NPA claims killing of Agusan mayor, son

(The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for the killing of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto town in Agusan and his son Daryl, saying it was meant to give justice to indigenous people or lumads the mayor allegedly terrorized. 

Otaza, himself a lumad, had left the NPA and returned to the fold of the law, later persuading hundreds of his comrades to follow in his footsteps. He has been hailed as an advocate of peace and the welfare of indigenous communities.

In a statement yesterday, NPA Southern Mindanao Command spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez claimed Otaza and his son were executed because of the mayor’s alleged persecution of people who stood against him and those he suspected as NPA members.

Sanchez said Otaza allegedly ordered the killing of lumads in Agusan del Sur, particularly those he suspected to be members or supporters of the NPA. Otaza and his son were also allegedly involved in arson and torture of indigenous people whom he wanted out of Loreto town.

Otaza was a former NPA member who successfully encouraged 246 rebels to surrender and helped them reintegrate into civil society.

Otaza and his son were abducted from their house in Barangay Baan in Butuan City on Oct. 19. They were killed later that night. 

Their bodies were found in the morning of Oct. 20 in Barangay Bitan-agan. Their bodies were hogtied and bore many gunshot wounds.

Sanchez said the NPA members, disguised as operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation, raided the residence of Otaza. They abducted Otaza and his son and confiscated four bushmaster rifles, one AK rifle, 1 AK 2000, and two 45 cal. pistols.

Otaza and his son were in possession of P25,000, which the NPA also confiscated to be turned over by a third party to the Otaza family soon.

Otaza’s relatives, friends and supporters and local officials of Loreto town mourned the death of the mayor and his son. They carried yesterday the remains of Otaza and his son back to their hometown and gave them arrival honors.

Soldiers clashed with NPA

Soldiers belonging to the 23rd IB of the Philippine Army, the troops pursuing NPA members suspected to be involved in the murder of Otaza, had an encounter with NPA members on Saturday on the outskirts of Sitio Afga in Lower Olave in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

Philippine Army 401st Infantry Brigade spokesman Capt. Jasper Gacayan said the 23rd IB received information from civilians in Sitio Afga that the NPA members responsible for the murder were hiding in their communities.

Soldiers were dispatched to the area to verify the information but upon arrival, the NPA allegedly opened fire. The rebels were reportedly outmaneuvered and then escaped. – Ben Serrano, Alexis Romero

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