Philippine ex-generals hit ‘trial by publicity’

Philippine ex-generals hit ‘trial by publicity’
Fugitive Philippine Army Maj.Gen. Jovito Palparan gestures during a news conference at the National Bureau of Investigation following his capture by NBI agents Tuesday, Aug.12, 2014 in Manila, Philippines.

Retired military generals on Friday slammed what they claimed was the "trial by publicity" of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan following his arrest early this week.

The Association of General and Flag Officers (Agfo) maintained that Palparan, a fugitive for almost three years, is still entitled to due process.

"Let him have his day in court and defend himself against his accusers… Our justice system presumes that he is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law," retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, Agfo president said in a statement.

The 800-member organisation denounced the militant groups' incessant criticism and the branding of their fellow soldier as a "butcher." The 63-year-old Palparan is facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges before Malolos Regional Trial Court for the 2006 abduction of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

He was arrested in Sta. Mesa, Manila, by a joint effort of the National Bureau of Investigation and the military.

In a statement, the Agfo maintained that they sympathize with the families of the victims of the long-running insurgency, "whether they are civilians or soldiers."

Adan said, however, that branding Palparan as a "butcher" of communists and playing it up in the media does not contribute anything to the search for justice.

"We should not forget that the real enemies are those who resort to violence and intimidation to achieve their selfish political ends. In many societies, such actions are considered acts of terrorism and those who commit them, terrorists," he said.

The Agfo said due process should be observed in Palparan's case, which is how democracy works.

"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," the organisation said.

Adan also warned that Palparan's case should not be linked to politics, as the soldier has risked his life many times.

"Professional soldiers like Maj. Gen. Palparan faced hardships and risks, and 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. His courage and leadership had saved lives and protected communities. His sacrifices should be taken into account," the AGFO president added.

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez said the agency will present Palparan to the Malolos court for arraignment on Monday.

"We assure the court that we will comply with the order of his transfer and he will be present at his arraignment," Mendez told the Inquirer.

However, he declined to give details of Palparan's transfer to the Bulacan Provincial Jail for security reasons.

"We will follow the court order and bring General Palparan as soon as security concerns in transporting him to the jail or to the court are ironed out," he said.

Mendez said the commitment order of Palparan was received by the NBI late Wednesday afternoon.

He said based on the assessment of Rommel Vallejo, chief of the NBI's Anti-Organized Crime Division, an augmentation team from the Philippine National Police and the military are needed to ensure Palparan's safety while being transported to the provincial jail. "The threat to Palparan's life is real and serious that it should not be taken lightly," he said.

In a press conference, Mendez assured the public that Palparan was not being accorded special treatment. "He is treated like any ordinary detainee, except that security where he is currently detained is tight due to threats of his life, which we believe is real," Mendez said. Vallejo, who led the assault in Palparan's safe house in Sta. Mesa where the former general was arrested, told the Inquirer that Palparan was visited the other night by his wife, who brought him home-cooked food.

He said an NBI doctor who examined Palparan had recommended that the former general undergo other medical examination while under the NBI custody.

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