Press Release
March 15, 2009

Pia condems rape-slay of Rebelyn Pitao, mounting human rights
abuses in Davao

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today condemned the mounting reports of human rights violations against civilians that have been linked to military operatives in the conduct of their anti-insurgency campaign in Davao.

Cayetano issued the statement in support of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's call on the Philippine Army's 3rd Special Forces to stop harassing civilians in Paquibato District, an area believed to be influenced by the New People's Army under the command of Leoncio Pitao, also known as "Commander Parago."

At the same time, the lady senator added her voice to women's groups and human rights advocates in denouncing the recent abduction, rape and murder of Pitao's 21-year old daughter, Rebelyn Pitao, which also took place in Davao City.

"The military leadership should not close its eyes to the mounting reports of abuses. It must conduct an impartial probe and also open itself and its military units in question to inquiries by other bodies, including the Commission on Human Rights, Congress and human rights organizations," she said.

Cayetano, the President of the Committee of Women Parliamentarians of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), recently returned to the country after presiding over a series of international meetings on the advancement of women's rights and welfare at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. "In the conferences on violence against women, legislators all over the world recognize the common thread is that women and children are often victimized in areas of conflict. It's the grim situation in the Philippines and in other nations torn by armed strife and liberation struggle."

"It's much worse when the violation is gender-related, as in the crime of rape. This is a barbaric act that should have no place in any counterinsurgency operation."

"The case of Rebelyn Pitao, an ordinary civilian whose only link to the NPA is her being the daughter of a top rebel commander, strikes at the core of the state's failure to protect human rights and women's rights."

She also called on the Philippine National Police to hasten its investigation on Rebelyn's murder, stressing: "The least that the PNP can do to lend meaning to the observance of International Women's Month is to identify the perpetrators without delay."

"History has shown that a pure militarist approach will never resolve the root causes of the insurgency. In the case of Davao, the military hierarchy would do well to listen to the position of local civilian authorities who are only after the interest of their constituents, including the entire Davao City council and Mayor Duterte."

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