Rebels’ wives ask military to leave them aloneBy Germelina Lacorte
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The wives of at least two New People’s Army rebels in Paquibato district are asking the military to stop harassing them due to their husband’s political beliefs and to respect their rights as civilians. But the military denies the accusation
Lynlyn Genita, 45, a member of the Paquibato District Peasants Association (Padipa), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview that soldiers staying at the barangay (village) hall in Barangay Pandaitan in Paquibato barged into her house at 9 a.m. on September 21, asking about her husband’s whereabouts.
She said soldiers allegedly pointed their firearms at her in the presence of her 12-year-old son and her daughter-in-law.
Genita said the trauma from the experience must have caused her daughter-in-law, who had just delivered a child two days before the incident, to bleed. She was rushed to a hospital for treatment.
“Even if my husband is an NPA member, I am not an NPA member. I was left to take care of the children and the grandchildren here; I don’t know the whereabouts of my husband,” Genita said.
Genita’s neighbor, Irish Bregole, also a member of Padipa, said soldiers also “visited” her as part of a “census” the military has been conducting in Pandaitan the past months. She said during the first week of September, she got another visit from soldiers after they learned from neighbors that her husband was an NPA rebel.
“I can’t stop him from going,” Bregole recalled telling the soldiers. “We have different principles. I am taking care of my children.”
But Major Jacob Obligado, chief of the civil-military operations of the 10th Infantry Division, said the house visits were part of the soldiers’ work for peace and development.
Reacting to the allegations of the rebels’ wives, Obligado said soldiers were courteous at all times and “did not barge into houses.”
“In fact, we are not aware that the husbands of these women are members of the NPA,” Obligado said. “But if their husbands are really NPAs, then we are willing to offer them opportunities and options for peace,” he said.
Obligado said the military was open to any investigation into the allegations of the two women.
Both women said they feared for their lives.
In 2009, a 20-year-old daughter of NPA leader Leoncio Pitao, Rebelyn, was abducted by suspected military agents. Rebelyn, a teacher at a local school here, was on her way to work when at least four alleged military agents seized her. She was later found dead.
The Rev. Jurie Jayme, spokesperson of the human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, said international humanitarian law prescribes that the families of combatants on either side of an armed conflict be spared from the violence.
“Whether they belong to the families of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the families of members of New People’s Army, they are not part of the war and should be spared,” Jayme said.
He said Karapatan supports the appeal of the wives of the rebels and that the government should heed their call.
“We challenge the government to uphold the law that respects the rights of civilians and non-combatants,” he said. With a report from Dennis Santos, Inquirer Mindanao