BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
A Filipino youth group based in the Netherlands has condemned the abduction, torture and killing of 20-year-old schoolteacher Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao (alias Parago Sandoval).
Pitao was abducted by armed men at around 6:30 p.m. last March 6 while aboard a tricycle in Talomo, Davao City. She was on the way home from St. Peter’s College, where she was teaching.
Her body was found the next day in an irrigation canal in Carmen, Davao del Norte — some 50 kilometers from where she was abducted. The body bore marks of torture.
“Rebelyn Pitao…was to turn 21 this March 20,” the Liga ng Kabataang Pilipino (LINKAP or Filipino Youth League) said in a statement sent to media. “That was taken away from her.”
“LINKAP condemns in the strongest possible terms the abduction, brutal torture and execution of Rebelyn Pitao,” the statement read. “We hold Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for her death by continuing and stimulating the culture of impunity in her military. Rebelyn Pitao is another victim of Oplan Batay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) II, a vicious military campaign by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against the Filipino people.”
The youth group pointed out that this was not the first time that young women had become victims of what it described as the military’s “desperate attempt” to destroy the Philippine people’s movement. The group cited the cases of student journalist and human rights worker Benjaline Hernandez, youth activist and nursing student Marjorie Reynoso, and University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
On April 5, 2002, Hernandez was killed by soldiers along with four others while conducting a fact-finding mission on human rights violations in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato.
The following year, Reynoso was abducted by soldiers together with three other youth activists in Maco, Compostela Valley. She was tortured and raped, and her body was later found along with the remains of her three companions in a shallow grave.
On June 26, 2006, Empeño and Cadapan were abducted by soldiers together with peasant Manuel Merino in Hagonoy, Bulacan. They were conducting research on the local peasant culture when they were abducted. Accounts by farmer Raymond Manalo, who was kept in a safehouse with them but later escaped, revealed that they were repeatedly raped and tortured. Empeño and Cadapan remain missing.
“In all of these cases of human rights violations against young women, there were witnesses and these cases were…brought to media’s attention,” LINKAP stated. “In all of these cases, the Philippine military is the perpetrator. But they are not punished. Worse, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rubs salt (on) the wounds of the families and relatives by promoting and posting the military officials (to) Cabinet positions.”
The group called on fellow Filipinos and foreign friends to condemn human rights violations in the Philippines. It also urged the Dutch people to demand that the government of Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende withdraw support form the Arroyo administration. LINKAP called for the prosecution of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other human rights violators.
“Rebelyn Pitao was to turn 21 this March 20,” LINKAP stated. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her military took that away from her. Let us stand united in demanding justice for Rebelyn and all other victims of human rights violations. Let us stand united with Hustisya, the movement demanding justice from all the human rights violations by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.” (Bulatlat.com)