Does Leoncio Pitao, alias Commander Parago of the New People’s Army (NPA), have enough reasons to believe that the military is behind the abduction, torture and killing of her daughter Rebelyn?
Rebelyn, a substitute teacher at St. Peter College in Toril, Davao City, was abducted at around 6:30 p.m., March 4. The following day, her body was found in a river in Carmen, Davao del Norte.
Parago named four soldiers whom he deemed as responsible for the killing of her daughter. The military, specifically the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, was quick to deny any involvement in the killing of Rebelyn.
Two activists interviewed by Bulatlat said that the abduction and killing of relatives of so-called enemies of the state by suspected state agents is not new. Bulatlat also found similar cases that took place during the administrations of Marcos, Aquino and Arroyo.
Disappearance of a brother and a colleague
In an interview through email, Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), related how one of his brothers was abducted by suspected state agents.
“My brother Francisco C. Sison was an economist and was deputy director of the Presidential Economic Staff of Marcos. But he was suspected by military intelligence of having secretly met me and passed some information to me from the office of PES director general Alejandro Melchor sometime in December 1970. He was closely surveilled and harassed by military intelligence agents to the point that he decided to take a job with the World Bank abroad. But in May 1971, while he was on his way to the Goethe Institute, the military intelligence stopped and took over his car and abducted him and his driver Elpidio Morales and disappeared them.”
At that time, Sison said he was in the forest region of eastern Isabela province.
Sison noted that the abduction of his brother came closely after the February 1971 abduction of Carlos B. del Rosario, a PCC teacher in political science and an officer of Kabataang Makabayan, from the premises of the Philippine College of Commerce (PCC, now Polytechnic University of the Philippine). Sison said Del Rosario was also suspected by military intelligence of being very close to him.
Sison said, “I thought immediately that the military intelligence had abducted my brother and Charlie del Rosario in order to force them to reveal what they knew about my whereabouts. I also thought that it was extremely stupid and cruel of the military minions of Marcos to do what they did.”
Later, Sison learned that his mother had asked a relative who was a high-ranking Manila police officer to press General Fabian Ver to investigate the abduction of his brother and to surface his brother. “Ver did not make any move but instead told the said police officer and the PES colleagues of my brother to keep quiet and stop demanding the surfacing of my brother. That was a clear indication that Ver himself knew something about the abduction,” Sison said.
Ver is the former Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Presidential Security Command under President Ferdinand Marcos.
“These abductions of Charlie del Rosario and my brother were the first two revolution-related cases of enforced disappearances in Manila under the Marcos regime,” Sison added.
Death of a brother
Meanwhile, long-term political prisoner Donato Continente, related how he lost a younger brother while he was in prison.
Continente (photo) was arrested on June 16, 1989 for allegedly participating in the assassination of US Army Col. James Rowe, a top intelligence officer attached to the Joint US Military Advisory Group (Jusmag).
Continente was convicted as a principal in the murder of Rowe, for which he was given a life sentence on Feb. 27, 1991. In August 2000, the Supreme Court, upon review, ruled that he was only an accomplice and lowered his sentence to 14 years. On June 28, 2005, Continente was released after serving his maximum sentence.
Exactly a month after his arrest and while he was still detained at Camp Crame, Continente, as part of his routine, asked jail guards if he could borrow the day’s newspapers. Nobody gave him a copy. Only later would he know why.
The next day, July 17, a military officer told him, “Ang mga kasamahan mo, pinatay na’ng kapatid mo.” (Your comrades have killed your brother.) He just shrugged his shoulders.
Bong-bong (photo, below, with his mother during his high school graduation), the second to the youngest of six siblings, was then a freshman at the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) in Quezon City. On July 15, 1989, on his way home, Bong-bong noticed that five bulky, suspicious-looking men were tailing him. He, together with a classmate, rode a bus going to Philcoa. When the bus reached the National Housing Authority (NHA) office, the five men manhandled and attempted to take Bong-bong with them. “Tumalon siya, nadulas, tumama ang ulo niya sa gutter. Internal hemorrhage ang ikinamatay niya,” (He jumped off the bus, slipped and his head hit the gutter. He died of internal hemorrhage) Continente related.
Bong-bong was only 17. His classmate who witnessed the incident went to the province, afraid that something might also happen to him.
A few days after the incident, Continente said that one of his interrogators, a certain Sgt. Bolsico told him, “Di ka nagsalita, pinatay na kapatid mo. Baka may isusunod pa sa pamilya mo.” (You refuse to talk and your brother was killed. Other members of your family may be the next victims.)
Continente said, “Gusto nilang hawakan ang kapatid ko para pagsalitain ako. Isang buwan na nila akong hawak, wala silang makuha…Sino mga kasamahan ko, anong partisipasyon ko.” (They wanted to get hold of my brother to force me to talk. I’ve been in prison for one month and they could not get any information from me… Who are my companions and my alleged participation to the killing of Rowe.)
He said the military also subjected him to physical torture to extract information. He said he was repeatedly hit with the butt of an M-16 rifle in the chest and was made to undergo the water cure. Water cure, now called “water boarding” in US military parlance, is a form of torture in which the torturers pour water continuously at the nose and mouth of the victim.
Continente said it is only the military who had the intention to abduct his brother. He said his brother had no enemies, did not belong to any fraternity and was well-loved by the community for being a good basketball player.
In 2006, relatives of two consultants to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel were also disappeared.
Rogelio Calubad, NDFP consultant and his son Gabriel, 29 (lphoto), were abducted by six suspected military men on June 17, 2006 in Bangkuruhan village, Calauag town, Quezon province.
Gabriel, an only son and a radio technician, was not involved in any organization.
A witness account documented by Karapatan said that father and son were riding a motorcycle on the way to a relative’s farm when two men on a motorcycle blocked their way and forced the Calubads’ motorcycle to crash to the ground. Four other men alighted from a dark blue van and took Rogelio with them. Gabriel was made to ride the abductors’ motorcycle. The Calubads’ motorcycle was left lying on the ground.
The two remain missing to this day.
Another NDFP consultant Prudencio Calubid was abducted along with Antonio Lacno, Ariel Beloy, Calubid’s staff member; Calubid’s wife, Celina Palma, and sister-in-law, Gloria Soco on June 27, 2006.
They were headed for Calubid’s hometown in western Samar aboard an A-2000 Mazda van when an alleged military intelligence unit blocked their way at around 5 p.m. along Maharlika Highway near Sipocot, Camarines Sur. Only Lacno escaped, the four others remain missing to this day.
Continente said what happened to his brother is part of the ‘military’s dirty game.’
“Hanggang ngayon, ginagawa nila. Walang pinag-iba mula pa sa panahon ni Marcos. Kung ‘di makuha target, dinadamay ang pamilya,” (They are still doing it up to now. The situation is no different from the time of Marcos. If they couldn’t get the target, they victimize the family members.) Continente said.
He mentioned the case of Rebelyn. “Mga inosenteng sibilyan sila, hindi armado o kaaway ng estado. Bakit isinasama ng militar sa kanilang maruming laro?” (They are innocent civilians, unarmed and not a threat to the state. Why should the military include them in their dirty game?)
Sison said that the abduction, torture and murder of a young teacher like Rebelyn constitute a war crime and a crime against humanity. “This crime shows the evil character of the Arroyo regime which has directed military intelligence officers to seek the destruction of the revolutionary movement by any means. Rebelyn was obviously abducted to torture and force her to say what he knew about the whereabouts of his father, Ka Parago. Then when the abductors could not get anything from her, they murdered her in order to spite him and possibly to upset him.”
Sison also criticized the highest officials of the Arroyo regime and the military for ’shedding crocodile tears’ over the murder of Rebelyn. “But shortly thereafter, they expose their hypocrisy and mendacity by covering up the perpetrators, spreading intrigues and putting the blame for the crime on Ka Parago and the revolutionary movement. They are indeed unwittingly the best recruiters and best inciters of armed revolution.”
Sison said further, “Such dirty tactics of the military violate human rights and international humanitarian law. They are stupid and ineffective. They outrage the people and incite them further to wage revolutionary resistance. Those close to Rebelyn, like his father and brother, become more resolute and more militant than ever in waging armed revolution.”
Continente also deemed that what happened to his brother strengthened his convictions even more.
Sison said, “I never wavered but became more determined to fight the oppressive system in the face of gross and systematic violations of human rights.” Bulatlat.com