Itaas convicted murderer, not political prisoner: NTF-ELCAC

Contrary to misleading reports, New People’s Army (NPA) assassin and convicted murderer Juanito Itaas has never been and will never be considered a “political prisoner” but a cold-blooded killer who served his sentence under the law.

Itaas, according to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), is a convicted murderer of United States Army Col. James N. Rowe and should not be given any romantic attribution that tends to mislead the public.

NTF-ELCAC spokesperson for mass media engagements and fact-checker, Undersecretary Jose Joel Sy Egco, a journalist for nearly three decades, cautioned journalists not to brand Itaas as a “political prisoner” as he was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by Branch 88 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) for the murder of Rowe, the deputy commander of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG).

His conviction was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court. (See People vs. Continente and Itaas, G.R. Nos. 100801-02, August 25, 2000)

“Itaas ambushed and killed US Army Col. Rowe for his assistance to government’s effort to contain the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs). Itaas is neither a political activist nor part of any legitimate political party… but a cold-blooded killer,” Egco stressed.

“For the sake of the Filipino people, please check your facts, lest you would be committing a grave mistake, of committing misinformation that tends to mislead. We should not be fooled by CTG’s propaganda that he is a political prisoner and that he fought for human rights. This guy is a terrorist, an assassin, and a murderer. He murdered a war hero,” he added.

It can be recalled that Itaas was arrested on August 27, 1989 in Davao City. On February 27, 1991, the QC RTC 88 convicted him of the crimes of murder and frustrated murder, respectively for the killing of Rowe and for seriously wounding his driver, Joaquin Vinuya on April 21, 1989.

“Being a former cadre of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippine-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front), I know that the true motives of these CTGs (communist terrorist groups) and their front organizations are to sow fear, stop progress, destroy democratic processes, destabilize the government and convert the whole country to an oppressive Communist State. So, I implore media not to glamorize these terrorists and even romanticize such acts of terrorism,” Egco concluded.

Heed the nobility of journalists’ calling

NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson for Sectoral Concerns, Undersecretary Lorraine Marie T. Badoy, scored on media outlets for calling Itaas “political prisoner”, hoping that journalists continue to heed the nobility of their calling.

“This is the sorry state of journalism in our country where those tasked to deliver the truth to our people have themselves become party to the grand deception foisted and perpetuated on the Filipino people by this terrorist organization whose weapons are words,” Badoy said in a statement.

She said the travesty that has caused grave harm to the country has lasted for over five decades “because the CPP-NPA-NDF did not act alone.”

“Apart from infiltrating all sectors of Philippine society, they have strong allies in media who have provided cover and functioned as mouthpieces of this terrorist organization,” she added.

Badoy said the media repeats the propaganda lines of the CPP-NPA-NDF “that they have used for over five decades to cause grievous harm to our people.”

“Where we endeavor to take off those masks, these media outlets strap back on those masks and make heroes out of these scoundrels,” Badoy said.

“It is, therefore, the hope of the NTF ELCAC that journalists continue to heed the nobility of their calling and to take their rightful place in this powerful movement sweeping our country right now borne by our people’s outrage over the atrocities committed on us by the CPP-NPA-NDF and their passionate desire to end this 52-year communist scourge,” she added.

She agreed with Egco that Itaas is not a political prisoner but “a terrorist and a convicted murderer”.

“In the first place, there are no political prisoners in the Philippines. We are a vibrant democracy where each citizen has the right to his political beliefs and is guaranteed the fullest freedom to participate in the civil and political life of our country without fear of discrimination and repression,” she said.

The Department of National Defense (DND), meanwhile, said calling Itaas a “political prisoner” is a misrepresentation of the court’s ruling that convicted him of the murder of Rowe in 1989.

“Let us not forget these facts: Itaas, who was working as an operative of the NPA’s Special Partisan Armed Unit (SPARU), was tried and found guilty of killing Col. Rowe, who was the Joint RP-US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) Ground Forces Division Chief when he was murdered. Itaas served 32 years of his sentence and was released through a court ruling that allowed him to benefit from the Good Conduct Time Allowance credits as provided by Republic Act 10592. This is evidence that our courts and judicial system are functioning in accordance with the Philippine Constitution,” said Defense Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, who is also chair of the Task Force Balik Loob and E-CLIP Amnesty Program of the NTF-ELCAC.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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