Philippine general's arrest 'an opportunity for Aquino'
Arrest of 'The Butcher' can challenge impunity, says rights group
The mother of a missing activist blames former general Jovito Palparan of masterminding the abduction of activists during a protest rally. (File photo by Vincent Go)
Human Rights Watch says the arrest of a retired major-general accused of rights violations gives Philippines President Benigno Aquino an opportunity "to make real progress on his long unfulfilled promise to end rights abuses”.
The New-York based rights group said in a statement on Wednesday that the government should ensure that Jovito Palparan goes to trial "without interference from powerful elements in the military who might seek to protect him."
"The arrest of Palparan… marks a rare challenge to the country’s rampant impunity, which the government of Aquino has failed to adequately address," the statement said.
Palparan was arrested on Tuesday after spending almost three years in hiding.
Rights groups have dubbed him "The Butcher" because of the number of alleged extra-judicial killings in areas where he was stationed.
Meanwhile, a Catholic priest has said he is willing to testify and provide evidence against Palparan.
“I’ll give [documents] to the [prosecutors], and if they need somebody to testify, I’m also willing to do it," said Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action secretariat of the Catholic bishops' conference.
Gariguez served as head of the Mangyan Mission in Mindoro province when Palparan was military commander there.
The priest said he was able to document some 15 cases of extrajudicial killings in Mindoro during the time of Palparan. "Some of the bodies were even mutilated," said Gariguez.
He cited one case where a mother, with her child in tow, was looking for her husband.
"When they found his body, it was headless, and a few meters away they found his head. The incident traumatized the child who was very close to the father," Gariguez said.
Palparan insisted during media interviews following Tuesday’s arrest that the charges against him were "manufactured."
"What I did was for the good of the people," he said.
Palparan went into hiding in December 2011 after a court issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the disappearance of two university students in 2006.
He denied any involvement in their disappearance, claiming that the two students were members of the communist New People's Army.
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