Release Gen. Palparan?

August 26, 2019

BEFORE proceeding, my sincere condolence to the family of ‘Kuyang’ Ed Verzola, who passed away only recently from a bout with cancer. Isa si Kuyang Ed sa mga “matibay” na haligi ng National Press Club. Your absence will surely be missed, Kuyang Ed! Hanggang sa muli.

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The first time I got to meet the now incarcerated, former MGen. Jovito Palparan, was in early 2000, back when he was the ‘Task Force Banahaw’ commander based in San Pablo City, Laguna (TFB would soon be replaced by the 202nd Brigade), during the term of the late Florante ‘Boy’ Aquino as city mayor (2001 – 2004).

At the time, my good friend, SPC councilor, Egay ‘Doc Egay’ Adajar (justice remains elusive for him and his family after he was murdered in 2013), asked me to join him in personally “thanking” then Col. Palparan for preventing what could have been a “bloodbath” pitting his men and the members of the local police force.

Days before there was a serious incident when the local police responded to a call from a local resort owner about a group of fully-armed soldiers—and drunk—allegedly sowing fear at the resort (I can’t recall the name anymore).

One thing leads to another during their confrontation and before the day was over, one soldier was shot dead by the police while a policeman also ended up dead—inside the TFB’s military camp.

It turned out that the dead soldier was a highly-respected platoon sergeant and a “veteran” of many anti-insurgency campaigns in Southern Tagalog.

Back in their camp, the soldiers are “unwilling” to accept that their highly-respected comrade would end up dead, not in the hands of the New People’s Army (NPA) but, in the hands of a lowly policeman (who managed to scamper away) and so they ended up “capturing” his companion.

Konsi Egay, who facilitated the negotiation with the TFB with the help of the local mayor of the nearby Rizal town, said he was “frightened” at the time because the soldiers are “warming” the engine of their V150 “tanks” and readying their weapons for an “assault” of the SPC police station.

Fortunately, Konsi Egay said they managed to reach Col. Palparan by phone, who was not at his camp at the time and was wholly ignorant of what had happened.

Konsi Adajar narrated that after talking to one of his officers, the entire camp stood down— the engines of the V150s were turned off and the soldiers quietly returned to their barracks. They also turned over the policeman to Konsi Egay, who ended up dead while in their “custody.”

With the crisis immediately resolved largely due to the strong leadership of Col. Palparan over his men, Konsi Egay said it is only right that we personally convey our gratitude to him. The three of us downed several bottles of beer together.

Palparan would then go on to lead the anti-insurgency campaign in MIMAROPA (204th Brigade, subsequently renamed 203rd Brigade) and then in Samar/Leyte (8th Infantry Division) and finally, in Central Luzon, as division commander of the 7th Infantry Division.

Gen. Palparan, it has been said, has this belief that his “own way,” which is the “hard way” (mailed fist policy) is the “best,” if not the “only” way, to fight all armed state enemies (he won the Gold Cross for bravery in combat as a 2nd lieutenant battling not the NPAs but, over 150 MNLF fighters in Patikul, Sulu, in 1978).

Some military officers commented that his “hatred” with the communist must have been partly due to his surviving an ambush staged by the NPA against his convoy while he was assigned in Mindoro and where he was seriously wounded.

On the other hand, his hatred was fully shared by the NPA who told yours truly that they “did not know” that Palparan was in the convoy.

Had they known about it, a ranking NPA commander told me back then that they would have “sacrificed” themselves in order to kill Palparan, whom they branded as a “berdugo,” a slur in his name that he never bothered to correct.

When he retired, his “obsession” against communism was made manifest again when he decided to run for the Senate in the 2010 elections, in the process foregoing his seat as a partylist representative in Congress.

When he went to the National Press Club (NPC) as a media forum guest, I asked him “why” he still wants to run for the Senate when he is already “assured” of a seat in Congress (and which somehow gives him “protection” from the then ongoing suit against him for the disappearance of two UP students in 2006, when he was still the 7th ID commander).

I remember him telling me, “because it is where (the Senate) those communist are running! Kung saan sila, doon din ako!” Palparan was referring to former NDFP spokesman ‘Ka’ Satur Ocampo (an NPC member who escaped from military custody during the 1985 NPC elections).

I told him, “Pareho kayong matatalo, Sir,” to which he replied, hindi bale, ang importante, matalo rin siya (Ocampo).”

Gen. Palparan would be finally convicted last year for the “kidnapping” of “student activists” Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, some four years after his arrest in 2014 in Sta. Mesa, Manila; he would again enter the Senate fray in 2016 because Nery Colmenares of ‘Bayan Muna’ was also running. They both lost.

Although his “aggressive” stand against armed state enemies has long been discredited by the military, the one thing that cannot be said against him is that, compared to his peers in the service, he is one “corrupt” military official who enriched himself while in active service.

Indeed, he strikes a sorry figure after his arrest—uncut hair, emaciated body, poor vision, no substantial money found on him—all indicating that during his entire military career, he never enriched himself.

While he may have his own way of dealing with “rebels” and “terrorists” the one thing too that can never be said against Gen. Palparan was that he disobeyed the chain of command or a lawful order given to him by his superiors.

In short, for many in the military, whatever others may say about Gen. Palparan, he is an “epitome” of what a soldier should be—loyal to the Constitution, loyal to the Armed Forces and its missions.

Now at over 68 years old, it would not be bad for the government to take a second look about his case. I mean, if the government can find the legal excuse to set free ‘Manong’ Juan Ponce Enrile, why not for General Palparan?

Besides, there was no “convincing proof” against him that resulted to his conviction, so his supporters say, adding that Gen. Palparan was just another victim of political persecution by the past administration whose link with the communists, particularly the Aquinos, are no longer in doubt.

Abangan!