“Akin to former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s acclamation of “The Butcher” Gen. Jovito Palparan during her State of the Nation Address in 2006, BS Aquino’s promotion of Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri as AFP Chief of Staff and assigning either Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya or Eduardo Año as Phil. Army chief are blatant affirmation of the regime’s policy of war against the discontented Filipino people. These three generals are the present-day Palparans and they have blood on their hands,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
On Friday, Aquino appointed Iriberri as the new AFP Chief of Staff, vacating the position of the Army chief. Over the weekend, sources from Malacañang revealed that Visaya and Año are among those interviewed by BS Aquino to replace Iriberri as chief of the Philippine Army.
Año was exonerated from the charges filed by Edita Burgos on the disappearance of her son Jonas, which Karapatan believed is “a form of whitewash” on the case. Since 2014 to present, with Año as commander of the 10th Infantry Division in Mindanao, Karapatan has documented several Palparan-style human rights abuses, which includes extrajudicial killing, disappearances, illegal arrests, torture, hamletting, and forcible evacuation of civilians.
Similarly, Visaya’s assumption as 4th Infantry Division commander in Mindanao also resulted in the same pattern of human rights violations. According to Karapatan, Visaya is responsible for the 2004 bloody massacre of 12 farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita; the abduction and torture of farmers Manuel Meriño, Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, and UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño; and the “urban militarization” of communities in the National Capital Region in 2006 to 2007, immediately before the national elections.
Iriberri, as Army chief, led the whole Phil. Army in “perpetrating rights abuses and violations of the international humanitarian law across the country, especially in Mindanao.” Also, as chief of the 503rd Infantry Battalion assigned in Abra, communities were bombed. In one of the bombings, two girls were almost hit in the villages of Umnap, Buanao, and Lat-ey in the municipality of Malibcong in 2013.
“As Army Chief, he even praised his men who “won” battles against members of the New People’s Army despite violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Such is the case of the firefight in Lacub, Abra, in September 2014 where the eight NPA fighters killed bore torture marks and civilians were killed. Gen. Iriberri even awarded the soldiers with medals of valor,” Palabay said.
Under the BS Aquino administration, there are 262 documented victims of extrajudicial killings and 293 victims of frustrated killings; and more than 60,000 persons displaced and dislocated due to military combat operations in the countryside (data as of June 30, 2015). Karapatan attributes this to the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, commanded by the three generals who are its “rabid implementers.”
“With these murderers and torturers at the helm of the Philippine military, especially on BS Aquino’s last year in office, his regime will leave a bloodied legacy—using a Palparan-like solution violence against the civilian population tagged as “enemies of the State.” With this, and his haciendero arrogance, Aquino will go down in history as one of the most-hated regimes in the country,” Palabay concluded.