Agusan Sur mayor, son abducted in Butuan

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 Oct) – Mayor Dario Otaza of the municipality of Loreto in Agusan del Sur, along with his son, was abducted in his residence in Butuan City Monday evening by still unidentified armed men.

Supt. Martin Gamba, of the Caraga Police Regional Office, said that all they know as of press time was that Otaza and his son Daryl were abducted by 18 armed men at the mayor’s residence in Barangay Baan in Butuan. According to the report handed to the police regional office, the armed men introduced themselves as members of the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) who rushed inside the house, overwhelming the four security personnel.

“Our report suggests that the armed men just rushed into the house of the mayor and quickly grabbed the mayor and his son while the security personnel were tied up. We also have reports that these armed men managed to take with them firearms from the mayor but we still need to verify as to how many and the type,” said Gamba.

Barangay chairman Jeremiah Cafe witnessed the incident outside the house of the mayor as he tried to confront the armed men.

He said he noticed four armed men outside. “I introduced myself and they said they were members of the NBI. I asked why there were no coordination made with the barangay yet they said that they were only after Mayor Otaza and that it will only take a while,” Cafe said.

Gamba indicated that the armed men used a black Starex van with plate number KDG 179 and with “tribal” markings, which they used as the getaway vehicle heading to Barangay Mahay.

The vehicle was reportedly recovered later in Barangay Dulag.

Otaza, who was a former New People’s Army (NPA) member, has become an outspoken critic against the communist insurgents and has time and again vowed to fight against the cause of the NPA and the influence of communism in the province.

Last May 29, during a government service caravan in Loreto, Otaza vowed to fight harder and make sure to completely eradicate the NPA from his town.

In a statement, Undersecretary Manny Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace, noted that Otaza was responsible for the surrender of 154 NPA rebels after helping in the national government’s Serbisyo Caravan.

“The Mayor then put up programs that were instrumental in ensuring that rebel returnees like himself get the necessary support as they transition back into the mainstream. Several NPA rebels who enjoy kinship with Mayor Otaza through the IP [indigenous people] network have indicated a desire to reenter formal society because of the Mayor’s integrity, credibility, and the success of his programs,” Bautista said.

He added that law enforcers “are now conducting pursuit and follow up operations to ensure the safe return of Mayor Otaza and his son.”