Mar visits widow of slain Agusan del Sur town mayor
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Administration standard bearer Manuel Roxas II visited the widow of the late Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto town in Agusan del Sur, who was abducted and killed along with his 27-year-old son by suspected communist rebels.

Roxas consoled Ligaya Otaza during his visit in Butuan City on Friday.

Roxas condemned the killing of Otaza and his son Daryl, who were found riddled with bullets in a remote village in Butuan City, a day after they were abducted on Monday.

Roxas assured the widow that all efforts are being exerted to bring the killers of her husband and son to justice.

Authorities in Butuan said witnesses have identified nine of the abductors as communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Several witnesses identified the nine as Hector Carata, alias Kumander Tindugan; alleged sympathizer Leonardo Cancamo and the others only known as Mar, Janib, Cyrus, Thursday, Charlie, Max and Igan.

The military said Carata is a ranking official of the Guerilla Front 34 of NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee, while Cancamo was the owner of the Starex van used by the rebels in the kidnapping of the Otazas.

Col. Alexander Macario, commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade, said charges of robbery and kidnapping with murder have been filed by the police against the identified NPA rebels and their 10 unnamed comrades before the City Prosecutor’s Office the other day.

As this developed, troops from the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion caught up with Tindugan’s group yesterday, triggering a firefight that left four rebels wounded at Sitio Afga, Barangay Lower Olave, Buenavista town.

Civilians in the area tipped off the military that Tindugan and his men sought refuge and hid in their community following the killing of the Otazas.

“Our troops in pursuit operations encountered the suspected NPAs who killed Mayor Otaza and his son,” Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the Cagayan de Oro City-based 4th Infantry Division said.

NPA rebels, posing as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, forcibly took Otaza and his son from their house last Monday.  

Hours later, the father and son were summarily executed by their NPA captors, their bullet-riddled bodies recovered by pursuing Army troops the next day at a coconut plantation in the outskirts of the city.

Lt. Col. Rolando Dumawa, commander of the 26th Infantry Battalion, said pursuit operations will continue against Tindugan and his group.

Dumawa said Otaza was a former NPA commander who turned his back on the rebel movement to marry and be a full-time husband to his wife Ligaya, also a former ranking NPA leader.

The two were placed on the hit list of the communist rebels for alleged counter productive activities against the communist movement.

Threats to his life further increased when Otaza was elected as mayor of Loreto, where he used to reign as NPA commander. He protected the Lumads in the town, since he was a Manobo himself.

“We have warned him several times to be extra-cautious but he was never bothered by our warnings and continued with his daily routine in serving his constituents,” Dumawa said.

Bunawan Mayor Edwin Cox Elorde said Otaza is one of the best local officials in the province.

“He has accomplished so much in his two-year stint as town mayor. Aside from his successful implementation of badly needed infrastructure projects, he was also able to convince at least 250 NPA members to lay down their arms and go back to mainstream society,” Elorde said.

Mayor Salimar Mondejar of Veruela town said Otaza was a big loss for the Manobo tribe and the indigenous people. He said it is time for the Lumads to be united for peace.

“We are all brothers. Let us sit down and talk and settle our differences peacefully. We should not kill each other to push our own beliefs and purposes,” Mondejar said.

The NPA has not issued any statement owning the kidnapping and killing of the Otazas.

The abduction of Otaza was not the first time that an elected local official in the Caraga region was kidnapped by NPA rebels.

In 1996, then Sibagat, Agusan del Sur Vice Mayor Romeo De La Torre was also kidnapped by suspected NPA rebels.

A few weeks before the 2007 elections, Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Roberto Luna was snatched by suspected NPA rebels inside his home.

In August 2011, Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Henry Dano and his two security escorts were snatched from his home by armed men posing as NBI agents.

They were all released by their abductors.   – Jaime Laude, Ben Serrano

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