Authorities arrested former Army general Jovito Palparan in Manila, early Tuesday, three years after he went into hiding, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said.

Palparan, charged with two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, was arrested at a house near corner Teresa and Old Sta. Mesa streets in Sta. Mesa district around 3:30 a.m., Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), said in a briefing.

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), backed by operatives of the Naval Intelligence and Security Force (NISF), carried out the arrest, Año said.

Palparan was arrested after he returned from withdrawing money at an automated teller machine (ATM) kiosk, Año said.

“He has been staying at the house for more than three months… Hindi nakapangalan sa kanya ‘yung ATM (card),” the military intelligence chief said.

The house is owned by one Grace Roa, a “long-time friend” of Palparan’s family, and is located at “busy area” with taxi and jeepney terminals nearby, Año said.

He said it was up to the NBI to determine if Roa should be charged for harboring Palparan.

Palparan’s case stemmed from the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in Hagonoy, Bulacan, in 2006, when he was still head of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division.

He has been on the run since 2011, after being formally charged at a court in Malolos City, also in Bulacan. 

President Benigno Aquino’s administration has since listed Palparan, who was once praised by former President Gloria Arroyo for successful operations against rebels, as among the country’s top fugitives and placed a P2-million bounty on his head.

“‘Yung informant ng NISF ang makakatangap ng kanyang reward,” said Año, who also heads the military’s Task Force Runway.

The task force was created in 2012 to gather intelligence information that could lead to the capture of high-profile fugitives, including Palparan.

Hunt not easy, Palparan congratulates captors

Año admitted that the hunt for Palparan was not easy, saying “many attempts” were made to arrest the latter in Bataan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, and even in Cagayan de Oro City, but failed.

“He (Palparan) can hide inside a house for days without getting sunshine, he can be very patient not to communicate with family and friends,” Año said.

But at the time of the arrest, Palparan did not resist and even congratulated troops for finally being able to trace him, he said.

“General Palparan really did not resist the arrest. In fact, he was joking with our operatives and he was saying, ‘Ang gagaling ninyo, naisahan nyo ako kasi naging very lax ako,'” Año said.

Año said he was also able to check on Palparan personally, and the latter also congratulated him.

“Sabi niya he is okay, he even congratulated me. Sabi ko, no sir, it’s not about that, it’s looking at your situation now. Sabi naman niya nagpapasalamat na rin sya at nahuli siya, now he can have a proper medical checkup and he can have his day in court,” Año said.

“What I learned is he has some heart problem and he is also diabetic and mataas ‘yung blood pressure,” he added.

Año admitted to having worked with Palparan in some military conferences during his younger years, but said he had not been  assigned under the latter’s command.

‘Surrender feelers’

In a separate interview, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin revealed that Palparan previously expressed willingness to surrender to President Aquino.

“Gusto niyang magsurrender kay Pangulo. Ang sabi ko naman kay Pangulo, bakit sayo magsu-surrender, sa amin na lang, nung sinabi kong sa amin na lang, wala na, nagtago na… Last year pa yata ‘yun,” Gazmin told reporters.

Año said the military has monitored several threats by the New People’s Army (NPA) on Palparan, even when the latter was still an active military officer.

“He (Palparan) has been a subject of manhunt by the NPA… in three occassions, the NPA, especially the special operations group, got close to him but fortunately he was saved because he has his security and he was also changing his pattern,” Año said.

He said the military has made initial coordinations with the NBI on how to ensure that Palparan’s security.

‘No military coddlers’

Major General Domingo Tutaan, Armed Forces spokesman, said Palparan’s arrest in the “interior area” of Sta. Mesa proves that the military was not coddling the former officer.

“May mga nagsasabi kasi na tinatago siya ng AFP, so eto ngayon, hindi pala totoo,” he said.

“I don’t think this will in any way tarnish the image of the AFP,” Tutaan said when asked on the arrest of Palparan, a former officer evidently still held in esteem by many soldiers.

“He (Palparan) has many friends in the military because he was very good officer when he was in the service, but nobody from the AFP is coddling him,” Año said.

Palparan’s arrest “will also allow him to defend himself from all the criminal charges filed against him and face his accusers in court. This will also protect him from the New People’s Army that has a standing order to have him killed,” AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said for his part. (John Roson)

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