Farm workers from Hacienda Luisita trooped to the Malolos Regional Trial Court in Bulacan today to join victims in seeking justice for human rights violations during the “reign of terror” wrought by Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. in Central Luzon.
Palparan, who was arrested for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges related to the enforced disappearance of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, is likewise responsible for numerous human rights violations in Hacienda Luisita as commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division from September 2005 to the last quarter of 2006, according to farm workers. Palparan is scheduled to be arraigned 10 am today at the Malolos court’s Branch 14.
Palparan not only “inspired” the spate of extra-judicial killings in Hacienda Luisita after the 2004 massacre. “The Berdugo had a direct hand in killings and human rights violations under Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” said Florida Sibayan, Chairperson of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).
In October 2005, Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) President Ricardo Ramos, also barangay captain of Mapalacsiao in Luisita, was killed by army soldiers. AMBALA laments the acquittal last December of main suspect Pfc. Roderick dela Cruz of the 7th ID under Palparan, coinciding with the violent bulldozing of crops and eviction of farmers in Luisita by the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), a firm owned by Pres. Aquino’s family. “Impunity – with the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ relentless attacks against our livelihood and this murderer’s acquittal blessed by this hacendero President – is like salt on our open wounds,” said Sibayan.
Another labor leader and staunch Luisita advocate Florante Collantes, then-secretary-general of Bayan Muna in Central Luzon, was gunned down in his residence in Camiling,Tarlac, October 15, 2005 – ten days before the murder of Ramos.
Exactly a year after the Luisita massacre in November 2005, eleven persons manning a picketline in Barangay Balete – including two women and a minor – were nabbed by soldiers under Palparan, mauled and interrogated in a safehouse. The victims and dozens of other farmers and local officials who exposed and condemned the incident were slapped with various trumped-up charges.
Palparan is also directly implicated in another case of enforced disappearance in Hacienda Luisita. According to witnesses, Luisita youth leader Ronaldo Intal, then 24, was nabbed by Palparan’s soldiers while working in a farm in Barangay Balete. Intal’s parents later got leads from a Tarlac City official that Intal was under the custody of the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) but “Gen. Palparan will not release him yet because his appointment is not yet over.”
In October 2006, another Luisita advocate, Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church was stabbed in his rectory in Tarlac City. Authorities wanted the public to believe that the killing was not politically-motivated. Bishop Ramento vehemently opposed overkill deployment of soldiers in Hacienda Luisita during Palparan’s reign. One file photograph shows Ramento blocking several truckloads of soldiers entering the estate for “combat operations.”
“Gen. Palparan made massacre perpetrator Col. Ricardo Visaya his ‘protégé’ and right-hand man in commiting human rights violations all over Central Luzon. Inside the hacienda, Visaya, Hilario, and Lobusta were some of the berdugos,” said Sibayan.
M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, Palparan’s co-accused in the Empeno-Cadapan case, is notorious among residents as perpetrator of countless incidents of harassment with death threats to farmers, local activists and officials and whole communities in Hacienda Luisita. Hilario remains at large.
Today, military and paramilitary units under the 7th ID still maintain detachments in majority of barangays in Hacienda Luisita. In Barangays Balete, Cutcut, Lourdes and the Asturias-Mapalacsiao boundary, army units serve as “landlord security” with detachments strategically located in contested agricultural lands fenced by Cojuangco firms TADECO, Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) and Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC).
“The Palparan brand of impunity still reigns in Hacienda Luisita and the rest of the country under BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan,” said Sibayan. “We will not stop seeking justice for victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, and all victims of human rights violations.”
Hacienda Luisita farmers and advocates have launched a year-long commemoration campaign for the tenth year of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre (HLMX) in November. ##
Reference:Florida “Pong” Sibayan, AMBALA Chairperson, 09293201477