Rebelyn’s murder another setback to the peace process

Mar. 15, 2009

Rebelyn’s murder another setback to the peace process

I extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Ka Parago and Evangeline Pitao over the loss of their daughter Rebelyn.

It comes as a shock to hear of such news. I pray that the family remains strong in these trying times, and I would like to let them know that we peace advocates are one with them in crying out for justice.

It is sad for me to know of this tragedy. Especially that I have known Parago when I was assigned as a bishop in Southern Mindanao, and met him during the negotiations and release of Gen. Victor Obillo and Capt. Eduardo Montealto in 1999. Parago impressed me when the captured officials were released safely, showing his respect for their rights and safety and his strict adherence to the proper conduct of war. We met again during his detention in Manila in 2000, and he again impressed me with his strong conviction to his principles.

It is good to be reminded that Parago was released in 2001 as part of confidence building measures agreed upon by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks. Now, eight years after, the killing of Parago’s daughter once more betrays the serious lack of sincerity on the part of the Arroyo government in talking peace to resolve the decades-old armed revolution.

I pray that we can act this time to respond against this barbarity, to stand up for justice for Rebelyn and the rest of the victims of these extra-judicial killings in the country. It is alarming that the killings and other human rights violations are done with impunity, and in violation of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.

We cannot rely solely on a military-led probe, and I share the family’s doubts on this. Especially with the fact that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has unleashed Oplan Bantay Laya 2, which is now on a rampage in the countryside and cities in Mindanao, making no distinction between civilians and combatants, and, now, their relatives.

We must again raise alarm to the government and to the international community on this culture of impunity, nay, this culture of barbarity, and press on the government to implement the Alston recommendations. It was United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s report in 2007 that attributed the extra-judicial killings to a National Internal Security Plan that is adopted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Indeed, it is now incumbent upon the Arroyo government to prove its sincerity in the peace process, starting with yielding the suspected Military Intelligence Group/Military Intelligence Battalion perpetrators and reversing the murderous trail of Oplan Bantay Laya 2.

We have seen so much anguish and blood, enough is enough! As Commander-in-Chief of an armed forces that have kept alive the dark and dirty secrets of Martial Law, Mrs. Arroyo is ultimately accountable for Rebelyn’s death in the grand scheme of things.

Bishop Felixberto Calang
Chairperson, InPeace Mindanao

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