BY THE PHILIPPINE ECUMENICAL PEACE PLATFORM
Posted by Bulatlat
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform condemns in the 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
Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., DD
Head, PEPP Secretariat
(Posted by Bulatlat)