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AFP unfazed by reports of 'witch hunt' vs soldiers in Palparan case

MANILA, Philippines - The military is unfazed by reports of an alleged witch hunt against soldiers who took part in operations against persons and groups accused of conniving with communist rebels.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said they have faith in the justice system and would cooperate with higher authorities when necessary.

“We fully trust our justice system which is working effectively and tirelessly for the benefit of our people. The AFP remains firm in upholding the rule of law and shall continue to promote and respect human rights in all its undertakings,” Burgos said when asked about the supposed witch hunt against the military.

“Every member of the AFP understands that the steps undertaken by any judicial body is part of the judicial system under the Constitution which we have sworn to defend and uphold at all times,” he said.

Amid the controversies stirred by some of the military’s operations, Burgos said they would remain transparent and open to the public.

“If summoned by higher authorities, we will provide necessary documents needed by any legitimate investigating body and we will make available the concerned personnel,” he said.

Last week, a senior military officer revealed that soldiers tagged in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos and the arrest of the so-called “Morong 43” would be the next targets of an ongoing “witch hunt.”

The officer made the claim after state agencies had ordered the arrest of retired general Jovito Palparan Jr., who was implicated in the kidnapping of student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

“We in the active service know that there is an ongoing witch hunt. Do you think this will stop with Palparan? The ones who are next are those accused of involvement in the Jonas Burgos and Morong 43 cases,” he said.

The officer said leftist figures in government would continue to demonize Palparan to destroy the military as an organization. The officer cited the wanted posters of Palparan in military uniform as among the efforts to discredit the AFP.

The Philippine National Police has offered a P500,000 reward for information leading to Palparan’s arrest.

Activist Jonas Burgos was seized by gunmen in 2007 and dragged into a Toyota Revo van whose license plates were later traced to another vehicle impounded by the military in Bulacan.

The Commission on Human Rights has asked the Supreme Court to hold the military liable for his disappearance.

On the other hand, members of the Morong 43 were suspected rebels nabbed on Feb. 6, 2010 for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The military had alleged that the Morong 43 members were holding a seminar on bomb making.

Militant groups, however, claim that the suspects were just rural health workers attending a medical symposium.

They have accused the military of fabricating evidence and using torture to obtain confessions from the suspects.

Five of the Morong 43 have admitted that they are rebels and have availed of the government’s amnesty program.

In December 2010, President Aquino ordered the dropping of charges against the suspects after the Justice department declared that the procedures conducted by the AFP in their arrest were questionable.
By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated January 02, 2012 12:00 AM


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