DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 October) – The Southern Mindanao Regional Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) has claimed responsibility for killing Loreto mayor Dario Otaza and his son Daryl, allegedly “to give justice to the thousands of indigenous peoples and peasants terrorized by their tyranny in Loreto and surrounding municipalities in Agusan del sur.”
“Revolutionary justice prevailed when the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army authorized the imposition of a Standing Order and punished warlords GPH mayor Dario Otaza and Daryl Otaza,” the NPA said in an October 24 press statement by Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s SMRC.
Mayor Otaza and his son were abducted by armed men from their residence in Barangay Baan in Butuan City evening of October 19 and killed by their captors later that night, Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of the Caraga Police Regional Office, said. Their hogtied and bullet-riddled bodies were found early morning of October 20 in Purok 2 of Barangay Bitan-agan, a hinterland village in Butuan City.
The NPA said they imposed the “maximum sentence of death penalty” on the Otazas whom he described as “Bagani paramilitary leaders.”
Mayor Otaza, a member of the Manobo tribe, was a former NPA member who became an outspoken critic of the NPA.
Gamba said the mayor and his son were abducted by armed men who reportedly introduced themselves as members of the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) who rushed inside the house, overwhelming the four security personnel.
Sanchez admitted that NPA operatives, posing as NBI operatives, “raided the Otaza residence,” subdued their ecurity details and consfiscated four bushmasters rifles, one AK rifle, 1 AK 2000, two 45 cal. pistols.
The NPA operatives, he added, found the Otazas in possession of some Php 25,000 which he said, “shall be turned over to their family through a third party at the soonest possible time.”
Sanchez said the operation to get the Otazas was done by a combined team from the Comval North Davao South Agusan sub-regional Command and the NPA-North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command.
The NPA found Dario Otaza and Daryl Otaza guilty of “committing acts constituting war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” and listed cases of alleged torture and murder of five Lumad and ordinary civilians in 2013 and 2014; alleged multiple frustrated murder and robbery of some families residing in Km. 16, Brgy. Datu Davao, Loreto on September 9, 2014 “perpetrated by Bukakang Banggaan and certain Augit and Intoy, members of the Otaza-created Taptap paramilitary group;” and alleged arson and destruction of the homes of the farmers in Brgy. Kauswagan by Otaza’s paramilitary men in 2013.
Sanchez said the Otazas were also responsible for what he described as “intense military operations jointly conducted by Otaza’s Bagani forces and the 26th infantry Battalion Philippine Army under Oplan Bayanihan which resulted to gruesome rights abuses against the Lumad Population.”
Sanchez also accused the Otazas of “espionage, murder and gross violations of international humanitarian law pertaining to the rights of hors de combat” when two of Otaza’s intelligence operatives allegedly infiltrated NPA unites in Loreto on Sept. 5, 2009, “bearing poisoned food which rendered NPA troops unconscious and defenseless.”
Otaza’s operatives “relentlessly fired at the incapacitated NPA troops resulting to the death of four NPA fighters, capture of one NPA fighter and other casualties,” Sanchez said, claiming it was planned and executed by the elder Otaza who was then acting as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’s (NCIP) provincial chieftain.
Sanchez said the Otazas also engaged in “land grabbing and plundered the natural resources for their personal wealth, such as engaging in environmental destructive logging operations and mining activities in the already denuded residual forests of Agusan.”
He said the mayor was “complicit in the sell-out of more than 30,000 hectares of lands in Loreto to a foreign (oil palm) plantation company.”
The younger Otaza, he said, was “a notorious druglord, illegally dealing prohibited drugs in Loreto and surroundings areas.”
The statement added that in employing and arming paramilitary and Bagani troops, the Otazas “de facto waived all their rights as civilians making themselves legitimate military targets by the NPA.”
In a statement on October 20, retired Armed Forces chief of staff Emmanuel Bautista, now Undersecretary of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace, condemned the murder of the Otazas “as we condemn all the attacks on the Lumad peoples”
“We grieve with his family, the people of Loreto, the Manobos and other indigenous peoples, and the entire Filipino public. Rest assured that our law enforcement personnel will exert every effort to bring the perpetrators of this grisly, cowardly crime to justice,” he said.
Mayor Otaza, he said, “was a staunch partner of peace in Agusan del Sur.”
Bautista added that the mayor “stood as the representative of the Lumad peoples, ensuring that IP communities were not left behind. He founded programs that allowed rebel returnees like himself to live dignified lives upon their return to mainstream society.” (MindaNews)