Editorial: Palparan’s fall; Ecleo next?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THERE'S reason, aside from the ineptitude of law enforcers, why fugitives like the recently arrested retired general Jovito Palparan managed to evade the so-called long arms of the law for a time.

Consider the previously named top five fugitives in the country, which included Palparan. In 2013, the reward for information leading to their arrests had to be jacked up to a whopping P2 million each just so they would finally be nabbed.

Palparan used to lord it over the military establishment in terms of the ruthlessness with which he conducted his campaign against insurgents. Before he went into hiding, he was even a party-list lawmaker.


Power and influence were what Palparan and the rest of the top five fugitives possessed before they ran afoul of the law. And even after they were knocked off the pedestal, their past status allowed them to retain residual power and influence that they used or are using to evade their pursuers.

Businessman Delfin Lee was actually the first among the “Big Five” to fall. He was accused of fraud involving P7 billion in loans from the state-run Home Development Mutual Fund.

Still out are former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, accused of masterminding the killing of broadcaster and environmental activist Gerry Ortega, and Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) supreme master Ruben Ecleo Jr., convicted of graft and for the murder of his wife Alona.

It’s not surprising for Lee to be the first to be caught. He had the influence but less of the power that the others possessed. As for Palparan, the only one of the five with military background, he was tempting fate by insisting on staying in Metro Manila.

One can say that the brothers Reyes are easier to get than Ecleo.

When the PBMA master was arrested in Dinagat Island years ago after the murder case was filed in court, the intensity of the resistance put up by his followers was such that much blood was spilt. This is probably the reason why the police have steered clear of Dinagat where Ecleo is most probably hiding.

But arresting Ecleo, the Reyes brothers and other fugitives is a continuing challenge for law enforcers and tests the strength of our criminal justice system.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 14, 2014.


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