hardships and risks. He had put his life on the line like countless Filipino soldiers in the service of the country, starting as a junior officer in the 1970s,” Adan said.
“His courage and leadership had saved lives and protected communities. His sacrifices should be taken into account,” Adan added.
Palparan has earned the admiration of military officers for his strong stance against insurgency.
Militant groups, however, say he was behind numerous human rights violations targeting political activists. – With Alexis Romero