TACLOBAN CITY- Progressive groups in the region joined their cohorts in other parts of the country on demanding that justice be served to the victims of alleged human rights abuses committed by former Army general Jovito Palparan. Palparan, who once served as Eastern Visayas top Army officer from February to September 2005, was arrested on August 12 inside his hideout in Manila by members of the National Bureau of Investigation. He was in hiding from government forces since 2011 after he was claimed to be responsible on the kidnapping of Sherelyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, both students of the University of the Philippines.

Dean Lacandazo, rights leader and former convenor of End Impunity Alliance in Eastern Visayas, said that the arrest of Palparan was just the beginning on their long quest for him to be held answerable on the numerous alleged human rights abuses he committed while he was active in the military service. “The people of Eastern Visayas have experienced state terrorism at its finest during the reign of Palparan, with hundreds of killings,” Lacandazo told Leyte Samar Daily Express.

“This is but a single step to justice. He is yet to face the full consequences of his blood debt. The arrest of Palparan is just the start. The government must ensure that justice will be served to the victims of atrocities committed by him,” added journalist Mel Caspe, convenor of End Impunity representing media sector in the region.

“This is a good news for all the victims of human rights abuses during the reign of Palparan. We commend the NBI on this. We hope there will be no ‘hocus-pocus’ on his arrest,” Paul Escalona, spokesman of rights group Bayan in the region, said. Captain Amado Gutierrez, spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division, said that Palparan’s arrest would serve him better to address the allegations against him. “It is, in a way, good for everybody. He can now answer the allegations against him, air his side of the story in court and not in the court of public opinion,” Gutierrez said.(RONALD O.REYES)