A Philippine court has ordered the arrest of a retired army general accused of involvement in the kidnappings of two student activists, officials said Tuesday.
The arrest warrant for retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan was issued in Bulacan province north of Manila where army troops under him are suspected of abducting University of the Philippines activists Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan on June 26, 2006. The two remain missing.
Palparan, who became a lawmaker after retiring in 2006, is one of the highest-ranking army officers to face arrest for alleged rights violations. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Raymond Manalo, one of several witnesses, has testified in court that he met Empeno and Cadapan while the three were in the custody of army officers under Palparan in 2006. He said military authorities suspected they were communist guerrillas or sympathizers. Manalo said he later escaped from military detention.
The military has said Empeno and Cadapan were never in its custody. Military officials have promised to cooperate in Palparan's investigation.
Clerk of court Melba David said Palparan would not be allowed to post bail. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said police and government agents were searching for Palparan, and that two military co-defendants had surrendered to authorities Tuesday.
Left-wing activists have linked Palparan to several abductions and killings of activists when he led an army command that battled Marxist guerrillas. They welcomed his arrest warrant.
"I hope this will encourage other victims to come out and file criminal complaints," left-wing Rep. Teddy Casino said. "This case may help end the atmosphere of impunity if successfully prosecuted."
President Benigno Aquino III, who assumed power in June last year, has promised to bring justice to victims of human rights violations but rights groups have said he did little during his first year, specifically in prosecuting military and police violators.
Palparan, who has been barred from leaving the country without government permission, attempted to board a flight to Singapore on Monday but was stopped by immigration authorities at Clark airport north of Manila, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.