Rebelyn Pitao

1988 -2009


The rebel thought it would be nice
to call his precious one
the rebel feminized.

 

Posted March 19, 2008

 

■  Hong Kong human rights groups condemn the abduction, torture,

rape and killing of Rebelyn Pitao,  March 11, 2009

 

■  Click here for various news reports

 

 

 Rebelyn Pitao, 20

Photo by www.mindanews.com

Evangeline Pitao, Rebelyn's mother, is comforted by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo

Photo from Ocampo's blog

Dumped. A makeshift cross now stands at the irrigation ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte, where Rebelyn’s body was found a day after she was snatched in Davao City. (Photo by Keith Bacongco/AKP Images)

Thousands joined the funeral march for Rebelyn Pitao in Davao City on March 14. The protesters demanded justice for the young schoolteacher, who was brutally murdered allegedly by military agents. (Photo by Keith Bacongco/AKP Images)

 

 

 

EPITAPH FOR REBELYN PITAO, 20, SCHOOLTEACHER AND NON-COMBATANT
Alexander Martin Remollino

They made her go a thousand times through hell on earth
before making her disappear
from the face of the earth.
And her only sin was this:
that she had a father who refused to sleep
in this night of our people.

 

   
/p

/p
           
           

 

Poems for Rebelyn

 

The Rebel's Child

Sarah Raymundo, CONTEND-UP

“Naibalita sa Internet, kamakailan, na hindi raw gaganti ang NPA sa pagpaslang ng
gobyerno kay Rebelyn Pitaol Ngunit ito ba ang hinihingi ng masa?”
--E. San Juan Jr.

(Para kay Aya S. pasasalamat sa ating mga pinagsaluhang tuwa at luha)

The Rebel’s Child

who is about to celebrate
her 21st is dead.
Yet her father,
who has made friends
with pastoral landscapes, carabaos,
rusting sickles
and second-hand army artillery
is absolutely still
at large.
As he has been
from the time his child learned
her first lessons
on walking.

Which consisted in learning
how to walk away
from recurring visions
that remained frighteningly strange
to the end.

Scene 1:
the rebel’s capture/the rebel’s torture/
the rebel’s mangled body/the rebel’s corpse

Scene 2:
camouflage suits/the strides of black boots/
machine guns waving/handcuffs grinding
twisted wrists.

She did not make this up.
A clique obsessed with unification
and survival
directs those images, too tactile
for dreams, in places not far off
among the fields.

Did she keep a diary like this one?

“August 15: Yesterday, a visit from Tatay
who is just back from his Southern Expedition.
It’s like this: the people’s army, his comrades,
the makeshift houses, his high-powered rifle,
his two pairs of tafetta, his Mongol pencil,
his swiss knife, his flashlight, his guitar, and
his song of hope. It’s sad
they are not mine.”

“September 20: Today, a news
of a tactical offensive
that brought the town one step closer
to revolutionary justice.
Tatay survived. Whew!”

“November 11: Finished Freire’s Pedagogy
of the Oppressed, I shall be a teacher.
Tatay teaches too, you know.
He once told me that
truth is concrete.”

“March 17: I’m no teenager now.
Will be a teacher in a few months.
Because truth is concrete.”

The rebel thought it would be nice
to call his precious one
the rebel feminized.
[Secretly, he wanted to get the record straight
because the rebel is perpetually demonized
by the State].

But the rebel’s child
was not spared
from the scenes that occupied
the vacancy in her head
whenever she is reminded
of how she knew the rebel well.

Now the kids whom the rebel’s child taught
so well are learning how to walk away
from a cruel mimesis that has become
their teacher. Because truth is concrete.

And because it is, the difference
between what is done
and what must be done
is spelled and felt
like the clenched teeth
of a people that is still not used
to human death.

 

A young man points out to the irrigation ditch in San Isidro, Carmen, Davao del Norte where Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of NPA Kumander Parago, was found last week lifeless and half-naked bearing genital laceration and other signs of torture. The Pitao family believe military agents were responsible for her death as a way of getting back at the NPA (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

A makeshift cross now stands at the irrigation ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte, where Rebelyn’s body was found a day after she was snatched in Davao City. (Photo by Keith Bacongco/AKP Images)

  Photo from Satur Ocampo's blog  
  Photo from Satur Ocampo's blog  
           
           

 

Combustion
Katrina Macapagal
Department of English
UP Diliman

“It is not the policy of the military to involve the family or children of the rebels in our fight. We are open for investigation and we will cooperate with any investigation regarding this."
 

-Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, in response to the abduction of Rebelyn Pitao

according to reports,
this might be the worst summer yet.
expect that the temperature will rise to 40 degrees
from this month onwards. the secretary of health
has given a familiar seasonal warning:
we must protect ourselves
from the scorching sun. never step outside
without a hat or umbrella, or sunblock SPF 30, preferably.
or don't go out at all.
most of us nod in agreement, we stay inside our homes,
exclaim a few profanities
at this goddamn weather. we fan ourselves and drink coke
for comfort, hoping that these little acts will help
remove the sticky sweat on our brown, burning skins.

a song on the radio celebrates the advent
of this warm season. but in this country
there's no such thing
as a gentle summer breeze.
the asphalt streets angrily spout steam,
babies wail like sirens from police cars
and firetrucks, women wipe their brows while cooking
in front of the furnace while men sit and light cigarettes
one after another. everywhere there is restlessness, even as some stay still
and others roam about, all looking
for shade, shelter, salvation.
others look to the heavens and pray, good lord,
please send a gust of wind
or a drop of rain.

but summer brings no good news, only humidity.
in this country there's no such thing as a gentle summer breeze,
only raging winds that carry stories
of cold-blooded murders from the south, like that of a young woman,
who was consumed by the heat. under the sun she stood,
without hat or umbrella, a teacher carrying her father's name
that her students knew so well.
she beamed and embraced the warmth which signals
the beginning of a welcome break
from unfinished lesson plans and unchecked tests.
but she didn't know that her break will last
for all summers after this one.

this summer we swelter and we melt, we feel
as though the blood in our veins
will reach a hundred degrees.
and we are reminded of bullets and heat that go off
from the fire of a warm gun. this summer
we remain alive.
we sweat because we are alive. only
the dead do not sweat.
we mourn and weep
for the woman who wasn't warned
that this would be the worst summer yet.

 

Photo from Satur Ocampo's blog
Photo from Satur Ocampo's blog
           

 

She Must
Ina Stuart Santiago

Now another young woman has fallen victim to state terror. Twenty-year-old Rebelyn Pitao had just embarked on a career as a teacher. But unlike other eager, aspiring mentors, Rebelyn happened to be the daughter of “Kumander Parago,” legendary NPA leader operating in Southern Mindanao. This was her only crime.

-– Carol Pagaduan Araullo, 12 Mar 2009.

She must have thought otherwise: she lived for
service. In the smell and dirt of the anger that
fills the spaces of her life-work. In a rundown
structure, knowledge is secondary, survival is to
count one-ten-thirty dead children walking,
a forgotten space, murdered by no memories.

She must have known: many others have died before
her. Father’s principles were named rebellious,
terrorist, evil. he lives through many deaths, lives
in the face of impending doom. the hands of the State
imprison him. he fights and liberates. he lives and dies
through every cold moonless night: of war.

She must have known: the dangers were present. She
had Uncle murdered, a Brother survive. The enemy is
clear: the government refuses to see speak listen,
the president eludes question, men in uniform lose
in the contest of power propriety pride peace. They
will kill, in the name of their own lives.

She must have known: after a full day of teaching,
that tricycle ride, the van that blocks their way. Her
memory must have served her well: of Father and
Brother and Uncle. She must have thought: I am but
another Pitao, and nothing else. Another civilian
made enemy without knowing it.

She must have known: and screamed as much as she
could, looked her abusers in the eye, as they tied her
down, taped her mouth. She must have looked at them
with pity: they were making a fool of themselves. She
must have thought: to call them rabid dogs, is an injustice
to animals. To name them is to give them meaning. When

She must have thought: they are nothing. But those
who will pay. For blood, hers and of those before her.
She must have thought: the day of reckoning will
come. It is clear. It is real. It is mine.

 

     

Rep. Satur Ocampo, Davao City Mayor Rudy Duterte and Bayan Muna officer Joel Virador

Photo from Satur Ocampo's blog

           

 

Anak ng Digmaan
PUBLISHED ON March 14, 2009 AT 3:44 PM

NI TERENCE KRISHNA V. LOPEZ
Inilathala ng Bulatlat

Kay Rebelyn at sa ating lahat na isinilang sa gitna ng digma

Pinaslang kang walang laban,
Nilamog ang katawan mong walang lakas,

Ikaw na ang tanging sala’y
Naging anak ng digmaang
Mula sa iyong libing
Ay mag-aanak ng libu-libo pang
Mandirigma

Yumao ka
At luha ng baya’y ulan,
Unos,
Bagyo
Kasabay ang pagbaha
Ng gunita
Ng mga tulad mong
Biniktima
Ng dahas ng mga berdugong
Pagdating ng araw
Ay magagapi,
Masasawi

At ng sistemang
Makapal na ulap man ngayo’y
Mahahawi

Sa pag-ulan ng tagumpay.

 

 

 

 

Gawin mong pataba
Sa iyong libingan ang mga luha
Ng sa iyo’y paggunita
Tiyak uusbong
Bulaklak ng pag-asa
Sa aanihing tagumpay

Pinaslang ka
Nang walang-awa
Nilagutan ng hininga

Ngunit hindi nila kailanman
Mapapslang
Malalagutan ng hininga
Ang dahilan
Ng digmaan.

Kitang mga anak ng sigwa,
Paslangin ma’y
Patuloy na lalaya.

(Inilathala ng Bulatlat)

 

           

 

Immediate Release
March 22, 2009

FilAm Women Remember Rebelyn

On Rebelyn Pitao's 21st birthday, GABRIELA-USA remembered the life of the slain daughter of a New People's Army commander, Leoncio Pita known popularly as Commander Parago. The abduction and murder of Rebelyn by armed men is characteristic of past executions linked to the Philippine government and the military.

With so much of Philippine politics swirling around the maltreatment and downright abuse of Filipino women and their rights (namely the controversial Nicole case and the Visiting Forces Agreement), FilAm women are moved to look to Rebelyn's life as a teacher, daughter, woman and friend to claim her life as evidence of a guilty and corrupt administration only looking to silence its people.

"Rebelyn, among so many other Filipino women, was unnecessarily taken by a fear mongering government in the name of insecurity," Melanie Dulfo the poet who wrote the below poems in Tagalog and English on behalf of GABRIELA-USA, "In the endlessly rotten administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, it's the ordinary people that get hurt. But we will not forget their lives and remember them in our art and work even across the oceans."

*trapo= a dirty rag; in colloquial use, a traditional politician,

KAY REBELYN

Rebelde.
Rebelyn.
Baka nagkamali sila.
Inisip na, komo,
Sintinig ang pangalan mo
Ng kinatatakutang uri
Sa lipunan nating lubog
Sa dumi at basura
(Ni ‘di malinis ng mga
Sandaan trapong nagkalat)
Eh, dapat ka nang paslangin.

Rebelyn,
Rebelyn,
Nabulag kaya sila?
Inakalang banta ka
Sa buhay nila,
Ikaw na babae,
Ikaw na guro,
Ikaw na biente anyos pa lamang?
Kaya ka ba nila pinaslang, Rebelyn?
Kaya ka ba nila pinahirap
Kasi akalang armas ang lapis mo?
Rebelde ka,
Rebelyn?
Anong klase,
Kung ganun?
Ikaw ba ang
Rebeldeng
Ibinuhos ang dugo
At buhay
Para patalsikin
Ang mga Kastila,
Ang mga Amerikano,
Ang mga Hapon,
Si Marcos, at
Si Erap?


 


 

Ikaw ba ang rebeldeng
Napagod lang
Sa kalokohang ipinamumukha
Sa sambayanan?
Iyung tipo na
Hindi tatahimik,
Na hihiyaw,
Sa pagnanakaw ng mga
Panginoong maylupa,
Ng mga korporasyong
Nagmula sa ibayong dagat?

Ikaw ba ang rebeldeng
Nagsabi na,
“May ibang paraan
Para mabuhay.
May ibang klaseng buhay.
Hindi lamang ang paghihirap
At pagdurusa
Ng tumataas na tuition,
Tumataas na bilihin,
Tumataas na pamasahe,
Ngunit walang taas
Ng sahod. .
Pag-iibang bansa,
Kawalan ng trabaho,
At kawalan ng sariling lupa” ?
 

Kung gayon,
Kung gayon.
Dapat silang matakot. .
Ang mga hindi tatahimik,
Ang mga ordinaryong tao
Na siyang itinataas
Ang kanilang kamao
Sa galit,
Ang nagpapakita sa lahat
Ng katotohonan:

Na tayo’y nasa gitna
Ng isang kotradiksyon,
Sa araw-araw
Na inaapakan
Ang simpleng dignidad
Ng naghahanapbuhay,
Ng mga magsasaka,
Ng mga manggagawa.
Ng kabataan,
Ng kababaihan.

Sila ang pinaka-makapangyarihang
Rebelde, Rebelyn.
Ang mga ordinaryong tao
Na ito,
Ang siyang tinatawag mong
Bayan. .
Ikaw ang pinaka-makapangyarihang
Rebelde, Rebelyn.
Ang siyang walang ginawa
Kundi ang panindigan
Ang kanyang pagkatao,
Nagsisilbing ilaw
Sa iyong ama.
 

 

FOR REBELYN

Rebel.
Rebelyn.
Maybe, they made a mistake.
Thinking that
Your name marked you
As one of those feared
In our society that’s been steeped
In dirt
(Something even
The trapos could not freshen up),
They should kill you.

Rebelyn,
Rebelyn,
Did they go blind?
Assumed you were a threat
To their lives---
A woman,
A teacher,
Someone who was 20 years old?
Is that why they killed you?
Is that why they tortured you?
Because they thought your pen was a sword?

You’re a rebel,
Rebelyn?
What kind
Would you say?
Are you
The rebel
Who gave up
Her life
To drive out
The Spaniards,
The Americans,
The Japanese,
Marcos, and
Erap?

Are you the rebel
Who was just tired
From the lies
Offered to the people?
The type who
Would never be silenced,
Who would scream,
At the depredations
Of the landed elite,
Of the multi-national
Corporations?

 

Are you the rebel
Who said,
“There is another way
To live.
There is a different kind of life
From the one we lead now,
With no choice
But to accept the tuition hike,
The rice crisis,
The energy crisis,
Without a rise
In wages for ten years.
No choice but to migrate.
Because there are no jobs,
And there is no land”?

Then,
Then,
They should quake and tremble.
For, those who will not stay silent,
Those ordinary people
Who raise
Their fists
In anger,
Prove

 

           
           

Rebelyn Pitao and mother Evangeline Pitao

Photos by Barry Ohaylan

     

Streetwise
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Justice for Rebelyn

Bambi Santos was an activist, a full-time staff member of the national democratic alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN). She was in charge of many things foremost of which was mobilizing artists to contribute to the cultural work attendant to the political mass campaigns that BAYAN led. She was also a budding creative writer who graduated with a journalism degree from an exclusive all-women college, the only child of science professionals who had dedicated all their lives to government service.

She was killed at the age of twenty-seven, in what military authorities said was an encounter. Witnesses contend however that there was a raid on a farmer’s hut where Bambi was resting with several companions. She was hit in the leg and thereafter allowed to bleed to death. She was unarmed. She had gone on a leave of absence from BAYAN to do political immersion among poor peasants in Mindanao. She had planned to write stories and poems about her experiences.

I had the difficult task of informing her family about her death and of traveling all the way to Pagadian City to retrieve her remains and bring it back to Manila. She died at the height of the campaign to oust President Joseph Estrada and after we had grieved for her and buried her, we just had to tell ourselves that justice would come with the change of government.

But that didn’t happen. We did what we could to try to determine who were the military officials involved in the raid but they had been quickly reassigned and we faced a blank wall regarding their whereabouts. We filed a case with the Commission on Human Rights; we even filed a case with the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Negotiating Panels for the government-National Democratic Front peace negotiations.

Impunity is still the name of the game in this country ruled by the elite classes of big landlords, big traders and local partners of multinational corporations as well as several generations of politicians who make politics and government one big, profitable business as well.

They craft the socio-economic policies that fuel armed revolution and political dissent. They direct the counter-insurgency campaigns that engender such gross human rights violations. They authorize and then protect from prosecution and punishment the state forces and paramilitary death squads that do the dirty work of killing the likes of Bambi Santos.

Now another young woman has fallen victim to state terror. Twenty-year-old Rebelyn Pitao had just embarked on a career as a teacher. But unlike other eager, aspiring mentors, Rebelyn happened to be the daughter of “Kumander Parago,” legendary NPA leader operating in Southern Mindanao.

That was her only “crime”: to be the daughter of the revolutionary nemesis of the government’s armed forces in that area, and sister to a young man who recently joined the NPA after an attempt on his life and in the wake of the extra-judicial killing (EJK) of his uncle, Pitao’s brother, by suspected military assassins.

The Pitao family believes that Rebelyn was mercilessly targeted by the intelligence officers of the army’s 10th Infantry Division, to break the fighting spirit of “Kumander Parago” and his “red fighters” and to instill fear in the hearts of the peasant families that give them succor and support. Beyond the actual killers (who by all indications had brutalized and raped Rebelyn before finishing her off) the Pitao family holds the Arroyo regime accountable, because of its murderous counter-insurgency programs, Oplan Bantay Laya I and II (OBL).

OBL has already victimized hundreds of unarmed activists, church people and professionals suspected to be supporters or sympathizers of the CPP-NPA. It continues to wreak a wide swathe of death, destruction and displacement especially among peasant communities considered to be rebel strongholds. This despite a reported decline in the number of EJKs since the latter part of 20007, after the Arroyo regime’s human rights record was roundly denounced and domestic and international pressure was brought to bear on the regime.

A more sinister but no less plausible motivation and planned scenario by the brains behind Rebelyn’s cold-blooded murder is to provoke a political situation that would prevent the possible resumption of the formal peace talks between the government and the NDFP.

This plausible explanation as to why and how this condemnable killing of Pitao’s daughter has taken place stands on the persistence of strong, if not dominant, hawkish voices in the Arroyo cabinet including that of Mrs Arroyo herself, Executive Secretary and former General Ermita and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales. They can not countenance a resumption of peace talks with the NDFP.

One possible objective of Rebelyn’s heartless killing is to provoke the NPA to go on a “rampage” and commit alleged atrocities that can then be used to justify the regime’s renewed hard-line position and its withdrawal of recent overtures to talk peace with the communist-led armed movement.

Although such has not taken place and the CPP-NPA spokespersons have vowed such will not be their way to achieve justice for Rebelyn and her loved ones, the NDF’s chief negotiator, Luis Jalandoni, has said formal resumption of peace talks at this time have become untenable. For how can the NDF hold talks with the government in the face of such outrage?

De facto President Mrs. Gloria Arroyo was reported to have “ordered” government human rights agencies to investigate Rebelyn’s murder. The military spokesperson in Davao worried out loud about the bad press the military was getting. He was not so much alarmed by Rebelyn’s gruesome murder but that this will again be blamed on the military_and with good reason.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, a low-ranking buffoon who likely got his current top position as a reward for developing his practice of kissing ass into a fine art, says that if the NDF insists on blaming Mrs. Arroyo and General Ermita for Rebelyn’s death then they can also pin down Luis Jalandoni and Jose Maria Sison for the killings of military and police by the NPA.

The CPP for its part announced that it has directed the NPA to arrest and bring before a “people’s court” several military suspects in the heinous crimes against Rebelyn Pitao. It identified the suspected perpetrators as Sgts. Adan Sulao and Ben Tipait of the AFP’s Military Intelligence Group XI, Cpl. Alvin Bitang of the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division, and a certain Pedregosa, another intelligence agent.

We are not holding our breath in expectation that anything will come out of this government’s “investigations”. Little do we wonder now what kind of revolutionary justice the peasant masses in the countryside pin their hopes on. #

 

Rebelyn

Around 6:30 in the evening
When she was abducted
An evening after
She was found dead
In a creek
Clad only in underwear
She bore several stabs
Her hands tied
Her mouth bound with masking tape
She is 20 years old
A Teacher
A daughter of a revolutionary

Her name is Rebelyn Pitao. Daughter of New People's Armay (NPA )commander Leoncio Pitao known also as Commander Parago. On her way home in a tricycle, a white van blocked her path. Alighting from the van, armed men forcibly took her from the tricycle and boarded her to the white van in the evening of March 5. She shouted for help. The tricycle driver went back to the terminal to seek help. The incident occurred in Bago Gallera, Talomo District, Davao City (Minadanao). The day after, her lifeless body was found in a creek with marks of physical torture, and yes, humiliation.

Rebelyn's mother appealed that her daughter is not involved with the armed option and revolutionary actions being undertaken by her father. The mother unquestionably blamed the military for this atrocity and cruelty. For her, only the military could have had such a motive of abducting her daughter.

The mother said, “Rebelyn is unarmed. She is a civilian who earns her living in a decent manner.”

Must the daughter be used to force a revolutionary to give up his option? Must death of his nearest kin be the collateral to demoralize, humiliate and crush the father who has chosen the armed revolutionary path?

There is a war going on in our land. The cowards are those who use treacherous, ruthless, and brutal tactics. They end up using despicable means to fight knowing fully well that they would never win in a battle just by observing justified rules in the conduct of engagements.

The abduction, torture, assault and killing of Rebelyn, must be condemned in the strongest terms.

Few days from now, women around the world will be observing the International Women’s Day to honor the women who struggled and worked for justice around the globe. It is a continuing challenge for the women today, to carry forward the struggles of women as we dream of humanity living with honor and dignity.

Rebelyn is another woman, whose young life was snuffed out cold-bloodedly. Her mother could only grieve for her and so with her father, the family and the rest of humanity.

We shall remember Rebelyn, a youth, teacher, a daughter of a rebel. There could have been promises of a better future for her. There could have been opportunities for her to be of service to the community as a teacher. But the wicked and the cowards made it sure that she die in a most horrendous way.

Perhaps it was to humiliate the father, and to demoralize him. Some classical tools of the tyrants to bring death to its enemies, and subdue the struggles of the dissenters.

Norma P. Dollaga
KASIMBAYAN
3/F NCCP
879 Edsa Quezon City
kasimbayan@yahoo.com.ph

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Statement in Condemnation of the Death of REBELYN PITAO

from the
CANADA-PHILIPPINES SOLIDARITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) vehemently condemns the killing of REBELYN PITAO on March 5, 2009. The 20-year-old teacher who worked at St. Peter College in Toril, Davao City was found dead floating on a river bearing torture marks.

From the local unit of the KARAPATAN HUMAN RIGHTS office, we learn that on March 4, 2009 at around 6:30 in the evening, Rebelyn boarded a passenger tricycle on her way home from school at the terminal in Bago Aplaya, Talomo, Davao City, southern Philippines. Rebelyn never got home. A white van blocked the tricycle when it reached a crossing and, in front of the tricycle driver and another woman passenger, Rebelyn was forcibly taken by unidentified men from the tricycle and pushed inside this white van. No one listened to her shouts and cries for help.

Rebelyn Pitao is the third child of Lencio Pitao, a guerilla fighter in the New People’s Army who is wanted by the military. It is not farfetched to think that Rebelyn may have been targeted because of her father. No one can deny that there is a civil war raging in the Philippines but to attack the civilian children of armed guerillas is a sign of cowardly desperation of a fascist government bent on crushing the national liberation movement before President Arroyo’s term ends in 2010.

The death of Rebelyn comes just before International Women’s Day, a reminder that women are not safe from the repressive government of Philippine president Arroyo. It is also a reminder that mothers cannot expect any justice from this President. When civilians can easily be snatched from their everyday routines and eliminated, then something is terribly, terribly wrong with this government.

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CP-SHR) holds President Arroyo, who also stands as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, as responsible for and accountable for these violent attacks against the lives and civil liberties of the Filipino people. The Philippine government blatantly disregards its obligation to honour the human rights instruments and international human rights conventions and even its own Constitution that safeguards human rights. The Arroyo government, supported by the United States government and military, cannot use the pretext of eliminating “terrorism” and the counter-insurgency, to justify any human rights violation. By its very silence and inaction, the Arroyo government in effect, sanctions the practice of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and other atrocities against its very own people.

6 March 2009
CANADA-PHILIPPINES SOLIDARITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Email: cps_hr@yahoo.ca

***The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) is a member of the Stop the Killings (STK) Network-Canada, International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS), and the International Migrants Alliance (IMA). It is also a coalition partner of the Global and Societal Minitstries of BC-Conference of the United Church of Canada and a proud partner of Bayan-Canada.
 

           
     
    Photos by Barry Ohaylan    
=          
==          
     
    Photos by Barry Ohaylan    
           

 

PEPP statement on the murder of Rebelyn Pitao and others


The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform condemns in strongest terms the brutal murder of Rebelyn Pitao, 20-yr old daughter of Leoncio Pitao, aka “Ka Parago”, a known ranking leader of the New People's Army (NPA) in Mindanao.

Rebelyn was just 20 years old and starting on a teaching career -- helping to shape the minds and lives of young people. But her life was snuffed out in a most wicked, dastardly and cowardly manner.

Rebelyn Pitao, notwithstanding the connotation to her name and being the daughter of an NPA leader, is an unarmed civilian and a non-combatant in the armed conflict. Her abduction and murder is a heinous crime and a gross violation of human rights. International Humanitarian Law provides that family members or relatives of persons belonging to an armed force in the conflict, who are non-combatants or do not participate in the armed hostilities, are not legitimate targets of military operations and should thus be spared and protected from these. Moreover, they should not be used as pawns or as bait to get at their kin.

What the perpetrators did to Rebelyn is inhuman and un-Christian. They did not simply take God’s gift of life, they also punished Rebelyn for the supposed “sins” of her father. To paraphrase the Psalms, “do not punish us for the sins of our fathers…”(Psalms 79:8). Leoncio Pitao’s only “sin” if it is a sin at all, is to bear arms against what he perceives are the ills of Philippine society. Rebelyn was the second member of his family to be victimized as a result of his convictions.. A year ago, Leoncio’s brother was also killed by assailants suspected to be military agents.

This atrocity against another unarmed and defenseless citizen comes in the wake of hundreds of unsolved extrajudicial killings of leaders and members of legal mass organizations whose common denominator is that they are critical of the current administration. Even more alarming is that Rebelyn Pitao’s murder comes within days that two peasant organizers in Negros Oriental and an environmental activist in Marbel, South Cotabato were also killed allegedly by military elements.


 

 

 

 

We are deeply concerned that this new spate of killings signals not just the continuation but a renewed escalation of covert military operations against those working for reforms in society through peaceful and legal means.

We are further alarmed that these killings are meant to fan hatred and distrust, and thus forestall the resumption of formal talks, between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The PEPP reiterates its call on the GRP and the NDFP to immediately return to the negotiating table for formal talks that address the roots of the armed conflict, without preconditions and based on their prior agreements. The murders of Rebelyn Pitao and others underscore the urgency of fully implementing the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) to minimize, if not prevent, human rights violations and thus humanize the armed conflict. The Joint Monitoring Committee should be convened immediately to act on the thousands of complaints that have been filed so far, including extrajudicial killings such as Rebelyn’s murder.

Confidence and goodwill can only be restored by rendering justice to Rebelyn and the thousands of victims of human rights violations all over the country. There can be no genuine peace without justice. ##

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ, DD Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes
Co-chairperson, PEPP Co-chairperson, PEPP

Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., DD
Head, PEPP Secretariat

March 16, 2009
 

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Rebelyn Pitao: Murder Most Foul
PUBLISHED ON March 14, 2009 AT 6:15 AM · ShareThis
http://www.pinoypress.net/2009/03/14/rebelyn-pitao-murder-most-foul/

By Keith Bacongco
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

DAVAO CITY –- Rebelyn was wearing her white school teacher’s uniform when she left home to go to work. “Ma, I have to go now,” she called out to her mother Evangeline.

It was 6:30 a.m.,the last time Mrs. Pitao saw her 20-year-old daughter. It was the last time she would heard her voice.

A Killing Too Far. Rebelyn Pitao, a grade school teacher, was abducted, tortured, raped, killed and dumped in a watery ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte. (Photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Rebelyn usually arrived back home by 6:30 p.m. each school day. But last week, Wednesday March 4, there was no sign of her. Mrs. Pitao was worried. An hour and a half later, local police officers and a tricycle driver knocked on her door and brought news that Rebelyn had been abducted by armed gunmen on her way home.

“When I heard she had been taken, I knew I would never see her alive again,” said Mrs. Pitao from her small house in Bago Galera, Toril District in Davao City. “I knew they would kill her because they were angry at her father.”

Rebelyn, who would have turned 21 on March 20, was the third child and daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, also known as Commander Parago. Her partially naked body was found late the following day, Thursday March 5, in an irrigation ditch in a village called San Isidro in Carmen, Davao Del Norte, about 50 kilometers north from here. She had been bound, gagged, raped and repeatedly stabbed in the chest.

“There were rope markings around her neck and mud all over her body,” her mother told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

According to the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) of the Davao City police, Rebelyn had been dead for more than 20 hours before she was found by a local farmer. It suggests she was killed very soon after being taken.

“Her body bore five wounds inflicted by a thin sharp object such as an ice pick, which pierced her lungs and liver,” according to Dr. Tomas Dimaandal who conducted the autopsy at a local funeral home. His report added that her genitals had suffered cuts “possibly caused by a hard object.” Her mouth had been taped up.

Mrs. Pitao explained how, with the police officers listening, tricycle driver Danny Peliciano told her that two unknown men had boarded his vehicle alongside Rebelyn when she climbed in to ride home. As they neared Bago Gallera de Oro subdivision a white van, a Toyota Revo, blocked their path and forced the tricycle to stop.

“Two other men came out of the van and dragged her out of the tricycle. The driver said Rebelyn was screaming for help but he could not do anything because the men were armed. The driver said he ran away. Then they dragged my daughter inside the van,” she said.

Mrs. Pitao believes the other two men on the tricycle were accomplices and all four men climbed in the van.

The abduction site is about 300 meters from the national highway and is beside a church with the nearest house 50 meters away.

Dumped. A makeshift cross now stands at the irrigation ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte, where Rebelyn’s body was found a day after she was snatched in Davao City. (Photo by Keith Bacongco/AKP Images)

Peliciano is now missing. A fellow driver who did not wish to be named said that right after the incident he quit working his usual route and disappeared. “He is no longer staying at home and we have no idea where he is now. I think he went into hiding because he is a witness,” said the man.

Mrs. Pitao believes her daughter may have been attacked inside the van or taken to a place in nearby Panabo City or Carmen where she was tied up, tortured and killed soon after and then taken to the ditch after dark.

It is believed she was dumped there between midnight and 1 a.m.

According to a police report obtained by the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project from the Carmen police station, Rebelyn’s body was discovered by rice farmer Raffy Agres whose signed affidavit says he found her lying in the flooded ditch at around 5 p.m. that Thursday.

“You could hardly see the body even when you were just beside the canal because of the grass here and the ridge,” said banana plantation worker Noel Lanoy who was with Agres when Rebelyn was found.

“He screamed out that a body had been dumped and it was a summary killing,” said Lanoy. “I first thought it was a banana tree trunk.”

Egles Brieta whose house lies about 100 meters away from the scene, says she didn’t see or hear any vehicle that would have been needed to dump Rebelyn’s body. “It is so quiet here, yet we didn’t hear anything or anybody.

A makeshift bamboo cross now stands in the knee-deep water where Rebelyn was found. According to Brieta, the bodies of two men were also found dumped here in 2004.

Outrage and Denials

The abduction, torture and killing of Rebelyn have been met with widespread disgust and condemnation alongside public pledges to deliver justice and ensure an open, independent and transparent investigation.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered government agencies to conduct a thorough investigation, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has called the abduction, torture and murder “a deed most foul and the work of a monster.”

A senior military officer has called it “a crime against humanity,” with Senator Richard Gordon calling it a “war crime.”

So far, however, Task Force Rebelyn, the group set up to investigate the crime, claims it has few real leads. Davao City Police Chief Senior Superintendent Ramon Apolinario initially complained his men had only a few clues to work with –- the testimonies of the tricycle driver and the rice farmer who found her –- along with a description of the van allegedly used.

Rebelyn’s guerilla father claims the vehicle has been spotted parked outside a “known army safe house in Carmen” –- something the military hotly denies.

Almost from the very moment she was reported missing, the Philippine Army’s high command has come out vehemently and repeatedly in public to deny the military was in any way responsible for Rebelyn’s abduction or her subsequent torture and killing.

But after her own father –- Commander Parago –- publicly named four military suspects as his daughter’s killers on Sunday, the Army’s position has slowly changed. While it still denies any responsibility, it now admits two of the men Parago mentioned are currently their military intelligence officers who are now “restricted” to the barracks at the 10th Infantry Division headquarters in Camp Panacan in Davao.

The military is now pledging 100 percent cooperation with the police inquiry but insists the investigation also has to follow up all other leads too.

A few days earlier, Major General Reynaldo B. Mapagu, commander of the 10th ID, denied any involvement of the military in the killing of Rebelyn, adding that it was “not the policy of the Philippine Army to target civilians in its campaign against the communist insurgents.”

And in a separate press statement, Lt. Colonel Rolando Bautista, 10th ID spokesperson, said they understand the ordeal of the family of Rebelyn “but it would be unfair to blame the incident (on) the military.”

In the hours after she first went missing, military sources suggested Rebelyn was probably the victim of infighting between members of the NPA. They added that she may also have been targeted by relatives of people who were themselves kidnapped and abused by Parago over the years.

But Rebelyn’s father is adamant that no other group could be behind her killing and claims the army “lashed out at her because they couldn’t get me.”

He does not believe that any government-led investigation will bring justice for her daughter.

“There were so many investigations for the victims of extrajudicial killings but none so far have been solved,” he said. “Not just political killings but also killing of journalists in this country — what happened to their investigations?”

Ominously, he added: “We (the NPA) will be the ones to investigate and punish those behind the killing of my daughter.”

Prepared with Sacrifices

Parago, who leads the NPA’s First Pulang Bagani Command which operates in the fringes of this huge city, said the killing of his daughter would “strengthen and intensify the efforts to continue the revolution.

“I’m hurt and I’m enraged. Yet even if I cry, there’s nothing I could do to bring her back. When I learned that she was abducted, I already knew that they were going to kill her. I’ve been expecting that to happen not just to my daughter but to my entire family as well.”

Parago’s son Ryan claims he too was attacked by military agents and now lives with his father as an NPA guerilla. “They tried to stab me in 2005 and the next day I left to come here. Had I not, I would have been dead now just like Rebelyn.”

Clad in black military uniform, smoking a cigarette and in full battle gear, the 51-year-old Parago, broke his silence three days after her daughter was found dead. The Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and several journalists met up with him at a location in the outskirts of this city.

“Since I joined the NPA (in 1978), I’ve been expecting that something will happen to my family,” he said. “You have to be prepared with all the sacrifices in all aspects when you join the revolution.”

 

Parago accused two named sergeants with the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and two named officers serving in the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB) as those who he says are directly responsible for his daughter’s death. In a separate interview with a radio station he also named others –including an Army major.

Parago said that based on the NPA’s “own intelligence information,” the four intelligence officers were responsible for the killing of his brother Danilo in June last year alongside others. “My brother was a provincial guard of Davao del Norte -he was a government employee, and yet still he was killed.”
 

A spokesperson of the Army’s 10th ID has confirmed the names Parago mentioned to the journalists are members of the military. Two of them he confirmed are being held in the divisional barracks. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Randolph Cabangbang said the military would fully cooperate with the police investigation.

“We are also affected; the military organization is very concerned about this and by the perception of civilians. We are not looking into this incident as soldiers but as fathers too,” stressed Cabangbang.

He added they were also investigating the white Toyota Revo with the plate number LPG-588 that was reportedly used in abducting Rebelyn. “We verified the plate number to the Land of Transportation office,” he said – “but apparently it is not registered or found in the LTO’s database.”

Cabangbang was adamant there “would be no whitewash or cover-up” in the investigation “even if the suspects are from the military.”

He added: “We will give the PNP (Philippine National Police) a free hand on this. We also welcome an independent body to conduct its own investigation to help bring justice for Rebelyn. This incident is already beyond the fighting between the AFP and the NPA, this is already an attack against humanity.”

He flatly denied the military conducted surveillance on the Pitao family: “The only subject for our surveillance is Parago - not his entire family”
 

Elusive Parago

Parago has long been a wanted man: Former commander of the Philippine Army’s 10th ID Major General Jogy Leo Fojas last year vowed his troops would “nail the elusive Parago” before the end of 2008.

Parago has been accused of kidnapping and killing civilians, whom the NPA suspected as “military intelligence assets.” He admits his guerillas have killed suspected informers in cold blood. Parago claimed he knew his “comrades” were responsible for the killing of an informer, but was “not around when the execution happened.”

”The People’s Court does not kill innocent civilians, we carefully examine their crimes against the people before we carry out punishments,” he said.

Yet there is no such recognized court under national or international law and many people see absolutely no difference between extrajudicial killings allegedly committed by the military and those said to be committed by the NPA.

In January 7, the NPA are believed to have killed Saturnino Rizaldo, a suspected member of the military intelligence group. A month later, they also reportedly murdered a second intelligence agent in Paquibato district here.

In a mobile phone interview, Simon Santiago, southern Mindanao political director of the NPA, told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project that the NPA executed Rizaldo because of his “crime against humanity.”

“The NPA has standing order against those who have committed serious crime against the masses,” Santiago stressed.

The other victim he said was “a former NPA member turned military asset.”

Remembering Rebelyn

Parago said he waited until his daughter was 11 before telling her he was the known Commander Parago of Southern Mindanao. “When they (my children) asked me where I was, I often told them I was working abroad.”

Shortly after his release from a prison sentence in 2000 and learning that he would again go back to join the NPA, Parago recalled Rebelyn saying: “Pa, I thought we would be together again forever.”

Parago was captured by military agents in 1999 at his home in Toril district. He was released without preconditions after spending just under two years in jail.

He also recounted the time when Rebelyn asked for a new pair of jeans and he couldn’t give her one. “I told her to ask for the old pair of jeans from her older sister. Rebelyn did it and did not complain. When her mother was finally able to give her a new pair, Rebelyn was so happy and grateful. Even for the smallest things, Rebelyn never forgot to say ‘thank you.’ ”

Mrs. Pitao also recalled that since Rebelyn was still small, she really wanted to be a teacher. “Since she was small, that was her dream -and she really fulfilled her dream,” she said.

Rebelyn served as a substitute teacher for five months at St. Peter’s College of Technology and taught Grade 2.

Her mother recalled how happy Rebelyn was when she had her first salary of PhP 7,800 (USD 162). “She was so happy because that was her first time that she actually had some real money.”

Mrs. Pitao added said that her daughter’s fellow teachers were surprised to learn she was the daughter of Commander Parago. “Yet their treatment towards us never changed. They even sympathized with us because they knew we were not part of the conflict -we were not combatants.”

Held hostage

Mrs. Pitao claimed the military had harassed their family in the past. In 1999, she insisted, seven military agents came into their house and briefly held the family hostage to force her husband to surrender.

“They knew my husband was coming down to visit us because it was All Saints Day,” she recalls. “The children were so scared because we were all held at gunpoint.”

Parago also claims to remember the alleged incident: “I went there to visit but was surprised to see the military. I had a grenade with me but had I tossed it inside my house it would have killed my family as well as the agents –and so I let myself get captured.”

Mrs. Pitao said the incident was a traumatic experience for the children: “Trauma has been gone for a long time but now it’s back again because of what happened to their sister.”

 

Safety of the family

Davao City Police have been providing 24-hour security during Rebelyn’s wake and Mrs. Pitao said she was thankful to Mayor Duterte. While having gone on record as saying he dismissed all allegations that any military or police officers could be involved in the killing, the mayor has made a public promise to Parago to find those responsible. The two have even spoken together on the phone.

For her part, Mrs. Pitao is refusing to comment on her family’s future security: “We cannot say anything about it now or what are we going to do now. We have yet to talk about it. But I admit that we are very affected. I’m worried about my children because two of them are still studying and they are now worried for their security.”

Rebelyn’s death brings the number of victims of extrajudicial killings in southern Mindanao since 2001 up to 93 according to Kelly Delgado, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan for southern Mindanao region.

Authorities contest Karapatan’s figure and insist it is much lower. But it is not known if either figure includes an anti-mining activist who was shot dead by two gunmen on Monday March 9 in nearby Koronadal City.

Delgado claims the killing of Rebelyn was intended as a warning: “This is a message for the family members of not just the NPA but as well those who are in the progressive organizations that they too can be targets,” Delgado said. “It is also a message meant to demoralize our ranks.”

“Since the government has set 2010 as the deadline to crush the communist movement, extrajudicial killings may even get worse because civilians whom they suspect as communist supporters will become soft targets,” Delgado said.

“The killings have become systemic and it is impossible to stop them. What we can do now is to become vigilant and impose security measures among people.”

Retired Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have set a 2010 deadline to end the insurgency.

But last year, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano admitted that the government might not be able to wipe out the 40-year-old communist movement by 2010.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), turns 40 on March 29 –- the day before a public hearing on vigilante killings is due to open here.

Bishop Delfin Callao of the Philippine Independent Church has said that an independent body needs to be created to investigate Rebelyn’s killing.

“How can you investigate if you are the accused?” Callao asked reporters in a press conference last week. The investigation, he insisted, should not allow any representatives from government agencies, police or military to join.

“This will assure us of complete impartiality and the findings can be the basis of any criminal charges to be filed against the suspects.”

The investigating body, he said, should be composed of the people from church and civil society organizations. “Even if the government authorities snub the results, the most important thing here is we surface the truth.”

(The author is a journalist based in Davao City and one of the founders of AKP Images, an independent photo agency.)

 

 

Photo by burncool

     
     
Photos by Keith Bacongco/AKP Images
     
     
 
     
     
     
     
           

 

ALLIANCE OF CONCERNED TEACHERS
2/F Teachers’ Center, Mines St. cor. Dipolog St. , Bgy. VASRA, Quezon City , Philippines
Telefax 453-9116 Mobile 0920-9220817 Email act_philippines@yahoo.com Website www.actphils.com
Member, Education International

March 6, 2009

NEWS RELEASE
Reference: Antonio L. Tinio (+63920-9220817)
ACT Chairperson

ACT condemns abduction, murder of Davao City teacher

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers today condemned the abduction and murder of a young private school teacher in Davao City . Rebelyn Pitao, 20, was a substitute teacher at the elementary department of the St. Peter’s College of Toril .

Rebelyn Pitao is the daughter of rebel leader Leoncio Pitao, also known as Kumander Parago. Pitao heads the Pulang Bagani Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao .

 

The victim’s mother, Evangeline Pitao, has accused the military of being behind the killing, claiming that the act is intended to force her husband to surrender. According to her, her eldest son and another daughter had previously experienced being stalked by armed men. The military has denied any involvement.


“We condemn the heinous abduction and murder of school teacher Rebelyn Pitao,” said ACT national chairman Antonio Tinio. “We call on the authorities to launch a thorough investigation of the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. In particular, we call on the police to look into the possible involvement of the military or paramilitary elements in the incident.”
 

Tinio noted that the extrajudicial killing of activists continues unabated in Southern Mindanao. Late last year, three organizers of the progressive party Bayan Muna and an activist of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas were gunned down in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte. “The murder of Rebelyn should be seen in this context.”

 




Tinio warned that the possible involvement of the military in Pitao’s death could indicate that the government’s counterinsurgency campaign has taken a new and even more reprehensible turn. “Rebelyn’s death is particularly shocking because she was an ordinary law-abiding citizen who happened to be the daughter of one of the top rebel leaders in Southern Mindanao . This could be a case of reprisal killing or collective punishment, which is a war crime.”

According to news reports, Rebelyn was riding in a tricycle on her way home Wedenesday evening (March 4) when a white van with license plate LPG-588 blocked their path. Armed men alighted and abducted the young teacher.

The next day, her body was found in an irrigation ditch in Carmen town in the nearby province of Davao del Norte. Clad only in underwear, with hands bound and mouth covered with tape, the victim’s body bore several stab wounds.

“The military are crossing another line if they are indeed targeting the family and relatives of rebels. This is akin to the reprisal killings perpetrated by the Nazis against civilians in World War 2 or the Israeli practice of routinely demolishing the homes of families of Palestinian suicide bombers. This must stop and those responsible punished,” said Tinio.

According to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism are prohibited.”

Last year, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial,Summary, and Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston issued a report ascribing the extrajudicial execution of activists to the government’s counterinsurgency operations.

“Unfortunately, the Arroyo administration is notorious for its inability or unwillingness to bring human rights violators in the military to justice,” concluded Tinio. #

 

           
           
   

Thousands participated in the funeral march for Rebelyn Pitao on 14 March 2009. The march started at the Iglesia Filipiniana Independiente church in Torres Street, passed by major thoroughfares of the city, and finally to Davao Memorial Park in Matina where Rebelyn's body was cremated. AKP Images / Ruby Thursday More

     
     

Evangeline Pitao, with her children Rio (left) and Redford (right) at the burial rites of her daughter Rebelyn, who was brutally killed by suspected military agents on 5 March 2009. AKP Images / Ruby Thursday More

 

Remembering a Daughter
Published: March 14, 2009 |
By GERMELINA A. LACORTE
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY–Evangeline Pitao, wife of Leoncio Pitao popularly known as Kumander Parago, remembers the morning of Wednesday when Rebelyn, leaving home for work, had called to her, “Ma, moadto nako! (Ma, I’m going!)”

When she turned, all she could see of her 20 year old daughter was her back. Her hair falling below her shoulders, Rebelyn was wearing a white shirt and a pair of brown slacks that day. “I was staring at her back and somehow, I had the urge to look at her face. But the next time I looked, she was gone.”

At 6:30 pm that day, unidentified men abducted Rebelyn while she was on a tricycle on her way home from St Peter’s College in Toril, where she has been working as a substitute teacher.
Rebelyn Pitao. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Barely 24 hours after, her body was found floating in an irrigation canal near a ricefield in a village of Carmen, a Davao del Norte town about 50 kilometers from the part of Davao city where she was abducted. Police said she was already dead 20 hours when her body was found.

As cries for justice and a stop to extrajudicial killings carried off Rebelyn’s body to her final resting place, it struck Evangeline that she could no longer see her daughter’s face.

She still recalls telling her four children with her to watch out and take care of themselves as the war between the government and the Communist New Peoples Army intensifies. “Pag-amping mo pag ayo ha, kay basin manghilabot na sila,” she recalled telling Rio, 22; Rebelyn, 20; Renante, 18; and Redford, 16 before the gruesome incident happened.

She was worried that top military men in the region who failed to capture her husband, the elusive Kumander Parago of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command 1, might get back at her children.

“Dili, Ma oy,” Rebelyn had replied. “Di man ta apil, ana. Sila ra man na ang nag away. Civilians man ta. (We are not part of that war. It’s only between them and the government. We are civilians).”

But she was wrong. The moment that Evangeline knew about her daughter’s abduction, she turned hysterical. “Dili jud siya buhion, sa kasuko nila sa amahan (I had the feeling that they will not spare her life because they were so angry at her father),” she said.

Rebelyn’s death represented an ugly episode in the long running government’s war against the 40 year old Communist NPA. It also raised an outcry against targeting civilians, including family members of combatants, in the raging conflict. “It’s brutal and reprehensible, a violation of the international humanitarian law,” said Bishop Delfin Callao, convenor of the Exodus for Justice and Peace. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said it’s an unwritten law in the conduct of war to spare family members as targets.

As commander of the Pulang Bagani command of the NPA, Parago has been behind the most successful NPA raids carried out against military installations in the region. Among these raids was the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) prison at the break of the New Year in 2008, where over a hundred armalite rifles were scuttled without a single shot fired.
“We were just too trusting,” says Rebelyn’s mother Evangeline Pitao. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

But Parago’s family, who lived in Bago Galera in Talomo, had been trying to live a peaceful life, a world apart from what he has been fighting for. Up until then, Evangeline recalls, the family was merely trying to eke a living, trying to survive everyday just like everybody else.

“We were too busy trying to cope with our day to day needs, we’ve never really given it much of a thought that a thing like this would happen,” she said, after the gruesome death of her daughter.

Since she was a child, Rebelyn had always wanted to be a teacher. She and her siblings went through public school, a two-kilometer walk away from home during their elementary years. She was so happy when she received her first salary as a substitute teacher at St. Peter’s. “That was the first time she had thousand peso bills, entirely her own,” Evangeline recalls. “She set aside P500 for her fare and told me, Ma, this is what I earned.”

She said Rebelyn wanted to help her younger brother Redford, 16, finish high school; while Rio, her elder sister, agreed to help Renante, who’s taking up nursing.

“Among the five children, she was very kind; never getting angry when her younger brothers refused to do the house chores,” she said. “She was the one who posted the schedules of household chores on the board.”

That’s why she couldn’t understand what kind of people could jab icepicks into five parts of her body; strangle her and throw her body into the mud.

Until Parago’s capture in 1999, his five children never knew the nature of their father’s work. “They used to think he worked as a security guard in a far away place,” Evangeline said. “Then, Rebelyn would say, ‘Why can’t Papa request for a transfer here, Ma? So that we can be together?’ and I’d tell her, ‘No, that’s not possible.’”

But after Parago’s capture and then, his escape and eventual return to the revolution, Evangeline said the military “were always after us,” she said, “We were put under surveillance.”

She pinned down the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and the Military Intelligence Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division as perpetrators of the killing, something that top military officials deny.

Parago, in an interview with reporters, also named Ben Tipait, Aldan Sulao, Helvin Bitang and Pedring Pedregosa of the Military Intelligence Group to be behind the killing and vowed to mete out “revolutionary” justice against the culprits. Police investigators leading the Task Force Rebelyn had sought out the NPA commanders for the evidence linking the four MIG men to the killing but Parago said, “You have your own government, you should know how to do your own investigation.”

Pitao’s eldest son, Ryan, 24, had tried to live a normal life driving a motorcycle but men identified with the MIG constantly hounded and almost killed him, forcing him to join his father, where he felt safer. “He never wanted to be an NPA but the MIG were the one who pushed him,” Evangeline said.

Rebelyn’s elder sister Rio, 22, also remembered being hounded by strange men while she was still in college at John Paul. “In school, my teacher would tell me, ‘Rio, a man is looking for you. He said he’s your uncle and he kept asking about your schedule and where you live.’ I tell my teacher, I don’t have an uncle like that.”

Later, working as an intern; and then as a nurse, her schedules was so erratic, the strange men had trouble following her. “I would receive calls at the nurse station at the hospital, saying somebody was looking for me while I was not there,” she said. “At home, people kept asking the neighbors if all of us were already at home.”

“Nikumpiyansa lang mi (We were just too trusting),” Evangeline said. Now, she’s joining the calls to spare the families of combatants in the government’s bloody war against the Communist guerillas and to stop the extrajudicial killings of activists in the country. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

        

Photo by AKP Images / Ruby Thursday More

Rio Pitao, sister of Rebelyn

Photos by bug2006

 

 

           
           

 

The Pain of the Father
3/14/09 05:25 PM | Full Story
By CHERYLL FIEL | Davao Today

Commander Parago, the nom de guerre of Leoncio Pitao, leader of New People’s Army’s (NPA) First Pulang Bagani Command in Southern Mindanao, is grieving for the loss of his daughter.

Where journalists found him in Paquibato, a mountainous district at the outskirts of the city, Parago could have easily come down and visit the wake of his daughter. Rebelyn Pitao was abducted on March 4, her body found dumped in an irrigation canal in Carmen town, Davao del Norte a day later.

But just as how hard it is for the military to climb the mountains of Paquibato, so it is for Parago to come down.

He is the most wanted rebel leader in Southern Mindanao. Major General Leo Joggy Fojas, the former area command chief of 10th Infantry (Agila) Division of the Philippine Army, pronounced last year that they would be able to capture the rebel leader by the end of 2008.

A new commanding officer has now replaced Fojas. But Parago is still very much around, leading one NPA tactical offensive after another. Read on.

The Pulang Bagani Command, according to a statement by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is responsible in carrying out hundreds of tactical offensives in the region in the past several years.

In January and February this year, two incidents of ambuscades took place in Paquibato, reportedly killing at least two military men, wounding 10 others. There were no reported casualties on the NPA.

In one of these instances, a commanding officer almost got killed when insurgents ambushed the army truck they were riding to Paquibato.

But in November 1999, the military succeeded in capturing Commander Parago. The rebel leader was visiting his home in Barangay Bago Gallera, shortly after the NPA unit that he headed released Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Brigadier General Victor Obillo in Davao.

“It was not really my intention to go home that day,” said Parago. “But it was All Soul’s Day and the thought of bico (sweet pudding of glutinous rice) made me think of dropping by the house just briefly,” Parago recalled.

But he was wrong. “I did not realize that I was already closely monitored,” he said. The military came and barged into their home before midnight.
Kumander Parago reads the Inquirer story about the abduction of his daughter. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

He recalled how the military poked guns at his children’s faces; Ryan, the eldest, was 14; the youngest, six. He identified Major Randolph Cabangbang, now the spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, among the raiding soldiers. “He was still with the 73rd Infantry Battalion at that time,” Parago said, referring to Cabangbang.

The Eastmincom is one of the two largest military formations in Mindanao whose jurisdiction include the 4th, 6th and 10th Infantry Divisions, the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, the Philippine Air Force’s 3rd Tactical Operations Wing, and the 5th Civil Relations Group.

“I could have put up a fight because I was also armed at that time but they were pointing their guns at my children. They held my children hostage!” Parago said.

Parago was consequently put to prison in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. He was released two years later by the Estrada administration as part of the “confidence-building measure” for the peace talk between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume.

But still, they kept that family house in Bago Gallera. “I thought, no matter where I hide my family, the enemy would always find a way to locate them,” he said. He recalled that when his family came to visit him in Camp Aguinaldo, they had to write all their names down on a logbook. “So, I thought, as long as Martial Law will not be declared and human rights laws are not suspended, perhaps my family could still live in the house in Bago Gallera. But it turned out, savages do not have rules,” he said.

Parago said even before the gruesome killing of her daughter, he was aware of the possibility that his enemies will come to vent their ire on his entire family.

“If they can easily maul poor villagers on mere suspicion that they are sympathizers, if they can kill media persons and even lawyers - people who have the courage to tell the truth and defend the poor - what can restrain them from doing these barbarities to a family of a rebel like me?” Parago said.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, a known friend of Parago, has offered security and protection to his family but Parago said he could not accept the offer.

“The poor have their own government,” he said, referring to the national democratic revolution led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the countryside, “This government will now be the one to take care of my family.”

Parago admitted that in his life as a rebel, the killing of her daughter has been, by far, the heaviest to bear.

“They did it to my father,” he said, recalling how in 1978, his father, a farmer in Agusan del Sur, was mauled by soldiers until he coughed up blood. “That made me decide to join the NPA,” said Parago, who was 21 years old at the time. “They did it to my mother, to my brother, to the masses of people suffering in poverty,” he said, “And now, they did it to my very young daughter. Tell these savages to come up here in the mountains so that we will face each other in a fair fight,” he said.

A rebel and a father

Parago met his wife, Evangeline, in Laac town in Compostela Valley province, where reports of military atrocities against civilians were rampant during the Martial Law years. But incidents of human rights violations against civilians have continued until today.

Laac was the setting of the first documented massive “hamletting” by the military in the country in the ‘70s. Until now, one gets to hear of civilians subjected to abuses by soldiers in the course of military operations.

Rebelyn is the third of Parago’s children with wife Evangeline. His children bear the initial “R,” because as he said, “They are all conceived in the revolution.”

His children never knew that he was “Parago” until they were in their teens. “They were still too young to understand,” he said. “I have decided to take up arms because of the situation of our nation. If I explained that to them, would they be able to grasp what nation means?” he explained.

He said he was always ready with alibis. Sometimes, he would tell them that he is a PICOP worker (a pulp plantation in Surigao province), in another time, he would tell them he works abroad.

But when he was captured in 1999, Parago said he found no better time to tell them.

Ryan, his eldest child, was 15. Rio, the next child was 13, and Rebelyn was only 11. It was during a visit of his entire family to his detention cell at the ISAFP Headquarters in Manila (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces), that Parago made his disclosure.

“I told them, I am what I do, because if we will not fight, time will come, when we will still go hungry because of capitalist exploitation,” Parago said.

Parago’s only regret, is that, his children grew up away from him and he was not able to enjoy being with them in their growing up years. But he accepted it as part of the life of the “sacrifices in the revolution.”

Parago’s family led a difficult life. He recalled that time his family stayed among the Badjaos (tribe of Moro people) at Isla Verde, one of the seaside slums in the city. “When I learned that the house where my family lived in Isla Verde got destroyed by strong waves, it broke my heart that I could not be there to help them put it back together,” he recalled.

It was always Evangeline who tried to make both ends meet for the family. Evangeline raise hogs in the backyard to help put food on the table and send the children to school. With the help of friends, the house where his family lives in Bago Gallera was finished. Rebelyn was going there on the night that armed men abducted her.

Memories of a daughter

In December Parago saw Rebelyn. “It was my 51st birthday,” he said. “I asked them to come here. That was the last time.”

Ryan, his son, remembers that day very well because Rebelyn brought some “mango float,” a sweet dessert made from ripe mango, layered with Graham crackers, condensed milk and cream.

Ryan said he remembers Rebelyn as a responsible, sweet sister. “She was very serious in her ambition to become a teacher,” he said. “Even when we were very young, she would say that she would like to be a teacher one day. She had good grades in school and indeed, she proved it by finishing college and being accepted at St. Peter’s (a Catholic School in Toril).”

Parago recalls the time when Rebelyn would ask for some money because she wanted to try a pair of jeans. “She was almost high school then,” he said. “We had no money so I told her to just borrow from her sister. She did not complain and waited until my wife was able to sell some of the hogs she raised in the backyard. She was very happy when, finally, she had her first new pair of jeans,” Parago said.

Also, Parago thinks of her as a very grateful girl. “Even for a P20 load that you give her, she would always text back, ‘Yehey! Thank you pa!’”

“Even if her father is a rebel, there was never a time that I could hear her taking it against him,” Evangeline, her mother, said. “She even said that she would rather that his father stay in the mountains because at least he would be safe there than stay with them and risk his life,” Evangeline said.

“She never complained. When we don’t have viand, she helps herself with soy sauce mixed with rice,” Evangeline said.

Rebelyn finished a Bachelor of Education degree at St. Peter’s College in Toril last year, where after she graduated, she was accepted as a substitute teacher at the school’s elementary department.
 

 

Evangeline could still recall the first time that Rebelyn received her salary. “She brought home ice cream, chiffon cake and loaves of bread. Her younger brothers were very happy. They would say, ma, at least, we feel how it is to be rich even for just a day.”

Evangeline also finds Rebelyn very prudent with money. She could trust her with the budget. “She refuses to buy even a soft drink because as she would tell her siblings, it is a waste of money and they would rather use the money to buy some viand,” Evangeline said.
 

Her mother said Rebelyn spends her first salary for the family. “The only thing she bought for herself from her salary was a cabinet. She even set aside some money and gave it to me to keep as her savings,” Evangeline said. “She would even give some money from her salary to her lola,” she said.

“She promised to help his younger brothers and the family. But she is now gone…” Evangeline said.
 

Parago said among his five children, it was only Rebelyn who asked if he would already be staying with them after his release from prison. “But I told her that if I stay in the house, I would only be serving our family. I explained that there were other people who needed me,” Parago said.

Parago himself asked for his daughter’s remains to be cremated so that time will come when they will be joined with his ashes. “If it is not possible for us to be together here because of our situation, we will certainly be together in the next life,” Parago said.

Parago’s only wish now is to see to it that justice will be served upon her daughter’s death.

“I swear that as long as I live, I will see to it that justice will be delivered. But even if I am already gone, the comrades are there, and the Communist Party will see to it that justice will be given,” Parago assured his family.
 

Parago pinned down “Adan Sulao,” “Helvin Bitang” and “Ben Tipait” of the AFP’s “Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB)” as the ones behind her daughter’s death.

He said the “MIB” has its headquarters in Panabo town, Davao del Norte. He also mentioned that these men he named are under a certain “Colonel Caliwa of the MIG,” and are also the ones “responsible for the murder of activists in the region.”

“Only those with blood in their hands should be afraid,” he said. “The NPAs have principles and laws. We are not bandits. The enemies of the people, the enemies of the revolution must be afraid,” Parago said.

He also vowed to launch more “tactical offensives” against the AFP. “What we have programmed before will be doubled,” he said.

He said he is not dumb to accept the offer of Major General Raymundo Ferrer, the new commander of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, for a safe conduct pass for him to attend his child’s wake.

“They are like mad dogs howling at the moon,” Parago said of the military’s target of ending the insurgency by 2010. “If they want, this Ferrer (commander of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command), all these generals, they should come up here, lead their men in their operations. As you can see now, the crisis brought by the capitalist system has spread throughout the world. Here in the country, we, Filipinos, are made to suffer even more. How can they say they can crush the revolutionary forces when there are a lot more of us now who hunger for liberation from the capitalists? One day, the revolution will win and this capitalist system shall be overturned.” (Cheryll Fiel/davaotoday.com)

 

New Peoples Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, alias Kumander Parago, pins down four members of the military intelligence group (MIG) behind the killing of her 20-year old daughter Rebelyn. Photo taken inside Parago’s operational command in the hinterlands in Davao City. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

     

www,davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan

www,davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan

www,davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan

           
           

In Pain. The victim’s father, NPA Commander Parago, speaks: “I am hurt and enraged, but ready for sacrifices for the revolution.” (Photo by Ruby Thursday More/AKP Images)

 

Parago: I will not give up the revolution
By CHERYLL FIEL
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY—The motorcycle ride to Paquibato where we were set to interview New People’s Army (NPA) rebel Leoncio Pitao, more known as Kumander Parago, was not for the half-hearted.

The roads were rough all the way up and the ridges the motorcycle traversed could be very treacherous. It was a good many hours before the engine finally halted and we could then inspect if our bones were still intact.

Soon enough, we were on our way trekking. We only stopped when we saw some items of clothing spread on the grass. Then the guide turned to the narrow path towards the bushes and called on to someone. “Go! Naa kay bisita. (Go, you have a visitor).”

We proceeded down the footpath through the bushes. There was practically nothing around us to tell us it was a camp. There was no physical structure in sight, only hammocks and backpacks and those young men, arms by their sides, still managing to press a smile to greet us. They wore black sweatshirts with hammer and sickle printed on it. They were the guerrilla fighters of the First Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA, the unit that Parago heads.

We were then led to what they call “the hall” – a makeshift row of benches, consisting of branches of shrubs attached to some trees. As soon as we settled ourselves, Parago came.

He was wearing the same black sweatshirt as the other men except for his Mao cap and a vest of M203 bullets. We took a deep breath to ask our first question.

How did he take the news on his daughter’s death?

“I have long understood this as part of the war of the poor versus the capitalists,” he began. “The revolution is not a banquet.”

For all the years he spent in the communist movement, Parago admitted that what happened to his daughter was one of the biggest “sacrifices” he was called to make as a revolutionary.

Sure, there were moments in the past, when it broke his heart thinking that his children could not almost recognize him because he was out most of the time.

Twice, too, he conquered death when he was hit by enemy bullets.

“I used to tremble at the sound of gunshots,” he said. “I used to think, would I ever see my mother again,” he recalled his early days as a young revolutionary.
Kumander Parago. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

“Each guerrilla has to come to terms with things,” he said. “Life in the revolution is very hard but if you understand what you are here for, you would think that there is no sacrifice you cannot bear.”

Parago has been a rebel for 31 years. But not even once did it ever occur to him to quit. “Mopahulay lang ko kung kadaugan na (I will only lie low after victory time),” he said.

“If only you try to understand and see for yourself what the masses are eating; why there are farmers who have no land, workers who are not paid for their toil, why there are those killed by the military even without doing anything wrong, it can make you strong,” Parago said.

Parago thinks life is hard for many Filipinos because of the greedy capitalists.

“Have you ever wondered why there are people who are eating well and there are many who are not? Why the hectares of plantation lands belong only to a few? Aren’t those lands supposed to go to those who till them, the farmers?” he said.

When asked if the death of his daughter has weakened his resolve to continue, Parago said the military are fools to think that way.

Even with his daughter’s death, Parago has kept his sight of things. “What happened to my daughter, also happened to the sons and daughters of countless other poor who are made to suffer in the hands of these brute troops of capitalists. What they failed to see is that this gives us all the more reason to fight them,” he said.

Thirty one years ago, he was a son of a poor farmer from Loreto, Agusan del Sur, whose father was mauled by the military till he coughed up blood. Now he is one of the most known guerrilla leaders in Southern Mindanao and the most wanted.

 

As far as Parago knows, his daughter was killed because she is his daughter.

He may have accepted the sad reality of his daughter’s fate, but what he could not accept is that, her killers did not follow the rules of war. “Even in a war, there are rules that must be followed,” he said. “You only shoot at legitimate targets. That child of mine was defenceless! She is only a girl going home from work, teaching at an elementary school to earn her keeps,” the rebel leader pointed.

“These savage troopers of capitalists had to make my family put up with their relentless surveillances! Who else has the motive and the capacity to do that to my family? If they can fool others, they cannot fool me. We will be seeing each other one day,” he said.

Three years ago, two men bearing knives attempted at the life of his eldest son, Ryan. They tried to stop the motorcycle he was driving for a living in Barangay Toril. Ryan is now 24, fighting side by side with his father.

“The poor boy just wanted to earn a living. But he was not given a chance,” Parago recalled how he tried to convince his son to come and join him in the NPA. Ryan became an NPA at 21, the age that he also became one. “I told him, you see, I am no Diego Salvador (a hero in a radio soap opera popular in the 1970s) who can come to your rescue any time these savages strike.”

“I just wanted to live a normal life,” said Ryan who never planned joining the NPA.”But they challenged me to fight against them. After what they did to my sister, there is no turning back.”

Parago’s second child, Rio, 22, also complained of being hounded in school by burly-looking men. This continued up to the time when she was already working as a nurse at a city hospital. Parago is prepared that his enemies might even come for his entire family, but nothing of it will ever make him surrender his cause.

“Agwantahon ko ning tanan para sa katawhan. Dili nako pwede talikdan ang katawhan (I will bear these things for the people. I cannot turn my back from the people,)” he said.

Parago believes that much of society’s woes are due to the control of resources by the capitalists. This, according to him, was his reason to fight and join the NPA.

Until this would change, he would not lay down his arms.
“They own the lands. They can even control the prices of commodities. How can people’s lives get better under this scheme of things?,” he asked. “But there is a way to break free from this exploitative system. That is why we must continue fighting.” (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)

 

 

Photo by Ruby Thursday More/AKP Images

Photo by Ruby Thursday More/AKP Images

Photo by Ruby Thursday More/AKP Images

           
           

 

NEWS RELEASE
13 March 2009

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

JUSTICE FOR REBELYN PITAO! - GABRIELA SOLON

“Justice for the slain and raped Rebelyn Pitao should rank as top priority of the Arroyo government. Mrs. Arroyo should prove her sincerity in solving the case not only by merely initiating a probe but also by penalizing the perpetrators of this grave crime,” Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luz Ilagan said during a tribute to the 20-year-old teacher at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Davao City.

“Not only does the general public point to the AFP as perpetrators, but evidence, such as the van used to abduct Rebelyn being seen parked in a military compound implicate officials and elements of the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army as the killers and rapists of Rebelyn.”

“As Commander in Chief, Mrs. Arroyo is responsible for the actions of her subordinates. Her failure to punish the erring soldiers will only strengthen allegations of her tolerating their acts and even colluding with the military suspects,” said Ilagan.

To help speed up the process and to push for an independent investigation on Rebelyn's case, the lawmaker filed House Resolution No. 1050 in the House of Representatives, “Directing the House Committee on Human Rights to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the abduction, rape, torture and summary execution of Rebelyn Pitao allegedly perpetrated by the 10th Infantry Division of the AFP and recommend measures to immediately hold the perpetrators accountable for the crimes against Pitao.”

In the resolution, Ilagan said that if Mrs. Arroyo will not prosecute the army officers and soldiers, she will be defying United Nations Resolution No. 1325 to which the Philippines is a signatory.

Adopted by the Security Council in 2000, UN Resolution No. 1325 “calls on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.”

It also “emphasizes the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes including those relating to sexual violence against women and girls, and in this regard, stresses the need to exclude these crimes, where feasible from amnesty provisions.”

In a message delivered during the tribute, Ilagan said that Rebelyn's case is “a clear manifestation of the fascist Arroyo regime's cruelty towards the innocent, most especially women and children.”

The progressive solon will join the Pitao family and militant groups in a march demanding justice for Rebelyn and other victims the Arroyo administration's human rights violations in Mindanao.

Abegail Rose L. Valenzuela
Public Information Officer
Office of Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan
Gabriela Women's Party
SW-601 House of Representatives,
Quezon City
Telefax: 9315586
Mobile: 0915-7639619

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NEWS RELEASE
13 March 2009

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Lorie Ann A. Cascaro (Legislative Officer) 0920-9523463

GABRIELA SOLON HITS AFP'S STATEMENT ON REBELYN PITAO'S DEATH

Gabriela Women's Partylist Representative Luzviminda Ilagan criticized Brig. Gen. Jose A Vizcara, Assistant Division Commander of the 10th Infantry Division of the AFP for his statements that the military has no involvement in the summary execution of Rebelyn Pitao and for attributing the gruesome murder to a personal problem of Rebelyn.

“Brig. General Vizcara's denial is instantaneous, an expected reaction from the military as an accused party,” Ilagan said. “The burden of proof that his division is not guilty lies on the AFP. A responsible and sincere official would have called for a thorough investigation and not cast aspersion on the private life of the victim.”

In an interview on TV, Brig. General Vizcara insinuated other motives such as Rebelyn's personal life, particularly with a boyfriend and her father's accountable deeds against the New People's Army.

This caused the ire of the progressive solon because shifting the blame on the victim is not only an injustice but also adds insult to injury.

“Blaming the woman for an atrocity committed on her is a typical male chauvinist thinking. A genuine protector of the people would have delved into the merits of the case by calling for an honest-to-goodness investigation and by surrendering the accused parties to the authorities. Maligning the victim, who cannot defend herself, is unacceptable, unfair and unjust.” Ilagan said.
_____
Abegail Rose L. Valenzuela
Public Information Officer
Office of Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan
Gabriela Women's Party
SW-601 House of Representatives,
Quezon City
Telefax: 9315586
Mobile: 0915-7639619
 

-------------------------------------------------------------

News Release
14 March 2009

Reference: Emmi de Jesus, Secretary General, 371-2302 / 0917-322-1203

As Rebelyn Pitao is laid to rest,
"Let our grief turn to indignation,
our mourning to call for justice" - Gabriela

Clad in red, members of the militant women's group GABRIELA joined other cause-oriented group in a protest action in front of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City as Rebelyn Pitao is being laid to rest in Davao City.

"Let our grief turn to indignation. Transform our mourning to loud calls for justice for Rebelyn and all other defenseless Filipinos tortured and killed by the Arroyo regime," said Emmi de Jesus, secretary general of Gabriela.

"There is no denying the hand of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the sexual violation and killing of Rebelyn. The heartless torturers and killers have been named. The people expect that the wheel of justice have started rolling and in not time, the perpetrators be made to pay for their dastardly crime," added De Jesus.

According to the women's group, the AFP's defense of its officers and men implicated in the killing of Rebelyn are not unexpected. "They are defending not only those directly responsible for Rebelyn's death but also the whole AFP apparatus that enables such merciless killing. The military operates within a command structure within one counter-insurgency program. Operations are carried out not without orders from the AFP's top ranks."

De Jesus said that Rebelyn is only one of the numerous women killed under the current counter-insurgency program of the government. De Jesus cited latest data from Karapatan Alliance of Human Rights stating that from January 2001 to September 30, 2008, there were already 102 women and 68 children victims of extra-judicial killing and 30 women and 4 children victims of enforced disappearance.

"As women, we saw in Rebelyn's case the countless number of daughters and sisters raped and killed by a ruthlessness regime. As Rebelyn is laid to rest, women will be restless in pursuing justice for her and other Filipino victims of state-sponsored killing," conclude De Jesus.###

 

Photo by bug2006
     

 

Duterte at the Davao Memorial Park before the burial rites of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of NPA rebel leader Leoncio Pitao a.k.a. Commander Parago. Duterte considers Rebelyn's abduction, torture and murder “a deed most foul and the work of a monster.” AKP Images / Ruby Thursday More

Davao City Mayor Rudy Duterte and Bayan Muna officer Joel Virador

(Photo by Keith Bacongco/AKP Images)

           
           

 

Katipunan ng mga Kamahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea
The Unity of Filipino Migrant Workers Associations in Korea

STATEMENT OF INDIGNATION
ON THE SUMMARY EXECUTION OF REBELYN PITAO

KASAMMAKO or the Unity of Filipino Migrant Workers Associations in Korea is informed of the events surrounding the abduction and murder of Rebelyn M. Pitao, a young substitute teacher and the daughter of rebel commander Leoncio Pitao, also known as Commander Parago. KARAPATAN supplied us the details of the abduction and senseless torture and murder of Rebelyn Pitao as follows:

At around 6:30 in the evening of 4 March 2009, Rebelyn M. Pitao was at the tricycle terminal in Bago Aplaya getting a ride home. She was the first to board the tricycle driven by Danny E. Pelicano, occupying one of the seats at the back of the tricycle. Two men joined her, one sat in front while the other one joined her at the back, facing her. The men told the driver to go ahead; they would just pay for the fare of the vacant seat. But before he could drive away, a woman arrived and joined them, sitting beside the man in the front seat.

At about 300 meters away from the terminal, in the dark portion of the crossing of Bago Gallera de Oro Subdivision, a white van was parked at the left side of the road and two men quickly blocked the tricycle. They pulled Danny off the seat and ordered him to drop to the ground. One of the men told him not to run or he will be shot. But Danny ran back to the terminal as fast as he could to call for help. The other woman passenger ran as well, leaving Rebelyn behind, held by the men and forcefully pushed inside the waiting van. The two men who were in the tricycle joined the men in the van. They fled in an unknown direction. Danny said that the men may be from out of town because they did not look familiar. He reported the incident to the police. At around 6:30 in evening the following day, Rebelyn’s body was found in the river in Purok 5, Brgy. San Isidro, Carmen, Davao del Norte. The perpetrators of the abduction and murder of Rebelyn Pitao are believed to be government military operatives.

Rebelyn M. Pitao may just be another victim of the climate of impunity under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime; but KASAMMAKO considers her as another milestone in the Filipino struggle against poverty, oppression, injustice and the rotten political domination of ruling class. KASAMMAKO fervidly condemns the abduction, torture and subsequent murder of Rebelyn M. Pitao.

This gross violation of life of Rebelyn M. Pitao outweighs even the grandest articulation of the rights of civilians and non-combatants in the International Humanitarian Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for these are preventive measures from harming, inflicting pain, violating and decimating a human person. This brutal murder does not only inflict anxiety on those who heard the news and fear for the lives of their immediate family members, but erodes people’s sense security in their homes and communities. We vehemently condemn the Arroyo regime for pursuing a war against the people it oath to protect and serve. The image of an insane mother killing her own children describes the Filipino nation under the present government.

KASAMMAKO calls for the following actions from the Philippine government:

1. Formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church that will look into the abduction, rape and summary execution of Rebelyn M. Pitao and that Danny E. Pelicano, the tricycle driver and other witnesses will be put under the witness protection program.

2. Arrest, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of the crimes of summary execution.

3. Immediate and proper indemnification of the victims; and

4. Stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

Mr. Pol Par
Chairperson
KASAMMAKO
March 11, 2009

 

 

PRESS STATEMENT
12 March 2009

Reference: Jonna Baldres, Secretary General, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, anakbayan_ny@yahoo.com

ANAKBAYAN NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY STATEMENT ON THE ABDUCTION AND KILLING OF REBELYN PITAO

------------------------------------
coward |'kou-?rd|
noun
a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.
-----------------------------------

Coward.

This is how Anakbayan New York/New Jersey tags the Arroyo government for taking upon Rebelyn Pitao its desperation in failure to catch her father, Leoncio Pitao, also known as New People's Army (NPA) Commander Parago. Bringing out one's anger on somebody else and not directly confronting the person one has differences with can only be considered as nothing else but an act of cowardice.

And we, the Filipino youth of New York/New Jersey, strongly condemn the barbaric acts carried out on Rebelyn, a 20-year-old gradeschool teacher in St. Peter College in Toril, Davao City, who was abducted by armed men and taken away in a white van while riding in a tricycle on her way home from school on March 4, 2009. She was later found tortured, raped and killed with five stabs of ice pick the next day floating on a river.

For years, this distinct form of abduction and torture has been the trademark of the suspected military elements of the Philippine government who perform these executions on anyone speaking against the government's crimes against the Filipino people, or on anyone believed to be members or sympathizers of the NPA or of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In this particular case, however, Rebelyn was not even a member of any political organizations and yet the government crossed the line once more and took on her only because she is the daughter of a person they have political differences with and whom they have failed many times to get ahold of. To echo Rebelyn's mother, Evangeline, "If they are angry because they can’t get my husband, they should go up the mountains and look for my husband there.” Rebelyn's mother did not doubt, even for a bit, that it was the military who killed her daughter, referring to these elements as "“evil, vicious men of the military intelligence group.”

This savage attack perpetrated upon Rebelyn is definitely a complete and total disregard of the existing Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and Intenational Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Part III of the agreement entitled "Respect for Human Rights", Article 2 states that the "agreement seeks to confront, remedy and prevent the most serious human rights violations in terms of civil and political rights, as well as to uphold, protect and promote the full scope of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including: (number 4) The right to life, especially against summary executions (salvagings), involuntary disappearances, massacres and indiscriminate bombardments of communities, and the right not to be subjected to campaigns of incitement to violence against one's person."

This agreement has been violated by the GRP many times as this agreement's scope includes "to guarantee the protection of human rights to all Filipinos under all circumstances, especially the workers, peasants and the poor people" and "to affirm and apply the principles of international humanitarian law in order to protect the civilian population and individual civilians, as well as persons who do not take direct part in armed hostilities." (Part II, "Bases, Scope and Applicability", Article 2) Clearly, the GRP has not been abiding by any of these.

From the time President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001, more than a thousand cases of political killings and hundreds more cases of enforced disappearances had been documented, done in the same systematic way as that in Rebelyn's case. Even Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur, concluded from his research and interviews of human rights victims in the Philippines that it is, indeed, the military and the police -- which is under the chain-of-command of the President -- perpetrating these series of state-sponsored terrorism. WIth what the government has done to Rebelyn, it only shows how inhuman the people in power can be.

In a society where guns, torture and violence are used by the state to silence its people who only speak the truth, can there still really be any chance for peace? How many more Karen Empenos, Sherlyn Cadapans, Chris Hugos, Ambo Gurans and Rebelyn Pitaos will there be? If this method by the Arroyo government continues -- with the sole purpose of protecting its personal economic and political interests -- will the revolutionary willpower of the NPA and the CPP be crushed? Or will it encourage more Filipinos to take up arms, stand up against these atrocities, protect themselves and their families and fight against these vicious state apparatuses in the hills, in the countryside and in the cities?###

JUSTICE FOR REBELYN PITAO!
JUSTICE FOR FAMILIES AND ALL VICTIMS
OF POLITICAL KILLINGS & ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES!
DOWN WITH THE US-ARROYO FASCIST REGIME!
 

           
           

 

PRESS STATEMENT

MARCH 14, 2009
 

KARAPATAN human rights workers all over the country join the Pitao family and the Filipino people in mourning the brutal death of Rebelyn Pitao.

Words are not enough to express our sympathies for Rebelyn’s family and our outrage over the violence that state security forces have inflicted upon her.
Rebelyn is a daughter of a revolutionary but she is no combatant. In a civilized world, she deserved and should have been afforded protection, especially in a place where there is armed conflict. But the Arroyo government is launching a dirty war that does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, targeting activists and the families of revolutionaries.

Apart from being her father’s daughter, Rebelyn is Rebelyn. The twenty-year old lass could be anyone among us - a woman, a teacher, a friend, a citizen and most of all a human being whose rights should be respected. Like anyone whose rights have been violated, she deserves to be given justice.
We call on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an impartial investigation. We challenge officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to show the suspects before a public hearing.

The killing of Rebelyn and 11 of our kababayans in the first 72 days of this year 2009 indicates that the Arroyo regime will not stop its murderous rampage. Indeed, as GMA and her minions continuously declare to end the insurgency by 2010, these declarations are carried out on the ground by state security forces implementing the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) engendering more killings, disappearances and other human rights violations. This devious counter-insurgency program must be rescinded and its masterminds and implementers must stand trial and punished for their crimes against humanity.

We are enraged as much as we are saddened by the continuing violations and the climate of impunity all over the land.
Truly, words are not enough. We must link arms with the victims of human rights violations, remain vigilant and defend our rights.

Let show our courage as we wipe our tears. Let us resolve to end the fascist Arroyo regime.

Justice for Rebelyn Pitao!
Justice for all victims of human rights violations!
Karapatan ng mamamayan, ipaglaban!

 

Photo by bug2006
           

 

PRESS STATEMENT

March 14, 2009

A STATEMENT CONDEMNING THE MURDER OF REBELYN PITAO,
AN EDUCATOR OF THE YOUTH, THE MILITARY'S TROPHY IN GMA'S WAR

Instead of winning the hearts and minds of the people, the Philippine Armed Forces along with its Commander- in-Chief President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has come a long way in sowing terror, hatred and mistrust among the people.

The murder of Rebelyn Pitao, a daughter to a New Peoples Army (NPA) commander, and a teacher to many school children who chose the classroom as a battlefield to effect change in our cancer-stricken society, manifests to the highest level the state's moral and political bankruptcy that roots from a militarist, undemocratic and anti-people framework of governance.

Her bloody death showed the people that the military does not discriminate between the armed and the unarmed, that it has neither the heart nor respect for a life offered to serve a country by being an educator of the Filipino youth.

As we grieve and rage over the brutality that she has suffered, undoubtedly, in the hands of the state's agents, we cannot help but recount the hundreds or thousands of innocent and brave lives snuffed out of those who are discriminated for their struggles for truth, and genuine peace and justice.

Be they members or leaders of political organizations, church workers, human rights and environmental defenders, or be they mere relatives or friends of alleged rebels who were used as pawns in the military's unjust war against the Filipino people, they, until now are deprived of justice.

From their graves, from their works of freedom and justice, from the trail of blood that their unjust deaths left behind, they are an inspiration to the growing people's movement that resists tyranny and fascism that is systematically and institutionally perpetrated by the state's armed forces at the behest of President Macapagal Arroyo whose shameless cling to power is the highest form mockery to human rights and democracy, not only in this nation but in the world.

May Rebelyn's murder and the rage that it has ignited in our hearts keep aflame our own zeal and passion for our nationalist and democratic struggles for the Filipino people.

Justice for Rebelyn! Prosecute the hatchet men in the ranks of the Philippine military and their architects in the Arroyo regime!

Justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings!
Long live true defenders of human rights and justice!

Signed:

Tony Salubre
Secretary General
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region

 

Photo by bug2006
Photos by bug2006
           

 

PRESS RELEASE
March 15, 2009
REFERENCE:
ROY MORILLA, KMP Public Information Officer (63-905-421-7305)

Pitao murder highlights grave abuses in Mindanao

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and its regional chapter KMP – Southern Mindanao Region condemns to the highest degree the brutal killing and rape of Rebelyn Pitao, the schoolteacher-daughter of New People's Army (NPA) cadre Leoncio Pitao aka Ka Parago. The killing of Pitao dismissed the claim of the Arroyo government, particularly Task Force Usig that extra-judicial killings (EJK) has dwindled down and highlighted anew the systematic EJK in Mindanao. Since November, 7 peasant leaders and members of KMP has been murdered. They are commonly fighting for genuine land reform and against mining operations in the Mindanao region. The peasant groups firmly believe that the Philippine Army 10th Infantry Division and Military Intelligence Group (MIG) is responsible for her death and it is part of the dreadful implementation of Arroyo's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 2 (OBL2).

"It is really a wicked act of the military and the Arroyo government, killing and raping the daughter of an NPA leader they could not find and capture. They are turning to hitting on innocent civilians to retaliate for their grave losses in the battlefield, the NPA has inflicted major damages to the military in Southern Mindanao Region. We totally condemn this atrocity of the 10th Infantry Division and Arroyo government," opened Antonio Flores, KMP National Auditor and Chair of KMP – SMR, in a press statement. He is also a convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka, a peasant support formation focusing on peasant rights abuses.

KMP – SMR has condemned the killing of Rebelyn, Tony Salubre, KMP-SMR Secretary-General stated "The murder of Rebelyn Pitao, a daughter to a New Peoples Army (NPA) commander, and a teacher to many school children who chose the classroom as a battlefield to effect change in our cancer-stricken society, manifests to the highest level the state's moral and political bankruptcy that roots from a militarist, undemocratic and anti-people framework of governance."

"OBL2 is a man-made disaster, it wreaking havoc to people's lives and a historical dark age for human rights. It lip-served of winning the hearts and minds of the people, instead it is trying to win by killing the people," said Flores.

In addition, KMP – SMR stated that the military does not discriminate between the armed and unarmed, of no respect to life and assaults on an educator of the Filipino youth.

"This is really an anti-people act, we are already lacking of school teachers and they have killed one," added Flores.

Rebelyn Pitao, 20 years old, was abducted on March 4 on her way home from St. Peter's College in Toril District. She was found the next day, floating dead on an irrigation creek in Carman Town, Davao del Norte. Her body showed stab wounds, signs of torture and lacerations on the genitals.

"Her case is really a sacrifice, as it attracted the attention of the public to the human rights state of Mindanao. Since November, 4 of the 7 KMP leaders and members come from Mindanao, namely Isabelino Celing, Danny Qualbar, Rolando Antolihao, Eliezer "Boy" Billanes, it averaged 1 peasant victim per month," said Flores.

KMP believes that the Arroyo government, particularly the military is losing to the New People's Army, which led to the assault of leaders and members of legal-democratic organizations. Oplan Bantay Laya 2 deceives as "winning the hearts and minds of the people" is concretely composed of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and "arrest and detention." Since Arroyo took power in 2001, 528 or more than half of the EJK victims were peasants, 109 were KMP leaders.

"We are calling for justice for Rebelyn's death, the 10th Infantry Division should be penalized, the Arroyo government should be held responsible, not just for Rebelyn's death but for all the victims of EJK and other human rights violations under her term. We will never forget this demonic act of Arroyo and atrocity," declared Flores.#

At the KMP Website, Pitao murder highlights grave abuses in Mindanao
For more KMP statements, please visit our website, http://www.kilusangmagbubukid.org/

 

 

HUSTISYA PARA KAY REBELYN PITAO!

Isa na namang sibilyan ang pinatay ng rehimeng US-Arroyo.
 

Marso 4, lunsod ng Davao, takipsilim, isang puting van ang humarang sa traysikel na sinasakyan ni Rebelyn Pitao – 20 taong gulang, guro sa isang lokal na paaralan, anak ni Kumander Parago ng Pulang Bagani Command ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa Mindanaw – at siya’y dinukot ng mga armadong lalaki. Kinabukasan, natagpuan ang kaniyang halos hubad na katawan sa isang maliit na irigasyon sa Davao del Norte, may limang saksak ng ice pick, may mga marka ng pagkakatali at busal sa bibig, may hiwa ang ari at iba pang tatak ng pagpapahirap.
 

Ayon sa Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL) – isang kasunduan ukol sa pagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao ng mga sibilyan at mandirigma sa gitna ng armadong tunggalian na nilagdaan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) at Gobyerno ng Republika ng Pilipinas (GRP) noong 1998, ang mga sumusunod “violence to life and person, particularly killing or causing injury, being subjected to physical or mental torture, mutilation, corporal punishment, cruel or degrading treatment and all acts of violence and reprisals, including hostage-taking, and acts against the physical well-being, dignity, political convictions and other human right;” (Article 3, Part IV, Respect for International Humanitarian Law, CARHRIL), ay mahigpit na ipinagbabawal na ipataw o gawin sa mga sibilyan, mga hindi armado o kahit na sino mang walang aktibong bahagi sa armadong tunggalian. Ngunit, sa kasaysayan ng pagsupil sa inhurhesiya ng bawat papet-pasitang rehimen sa Pilipinas, naging eksperto na ito sa pagwawalang bahala at paulit-ulit na paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng mga mamamayan. Ginagawang uod na pampain ang mga mahal sa buhay ng mga pulang mandirigma upang sila ay matakot at tuluyang sumuko. Ginagawang lambat ng ngalit at desperasyon ang masa upang pahinain o limasin ang tubig na nilalanguyan ng mga rebolusyonaryong puwersa. Sa pagkukumahog nitong palisin ang 40 taong armadong pakikibaka ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-Bagong Hukbong Bayan (PKP-BHB) sa 2010, ay kabi-kabila ang mga pagpatay, pagkawala, at pandarahas sa mga aktibista, mamamahayag, pinaghihinalaang mga PKP-BHB at kanilang mga kamag-anakan. Sa kasalukuyan ay umabot na sa mahigit isang libong kaso ng pulitikal na pamamaslang, 200 kaso ng sapilitang pagkawala, at libo-libong insidente ng iba’t ibang porma ng pandarahas ang naitala simula 2001. Sa pagsasakatuparan muli ng Visiting
Forces Agreement at Balikatan Exercises, itinatayang tataas pa ang bilang nga mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao, lalo ng mga sibilyan sa kanayunan.
 

Noong isang araw, inilibing na ang mga labi ni Rebelyn, ngunit hindi nailibing kasama nito ang iginuhit ng kaniyang pagkakapaslang. Hindi ang karumal-dumal na pagkamatay, ang limang saksak ng ice pick at mga sugat sa kaniyang ari, na magpapabigat sa pagdadalawang isip ng mga mamamayang nagtatanong at nagugulumihanan. Hindi ang kaniyang ibayong dedikasyon sa sinumpaang tungkuling linangin ang isipan ng kabataan, isang malaking kawalan ang kaniyang pagkamatay para sa isang bayan na salat na salat sa mga guro ng bayan, ngunit isa rin itong hamon sa mga kapwa guro upang patuloy na pag-aralan at magmulat ukol sa kalagayan ng lipunan. Hindi ang marka ng busal sa bibig, o ng pagkakagapos, na aayon sa pagpapaigting sa tunggalian ng mga uri at patuloy na magbubuklod sa mamamayang naghihirap na tanggalin ang busal sa bibig at kalasin ang gapos ng pagka-alipin. Hindi ang tatag ng dibdib ng kaniyang mga naiwan – ng Inang nangungulila ngunit matatag sa pagharap sa dalamhating bunga ng digmaan, ang Amang di-natitinag sa kaniyang pakikibaka, ang kapatid na naging biktima rin ng pandarahas at tangkang pagpatay ng militar ngunit sumama sa kaniyang ama sa pakikibaka – na magsisilbing alaala sa mga aktibista at kumikilos para sa tunay na pagbabago, na ang mga banta ay hindi sinasagot ng takot kung hindi ng ibayong tapang sa patuloy na pagkilos para sa matuwid. At higit sa lahat, hindi naibaon sa hukay ang matatamis na ngiti ng isang anak, na magpapatuloy ng alab sa dibdib ng isang rebolusyunaryo – Ina, Ama, o kapatid, man – at ng kaniyang mga kasama, na naghahawan ng daan tungo sa tunay na kalayaan.

ITAGUYOD ANG KARAPATANG PANTAO!
ITIGIL ANG PAMAMASLANG PULITIKAL AT SAPILITANG PAGKAWALA!
HUSTISYA PARA KAYA REBELYN PITAO!

Congress of Teachers Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND-UP)
Marso 17, 2009
 

           
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