DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 26, 2009) – Communist rebels on Monday have claimed responsibility for the killing of a government soldier in the southern Philippines.
Security officials said two young gunmen attacked Corporal Orly Pedregoza while talking to friends in the remote village of Malabog in Paquibato District. The weekend attack also wounded a motorcycle taxi driver and a farmer, said Captain Emmanuel Garcia, a spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
Simon Santiago, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said the soldier was killed after he fought off rebels who were sent to arrest him because of his involvement in the rape-slay of Rebelyn Pitao, whose father Leoncio Pitao, is a senior NPA leader in Mindanao.
Pitao, 20, was abducted in Davao City on March 4. Her naked body was found the next day floating in a shallow creek in the village of San Isidro in Davao del Norte’s Carmen town. Her family said the body bore torture marks and was believed raped before she was stabbed in the chest.
NPA spokesman Simon Santiago said Pedregoza, a member of the 10th Infantry Division's Military Intelligence Battalion, was ordered arrested to face trial by a rebel court.
“He was armed, dangerous and gave battle to the NPA arresting team that resulted to his death. Corporal Pedregoza was one of the 21 respondents indicted by the People's Court for the rape-slay of civilian Rebelyn Pitao,” Santiago said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.
He said rebels seized from the soldier three hand grenades, intelligence documents, a .357-caliber pistol and a counterfeit 1,000 peso bill.
He said Pedregoza's arrest order along with several others was issued by the People's Court following an indictment against 21 others, including 11 military intelligence members, on March 29 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law in the abduction, torture, rape and brutal murder of the woman.
“The different units and commands of the New People's Army shall continue to effect the arrest order of the People's Court to individuals, persons and fugitives who are facing serious cases being lodged before the People's Court. With the boundless support from the oppressed masses to the strong determination of the people's army, the revolutionary movement shall pursue the ends of justice,” Santiago said.
In May, communist rebels also gunned down Ruben Bitang, a suspect in the brutal murder of Pitao, in Panabo City in Davao del Norte province.
The NPA said Bitang was the driver of the van used in the abduction of the rebel leader’s daughter. Bitang’s nephew, Army Sergeant Helvin Bitang who is assigned with the Military Intelligence Group, was also among those accused by the rebels in the killing of Pitao.
The army spokesman said Pedregoza was unarmed at the time of the attack.
“Corporal Orly Pedregoza, a resident of Paquibato and assigned with the 10th Infantry Division, died on the spot due to multiple gunshot wounds on his head. He was practically defenseless as he was attending a religious festivity of Filipinista of the Philippine Independent Church, a local Christian religious sect, when simultaneously attacked by at least two youthful gunmen while talking to some friends and acquaintances,” Garcia said.
Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, the army division commander, also condemned the rebel attack, saying, the killing shows the true nature of the NPA.
“We condemn the killing perpetrated by this atrocious group and pray that the wheel of justice grind in the interest of truth and of the people. We commiserate with the families of the many victims of these terrorists as we appeal for sobriety in the pursuit of legal remedies so that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes could be brought before the bar of justice and ultimately serve the punishment due them,” the general said.
Mapagu said the attack was a total disregard to the safety of civilians and contempt to a peaceful gathering in the community. He said rebels last week also killed a 71-year old tribal leader, Datu Intoy Baguio and his 72-year old brother Pablo Ebero, and Silvano delas Alas, a 50-year old farmer in Boston town in the nearby province of Davao Oriental for a still unknown reason.
The NPA has been waging a secessionist war the past four decades and had broken off peace talks with Manila in 2004 after accusing government negotiators of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners. (Mindanao Examiner)