DAVAO CITY—If the killers of elementary teacher Rebelyn Pitao wanted to shatter her father, Commander Parago of the communist New People’s Army’s Pulang Bagani Command, they apparently failed.
Parago, whose real name is Leoncio Pitao, said the killing of his daughter might have devastated him but did not weaken his cause—the “revolution of the people who have been suffering from the hands of an oppressive government.”
Pitao granted selected journalists an interview in an upland village known to be an NPA stronghold in southern Mindanao on Sunday—three days after the body of his daughter was found in an irrigation ditch in Carmen town, Davao del Norte province.
Wearing a Mao cap and the NPA’s signature black shirt, Parago appeared calm but his eyes were somber. He exchanged jokes with NPA cadres.
The military has consistently denied involvement in Rebelyn’s abduction and killing.
“What they did to my daughter was painful but we must not stop. I am here not only as a father to her but a father to many other poor daughters and sons of the oppressed. Am I devastated? I am not. I am even inspired by her death to be relentless in fighting for the freedom of the poor,” Parago said.
He added: “I will not abandon the people because of this loss. Instead, I will continue the people’s revolution.”
His oldest son, Ryan, also an NPA cadre, said the death of his sister was unacceptable. But like his father, Ryan said, Rebelyn will now become their source of courage and strength to move forward.
“She is now our inspiration to broaden the democratic people’s revolution. My sister will now always be with all of us as we struggle against a bankrupt government,” said Ryan. He joined his father after surviving an attack of suspected government agents three years ago.
Parago said he had expected the military to target his family as government forces continuously failed to capture him. He claimed that the 10th Infantry Division’s military intelligence group was behind the abduction and killing of Rebelyn.
“No one has the intention, motive and track record of the MIG [military intelligence group]. They did this to my brother. They almost got my son. My other daughter, Rio, was tailed by elements of MIG when she was still studying and this continued even when she was already working. It was the 10th ID who said they wanted to get me … now who has the desire to see me weakened or dead?” Parago said.
But he said the NPA would not retaliate and follow the approach of the military. He, however, said that time will come for those who were behind the killing of Rebelyn to pay for their debts.
Rebelyn, 20, was on her way home on board a tricycle from St. Peter’s College in Toril District when she was snatched by armed men. She was forced into a white van and was overheard by the tricycle driver as screaming for help.
Her body bore torture marks and five stab wounds. Rope marks were also found around her neck, which could mean she was strangled.
The medico legal also found injuries in her genitals, believed to have been caused by a hard object.
The militant women’s group Gabriela took the killing as the government’s gift to them on International Women’s Day.
“She becomes the symbol of the entire Filipino women whose equal footing with men has been undermined by the Arroyo regime,” said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.
“What made it more outrageous was the fact that Rebelyn Pitao has dedicated her life to teaching, a profession that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken for granted over the years,” Ilagan said.
“Her only fault was being her father’s daughter,” Ilagan said.
In Manila, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano in a statement blamed the President, specifically her anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay-Laya on the murder of Rebelyn. Jeffrey M. Tupas with reports from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao, and Gil Cabacungan Jr. in Manila