The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said, “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, the anti-insurgency multi-agency body said, “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 mediamen not to brand Itaas as a “political prisoner” as he said, “(Itaas) 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 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.
He added, “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.”
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, I know that the true motives of these CTGs 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 said.