Maza : The Philippines is a dangerous place for women

Mar. 14, 2009

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY “Baboy kaayo ang pagpatay sa iyaha. Wala siya gitrato nga tao (Slaughtered like a pig. She wasnt treated like a human being).

During a women’s rights forum hosted by militant women’s group Gabriela last week, Rio Pitao described how mangled her sister Rebelyn’s body was when it was found in a muddy ditch.

The 20-year old school teacher had her mouth taped shut with masking tape; her hands and feet tied together. She had rope burns on her neck and five stab wounds on her torso, possibly made with an icepick.

Rebelyn’s family blames the military for her death, believing that it is the state forces’ way of disheartening her father. Leoncio Pitao, popularly known as Ka Parago, has successfully evaded state forces’ massive manhunt for several years.

Rep. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela womens partylist, expressed fears that Davao would become the next Southern Tagalog. She said the killings in the city have a chilling similarity to what happened in the bloodied Luzon region, where most of the hundreds of murdered activists, rights workers and church people come from.

Another Gabriela partylist Rep. Liza Maza, also hit the bloody record of rights violations of the Arroyo administration since 2001. Of the 933 victims of extra-judicial killings since Arroyo assumed power, 107 were women. Of the 1,707 victims of illegal detention, 271 were women and 85 were children.

Maza said that Arroyo has made the Philippines the most dangerous place to live for women in all of Asia and even the world. Not one of these murders has been resolved to this day.

Ilagan also challenged the people not to let Rebelyn be an additional statistics to the increasing number of victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the government. “Let us look at Rebelyn as a symbol of the entire Filipino women who are suffering from the deliberate undermining of women’s equal footing in society, she said.

Davao city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte considered the killing as a deed most foul

Youll just open a new front of insurgency problem, said Durterte in one of the episodes of Gikan sa Masa, a weekly television program of the local government.

Duterte considered the barbaric act, a work of a monster; that the killers of Rebelyn overlooked the fact that the wives and children of police or military might also become targets of attack in the ongoing war between the Communist rebels and the military.

In a war, there is an unwritten rule not to mess up with family and children. Its a no-no. Guilt is personal, he said.

Rebelyn was abducted by unidentified men — believed to be agents of the military intelligence group (MIG) — while on her way home last Wednesday, March 4. Her body was found in an irrigation canal in Carmen, a town 50 kilometers away. It showed signs that she was tortured and molested.

Her gruesome death raised strong public outcry. What crime has she done? Councilor Pilar Braga asked in her privilege speech in the city council. Is being the daughter of a Commander Parago a crime? Who are the monsters an the cowards who took the life of an innocent woman simply because they couldnt catch her father?

The Davao city council passed two resolutions expressing their condolences to the Pitao family and condemning of the abduction and killing. She reminded me of my own children, said councilor Danny Dayanghirang.

Dayanghirang asked that civilians and farmers from Paquibato, especially Rebelyns neighbors and relatives, be allowed to come down and see her for the last time. He made the appeal after some reports that the military are holding some residents of Paquibato at checkpoints.

Duterte assured Kumander Parago and his family, and the rest of the revolutionary movement that he will try his very best to solve Rebelyns case.

But Evangeline Pitao, Rebelyns mother, said she could no longer trust the justice system of the present government.

I used to trust the government, but now Im already in doubt if it could deliver justice to my daughter, she said. The government itself ordered her killed.

Evangeline said what happened to her daughter and the injustices of the regime would also push more people to join the NPA. Her eldest son Ryan joined his father after surviving an assault in 2007 by forces believed to be members also of military intelligence group.

Evangeline said her daughter only dreamt of becoming a teacher. She had passed the board exam and has been working as a substitute teacher at St. Peters College in Toril. She expected to be regularly employed by the school this year.

She almost had her dream come true, she said.

The Pitao family holds the MIG responsible for the death of Rebelyn but the AFP denied it. Police hasa set up a task force to resolve the case.

Hustisya! Kabanay, an alliance of families and relatives of victims of extra-judicial killings in the region said the killings are part of the governments counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bantay Laya II. (CJ Kuizon, Marilou Aguirre- Tuburan and Grace S. Uddin/

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