NPA admits killing Agusan del Sur mayor and son

TANDAG CITY, Philippines – The New People's Army claimed responsibility for the death of Loreto town, Agusan del Sur Mayor Dario Otaza and his son Daryl in Butuan City.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command, admitted that guerrilla rebels from the Davao region were behind the daring abduction and execution of father and son on October 19.

"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, to give justice to the thousands of indigenous peoples and peasants terrorized by their tyranny in Loreto and surrounding municipalities in Agusan del Sur," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said that the NPA operatives disguised as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation swooped down at Otaza's home in Barangay Baan and overpowered his security personnel.

The rebel leader said they also carted away 4 Bushmaster rifles, an AK-47 rifle, an AK 2000 rifle, and two caliber .45 pistols from the mayor's house.

"The NPA operatives found the Otazas in possesion some P25,000 which had been secured and shall be turned over to their family through a third party at the soonest possible time," Sanchez said.

Crimes against humanity

Sanchez said both the mayor and his son were "found guilty of committing acts constituting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law" such as:

1. Brutal murder and acts of torture of Lumad and ordinary civilians: Benjie Planos of Brgy, Kauswagan, killed on September 13, 2013; Gabriel Alindao of Brgy Kauswagan, killed on October 10, 2013; Romeo Wagas and Willy Gabisan of Brgy Kauswagan, both killed on October 26, 201; and Gerry Villamo of Datu Ampunan killed on September 10, 2014 – all in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

2. 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 a certain Augit and Intoy, members of the Otaza-created Taptap paramilitary group. (The names of the victims have been withheld for their protection).

3. Arson and destruction of the homes of the farmers in Brgy Kauswagan by Otaza’s paramilitary men: Mariel Dioganon, Aki Dioganon, Jordan Dioganon, Abdon Dioganon, Abdon Sinkok, Peping Maambib and Loloy Cedilla in 2013. (The names of the victims have been withheld for their protetction.)

4. Intense military operations jointly conducted by Otaza’s Bagani forces and the 26th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army under Oplan Bayanihan, which resulted in gruesome rights abuses against the Lumad population:

5. Espionage, murder and gross violations of international humanitarian law pertaining to the rights of hors de combat: on September 5, 2009, two of Otaza’s intelligence operatives infiltrated NPA units based in Loreto bearing poisoned food which rendered NPA troops unconscious and defenseless. Otaza operatives then relentlessly fired at the incapacitated NPA troops, resulting in the death of 4 NPA fighters, capture of one NPA fighter and other casualties. This carnage was planned and executed by the elder Otaza, who was acting as NCIP provincial chieftain together with Captain Gusi, officer of the MIG-4th Infantry Division.

The act was part of the AFP's Task Force Gantangan, a major component of the Oplan Bantay Laya 2, the centerpiece of which is the perversion of the Lumad Bagani culture.

Military counter-insurgency and paramilitarism were continued by Otaza when he became mayor of Loreto in 2010 and has since marked his leadership. Otaza's Bagani Force and the 26th IB continued their atrocious reign through forcible arrests, fake NPA surrenders, arbitratry detention, psychological warfare, harassment, threats against the families of the NPAs even after entering an agreement brokered by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with the evacuees that no retaliatory attacks will be waged against them upon their return from evacuation in August 2013.

6. As rabid intelligence handler of the ISAFP, Dario Otaza established and built intelligence networks within NPA territories in Agusan del Sur for purposes of counter-revolutionary operations of the AFP, including developing, maintaining, directing of assets for infiltration, espionage and sabotage.

7. Coercion and forcible recruitment of the Lumad into paramilitary/Bagani groups to serve as counter-revolutionary spies coercing armed actions against the revolutionary movement and unsparingly, against unarmed civilians.

8. Instigation and inductions of revolutionary cadres to abandon and betray the revolutionary cause, gathering of information, including those of intelligence value within NPA territories, constituting acts of espionage as defined in Article 46 of the 1977 Protocol to the Geneva convention in 1949.

"They remained unremorseful, adhered to counter-revolutionary practice and continued to be hostile towards the people, while they engaged in land grabbing and plundered 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. Dario Otaza was complicit in the sell-out of more than 30,000 hectares of lands in Loreto to a foreign palm oil plantation company," Sanchez said.

Waived rights

By participating in these activities, Sanchez claimed that the Otazas had already "waived" their rights as civilians.

"In refusing to rectify to reform to non-violent civilian governance, they continued to employ and arm paramilitary and Bagani troops to secure and fortify their oppressive and bureaucrat-capitalist rule. Hence, the Otazas de facto waived all their rights as civilians making themselves legitimate military targets by the NPA," Sanchez said.

"Meanwhile, Daryl Otaza, aside from directly participating in the commission of the above-mentioned crimes, was a notorious drug lord, illegally dealing prohibited drugs in Loreto and surroundings areas," Sanchez said.

Captain Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the military's 4th Infantry Division, condemned the attack calling it a "hate crime."

Martinez said Otaza, who was a former rebel, was particularly targeted by the NPA because he "brought development to his community."

"He was successful in encouraging 246 NPA to go back to mainstream society and lead a normal life," Martinez said.

Malacañang had vowed "intensified operations" to bring perpetrators to justice. – Rappler.com