CHR denies Army request for closed-door session

The 10th ID, through Capt. Abubakar Katambak, a lawyer and the Division Judge Advocate General Office (JAGO), had earlier stood up to inform the CHR that Mapagu had sent a letter requesting for a closed-door session, citing four reasons:

         “that publicly exposing the suspected military personnel on the basis of a totally unfounded and patently baseless accusations from a bias (sic) personality will definitely affect ongoing military operations which have impact on national security;

         “that it will put the lives of the soldiers in danger which will unjustly affect the morale of our soldiers and their families;

         “that if said military personnel shall be subjected for questioning during the public inquiry proceedings…, their identity shall be compromised and their assignments and works/mission/activities in relation to internal security operations (ISO) shall be jeopardized and all efforts and programs of our subordinate units shall be in futility. Likewise, if we allow our men to be inquired publicly with all the media people around with their cameras and other gadgets, our personnel shall now be in danger of being unduly exposed and identified by the public as intelligence operatives engaged in information gathering activities and they shall be unnecessarily put at risk for possible reprisals and liquidations by the enemy of the State particularly the New Peoples Army (NPA) because some of the personnel named above are conducting operations in the area; and

         “that presenting them in a public inquiry offers a fertile ground for fishing expedition, especially so that the identities of the assailants have not yet been established.”

Katambak asked for 30 minutes within which to submit a written motion for reconsideration.

The CHR’s two-page order dated April 1, said it finds the reasons advanced by the 10th ID “insufficient to justify any deviation from its broad constitutional mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations and hold public hearings in connection therewith.”

The CHR noted the “context and  circumstances of the inquiry” and “has arrived at the conclusion that it is only in the course of the proceedings that he Commission will be able to assess the implications of such testimony on the internal security operations of the military as well as on the personal security and safety of its personnel involved.”

CHR chair Leila de Lima assure Mapagu the soldiers who would be presented would face the CHR “not as accused persons but as resource persons.”

Leonardo Pitao alias Parago, chief of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command, had initially named four soldiers to be responsible for the abduction and killing of his daughter, Rebelyn, a teacher at the St. Peter’s Colllege. He later added nine more names.

Col. Lysander Suerte, chief of saff of the 10th Infantry Division, showed reporters a matrix of the list of names cited by Parago and names of soldiers under their command. Of the 13,  they found “no match” for three names and five names were almost similar to the names given by Pitao.

The CHR also called on the chief of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) in the region but Lt. Col. Anthony Cacayuran was not around.

The public inquiry on “the abduction, torture, rape and killing of Rebelyn M. Pitao”  was called to order by de Lima at 9:34 a.m.

The first resource person called to deliver a statement was Evangeline Pitao, Rebelyn’s mother. (More details later) [Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews]