Davao Today

DAVAO CITY—The Commission on Human Rights is thinking of inviting New Peoples Army (NPA) leader Kumander Parago in a public inquiry to help shed light on the abduction and killing of his daughter Rebelyn Pitao.

We considered calling him (Parago), Leila De Lima, CHR chair, told reporters at the end of the hearing on the Rebelyn case on the third day of the inquiry on extrajudicial killings. We were already trying to make that a reality, kaya lang ang kausap ko, nag-back-out sa (but the one I talked to had backed out at the) last minute, said De Lima. She vowed to take stronger actions against the three personnel of the military intelligence group (MIG) who failed to show up in the inquiry.

The three were among the 13 MIG and MIB personnel accused by Parago for the abduction and killing of his daughter.

Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commanding officer, and Lt. Col. Rolando Bautista, spokesperson of the 10th ID Philippine Army. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Delima said that the Commission is doing informal backdoor talks with Parago because of the possibility that security concerns might complicate the situation. But she said CHR will not likely consider going where Parago is for security reasons.

Parago had earlier named four members of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and the Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) as responsible for the abduction and killing of his daughter.

Rebelyn, a 20-year-old substitute teacher in Toril, was abducted on March 4 on her way home. Her body was found the following day bearing torture marks and signs of abuse.

Interviewed by reporters on March 8, Parago gave the names of Helvin Bitang, Ben Tipait, Adan Asulao and a certain Pedregosa as responsible for his daughters death. His list had expanded to 13 MIG and MIB personnel at the time that CHR opened the three-day public inquiry on extrajudicial killings in Davao city on March 30. The Commission took up Rebelyns case on the third day.

Of the 13 named, only nine took part in the inquiry. Delima said the failure of the three to appear was already a ground for them to be cited for contempt.

She said the Commission was not informed that the three could not join. Their absence alone made us even more curious about the standing of those men, De Lima told reporters. We will look for ways to compel those personnel to appear.

But Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commanding officer of the 10th ID, said that of those named, only nine were under his unit. Those who did not appear were Ben Tipait, Adan Asulao, Romeo Carreon. Mapagu said Tipait, who works with the Military Intelligence Group (MIG), is on study leave but the names of the other two were not in the military roster.

Twice during the CHR investigation, military lawyers petitioned the CHR to keep the 13 personnel from appearing in public because of the nature of their job. The lawyers argued that exposing the agents faces in public will compromise their works and jeopardize the governments anti-insurgency drive. The lawyers also insisted that the accused were not even suspects, yet, hence, entitled to the same rights as citizens.

Major General Raymundo Ferrer, Eastern Mindanao Command Chief, at the height of the CHR hearing on the killing of Parago’s daughter Rebelyn Pitao. Lawyers of the military did not want the 13 military agents earlier accused by Parago to face the public.( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Tipaits lawyer also said that Tipait, a rebel returnee in the early 1990s, has been very instrumental in the governments counterinsurgency operations. He could not show up in public because his face is not known yet to new NPA leaders. The lawyers asked the CHR to question the agents only in a closed door executive session.

But twice, the CHR turned down the request. We understand your point, De Lima said, But it will not look good for the CHR to be discussing things in executive session when the family of the victims are clearly pinpointing at the military as the culprit.

She banned, however, the use of camera, tape recording, video taping and even the use of cellular phones, from the session. CHR also arranged for wooden panels to be set up near the stage, where the suspects can answer questions in full view of the investigators, but screened from the view of the public. Since their names have been mentioned, we need to ask questions, De Lima said. And its only through specific questions can we determine whether matters on national security is involved.

She told reporters later, the answers that theyve got had been very revealing, and theyve gathered significant documents that will lead them to the next stage of the investigation.

But Delima said they’re not satisfied yet, since there are still questions that are left unanswered.

She said the CHR wanted to invite Parago in the next hearings but will the elusive NPA commander appear in a CHR hearing?

Despite his grief, Parago refused to come down for the wake and the last ceremonies of his daughter.

He had told reporters who interviewed him in an NPA camp in Paquibato he will make sure justice will be served for his daughter but he does not expect it to come from the government.

He turned down earlier request from the police-led Task Force Rebelyn to cite the basis of his accusations against the four members of the MIG and MIB. Youre supposed to have your own intelligence sources, why do you have to rely on the NPA to do it for you? Parago said in a televised interview. We conduct our own investigation and we will make sure justice will be served.

In her CHR testimony, Paragos wife Evangeline Pitao told the investigating body that shes afraid of a whitewash, thats why she refused to cooperate with the police investigation. Youre all involved in the killing of my daughter, Evangeline said, addressing the entire establishment, even as the police quickly explained no military officer sits in the Task Force. If you ordered the killing of my daughter, why would you investigate yourself? she asked.

Evangeline, who broke into furious sobs in the middle of her testimony, said she knew that the killers were very angry because they failed to get her husband past the government-set deadline for his capture. Do you think you can get back at him by killing my daughter? she asked. And now, that youve killed her, is there a Parago who showed up? (Germelina Lacorte/

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