GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The military here confirmed that top New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao, alias Ka Parago, was killed in an encounter in Barangay Pañalum, Paquibato District in Davao City Sunday afternoon, June 28.
The encounter also resulted in the death of another NPA rebel, according to the same report.
“Initial report from the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Mawab, Davao del Norte indicated that one section of the 6th Scout Ranger Company led by Lt. Camarillo encountered an undetermined number of NPAs led by Parago himself,” the report said.
The military said it was able to recover the slain body of Parago and his still unidentified rebel companion.
Two M16 rifles and 3 backpacks were also retrieved from the clash site.
There was no immediate confirmation from the rebel side.
Legendary rebel leader
Parago is one of the oldest and most wanted NPA commanders in Mindanao who was captured in November 1999 but jumped bail and rejoined his comrades the following year.
Earlier in February of the same year, he gained national prominence when he led a rebel band that captured Army General Victor Obillo and his aide and held them hostage for several weeks before releasing them to the International Red Cross.
He was reported to have been killed several times only to resurface as head of the 1st Pulang Bagani Command, believed to be the main regional guerilla unit of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command.
The NPA’s Southern Mindanao Region is reportedly the biggest and strongest command of the communist rebels with over 1,000 fully armed regulars spread across the Davao Provinces and parts of North Cotabato, Agusan del Sur, and Bukidnon.
Daughter abducted and killed
In 2009, an international outrage broke out in Davao City when suspected military agents abducted and killed her 20-year-old daughter Rebelyn.
Rebelyn was dumped in a narrow ditched in Panabo City, some 45 kilometers away from where she was snatched.
At least four of the seven suspected military agents named in the Rebelyn killing were themselves executed by the NPAs.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte described the slaying as “murder most foul.”
Duterte and Ka Parago have become personal friends after the Davao City Mayor facilitated the release of a number of NPA “prisoners of war.”
Duterte even joined Ka Parago during anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the political party of the NPA.
Parago is believed to be in his early 60s.