Posted by: nupl | May 20, 2009

KILLING OF REBELYN PITAO CONDEMNED: Automatic Relief of AFP and PNP officers in areas with extra judicial killings demanded

The brutal torture and murder of Rebelyn Pitao, a young school teacher and daughter of an alleged officer of the New People’s Army, are condemnable for the heinousness of the crime and for putting another obstacle on the peace process. The fact that the victim was abducted in broad daylight by armed men in front of many witnesses only points to the military as the perpetrator of another case of extra judicial killing. The military has the motive, the means and the opportunity to execute the crime, important components in establishing the guilt of an accused in criminal law. The precise military operation executed by armed men showing no fear of being accosted by the authorities or recognized by witnesses could only have been done by the military. The immediate denial of the AFP even before any investigation was conducted on the crime is one more evidence of the “denial” which UN Special Rapporteur charged the military with, in his report on extra judicial killings in the Philippines.Pres. Gloria Arroyo who has long been accused with responsibility for this method of eliminating those who oppose her regime cannot escape responsibility by merely expressing outrage over the incident. She must immediately order the relief of the highest AFP and PNP officers in Davao considering that the crime was conducted with impunity in their jurisdiction. It would be hypocritical for Pres. Arroyo to relieve military and police officers if jueteng persists in their jurisdiction, if she would not similarly do the same in cases of extra judicial killings or enforced disappearances. The NUPL demands, in light of the escalating cases of extra judicial killings, that Pres. Arroyo immediately relieve on the basis of command responsibility and investigate for complicity, the highest ranking officer of the AFP and the PNP in any area where extra judicial killing has taken place. This “automatic relief” policy in cases of extra judicial killings should be a warning on government security forces who have tolerated if not participated in this insidious form of human rights violations.The attack on the innocent daughter of a suspected NPA rebel also violates various international covenants which prohibits such acts because of the danger of spiraling violence against civilians. Even members of the Mafia have made an unwritten rule that civilian members of their families should not be attacked because the counter retribution against innocent members of the families will only worsen the violence. We welcome the pronouncement of the NPA that it will not conduct retaliation on non-combatants who, under international humanitarian law, are not legitimate targets of attacks. Article 13 of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions and ratified by the Philippines provides that “ The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilians are prohibited”. This war crime was the basis for the warrant of arrest recently issued by the International Criminal Court on Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and will be the basis for holding Philippine human rights violators accountable in the future. Even the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the agreement between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front signed in 1998 also prohibits the same under Article 4 (2) Civilian population and civilians shall be treated as such and shall be distinguished from combatants and, together with their property shall not be the object of attacks.”The statement by Sec. Cerge Remonde equating the killing of Rebelyn Pitao to the NPA ambushes on military and police personnel not only shows the callousness of Sec. Remonde but also his ignorance of the international conventions treating civilians differently from combatants such as the military and the police. Remonde must be immediately reprimanded for such insensitivity and ignorance. The intentional killing of civilians, including relatives of suspected combatants, must be condemned. The perpetrators must be immediately held accountable for gross human rights violations. The escalation of extra judicial killings only makes it more imperative for the government to implement the Alston recommendations and the automatic relief policy.

Reference Person  :  Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares—Secretary General

Date                             : (March 10, 2009)

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