People's Tribute to Leoncio Ka
Part I Part II Part III Part IV (Parangal) Part V (Funeral March)
June 29 - July 10, 2015
Photos by Charisse Bañez. Kilab
Multimedia, Kodao, Lana Linaban, Manila Today,
Obet de Castro, Renato Reyes and Tudla as indicated by the filenames
SUPPORTERS JOIN COMMANDER PITAO’S FUNERAL MARCH, TRIBUTE TO
HIS REVOLUTIONARY SERVICE
Twelve thousand supporters of the slain New People Army Commader Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao joined his funeral procession as tribute to his 37-year revolutionary service, according to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Southern Mindanao Region Secretary General Sheena Duazo.
Supporters who came all the way from CARAGA, North Central Mindanao, Far South Mindanao, North Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, Compostella Valley, Davao Oriental withstood the two-hour funeral procession to send Ka Parago to his resting haven.
The 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion Commander was gunned down by the AFP while being treated for his hyperthyroidism, hepatitis, and diabetes on June 28, 2015, in Brgy. Panalum, Paquibato District, Davao City.
Ka Parago’s medic, Vanessa “Ka Kyle” Limpag was also killed despite declaring she was a medic. This is a violation by the AFP of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) and the provisions in the Geneva Convention.
Despite NPA’s major loss, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region Spokesperson Tony Salubre declared their fight will endure.
“Ang pakikibaka ng mga magsasaka, armado man o hindi armado, ay magpapatuloy kahit wala na si Kumander Parago. Gaya ng sinabi ni Kumander Parago, ang Rebolusyon ay hindi tunggalian ng military at ng NPA, kung hindi tunggalian ng mga inaapi sa nang-aapi. Hangga’t hindi nawawala ang ganitong sistema, ang Rebolusyon at pakikibaka ay magpapatuloy, Salubre said.
Ka Parago served in the armed
revolution since 1979 during Martial Law. Aside from leading and training
many young warriors from the 1980s to the 1990s to launch countless
disarming operations, he also led in the capture of Gen. Victor Obillo and
Capt. Eduardo Montealto in 1999, the Davao Penal Colony raid in 2007, and
launched successful tactical offensives in the Southern Mindanao Region.
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A New People’s Army unit in the
foothills of Mt Apo honored Leoncio “Commander Parago” with a military
parade and a 21-gun salute two days after the late rebel leader was
cremated in Davao City last July 10.
A platoon belonging to the NPA’s Mt. Apo Operational Command performed the rare ceremony for its “shining red star” in front of hundreds of civilian supporters and people’s militia members.
Pitao was killed by soldiers of the
Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao City’s Paquibato
District last June 28. The NPA said he was being treated for a variety of
ailments when he was mowed down by gunfire along with medic Vanessa “Ka
The ceremony followed an unprecedented public wake, tribute and funeral march in a major Filipino city for a rebel attended by an estimated ten thousand supporters and friends, including national and local political and business leaders.
Led by Communist Party of the
Philippines, NPA and National Democratic Front of the Philippines colors,
the rebel troopers marched in single file into a clearing and performed
rifle drills before consecutively firing their rifles.
They proceeded to present arms before singing Ang Internasyunal, the universal anthem of communist parties all over the world.
The audience joined in the singing of the anthem.
The 21-gun salute is traditionally a cannonade for surrendering ships but has developed through the centuries into an honorifical ceremony reserved for royalty, heads of state, high government officials and heroes, especially during important events and funerals using both cannons and rifles.
There is no universal pattern in performing the gun salute and every armed force may devise their own style.
“Ka Teo,” a veteran NPA fighter who once fought and worked with Pitao, described their fallen hero as an extraordinary leader who was a brilliant military tactician and inspiring revolutionary.
“The many military tactics that we use today to defeat the enemy were devised by Kumander Parago. His brilliance is proven by the fact that our casualties are always fewer than the number of our enemies killed and wounded in battle,” he said.
“He did not convince us in so many words. His examples were enough for us to commit our lives to the revolution,” Teo said.
Ka Karen, a local Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan member, said they will never forget Pitao who they consider their hero.
“Contrary to what the Armed Forces of the Philippines said, his death does not weaken our resolve to push the revolution forward. His death strengthens our determination to defeat the enemies of the people,” Karen said.
The NPA usually holds public parades during the CPP’s anniversary on December 26, but only when both the CPP and the Philippine government reciprocally declare ceasefires in observance of the Yuletide season. These parades do not include live fire salutes.
The AFP often violates these
ceasefires, however, by putting up roadblocks and harassing the NPA’s
civilian supporters, even media persons and local and national government
officials who wish to cover or attend the rebel’s celebrations.
Last year, Philippine Army soldiers in Surigao del Sur tried to prevent Bayan Muna representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate and special envoy for the peace negotiations Hernani Braganza from attending the CPP’s 46th anniversary celebrations and peace consultations in Marihatag town. The presence of Surigao del Sur vice governor Manuel Alameda in behalf of governor Johnny Pimental also did not deter the troopers from violating their government’s own ceasefire declaration.
As a rebel guerrilla force, the NPA can only hold open celebrations, especially involving live gunfire, in areas where it enjoys strong support from the residents.
The NPA’s Mt Apo Operational Command includes the First Pulang Bagani (Red Warrior) Battalion and other company-sized formations. Pitao was the most famous commander of this famed command known for conducting the most audacious operations in the rebel army’s history. #
Journalists expressed in different ways their deep respect, they who are “thankful to have someone like him who cares for the welfare of the people,” he who “has a heart of a father and a brother,” and who “left a legacy in understanding the state of the country.”
Award-winning writer Don Pagusara called him a ‘Man of the Masses.’ Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself paid his last respects at Parago’s wake. Everyone in Davao calls him ‘Tatay.’ We environmental advocates ourselves have deep respect for Tatay Parago’s unwavering principles in the face of environmental destruction. He firmly stands by the NPA’s policy opposing big mining projects ushered in by the neoliberal Mining Act of 1995.
Talking about the entry of mining firms in the province of Davao, Parago says: “We are ready to set their trucks and equipment on fire if they enter our territory. They have no business here.”
True to his word, various mine companies in the Davao region have been subjected to punitive actions from the NPA. The latest was the torching of at least 20 vehicles and equipment of Apex Mining in Compostela Valley in 2014, and the disarming of the private army of Monkayo mayor Manuel Brillantes Jr. in April this year.
A cry for land and justice
Perhaps Parago and his fellow Red fighters are well-respected because, to the eyes of a people besieged by more than a century of mining plunder, land grabs, and repression, there is a certain unparalleled beauty in the resistance that Tatay Parago stood for throughout his 37 years as a warrior.
When they shed tears for Parago, it is for the hundreds of thousands of hectares of mountains, forests and fertile lands in Mindanao that were and continue to be ravaged by big loggers, large-scale miners, and plantations. It is for the millions of Lumads, Moros, peasants, fisherfolk, and other small people who have been exploited, oppressed, and adversely affected by these foreign-dominated big business projects.
In Davao’s Paquibato district, where the NPA‘s 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion led by Ka Parago is known to operate, the indigenous Lumads and peasant farmers are constantly under threat of displacement and harassment.
Despite a recently passed city resolution banning large-scale mining in Davao, US-based companies Albertos Gold Corporation and Penson Corporation persist with their attempt to explore almost 17,000 hectares in Paquibato. The AFP’s military and paramilitary forces have been sowing terror among Paquibato’s communities, especially targeting staunch opponents of mining.
Three anti-mining activists—Datu Ruben Enlog of lumad group Nagkalupa, and Oligario Quimbo and Randy Carnasa of the Paquibato District Peasant Alliance (PADIPA)—were recently massacred by elements from the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army last June 14. The military labelled them as NPA combatants.
Aida Seisa, a woman Lumad leader of PADIPA and secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao, and her husband Henry, barely escaped with their family from the bloody operation. The couple, however, is missing to date.
A reason to rise and revolt
The roots of these crises remain unresolved. Landlords and big businesses own overwhelmingly huge tracts of lands and are seeking to grab more. The Aquino government and its programs remain subservient to foreign economic and political interests. The majority of the Filipino people are disastrously and callously abandoned and neglected.
No wonder Paquibato is a bastion of defiance, and Parago a well-loved father figure not only in Paquibato but in the entire Davao region—and arguably the entire country. For what would a loving father do if his children face such atrocities? Out of love, he would rise in defiance.
The people find rhyme and reason in the revolution, whether through collective action or the penultimate act of armed struggle, against the anti-people and anti-environment laws and policies that persist to be imposed under the current Aquino administration.
More ‘Tatay’ Paragos will surely rise from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed. The defiance of Paquibato is a living, breathing testament.
Former Bayan Muna partylist representative Satur Ocampo said that while the thousands who came to the Friday burial of Leoncio Pitao would be considered “many”, he said “it is but a reflection and perhaps, just a fraction of what has been called the mass base of the NPA”.
Ocampo said that based on his experience, this “mass base perform comprehensive task but its reflection of strength is sometimes felt during deaths of well-known leaders.”
Ocampo was formerly a business editor of a national newspaper before he became one of the founders of the underground National Democratic Front.
The Philippine Army annually says the NPA mass base is “weakening in strength” and that its regular forces are “dwindling in numbers.”
The NPA and human rights groups also accuse government that it intensifies its “fascist campaigns of suppression” through “torture, threats and extrajudicial killings” to weaken support to the revolutionary movement.
“But that is shattered by the mass base in occasions like this when they show up and defy fear and show revolutionary strength,” Ocampo said.
Ocampo said “this also shows how prepared the mass bases are to sacrifice for the revolution in case the state gets back at them for attending Parago’s burial.”
But Ocampo added that “This is not yet that mass base,” because in events like this, the movement is limited due to its location and logistical requirements.”
Ocampo said the Army “gets suckered by their own mistakes of giving wrong estimates of supposed NPA strength.”
“The Army estimated the NPA strength at more or less 3,000 in late 2014 and said that in 2015 it is more than 4,000 and recently they said it decreased,” he said.
About 100 trucks, buses, cars and light motor vehicles carried mourners of Pitao, alias Ka Parago, to Davao City. They arrived from many areas of eastern Mindanao days earlier; more came for the funeral caravan and funeral march Friday.
A few thousand more mourners came from Davao City.
The caravan of trucks and buses, including the truck which carried Ka Parago’s remains, held a condemnation program outside the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) headquarters where mourners splattered red paint on its walls Friday morning.
The Army said Ka Parago and his medic Vanessa Limpag, alias Ka Kyle, were killed in an encounter in Paquibato District on June 28.
The NPA, however, said the killing of Ka Parago and Ka Kyle is a violation of international humanitarian law, saying Ka Parago had been “weakened and taken ill”, while Ka Kyle “was unarmed and had identified herself as a medic and raised her hands to surrender.”
At 1:00 pm Friday, the caravan unloaded mourners to mount what Davao militant leaders say is “one, if not the biggest, funeral march for an NPA leader in the country’s history.”
Ocampo said the sheer number is “comparable to the funeral march of Ka Roger Rosal.”
Ka Roger is the spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines who died in 2011 because of an illness.
“They are somewhat different in the functions they performed. Ka Parago is the rebel ground commander, while Ka Roger is a spokesperson, but the support of the mass base is the same,” Ocampo said.
The revolutionary underground’s flag of colors led the march followed by the funeral car. A jeepney blasting a song composed for Ka Parago came next, then the truck carrying Ka Parago’s remains with his honor guards followed.
Next in the march was Ka Parago’s family, then the large group in formation was led by Ocampo and known activist-leaders.
The funeral march took the main thoroughfares of Davao City going to the Davao Memorial Park.
Bystanders who seemed awed by the big number of marchers came out of their workplaces to take a glimpse of the march. Some took the opportunity to document it using their video cameras and cellphone cameras.
Some bystanders say they could not believe the news of Ka Parago’s death until his remains passed before them during the march.
Meanwhile, a group of graffiti artists carried a stenciled face of Ka Parago and the text “Sampa sa NPA (join the NPA).” They painted it on walls and posts as the march was ongoing.
Many were not shy to chant “long live the New People’s Army.”
At about 2:00 pm, a short liturgical program was initiated for Ka Parago inside the crematorium chapel.
The family was given time to get their last glimpse of him before his body was cremated, but some mourners also went out of their way to bid him goodbye. Reposted by
In honor of Leoncio Pitao, a.k.a. Ka Parago, members of the Communist Party of the Philipppines (CPP) staged a lightning rally in downtown Davao City today.
The Pulang Bagani Battalion Commander of the New People’s Army – Southern Mindanao Region (NPA-SMR) was gunned down during a military raid in Paquibato District on June 28, 2015, while being treated for his illnesses by his medic, Vanessa Limpag, a.k.a. Ka Kyle.
Ka Parago, who has been in service to the New People’s Army since 1979, spearheaded the organization of Lumads and peasants in the southern Mindanao region and led hundreds of Red fighters in countless disarming operations and tactical offensives against the AFP.
In a statement by the Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the CPP, Siegfried Red dubbed Ka Parago as a “Radiant Red Star of the Revolution” for his strong legacy that lives on in the lives of revolutionaries all over the country.
Sumasayaw sa hangin
Sumasambulat ang mga
Pagkat hindi nga masukat
Mabunga ang gawaing
At sa kanyang paglisan,
Patuloy siyang kasama sa
Ang mga kaaway ay tunay
Siya si Kumander Parago,
(DFF/The Netherlands/7 July 2015)
ELEGY from the
peasant army, NPA,
Jul. 10, 2015 DAVAO TODAY
After 37 years in struggle, you are
finally laid to rest.
37 years of serving the people
And you are finally laid to rest
-New People’s Army
June 30, 2015
Red salute to Comrade Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao – Hero of the oppressed and exploited
All Red commanders and fighters of the New People’s Army in North Central Mindanao Region express the highest tribute to Comrade Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao in his final sacrifice to the people and the revolution. We empathize with the mourning of his family, relatives, and all cadres and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, all Red commanders and fighters of the NPA, all allies of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and all the masses in Southern Mindanao Region.
Ka Parago, who has been sick for quite some time, heroically offered his life in an armed encounter in Paquibato, Davao City in June 28 against vastly superior troops of the Scout Ranger Battalion and the 10th Infantry Division. Another comrade, a medic, died with him in the incident. We express our sorrow for the loss of a beloved comrade who thought of nothing but serving the revolution and the people until his very last breath. For us, however, his revolutionary history is a legacy of undimming inspiration for the continuing advance of the national democratic struggle of the Filipino people.
Ka Parago’s spirit of Communist valor and selflessness serves as an example to all young commanders and fighters. For decades, he has spent the better part of his life in the revolution. He has commanded several victorious battles, the greatness of which is recognized even by officers and men of the reactionary armed forces of the ruling class.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines greatly detest Ka Parago and his Pulang Bagani Company. Several military operations were launched and massive mercenary forces were mobilized to pursue him. His family was terrorized in order to weaken his resolve and cause him to surrender. But with each such endeavor, they failed miserably. In their failure to defeat his Pulang Bagani, the enemy vented their ire on his family. His daughter was raped and murdered. Faced with these dirty tactics of the enemy, his determination remained firm. The enemy’s great loath against him was only matched by the warm affection from the peasants, lumads, allies and all the people he served.
These last few years, with his advancing age, his work has been limited by physical constraints. Several times he has been advised to continue his medication in a safe area outside the guerilla zone, but Ka Parago chose to be with the masses in the countryside of Paquibato. For him, his advancing age and failing health will not separate him from the masses and the struggle; not even hardships and danger, for even in his death, he knew that the aspiration for the victory of the democratic revolution and of socialism will remain alive.
The ruling classes and their running dogs are surely exulting in his demise. But they are mistaken in their belief that Ka Parago’s death will paralyze the revolutionary movement. They should wake up from their decades-old dream that the struggle will weaken with the death of a revolutionary Red commander. While the AFP officers are gawking at their bloodstained medals and promotions, and while the ruling classes are feasting with the death of a great revolutionary, they will be haunted by the specter of the Pulang Bagani Company, which has since grown into a battalion, and by the companies and countless guerilla platoons which will firmly follow Ka Parago’s footsteps in continually advancing the people’s war to the strategic stalemate stage and towards victory.
Ka Allan Juanito
New People’s Army
North Central Mindanao Regional Command
Final goodbye to revolutionary icon
by Alexander D. LopezJuly 11, 2015 (updated)
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Davao City — Around 7,000 supporters joined the final tribute to slain New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao from Thursday night until he was cremated yesterday morning.
A funeral procession was
staged from the Almendras gymnasium on Friday morning to the Freedom Park
here for a program while more than a thousand supporters also trooped to
the front gate of Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) in Panacan for a
SHOW OF FORCE – Supporters of Leoncio ‘Kumander Parago Sandoval’ Pitao raised their clenched fists in open contempt as the funeral march bearing the remains of the fallen communist leader passes by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Eastern Mindanao Command in Panacan, Davao City. (Keith Bacongco)
Around 50 buses, 20 trucks and other vehicles, all boarded by Parago’s supporters, joined the procession.
The group again converged at the Freedom Park around noon time and proceeded to Davao Memorial around 1:00 p.m.
Parago was cremated at past 3:00 p.m.
While in the funeral procession, supporters sang revolutionary songs while the lead car, fitted with a public address system, played messages of mourning and tribute to the fallen leader.
On Thursday evening, a tribute dubbed as “Luksang Parangal” was held by Parago’s supporters at the Almendras gymnasium here.
More than 6,000 supporters poured in to witness the final tribute to the fallen rebel leader.
The event was also graced by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Bayan Muna party-list representative Carlos Zarate, 1-BAP representative Silvestre Bello III, and former congressman Satur Ocampo.
Duterte broke the somber moment when he exclaimed in jest: “They want me to run for president. It’s making the NPAs happy. At last, they (NPAs) can go to Malacañang.”
Duterte also said he was in despair with the passing of Parago. “I am sad because the man was my friend. The many times I was in the countryside I was treated with respect,” he said.
Bello said his presence at the wake of Parago was an obligation to a friend, saying that he admired the rebel leader since his youth.
Bello said an Army friend called him upon hearing of Parago’s death and told him of the end of the communist movement in the country.
“Whoever that military official was, he was ignorant of history. While poverty, injustice and corruption still prevail, the revolution will continue,” Bello pointed out.
Bello added that he admired Parago because, despite of his advanced age, he continued the struggle.
“But us, we stopped,” he stressed and challenged the younger generation present at the wake: “You must continue the fight for us.”
Messages from other revolutionary contingents were also played during the final tribute, among them from Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris, spokesperson of National Democratic Front in Mindanao.
LEONCIO Pitao, alias “Commander Parago,” during his heyday as a guerrilla leader ACE MORANDANTE/CONTRIBUTOR
The military described him as a “bandit,” a “notorious criminal.” But to the people who knew him, the elusive New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, popularly known as “Commander Parago,” was a friend, a husband, a father, an icon and a fighter for the poor and the oppressed.
Only hours after news of Pitao’s killing by soldiers broke out, the outpouring of sympathy from anonymous supporters and prominent political leaders came to his family.
Aside from Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered Pitao’s body be moved to Cosmopolitan Funeral House from Rivera Funeral Home in Lasang, where the military first took him, former Mayor Sara Duterte and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte were among the first to offer their sympathies in the form of wreaths.
On social networking site Facebook, some journalists posted their photos with Pitao.
One of those who arrived at Pitao’s wake on Tuesday, former Mindanao Business Council chair Joji Ilagan Bian called him a friend, fighting for a cause she happened to believe in, too.
Bian, a business leader for most of her life, found the most unlikely supporter when she ran for a House seat in the second district in the last elections when the NPA released a statement against political dynasties, favoring her over the entrenched Garcia clan.
“He wanted better lives for our people, which have been elusive because of corruption and the lack of empathy by the government,” Bian said in an interview.
“But we chose different paths,” she added.
“Commander Parago chose his path and died fighting for a cause and a dream,” she said. “He was deeply loved and respected by the poor for many reasons, but he also had many enemies.”
“He is a symbol and a victim of social injustice that prevails in our country today,” she said.
For his family, Pitao might be a husband and a father who was always absent but only because he chose to fight for a kind of change that would have a far bigger impact than his own family rising from poverty.
Even at the height of his anguish over the abduction and death of his 20-year-old daughter, Rebelyn, a nurse who was tortured and killed in 2009, Pitao did not waver in his commitment to the revolution, Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson for the NPA Southern Mindanao Command, said in a statement.
His daughter’s death followed the killing of Pitao’s brother a year before. Danilo Pitao, who changed his family name to Santiago supposedly to avoid any association with the rebel leader that might complicate his work, was courted by military intelligence agents to track down his brother. But after years of befriending him failed to yield results, Danilo was assassinated in broad daylight in Tagum City.
“If the military thinks they have weakened me because of the death of my daughter, they are wrong,” Pitao was once quoted by reporters in an interview days after Rebelyn’s death.
He never left the movement even at the height of his ailment, when his comrades advised him to take a sick leave and seek treatment in the city for hypertension and diabetes. Instead, he continued working with the people, separating himself from the main combat unit that he formerly headed.
Pitao served the
national democratic revolution for close to 37 years, spanning five
administrations, from the dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos to current
President Aquino, son of the late President Corazon Aquino, who led a
peaceful revolt to oust Marcos.
Sanchez called Pitao’s dedication to the cause of national democracy “unstinting,” recalling the time when Pitao was offered a P5-million reward to turn against the revolution, but which he turned down.
The NPA credited Pitao with countless attacks on military targets in the 1980s and 1990s that led to firearms being seized by rebels.
One of his most recent successful missions was the raid on the Davao Penal Colony, which gave rebels additional firearms but with no deaths on the side of government or of the rebels.
Top military officials in the region predicted the eventual downfall of the communist movement after Pitao’s death, but Simon Santiago, NPA Southern Mindanao political director, said Pitao’s death strengthened the rebels’ determination instead.
A man who arrived at
Pitao’s wake on Wednesday sketched a portrait of the rebel leader using a
pencil and gave it to the family as a gift.
“Even if [you’re dead], you will remain alive in our minds,” the man wrote on a piece of paper.
“The fight for real change will continue,” he wrote, hailing Pitao for devoting his life to the revolution.
Pitao’s body and that of Vanessa Limpag’s, the medic who died with him in the military raid on Sunday, are lying at Cosmopolitan Funeral House. They will be moved to the Almendras gym for public viewing on the weekend, before they are buried separately on Monday, July 6.
Limpag’s body will be brought to her hometown in Zamboanga. Surrounding the two coffins are wreaths from the Davao City police office and from several city councilors who came to the wake.
Pitao, who carried a P5.6-million bounty on his head and had been on the military’s most wanted list, had eluded capture for years until his death in Barangay Panialum, Paquibato district, on Sunday. He spent 37 years of his life with the NPA, where he headed Pulang Bagani Command 1, based in Paquibato.
For his wife of 31 years, he was a husband and a father who chose to sacrifice the comfort and warmth of life with his family to dedicate his life to the revolution.
“He used to tell me to prepare myself for his death because in his kind of work, he said, he would surely die,” his wife Evangeline said.
To his sister-in-law, who knew him since he was a boy, Pitao was a kindhearted soul forced to join the movement because of the injustice he had witnessed during martial law.
“We never regretted that he joined the revolution,” the sister-in-law said
SPYING ON THE KA PARAGO FUNERAL MARCHERS