SENATOR Antonio Trillanes IV’s line of thinking in his defense of fugitive retired army Major General Jovito Palparan is a major factor why the culture of impunity is rampant in the military and police establishments.
In a recent interview, Trillanes, a former soldier himself, said Palparan, who is accused of numerous human rights violations, is just doing his job as ordered by his superiors. He said it is Palparan’s superiors who should be held accountable for his alleged offenses.
“The reputation of Palparan in the military is he just did his job. Why is he being persecuted if he only did his job? If what he did was illegal, why wasn’t he reprimanded by his superiors? Palparan should not be the one to be persecuted, it should be those who gave orders to him,” Trillanes explained.
I wholeheartedly agree with Trillanes that whoever ordered Palparan to commit illegal acts should also be held accountable but perhaps the senator is not aware that the “just following the orders” is not an acceptable defense for crimes against humanity.
After fascist Germany was defeated in World War II the “just following order” defense was adopted by NAZI leaders in Nuremberg during their trial for war crimes. Despite their defense, these individuals were held accountable for the mass killings and atrocities during the war.
The Nuremberg Tribunal made it clear that soldiers and government functionaries could disobey unlawful orders. Of the 24 NAZI leaders tried three were acquitted, 12 were sentenced to death, two were able to evade trial either by committing suicide and some legal technicalities and the rest were given long prison terms.
Palparan, who has a P1 million bounty for his capture, is being blamed by Maoist inspired leftist organizations for the killings and forced disappearances of their activists. He went into hiding after criminal charges were filed in court against him in connection with the disappearances of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno in 2006.
Trillanes line of reasoning clearly, if followed, would make human rights violators in the military and police institutions unaccountable for their unlawful actions. It would make a mockery of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and our very own 1987’s Constitution’s provisions on the Bill of Rights.
We are fortunate that the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny of rightist soldiers led by Trillanes did not succeed otherwise the culture of impunity that became so popular during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime could be much worse now.
I respectfully suggest that the transcript or video footage of the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946) be a part of the materials studied in the Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy so our defenders of the state could be aware of the implications of following unjust orders.
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