Philippines arrests ex-general wanted for rights abuses

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine security forces arrested a fugitive army general and former congressman over the disappearance of two students in 2006, ending a three-year manhunt for a person human rights groups accuse of massive violations.

Since taking office in 2010, President Benigno Aquino has vowed to improve human rights but has struggled to rein in killings of journalists and activists in the poor Southeast Asian country of 100 million people.

Jovito Palparan, 63, a two-star general and a one-term congressman, was found hiding in Sta. Mesa district, near the presidential palace, by government agents and soldiers.

He had a 5 million peso (S$142,498.29) bounty for his arrest. "The long arm of the law has finally reached Mr Palparan,"the president's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement. "President (Benigno) Aquino promised that those who evade the law will be found. That promise to capture General Palparan has been fulfilled today."

Palparan, sporting a moustache and beard, was escorted to the National Bureau of Investigation while awaiting a court order to put him in jail.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Palparan would face charges of kidnapping two university students in 2006. The students have never been found.

Palparan told reporters the evidence against him had been manufactured. "I want to face the charges in court," he said, adding he feared for his life because Maoist rebels were after him.

The Karapatan human rights group blamed Palparan for some of about 800 documented cases of disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in 2006. "Palparan should be fully accountable for all the evils he committed - extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances ... no special treatment should be accorded to butchers like him," Karapatan said in a statement.