NPA lost an ‘icon’ in Davao clash — Army | Inquirer News
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NPA lost an ‘icon’ in Davao clash — Army

/ 12:34 PM June 29, 2015

TAGUM CITY, Philippines – The death of Leoncio Pitao alias Commander Parago, one of the communist New People’s Army’s (NPA) key leaders in the region, is a big blow to the rebel force in the hinterlands of Davao City and in neighboring Davao del Norte province, a military official said.

Pitao, leader of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani (Red Warrior) Company 1, was killed along with a female rebel-medic during a clash with government soldiers in Paquibato district at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, said Col Harold Cabreros, commander of the army’s 1003rd Infantry Brigade, which covers Davao City and some parts of Davao del Norte.

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Supt. Antonio Rivera, Southern Mindanao police regional spokesperson, said soldiers from the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion and the Scout Rangers chanced upon Pitao’s group in Purok (Community) 9, Panalum village.

“His comrades had abandoned him. Villagers positively identified him,” Cabreros told the Inquirer by mobile phone.

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The military had been hunting Pitao’s group for a week before Sunday’s encounter, with villagers providing information to soldiers, Cabreros said, adding that the civilian population were fed up with the armed group.

Last week, at least a dozen soldiers and rebels were killed or wounded in a series of clashes in Paquibato, Davao City’s farthest village which shares a mountainous border with Panabo City in Davao del Norte.

“He was cornered,” Cabreros said. “His comrades left him behind and fled after the fighting.”

The man, in his late fifties, was the leader of one of the units of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Committee responsible for some of the most audacious raids against soldiers, police and businesses in the Davao region.

Pitao joined the communist movement in 1978 and steadily rose to become one of the most feared NPA leaders in Mindanao. The son of a peasant family in Davao del Sur learned the art of guerrilla warfare from Jorge Madlos, alias Ka (Comrade) Oris.

Pitao was captured by government troops and briefly jailed in 1999, but after being released in 2002, went back to the hills and continued fighting.

In 2009, unidentified armed men, believed to be government soldiers, kidnapped, tortured, sexually assaulted and killed Pitao’s daughter Rebelyn, a 22-year old teacher.

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A dozen military men were charged before a rebel court, while charges were also filed against the suspects before a government court. Several of the accused soldiers were snatched by suspected NPA partisans and executed.

Cabreros said Pitao’s death was “liberation of sorts” for the masses in Paquibato who have been subjected to the alleged abuses and excesses of the rebels.

“We have dismantled their underground mass base in Paquibato, and people were now cooperating with us,” said Cabreros.

He said the NPA movement in Davao region would now be in a decline with Pitao’s demise.
“He was their icon,” Cabreros admitted.

He said Pitao was facing multiple cases before government courts and had a bounty of over P1 million on his head.

Following the rebel leader’s death, a civilian informant who tipped off soldiers about Pitao’s presence at the community would receive the cash reward.

No one from the government side was hurt during the incident, the military official said.

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TAGS: 1003rd Infantry Brigade, Army, Commander Parago, Davao City, Davao Del Norte, Ka Oris, Leoncio Pitao, NPA, Panabo, Paquibato
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