This, as Col. Lysander Suerte, chief of staff of the 10th Infantry Division told MindaNews two of the soldiers with names similar to those mentioned by Pitao had been restricted to camp since March 11 “to make them readily available for investigation” even as their internal investigation has shown that one was inside the camp and the other was with his family on the date of Rebelyn’s abduction.
Police Senior Superintendent Benedicto Gorospe, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Southeastern Mindano, wrote Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) chief, on March 11, that during an interview with the media, Leoncio Pitao named “Sgt. Ben Tipait, Sgt. Adan Masulao and Sg. Hervin Bitang as the ones responsible for the death of his daughter.”
Pitao actually mentioned a fourth name – a Corporal Pedregosa — but his name is not among those listed in Gorospe’s letter to Ferrer.
Gorospe requested that the soldiers “be directed to present themselves for investigation and to air their sides as soon as possible.”
Supt. Quirubin Manalang, spokesperson of Task Group Rebelyn, told MindaNews that Ferrer has not responded to Gorospe’s letter but added that the command had assured cooperation.
Ferrer’s office received Gorospe’s letter at 2:30 p.m. of March 11.
On the same day, the 10th Infantry Division in a press statement said they have "restricted to the barracks" two soldiers whose names were similar to the names mentioned by Pitao – a sergeant surnamed Bitang but whose first name is Henry and a Cpl. Orly Pedrigoza.
Public affairs officer Lt. Col. Kurt Decapia said Maj. Gen. Reynaldo B. Mapagu, commanding general of the 10th, had ordered Sgt. Henry Bitang and Cpl. Orly Pedrigoza, both assigned with the Military Intelligence Battalion (MIB), restricted inside their camp in Panacan, Davao City.
“We have already conducted our internal investigation and it is still in progress. Their restriction inside the camp premises will make them readily available for investigation by the PNP and other independent body if warranted," Mapagu was quoted in the statement as saying.
On March 13, Suerte told MindaNews that Bitang and Pedrigoza had been cleared in their own investigation as Pedrigoza was inside the camp and Bitang was with his family. He said they are just waiting for the police to investigate.
The two other names Pitao mentioned – Tipait and Masulao – are not from the Division’s MIB.
Evangeline Pitao, Rebelyn’s mother, had told reporters on March 6 that she was “100% sure” that her daughter was abducted, tortured, raped and killed by elements of the “Military Intelligence Group.”
The MIG is a unit directly under the Armed Forces chief. It is the MIB that is under an Army division.
“The soldiers are willing to face the charges if charges will be filed… We promised to cooperate but without jeopardizing the rights of the soldiers,” Suerte said.
As of March 14 evening, the police had not investigated Bitang and Pedrigoza.
Pitao in a later interview, mentioned seven more names in addition to the first four he named.
Chief Supt. Pedro Tango, the regional police chief who is also a lawyer, wrote Leoncio Pitao and his wife, Evangeline separate letters dated March 11. Both letters were received by Evangeline.
In his letter to Leoncio Pitao, Tango expressed first the command’s condolences to him and his family and cited the four names Pitao gave in his radio and TV interviews.
”We are determined to bring those responsible for their dastardly act to justice. It could help our police investigators a lot if you can provide us with the evidence, if any, that will suffice to bring the perpetrators of this heinous murder to the bar of justice,” Tango wrote.
He asked Pitao to “feel free to communicate” with Sr. Supt. Aaron Aquino, chief of the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division of the Police Regional Office, giving him Aquino’s number. Aquino is also vice chair of the Task Group.
In Tango’s letter to Evangeline Pitao, he expressed the command’s condolences “and condemn in strongest terms her murder” and noted that in her media interviews, she accused members of the military intelligence community as the perpetrators.
“May we request to make yourself available for investigation any time most convenient to you, preferably soonest, at the Office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 11… so that we may be given the evidence in your possession that will sustain the accusation against the said military personnel,” Tango wrote.
Tango also urged Evangeline to communicate with Aquino.
Manalang told MindaNews Saturday night that the Pitaos have yet to communicate with Aquino.
Task Group Rebelyn is headed by Senior Superintendent Candido Casimiro, deputy regional director for operations of PRO Southeastern Mindanao, with Aquino as vice chair. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)