DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 June) – Leoncio Pitao alias Kumander Parago Sandoval of the New People’s Army and an “unidenfitied female rebel” believed to be a medic were killed in an encounter with government troops in Paquibato district at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the 10th Infantry Division said in a press release.
It said Parago, 57, chief of the Pulang Bagani Command 1 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Command was killed in Purok 9, Barangay Panalum in Paquibato district.
The report said combined elements of 10th ID’s Task Force Minion formed several months ago to capture Parago caught up with the latter’s group, triggering a 20-minute firefight. Parago’s group clashed with troops from the 6th Scout Ranger Company, 1003rd Brigade, 69IB and 10th MIB.
Recovered from the encounter site were two M16 Rifles, three backpacks and several rounds of Rifle Grenades, the press release said.
“The still unidentified slain female rebel is believed to be Parago’s medical aide,” it added.
Parago has been a commander of the NPA since the 1980s and had several standing warrants of arrests for murder, robbery and multiple frustrated murder, the most recent filed this month.
Two weeks ago, police filed a complaint for murder and frustrated murder against Parago and 11 other suspected members of the NPA who clashed with Army troops in Sitio Isilid, Barangay Daladag in Calinan district on May 6. Four soldiers were killed and eight others were injured in that clash.
Sunday’s encounter, the 10th ID report said, came barely two weeks after Parago’s group clashed with government troops in Purok 7 Brgy Paradise Embac where three of his security elements were killed. “Two more NPA rebels were also killed after pursuing troops caught up with Parago’s group in Purok Mangga of same village,” the report added.
The report quoted Major General Eduardo M Año, commander of the 10th Infantry Agila Division, as saying that information from residents in the area “started pouring in which allowed us to track down enemy movement and activities particularly that of the group of Parago.”
“Apparently, the people are tired of CPP-NPA banditry and terrorism,” Año said.
The report added that with Parago’s death, the NPA in Southern Mindanao “is expected to be further plunged in a serious leadership crisis following the neutralization of other top NPA leaders early this year.”
Before Sunday’s encounter, Parago had been reported killed several times.
Parago played a key role in several releases of soldiers held captive by the NPA. He was head of the custodial force that carried out the safe and ordelry release of Brig. Gen. Victor Obillo and Capt. Eduardo Montealto in February 1999.
He was arrested in late 1999 and released in 2001 as part of the confidence and goodwill building measures for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front. (MindaNews)