As the Philippine National Police (PNP) exonerated the military from the murder of Rebelyn Pitao, the New People’s Army (NPA) carried out what it calls ‘revolutionary’ punishment against four alleged perpetrators.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
The Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Task Force Rebelyn recently exonerated the military from the abduction and killing of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army commander Leoncio ‘Ka Parago’ Pitao, a report by The Mindanao Daily Mirror said.
Based on the report, Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, chief of the Regional Investigation Detection Management and vice chief of Task Force Rebelyn Pitao, said there is no evidence linking Rebelyn’s killing with the military personnel earlier named by Parago.
Aquino said that the task force is now focusing on two other angles: the killing of a rebel returnee allegedly on orders of Parago, and the allegations that Parago had been laundering money from the NPA using Rebelyn as conduit.
Rebelyn, 20, was abducted by four armed men at 6:30 p.m. last March 4, 2009 at the crossing of Bago Gallera de Oro Subdivision, Bago Gallera, Tolomo, Davao City. She was found dead floating in a irrigation ditch in Carmen, Davao del Norte the next day. Her body bore five stab wounds with signs of rape and torture.
In a phone interview, Roneo Clamor, deputy secretary general of human rights group Karapatan, slammed the Task Force Rebelyn’s move. “Even without the benefit of a thorough investigation, the PNP was quick to drop the military from the list of suspects. This shows the lack of credibility of the police,” Clamor told Bulatlat.
Clamor said their group stood by their belief that the military is behind the killing and abduction of Rebelyn. “Who else had the motive? This is not the first case that state security agents killed or abducted the relatives of persons they perceive as enemies of the state.”
Philippine Peace Center Executive Director Rey Casambre came up with the same conclusion. “This statement of Task Force Rebelyn is a diabolical lie intended to cover up the culpability of state security forces and shift the blame on the victims, especially on Leoncio Pitao and his family,” he said in an email message to Bulatlat.
“Although abominable and nauseating, there is nothing new nor surprising in it. The PNP has evidently been tasked by the Arroyo regime to systematically cover up the crimes and gross human rights violations of state forces. Task Force Rebelyn uses the same shallow excuse used by Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission that there are no witnesses to prove that the military perpetrated the crimes,” Casambre said.
The Task Force Usig was created in May 2006, to investigate the killings of activists and journalists. The Melo Commission, on the other hand, was formed by Arroyo in August 2006 to do the same thing.
Clamor added, “Historically, this has been the way the PNP handles cases of extra-judicial killings, pointing the blame to the victims or to the rebels.”
“The PNP only wants to make it appear that they are doing something on the case of Rebelyn but they are not sincere in resolving the case,” Clamor said.
The NPA, meanwhile, carried out what it calls revolutionary punishment against alleged perpetrators in the killing of Rebelyn and other civilians.
In a statement sent to Bulatlat, the NPA Ka Paking Guimbaolibot Red Partisan Brigade (NPA Red Partisans) said they implemented the NPA standing order against four intelligence and death squad operatives of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for ‘committing grave crimes against the revolutionary movement and the people.’
In separate incidents since March this year, the NPA meted out punishment against Military Intelligence Battalion-AFP assets Ruben Bitang, Macky Estremos, Marcelino Payot and Bobong Gambuta. The four were part of the 10th ID-AFP death squads based in Panabo City and Davao del Norte, the NPA statement said.
Bitang was the uncle of Sergeant Helvin Bitang of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) who was also tagged by Parago as among those responsible for his daughter’s death. The NPA said Bitang has also been singled-out by witnesses as the driver of the white van with bogus plate number, LPG 588, used in Rebelyn’s abduction.
Bitang was kileld last May 3 in JP Laurel, Panabo City. The NPA Red partisans also meted out the same punitive actions against Payot in Gamao, Panabo City last April 14 and against Estremos in Carmen, Davao del Norte in the last week of March. A team of the NPA 1st Pulang Bagani Company meted out revolutionary punishment on Gambuta last April 27.