Rebs say slain leader, medic unarmed when gunned down
DAVAO CITY—A high ranking communist rebel leader and a medic slain by government soldiers were unarmed when they were attacked by Army troopers, according to the New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao on Tuesday.
Rigoberto Sanchez, the NPA spokesperson for Southern Mindanao, said Leoncio Pitao, alias “Parago,” was suffering from diabetes, hyperthyroidism and hepatitis, and was receiving his daily medication when soldiers of the 6th Scout Ranger Company appeared and opened fire.
In a statement, Sanchez said the medic, Vanessa Limpag, known in the rebel underground as “Ka Kyle,” was already raising her arms in surrender and shouting that she was a medic when she was shot by the soldiers.
“The Philippine Army must be very proud and happy to have killed a very sick man and an unarmed medic,” said Sanchez.
The military earlier claimed that Pitao and a female rebel, which the Army described as a medic, were killed in a clash with government troopers on Sunday.
“He was cornered,” said Col. Harold Cabreros, head of the Army’s 1003rd Infantry Brigade.
“His comrades left him behind and fled after the fighting,” Cabreros said.
Rules of engagement
Cabreros said the military had been hunting Pitao for about a week already when soldiers, acting on a tip, found him in Purok 9 in Barangay Panalum.
Sanchez accused the military of violating the rules of engagement in the Geneva Convention and terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that was signed by the national government and communist rebel leaders previously.
“They (soldiers) kill with impunity,” he said.
Sanchez said Parago was an inspiration to many rebel fighters because he lived a “spartan life” and was always ready to help people. “The revolution did not die with him,” he said.
“The masses and the comrades grieve his death, yes, but they turn his grief to greater revolutionary fervor as the people’s war goes on,” he added.
The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) turned down Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s call for a ceasefire between the government and NPA to allow the family and friends of Pitao to mourn for the slain rebel leader.
Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastmincom spokesperson, said a ceasefire is “not possible at this time.”
Duterte called for the ceasefire as he visited Pitao’s wake on Monday. Duterte considers Pitao a friend.
Most wanted list
Pitao had been on the military’s most wanted list for years before he was killed on Sunday.
“Let’s have a ceasefire as respect for the dead,” Duterte was quoted as saying. Caber said the decision to declare a ceasefire rests with higher officials.
“That is not in our control,” he said. “It’s the higher headquarters’ decision,” Caber said.
He said the NPA should see the death of Pitao as a sign for guerrillas to lay down their arms. With a report from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao
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