Sep 242014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2009-03-13 09:46
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #0563/01 0720946
O 130946Z MAR 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000563


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/12/2019

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The brutal murder of a young school teacher
has spurred the Philippine government and human rights groups
to investigate whether military or law enforcement members
were involved in the crime. Rebelyn Pitao, the 20-year-old
daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) insurgent leader Leoncio
Pitao (a.k.a. “Commander Parago”) was found murdered March 5
in Mindanao’s Davao del Norte province after she was
reportedly abducted and tortured by armed men. Her father
has blamed the Philippine military and the Arroyo
administration for the murder, and named 11 soldiers he
alleges were involved in his daughter’s murder. In a private
meeting with the Ambassador, Secretary of National Defense
Gilberto Teodoro and Philippine Armed Forces (AFP) Chief of
Staff General Alexander Yano expressed revulsion at the
murder, and underscored their resolve to assist law
enforcement authorities in conducting a thorough
investigation of the crime and bringing the perpetrators to
justice. President Arroyo instructed all relevant government
agencies to immediately undertake a full investigation of the
murder. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (SBU) Twenty-year-old Rebelyn Pitao was reportedly
traveling to her home in the outskirts of Davao City in
eastern Mindanao the evening of March 4, when she was
abducted by unidentified assailants in a van. According to
witnesses, the van pulled in front of the motorcycle-sidecar
taxi in which she was riding, blocking its path, and two to
four armed men forced her into the van. The motorcycle-taxi
driver told police that Pitao called for help, but one of the
kidnappers pointed a gun at him and told him not to move.
Pitao’s body was discovered the next day in an irrigation
canal in the town of Carmen, approximately thirty kilometers
north of Davao City; the corpse showed signs that she had
been stabbed, tortured, and possibly sexually assaulted.


¶3. (SBU) Pitao’s father, a high-ranking insurgent leader of
the New People’s Army (NPA), claimed in a public statement
that that an investigation conducted by the New People’s Army
(the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines)
identified 11 soldiers who were involved in his daughter’s
murder. He claims that the 11 are widely known to have been
involved in the killing of militant leaders in the past, and
that the van used in his daughter’s abduction was seen parked
at a military safe house in Carmen, Davao del Norte. He
provided no evidence specifically linking any of the 11 to
the murder, but vowed to avenge his daughter’s death.
Leoncio joined the NPA in 1978, and has been accused by the
military of committing various attacks, including the 1999
kidnapping of two Philippine armed forces (AFP) officers and
a 2007 assault on the Davao Penal Colony armory in which he
allegedly led 30 fighters in a raid that captured over 100
firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition. He is also
suspected of leading attacks on several police stations in
Davao del Norte. Leoncio blames the AFP for the 2008
kidnapping and murder of his brother, Danilo, and claims that
his son, Ryan, joined him in the NPA and went into hiding
after being allegedly hounded and nearly stabbed by military
agents in 2005.

¶4. (SBU) The Philippine government denies any involvement in
the killing, and President Arroyo has ordered all relevant
government agencies to immediately undertake a full
investigation of the murder. General Ferrer, Chief of the
AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said that he will cooperate
fully with the investigation, and asked that the media and
public not rush to judgment against the military. The
commander of the AFP’s 10th Infantry Division, Major General
Reynaldo Mapagu, said in a press conference that while his
command may be suspected because it has been searching for
Leoncio for years, the army would not resort to such a
personal, familial level of reprisal. However, General
Mapagu nonetheless ordered two of the soldiers accused by
Leoncio to be restricted to their barracks, and said he would
make them available to the Philippine National Police and
other investigative bodies as required. It remained unclear
on what basis Mapagu had chosen these two soldiers, rather
than the others, to be confined to barracks.


¶5. (C) In a March 12 meeting, AFP Chief of Staff General
Alexander Yano and Secretary of National Defense Gilberto
Teodoro told the Ambassador that they were horrified by the
murder and were eager to find out whether any elements of the
AFP were involved. The Secretary promised that the military
would cooperate fully in the investigation and that he wants

MANILA 00000563 002 OF 002

to see it move forward with due process and within the proper
legal framework. The senior leadership of the AFP are
clearly troubled by Pitao’s murder and the allegations of AFP
involvement. While it is possible that rogue AFP elements in
Mindanao may have played a role as the family and various
leftist organizations claim, other perpetrators cannot be
ruled out. Clan feuds, personal disputes, intra-NPA
rivalries, and criminal elements are often responsible for
such gruesome crimes in the Philippines. As AFP Civil
Relations Service chief Brigadier General Pangilinan pointed
out at a press conference, “There are a thousand-and-one
groups that are angry at (Commander) Parago.” Post will
continue to monitor developments in the case closely, and
report as appropriate.



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