By JOSE HERNANI and GRACE S. UDDIN
MONKAYO, COMPOSTELA VALLEY— Militant groups marched the coffin of Conrado Cañete, 57, the slain father of a commander of the New People’s Army, around the town of Monkayo on December 9 before bringing it to the cemetery for burial.
Activists interpreted his death to mean that the government’s counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bantay Laya has taken a bolder and evil turn: It is now targeting families and relatives of NPA members.
Kelly Delgado, secretary-general of the human rights group Karapatan, said Cañete’s case was similar with the death of the daughter and the brother of another NPA commander Leoncio Pitao, also known as “Ka Parago.”
Cañete was the father of NPA commander Jinggoy. He was living a peaceful life of a civilian on his farm in Monkayo before he left home on November 28 to attend a fiesta in the Monkayo village of Banlag. He never went home that night. His body was only found at the funeral house two days after he was missing.
Rebelyn Pitao, the daughter of NPA commander Ka Parago, was tortured, raped and found dead on March 5 this year in Carmen town of Davao del Norte. Rebelyn was living a civilian life, working as a substitute teacher in a school in Toril, before she was killed.
Danilo Santiago, Ka Parago’s brother, was also a civilian working for the governor’s office in Davao del Norte before he was killed allegedly by military personnel in June 2008, according to the Karapatan reports.
Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, also cited the case of Virgilio Alcantara, the brother of Tirso Alcantara of the NPA’s Melito Glor command in Southern Tagalog. Alcantara’s brother was also killed by military “assets” while on board a jeepney in May 2001.
“It is the attempt by the military to force NPA leaders and members to surrender,” Jalandoni said.
Jalandoni said that President Arroyo should be held accountable for war crimes under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) because of targeting innocent civilians. Although IHL prohibits the targeting of soldiers or rebels who no longer want to fight, the targeting of civilians violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Cañete’s wife Babita, 49, said their son-in-law came looking for her husband in Banlag when he failed to return home the morning after the fiesta. But Cañete’s friends in Banlag told him Cañete must have left without their knowledge. A neighbor came to their house two days later, bringing a copy of a local newspaper. The neighbor asked them to check on the report about someone who was killed.
The victim’s description fitted Cañete—a man on a white t-shirt and cap. The report said the body lied at a funeral house.
The son-in-law and other relatives went to the funeral house, where they saw the body inside the coffin. It was Cañete’s.
Police reported that Cañete’s body was found in a garbage site in sitio Baylo on the night of November 28. The body bore six gunshot wounds on his heart and three on the head. Investigators said the shots must have come from a .45 caliber pistol.