Open letter to the media on Palparan’s “right to defend himself”

Spokesperson, NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter

This is in response to the opinion column of Mr. Alvin Arpon headlined “Give Maj. Gen. Palparan his basic right to defend himself” and posted on the 3 September internet edition of Leyte Samar Daily Express. We in the National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas do not agree with Mr. Arpon’s militarist views. We also think that such militarism has a certain level of influence among the regional media and is therefore harmful to the people’s interests.

Mr. Arpon argues the military establishment should provide for the safety of the former army commanding general in the region, who is accused of gross human rights violations here and elsewhere. Indeed, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has succeeded in obtaining custody over Palparan. A former military officer on trial for human rights violations cannot even be kept hold of by the Aquino government’s criminal justice system. Such a sense of entitlement by the military. Impunity is really alive and well, rearing one ugly head from Palparan to others today who maintain his legacy of human rights violations.

Palparan may have ordered people killed, Mr. Arpon continues, but most of them “were rebels and therefore enemies of the state.” In reality, these were not combatants but civilians, activists who were involved in peaceful struggle. They had no chance to defend themselves from extrajudicial killings in lieu of a fair trial, such as people expect for Palparan. To name a few, these included human rights lawyers Felidito Dacut and Norman Bocar, church leader Rev. Edison Lapuz, labor organizer Sammy Bandilla, and government employee Pax Diaz.

The killings continue because the climate of impunity persists. The latest extrajudicial killing of an activist happened only last 1 September, the victim being Nelson Mercader, a town councilor of Las Navas, Northern Samar who resisted militarization. Suspected military elements gunned down even Yolanda survivors demanding justice for their plight, such Jefferson Custodio last 21 August in Carigara, Leyte, and Rodolfo Basada last 29 June in Pinabacado, Samar.

We hope the militarism expressed by Mr. Arpon will not pervade in the media. We know media killings also continue in the climate of impunity. We in NDFP-EV challenge the media to be critical of the social realities around them, most of them struggling to make a decent living like the rest of the people. Otherwise, it will be a sad state of affairs if those in the media will be like slaves who think their chains are extensions of themselves, and whose rattles are regarded as “freedom of expression”.