Abducted Agusan del Sur mayor found dead
MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The mayor of Loreto town in Agusan del Sur was found dead Tuesday, October 20, a day after he and his 27-year-old son Daryl were kidnapped.
The bodies of Mayor Dario Otaza and his son, who were forcibly taken by 16 armed men posing as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), were found early morning Tuesday in Barangay Bitan-agan, some 12 kilometers from Butuan City proper, Interior Secretary Mel Sarmiento said in a text message.
Otaza and his son, who reportedly had special needs, were taken on Monday, October 19, at around 6:50 in the evening.
Their bodies were found at about 7:00 am by the platoon leader of the 23rd Infantry Battalion, Sarmiento said.
Manny Bautista, Undersecretary of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace, said the bodies were hogtied and sustained multiple gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies.
Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the military's 4th Infantry Division, said the bodies were recovered by responding cops in Barangay Bitan-agan in the same city at around 6 in the morning.
"Mayor Otaza and his son had multiple gunshot wounds in their chests," Martinez said.
Martinez said it is highly probable that the perpetrators behind the attack are members of the communist New People's Army (NPA) under its Northeastern Mindanao Command.
"Mayor Otaza was taken in his house in Butuan and not in his residence in Loreto. It is possible that the rebels are from the Northeastern Mindanao Command," Martinez said.
If it will be proven that the NPA was responsible for the incident, Martinez said it would be regarded as really foul. Otaza, a former rebel, had been very vocal in his campaign against the communist movement.
"Killing is never a solution. And why would they even involve Otaza's special child?" Martinez asked.
Based on the number of gunshot wounds and the manner of the execution, Martinez said it can be considered as a hate crime. The NPA has yet to issue a statement about the incident.
The armed men used a black Starex van with plate number KDG 179 as their getaway vehicle, according to initial reports.
The vehicle was reportedly abandoned in Barangay Dulag.
Attracting rebel returnees
Otaza, also a member of the National Unity Party, has been the government's partner in programs aimed at helping rebel returnees.
He participated in the national government's Serbisyo Caravan program, after which 154 NPA rebels surrendered, Bautista said.
Several NPA rebels close to him, according to Bautista, "indicated a desire to reenter formal society because of the Mayor’s integrity, credibility, and the success of his programs."
Bautista had previously condemned the abduction of Otaza, saying it has "no place in a civilized society." – with reports from Bea Cupin and Karlos Manlupig/Rappler.com