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Nostalgic for Palparan

by Pesante-USA Saturday, Jul. 12, 2008 at 9:13 PM 213-241-0995 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The commanding general of the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Lt. Gen. Pedro Inserto, says that “the Palparan solution” failed. The so-called solution is named after the notorious Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., now retired. In all his assignments,


Nostalgic for Palparan

The commanding general of the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Lt. Gen. Pedro Inserto, says that “the Palparan solution” failed. The so-called solution is named after the notorious Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., now retired. In all his assignments,

Palparan racked up a controversial, at best, and often, grisly catalogue of abductions, liquidations and other alleged human rights abuses that resulted in a torrent of cases and efforts by officials to exculpate him. For every murder, it seemed, Palparan could boast of a corresponding medal.

But Inserto’s monicker of a “Palparan solution” is misleading. Palparan is merely the public face of what was actually a broader plan hatched by the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to devastate the political and financial infrastructure of the New People’s Army (NPA) by every means necessary. That included turning a blind eye to civilians suspected of harboring communist sympathies, as dreamed up by administration ideologue National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales (himself a political apostle of the Jesuit inquisitor of communism, Fr. Archie Intengan).

It is noteworthy that Inserto made this observation in the context of Palparan’s once having been a commander in the Eastern Visayas for eight months (February to September) in 2005. We detect a disturbing neutrality in Inserto’s references to the legacy—or a lack of it—of his predecessor’s anti-insurgency objectives and methods. Inserto’s main observation seems to be that the problem was not with Palparan’s “solution,” per se, but that it failed to meet its objectives and gained the controversial commander a bitter harvest of bothersome court cases.

The Central Command, which includes the Eastern Visayas region, has borne the brunt of NPA offensives since January. The NPA has recently been issuing praise releases pointing to the high rate of military casualties compared to its own casualties.

The result is that Palparan’s successor, Inserto, now faces command responsibility for the failure of his command to do more than merely counter each fresh assault by the NPA. The best Inserto can propose is a rehash of the “wage a battle for the hearts and minds of the people” mantra that’s been a mainstay of military counter-insurgency doctrine since the 1950s.

This doesn’t mean that the less violent and more development-oriented strategy Inserto wants revived is either outmoded or wrong, but merely that the Central Command faces a confluence of events that has transformed it into a territory that’s an increasingly fruitful recruiting ground for communist rebels. One reason this is so is that the Visayas, most recently pounded by nature’s fury, has a population infuriated with President Macapagal-Arroyo, who stayed in America even as one of its political heartlands was devastated. Add to this the identification of the First Family with one of the least progressive and indeed, most patently reactionary and nasty sectors in our society—the hacenderos eager to reverse land reform—and you have a fruitful place for rebels to recruit and go on the offensive.

Which suggests to us that rather than hail Inserto as an example of a more enlightened officer corps turning its back on Palparan, we should look at his recent statements as less the expression of something better, but rather, the expression of something bitter: He is bitter at the politicians, led by the First Family, whose old feudal instincts are fueling the fires of rebellion, and the flagging enthusiasm of the administration for what the military sees as a vital national task of defeating the New People’s Army—by any means necessary.

The proper context for evaluating Palparan is his 11-month stint as head of the Philippine Army’s Seventh Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay in the northern province of Nueva Ecija (September 2005 to August 2006). His military jurisdiction over Central Luzon’s seven provinces was accompanied by something he didn’t enjoy during his period of command in the Visayas: full support from the top echelons of the military and civilian ranks of government. It was during this period—in July 2006—after all, when the President answered critics of the military’s human rights record in counterinsurgency by asking Palparan to take a bow during her State of the Nation Address.

If you read between the lines, what Inserto is suggesting is that he misses the good old days that ended way too soon.

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