Palparan is suspect too, in bloody legacy in Mindanao

Aug. 14, 2014

DAVAO CITY – He is called “the butcher” for the spate of killings and disappearances of activists in his helm as general in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon. But retired general-former congressman-turned fugitive Jovito Palparan is also being linked to a bloody legacy in Mindanao where he was seen after his retirement.

Palparan’s entry to Mindanao was not as a general, but as congressman of the obscure Bantay Partylist.  In December 2009, he and another partylist representative, Pastor Alcober of Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) arrived in Davao City to launch their anti-communist propaganda war on Davao region that they labeled as “hotbed of insurgency”.

Palparan, who was then running for a senate seat as an independent candidate, announced that he would focus his campaign in Davao City. He singled out Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for “alleged ties with communists”.

See: ‘We have prevailed despite Arroyo’s OBL’, says Ka Oris

The two representatives were reportedly invited to Davao by House Speaker Prospero Nograles, an ally of former President Gloria Arroyo and at that time was running for the mayoralty position against Duterte.

Days after Palparan’s statement came out, Bayan Muna Southern Mindanao spokesperson Ariel Casilao received a death threat from a voice call on his cellphone.

See: Casilao gets death threat; Points to Palparan and his cohorts as probable culprits

“Persona non-grata” in Davao

Palparan and Alcober’s remarks also earned the ire of city officials, that on February 2010 the City Council declared them “persona non-grata”, for putting the city in a bad light and discouraged safety and investments in the city.

The propaganda against Duterte went as far as ANAD and Bantay members burning a tarpaulin with a photograph of Duterte shaking heads with New People’s Army leader Ka Parago during the mayor’s visit to the hinterlands for talks on peace and order.

Duterte, who also establish open line with leftist and revolutionary organizations, was unperturbed with this threat.

“Sunog me, sunog you, ana lang man na. (You burn me, I’ll burn you. That’s how you want it),” Duterte told reporters after the incident.

On March 24, 2010, two members of ANAD and Bantay partylists went missing during their campaign in Calinan, 30 kilometers to the northeast of downtown Davao City. They were later found dead, their bodies afloat in the Davao Gulf near the shores of Samal Island.

Strangely, one of the dead was using an alias, as his real identity was surfaced as Donald Caigas, who the human rights group, Karapatan, said was one of the soldiers linked to the abduction of the UP students Karen Empeno and Sheyn Cadapan.

The kidnapping was resurfaced shortly after the arrest of Palparan, who immediately denied the accusation.

While ANAD and Bantay staged a protest caravan after the killing of their campaign personnel, Palparan was no longer to be seen in the public of Davao City after that.

Palparan was among the bottom losers of the senatorial elections. But the election watchdog Pagbabago reported that his former battalion, the 69th IB was found doing black propaganda among students in Davao City labelling the Makabayan coalition partylists as fronts of communist movement, a campaign in violatoin of the Omnibus Election Code that bars state security agents in campaigning or participating in the election.

Anti-mining activist killing linked to Palparan

Davao City was not the only place that Palparan step foot in Mindanao after his retirement.

During the 2007 special elections in Lanao del Sur, Palparan and another retired general was seen in the area. Palparan claimed he was an observer though he is running as a nominee of the partylist Bantay.

See: Lumibao, Palparan presence in Lanao scored

The killing of anti-mining activist in South Cotabato, Eliezer ‘Boy’ Billanes in March 9, 2009, was also linked to Palparan, with Gabriela partylist representative Luz Ilagan pointing out that Palparan sat as security adviser of the Xstrata-Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI). in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

Palparan was present during an orientation of the Task Force Kitaco (Kiblawan, Tampakan and Colombio), a paramilitary group securing the mining site of Xstrata, which has trouble with some B’laan communities.

Billanes, chairman of Soccsksargen’s Alliance for Genuine Development (Agenda), was vocal in opposing the large-scale mining operations in Tampakan. Hours before he was gunned down in a public market, he was “invited” to a dialogue with military officials to clear his name from ties with communist insurgents.

See: Gabriela: Is Palparan behind Billanes killing?

Anti-communist legacy

A 2009 Vera File story on Palparan said that his  legacy of anti-communist hunting has been carried out in Southern Mindanao in 2008 to 2009 at the end of the government’s anti-insurgency campaign called Oplan Bantay Laya.

On May 15 2008, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Davao leader Celso Pojas was gunned down by motorcycle-riding men while he was buying cigarettes in a small store.

After Pojas’ murder, five local campaigners of Bayan Muna partylist in Compostela Valley were gunned down in succeeding months, namely Kilusang Mayo Uno leader Maximo Baranda in the town of Compostela, Roel Dotarot in Monkayo, Danilo Cualbar in Compostela, Rolando Antolihao in Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Isabelo Celing in Monkayo.

In 2008, appointed to head the Task Force Davao was Colonel Oscar Lactao, who prior to this appointment was tagged as the “Palparan of Leyte” when his troops from the 19th IB were implicated in the massacre of five farmers and four minors in Kananga, Leyte on April 2003.

The Army’s 10th Infantry Division belied insinuation however, about a so-called Palparan legacy, and branded a Karapatan regional spokesperson here as putting up an accusation that “is a convenient lie to taint the name of the organization”.

“We in the 10th ID do not condone human rights violations, and these are against the AFP policies. [Recently appointed division commander] Major General Eduardo Ano even specifically instructed to prioritize respect for human rights,” said Capt. Ernest Carolina, 10th ID spokesman.

He said the Karapatan “creates speculations, such as this one now, in order to undermine our campaign progress, and potential gains in the area in terms of development.  What the group has against development, is something [Karapatan] could perhaps explain,” he added.]

As Palparan now faces trial for kidnapping and serious detention, more cases such as those in Mindanao would show how his bloody legacy in Luzon has also cast a long shadow in the country. (

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