DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) – A civilian tipster will get the P5.6-million reward following the killing of top New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, popularly known as Commander Parago Sandoval, on June 28 in Paquibato District, the military said.
Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said a civilian tipster who provided vital information in tracking the location of Pitao will get the reward money.
Pitao, chief of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command 1, had several standing warrants of arrests for murder, robbery and multiple frustrated murder.
Año said the recent encounters in Paquibato have been a factor in tracking the movement of the band of about 50 rebels.
Año told reporters that they formed “Task Force Minion” several months ago to capture or neutralize Pitao.
“As much as we wanted to get him alive, he chose to fight it out with our soldiers,” Año disclosed, adding that the Task Force Minion was composed of highly-experienced government troopers.
The combined elements of the 69th Infantry Battalion and 6th Scout Ranger Company that neutralized Pitao relentlessly pursued the NPAs, the military official said. “Twenty-four-seven yan,” Año added.
The 57-year-old rebel leader was on the limelight when he led the abduction of Brig. Gen Victor Obillo and Capt. Alex Montealto in 1998.
Aside from Pitao, a female fighter, believed to be a medic, was also killed in the 20-minute firefight.
Año said government troops recovered from the encounter site were two M16 Rifles, three backpacks and several rounds of rifle grenades.
Before the rebel leader’s death, the military had claimed several times Pitao had been killed in encounters.
“Now we are 101 percent sure that we got him based on the dentures and some body marks,” Año said.
Simon Santiago, NPA’s spokesperson in the Davao Region, confirmed that it was indeed Pitao and his medic who were killed in the encounter.
Santiago disclosed that Pitao had been suffering from diabetes and hypertension. “This is not a secret in the community, the masses are aware of his condition,” he said.
He added that many of their colleagues had advised Pitao to seek medical attention but he refused.
“His health condition did not undermine his courage and determination to pursue the revolution and server the poor and the oppressed,” Santiago said in a text message to MindaNews.