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Philippines’s 4 most wanted persons being hunted


Major General Jovito Palparan

All the Philippines' law enforcement agencies are hunting four of the country's high-profile fugitives. Leading the list of most wanted is retired Major General Jovito Palparan who has been linked to the disappearance of activisits;  former Governor Joel Reyes of Palawan province and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes Jr., both wanted for the murder of environmentalist-broadcaster Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa City last year and Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. of Dinagat Island, who has been convicted of parricide charges involving the death of his wife 10 years ago.  

Speaking at a news conference earlier, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the manhunt for Palparan may have reached a dead end because authorities had stopped receiving tips from informants. He is accused of responsibility, as commander of the Army's 7th Infantry Division, for the disappearance of two University of the Philippines students in 2006.

But the hunt for Palparan continues, she said.  He tried to leave for Singapore on December 19, but immigration officers at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga, blocked his departure.

His two coaccused, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado and S/Sgt. Edgardo Osorio, are detained at Fort Bonifacio. The fourth accused, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, has yet to be arrested.

The Reyeses are suspected of masterminding the assassination of Ortega, who criticized them on his radio programs.  Friends and supporters of Ortega have put up P300,000 for information that would lead to the arrest of the Reyeses.

De Lima said the Department of the Interior and Local Government had doubled the bounty by putting up another P300,000 for the arrest of the brothers. "It's now a total of P600,000 so [I hope that will] help," De Lima said.

She announced the start of the manhunt for Ecleo, who on Friday was found by the Cebu Regional Trial Court guilty of the murder of his wife, Alona Ecleo, in 2002.

The court sentenced Ecleo, spiritual leader of the cult Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, to 30 years in prison.

De Lima said there was an outstanding warrant for Ecleo's arrest.

"[Ecleo's] conviction has just been affirmed so it’s now time to [enforce the] warrant of arrest," she said.

The police and the National Bureau of Investigation are looking for the high-profile fugitives, De Lima said.

"We really have our hands full," De Lima said.

De Lima admitted frustration at the lack of progress in the search for Palparan and the Reyes brothers.

As long as Palparan and the Reyeses remain at large, the courts have no jurisdiction over them and the cases against them cannot move, De Lima said.

Asked about the possibility that the fugitives had already fled the Philippines, De Lima said she believed the wanted men were still here, as there were no indications that they had left the country.

"We have no reason to believe, or no basis to say at this point, that they have gotten out," De Lima said.

 "Besides, they cannot just go out of the country because they have outstanding arrest warrants," she said.


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