Slain Agusan Sur mayor, son laid to rest

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews / 28 Oct) – Amid cries of justice, family members, friends and supporters buried Mayor Dario Otaza here Wednesday morning.

The late mayor of Loreto town in Agusan del Sur, who was abducted and killed by New People’s Army rebels in his residence in this city last Oct. 19, was buried along with his son, 27-year-old Daryl, who was seized with him.

Ligaya, wife of Mayor Dario Otaza (in portrait) of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, speaks before friends and supporters
during burial ceremonies for her husband and her son Daryl in Butuan City Wednesday morning (28 Oct. 2015).
MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

The slain mayor was given a 21-gun salute by the Philippine National Police (PNP) while a pair of Philippine Air Force Huey choppers flew overhead as he and his son were laid to rest in Uraya Memorial Gardens.

“Sleep well my husband and son. Your deaths will not be in vain. Justice will soon be served,” said the slain mayor’s wife Ligaya. She said she could not believe that the rebels would murder her husband just because he wanted “peace and development” for the town of Loreto and its indigenous people.

She said Otaza had worked so hard because of his desire to uplift the livelihood of the lumads.

Wilfredo Otaza, younger brother of the slain mayor, said it is up to the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to bring the killers to justice.

“I challenged them to bring the killers to justice. Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said.

Mayor Otaza, a first termer, had already filed his certificate of candidacy when he was killed, according to Wilfredo. The latter said the slain mayor and his party-mates were running unopposed in Loreto.

Wilfredo said their family will meet and decide who will replace his brother to run for mayor.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the deaths of Otaza and his son will strengthen their resolve to end the communist insurgency in this part of the country.

Lactao said the slain mayor was “a valuable” partner helping the military persuade lumad NPA rebels to surrender and return to the fold of the government.

“Otaza was a very valuable partner in our peace and development drive. He was a great peace advocate whose desire was only to help his fellow lumads,” Lactao said.

Col. Alexander Macario, commander of the Army 401st Infantry Brigade, said the police have filed criminal murder with kidnapping cases against NPA leader Rene Catarata and 18 other “John Does” for the death of Otaza and his son.

Macario said Catarata is the front secretary of NPA Guerilla Front 34 under the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

“Catarata was identified by witnesses and cartographic sketches were made based on their accounts,” Macario said.

The NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command has claimed responsibility for killing Otaza and his son “to give justice to the thousands of indigenous peoples and peasants terrorized by their tyranny in Loreto and surrounding municipalities in Agusan Del Sur.”

NPA spokesperson Rigoberto Sanchez said the Otazas were responsible and had directed their tribal Bagani fighters to conduct “intense military operations” along with the Army 26th Infantry Battalion against the lumads in Loreto town.

He also accused the Otazas of land grabbing, illegal mining and engaging in illegal logging activities in Agusan del Sur.

The Otaza family has denied all of these accusations.