MANILA and DAVAO CITY, Philippines?The brutal murder of the 20-year-old daughter of a ranking communist guerrilla has caught the attention of President Macapagal-Arroyo, who ordered the Presidential Committee on Human Rights and the Commission on Human Rights to look into the matter.
Speaking on Saturday over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the two panels would ?act decisively? on the killing of Rebelyn Pitao, a daughter of Leoncio Pitao aka Commander Parago of the New People?s Army (NPA).
?The President ordered the investigation of the reported killing of the daughter of Commander Parago. The state also recognizes that this is a violation of human rights and that those responsible should be punished,? Remonde said.
The body of Rebelyn Pitao, a teacher, was found late on Thursday near an irrigation ditch in Purok 5 in Barangay San Isidro, Carmen, Davao del Norte. It bore stab wounds and torture marks.
According to the autopsy report of Dr. Tomas Dimaandal of the Davao City police?s Scene of the Crime Operatives, Rebelyn?s body bore five wounds caused by a thin and sharp object such as an ice pick.
The sharp object pierced the lungs and the liver.
The autopsy report also indicated that a laceration was found in the genitals.
Rebelyn?s family and friends said they suspected that her abductors raped her before killing her.
Rebelyn was abducted a day earlier by suspected military agents near the family home in Bago Gallera in Talomo district, Davao City.
Before Rebelyn was found dead, the government was preparing to resume informal peace talks with the Netherlands-based National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In a statement issued yesterday, the government peace panel chaired by Nieves Confesor condemned the killing of Rebelyn.
?The gruesome murder of the young woman, a teacher at that, is senseless and shocking. There can be no justification for this horrific crime that sends a chilling effect on our unrelenting quest for peace,? the panel said.
?This ghastly act and all atrocities have no place in our democratic space,? it said.
The panel called on the Philippine National Police to arrest the perpetrators ?with dispatch,? and on the Department of Justice to cooperate with security forces to bring the ?vile criminals? to justice and provide protection for witnesses.
It said that along with its human rights monitoring committee, it was ?ready to accept information, coordinate action between the public and the government, and augment multisectoral efforts that would lead to the solution of the crime.?
It also urged the public to stop speculating on the identity of the assailants, saying: ?A blaming environment only creates defensiveness and prevents those concerned from focusing their full energies on hunting down the perpetrators.?
?Depends on both sides?
Remonde disagreed with the statement on Friday of NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni that the killing of Rebelyn would set back the resumption of peace negotiations between the two camps.
?That will depend on how both sides will handle the issue,? Remonde said.
Told that the NDF was blaming Ms Arroyo and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita for the murder, Remonde said: ?We?re also holding Jalandoni and [CPP founding chair Jose Ma.] Sison responsible for the deaths of policemen and soldiers who were killed by the NPA.?
Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces? Eastern Mindanao Command, admitted being disturbed by the public perception that the military was behind the killing of Rebelyn.
?It?s really a concern. And we are bothered. That is why we have opened our doors to investigations for the truth to really come out. We want this issue to come to its end,? Cabangbang said.
?I am angrier?
In Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, a close friend of Parago?s, described Rebelyn?s murder as ?a deed most foul.?
?If the NPA is angry, I am angrier,? Duterte said.
Even ordinary citizens expressed outrage over the killing, which has become a hot topic in public vehicles, coffee shops, busy sidewalks, parks and markets.
Irene Mendoza, who also has a 20-year-old daughter, said she could not believe that Rebelyn would be made to pay for ?the sins of her father.?
?What they did to her was simply barbaric. It was just too much? What has she done that she must suffer that kind of death? If her father has done something wrong, why would she be the one to pay for it? She?s innocent and she has nothing to do with her father?s revolution,? Mendoza said.
Jocelyn Jose said that even if she did not know Rebelyn, she was ?heartbroken? and ?devastated? when she heard the news.
Jose said that if Rebelyn?s killers were after her father, they could have simply hunted him down in the mountains.
A cigarette vendor who asked to be named only as Miranda said she felt insulted when the military denied involvement in the crime.
?Who else could do that? Are we idiots? They can deny it, but we know that it is only the military that has the capacity and the motive to do something as brutal as that,? Miranda said.
Her father?s daughter
?They got Rebelyn because she was her father?s daughter,? said a jeepney passenger who asked not to be identified.
Another said that if soldiers could do it to the child of a ranking NPA leader, then ordinary people who did not enjoy some sort of protection would not be spared once the military suspected them to be rebels.
?We are outraged by this,? said Paul Anthony Crooks, a mass communication student at the Ateneo de Davao University.
?How can they be so heartless? As a student, I find it chilling that even civilians are no longer spared from this kind of violence. Where can civilians go now?? Crooks said.