US embassy cables tagged Palparan on killings

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Dec 17 2011 12:02 AM | Updated as of Dec 17 2011 08:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who has been ordered indicted by the Department of Justice (DOJ), was mentioned in more than a dozen US embassy cables that tackled extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

The cables, some labeled confidential, have been published by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

US embassy cable 07MANILA468 sent purportedly in the name of then US ambassador Kristie Kenney, said the head of a special commission that looked into the killings met with Palparan and then Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon to tackle the killings.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo said Palparan -- who was accused of involvement in abduction and killings of activists -- claimed that he could not "control" troops under his command who might engage in such illegal behavior. 

"MG Palparan even acknowledged to the Commission that he 'might have encouraged' such killings, but claimed that those were the 'individual responsibility' of whoever committed the killings,” the cable said.

'Neutralize enemies of the state'

Esperon, meanwhile, told Melo that it is acceptable for soldiers to "neutralize" any "enemies of the state," but claimed that neutralization did not necessarily mean murder.

The Department of Justice recommended Friday the indictment of Palparan for 2 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the disappearance of University of the Philippines student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno in 2006.

Palparan has maintained innocence over the allegations.

Cable 07MANILA458, meanwhile said US embassy political officers met with then Philippine National Police (PNP) Task Force Usig Commander Avelino Razon to discuss the killings.

Police statistics showed a concentration of killings in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions, with no cases at all in Western or Central Mindanao Regions or in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the memo said.

"General Razon confirmed suspicions that the Luzon killings may be linked to the then-presence of now-retired but still highly controversial Major General Jovito Palparan, although he noted that there was little or no hard evidence directly linking Palparan or units under his command to such killings," it added.

Palparan's 'aggressive leadership style'

Cable 06MANILA4002 said Esperon told US embassy officials that he "understood" their concern about the killings, "indicating that it is a 'tough issue' and that he is aware that the Philippines' reputation was being harmed.”

"Esperon acknowledged the possibility of military involvement in EJKs [extrajudicial killings]," it said. "Now-retired Major General Palparan's aggressive leadership style and public bravado might have been misconstrued by some overzealous subordinates as license to attack militants. Esperon does not believe General Palparan personally directed the killings."

Cable 07MANILA1099, on the other hand, said Palparan's name cropped up again when embassy officials talked to Bulacan Governor Jessie de la Cruz and Catholic Bishop Jose Oliveros regarding violence in the province.

"Bishop Oliveros laid specific blame on now-retired AFP General Jovito Palparan, the previous commander of the 7th Infantry Division, for promoting unlawful killings as a counterinsurgency tactic," the cable said.

"The bishop described a 'chilling meeting’ with General Palparan in 2006, during which the general had claimed that killings were 'sometimes necessary' to stop a 'greater evil.'  Bishop Oliveros commented carefully that the AFP should take some responsibility for at least some of the unlawful killings," it added.

Palparan's track record

De la Cruz also criticized Palparan in her meeting with US officials.

The governor told them that she knew about his "track record" prior to becoming 7th Infantry Division commander.

"She said she had specifically warned him against using a similar strategy of targeting leftists in Bulacan," the cable said. "The governor underscored that disappearances and killings in Bulacan had abated quickly after General Palparan's departure in September 2006, an observation that she said statistics from the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) confirmed."

De La Cruz said 15 political killings and 13 involuntary disappearances occurred during Palparan's 2-year tenure in the province as military commander.

The numbers dropped to only 2 political killings and one disappearance in the 6 months following his retirement.

Cable 07MANILA1284 said Malou Mangahas, chairperson of the Board of Editors of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, criticized then President Gloria Arroyo for publicly praising Palparan in her 2006 State of the Nation Address despite the Melo Commission tagging him as partly responsible for the killings.

Erlinda Cadapan, the mother of one of the UP students who remain missing, has welcomed the DOJ's decision to have Palparan, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado Jr., Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario, and Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, to be indicted. 

"Hopefully madidiin na (si Palparan) dahil makikita naman ang ebidensiya na siya ang may kagagawan," Cadapan said.

"Hindi lamang hustisya ang hinahanap ko, hinahanap ko rin ang physical appearance ng aking anak," she added.