BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
A lawyers’ group has demanded the automatic relief of the highest-ranking military and police officers in areas where extrajudicial killings take place.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers made this call on the heels of the abduction, torture and killing of schoolteacher Rebelyn Pitao, 20, last week.
Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) Commander Leoncio Pitao (alias Parago Sandoval), was abducted by armed men at around 6:30 p.m. last March 6 while aboard a tricycle in Talomo, Davao City. She was on the way home from St. Peter’s College, where she was teaching.
Her body was found the next day in an irrigation canal in Carmen, Davao del Norte — some 50 kilometers from where she was abducted. The body bore marks of torture.
“(President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) 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,” read an NUPL statement sent to media earlier today.
“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,” the NUPL also stated. “This ‘automatic relief’ policy in cases of extrajudicial killings should be a warning on government security forces who have tolerated if not participated in this insidious form of human rights violation.”
The lawyers’ group also pointed out that the attack on Pitao violates several international covenants “which prohibit such acts because of the danger of spiraling violence against civilians,” and welcomed the NPA’s statement that it will not retaliate against the relatives of the soldiers who were involved in the torture and killing of Pitao.
Art. 13, Protocol II of the Geneva COnvention prohibits attacks on the civilian population and individual civilians, as does the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which was signed by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 1998. (Bulatlat.com)