NPA rebels execute mayor, son

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Hours after their kidnapping early Monday night in Butuan City, Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan and his son Daryl were executed by their captors belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA), the military said.

Troopers of the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion found the bodies of the victims that bore multiple gunshot wounds at Purok 2 in Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan.

Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said Otaza, 60, and his son Daryl, 27, were taken from their residence in Barangay Baan at around 6:50 p.m. last Monday by 18 suspected NPA rebels posing as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation.

“They entered his residence, disarmed his security personnel and took his son first. They used his son as a shield,” Baladad said, adding the rebels and their captives sped away in a van.

Balabad said the police conducted pursuit operations and found the getaway van abandoned by the kidnappers.

Army troops later joined the pursuit operations and found the bodies of the victims, their hands tied, at a coconut plantation.

Mayor Otaza, a member of the Manobo tribe, was a former NPA rebel and a Lumad peace advocate.

The elder Otaza had been the target of liquidation by the NPA after he surrendered to the government and became a supporter of the government’s peace initiative.

Otaza was elected mayor of Loreto, Agusan del Sur and became active in the campaign for peace and development in his town.

Malacañang condemned the killing of the Otazas, calling it a “cowardly act.”

“The Philippine National Police, with the support of the Armed Forces, has intensified its operations to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“We hope that Mayor Otaza’s death unites the people of Agusan del Sur, the Manobos and the entire Lumad community and every decent Filipino in working sincerely towards lasting, meaningful peace,” Coloma said.

“Mayor Otaza was a Manobo, a Lumad and a former NPA rebel himself. Since his surrender, he has been an invaluable partner for peace in the region. His programs to ensure that former rebels have the means to lead dignified lives as part of mainstream society have encouraged many insurgents to lay down their arms. Observers have lauded the success of these programs,” Coloma said.

Office of the President Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, a member of the Cabinet cluster on security, justice and peace, said the mayor and his son were earlier kidnapped by alleged NPA rebels.

Bautista said the Butuan City local government activated its crisis committee to help solve the killing of Otaza and his son.

He said Otaza stood as the representative of the Lumad peoples, ensuring that indigenous peoples’ communities were not left behind in their Serbisyo Caravan or the assistance provided by the national government to the indigenous peoples and far-flung areas in the country.

PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez sent the chief of the Directorate of Integrated Police Office (DIPO) yesterday to Butuan to assess the situation.

Although the investigation on the killing is still ongoing, Marquez said investigators are pursuing Otaza’s link to the rebel group as possible motive behind the twin murders.

“As mayor and member of the Provincial Tribal Council in Agusan del Sur, Otaza liberated his town from NPA exploitation and manipulation,” said Major Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the Cagayan de Oro City-based Army 4th Infantry Division.

“He (Otaza) was successful in encouraging 246 NPA leaders and members, a majority of whom are Lumads, to surrender and return to their normal and peaceful lives. Under his leadership, development has started to set in in his town of Loreto, benefiting his constituents,” Lactao added.

Lactao condemned the killing, which he also blamed on the NPA.

“The killing of Mayor Otaza and his son is brutal and blatant execution. This is another Lumad killing purposely to sow threat and violence among the peace-loving Lumads and to the Filipino people as a whole,” he said. – With Aurea Calica, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Helen Flores, Edith Regalado, Ben Serrano, Gerry Lee Gorit

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