Freedom Wall Mural, Paintings and
People's Tribute to Leoncio Ka Parago Pitao
Part I Part II Part III Part IV (Parangal) Part V (Funeral March)
June 29 - July 8, 2015
Photos by Davao Today, Glades,
HSABC, Jaja Necosia, Kilab Multimedia,
Lana Linaban and Tudla Productions as indicated by the filenames
ELEGY from the peasant army, NPA,
Democratic Front of the Philippines
37 years of serving the people
And you are finally laid to rest
-New People’s Army
Ka Parago: Mandirigma ng masang anakpawis,
Sumapi si Ka Leoncio Pitao, mas kilala sa buong rehiyon ng Katimugang Mindanao sa pangalang “Ka Parago,” sa BHB noong 1978, matapos patayin ng mga militar ang kanyang ama sa Loreto, Agusan Del Sur.
Nakilala siya at iginalang sa buong rehiyon bilang tagapagtanggol ng mga inaapi’t pinagsasamantalahan. Ibinuhos niya ang kanyang oras para tulungan ang mga magsasaka sa pagtatanim, pag-aani sa produksyon at nakipamuhay sa mas malawak pang anakpawis. Bunga ng kanyang buong pusong paglilingkod, labis na pagmamahal din ang isinukli ng masang kanyang pinaglingkuran kaya kinagiliwan siyang tawaging “Tatay” o “Ka Ago”.
Naging bantog siya sa kanyang kahusayan bilang mandirigmang gerilya at kumander ng mga matatagumpay na taktikal na opensiba laban sa militar. Kabilang sa mga pinangunahan niyang opensiba ang malaking reyd ng armas sa Davao noong 2007 kung saan wala ni isang gwardya ang nasaktan sa opensiba.
Taong Pebrero 1999, pinangunahan ni Ka Parago ang pag-aresto kila Army General Victor Obillo at Captain Alex Montealto dahil sa mabangis na mapaminsalang pagragasa ng tropang militar sa rehiyon. Nakipagtulungan si Ka Parago sa Negotiating Panel ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) para maisaayos ang pagpapalaya sa mga bihag ng digma sa International Committee of the Red Cross at mga opisyales ng gobyerno na sina Senador Loren Legarda at miyembro ng GRP negotiating panel na si Silvestre H. Bello III. Sa kanyang paglaya, pinapurihan ni Obillo ang makataong pagtrato sa kanila ni Ka Parago.
Inaresto si Ka Parago noong Nobyembre 1999. Sa isang press conference na isinagawa sa loob ng Camp Aguinaldo, ipinahayag niya ang marubdob na pagnanais na makalaya’t makabalik sa masang mahal sa Mindanao. Siya ay pinalaya on recognizance kay Supreme Bishop of Philippine Independent Church na si Thomas A. Millamena noong Setyembre 2001. Ang kanyang paglaya ay simbolo ng katapatan sa pagsusulong ng usapang pangkapayapaan noon sa pagitan ng gobyerno at NDFP.
Sa kanyang paglaya, muli niyang nakasama ang masang kanyang mahal sa Mindanao at mahigpit na tinanganan ang rebolusyonaryong gawain. Pinangunahan muli ni Ka Parago ang mga matatagumpay na pakikibakang gerilya laban sa pasistang atake ng militar sa kanayunan.
Noong 2009, dinukot, ginahasa at pinatay ng mga militar ang kanyang anak na si Rebelyn. Ngunit sa kabila ng kagalit-galit na ginawa sa kanyang anak, kahanga-hanga ang ipinakitang matibay ang paninindigan ni Ka Parago sa patakaran ng BHB sa makataong pagtrato sa mga bihag ng digma at maging sa pagtitiyak ng maayos at ligtas na pagpapalaya sa mga bihag na walang mabigat na pananagutang kriminal sa mamamayan.
Matagal nang iniinda ni Ka Parago ang iba’t-ibang klase ng karamdaman gaya ng diabetes, hypothyroidism, hepatitis, at altapresyon at hirap na rin siyang makalakad. Ngunit sa kabila ng mga karamdaman at mga alok ng mga kasama na magpagamot at magpahinga siya sa labas ng erya, pinili pa rin ni Ka Parago na manatili at makipamuhay sa masa.
Ginagamot siya ni Vanessa Limpag o Ka Kyle, na kanyang medik, nang paulanan sila ng bala ng mga militar sa ilalim ni General Ano. Nagawa ni Limpag na itaas ang kanyang mga kamay at sumigaw na isa siyang medik ngunit walang habas pa rin silang pinagbabaril ng mga militar.
Sa kabila ng maayos na pagtrato ni Ka Parago sa mga bihag gaya nila General Obillo at Captain Montealto, hindi iginalang nila General Ano ang karapatang pantao nina Ka Parago at Ka Kyle. Dapat igiit na maimbestigahan ang naging paglabag nila General Ano sa International Humanitarian Law, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) at International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Bukod dito, dapat ding maimbestigahan ang pangunguna ng mga yunit ni General Ano sa mga extrajudicial na pagpatay sa mga lider-katutubo, pagsasara sa mga paaralan ng mga Lumad, at maging ang pagkakampo sa mga paaralan at iba pang pampublikong lugar.
Nakikidalamhati ang Anakbayan kasama ng iba’t ibang organisasyon at ng masang anakpawis sa pagkawala ng isang dakilang rebolusyonaryo ng mamamayan, katangi-tanging kumander ng BHB, martir at bayani ng masang anakpawis, si Ka Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao.
Patuloy na magiging inspirasyon ng rebolusyonaryong kabataan ang buhay at
pakikibaka ni Ka Parago. Mananatiling buhay ang kanyang alaala sa patuloy na pakikibaka ng kabataan kasama ang malawak na mamamayan upang wakasan ang isang malakolonyal at malapyudal na sistema tungo sa isang tunay na malayang lipunan.
rebolusyonaryong diwa ni Ka Parago!
Para sa Parangal kay Leoncio Pitao
BAYAN USA Salutes Leoncio Pitao, aka Ka Parago
July 5, 2015
BAYAN USA pays highest tribute and respect to Leoncio Pitao, also known as Kumander Parago, for his indelible contributions in his 37 years serving the poorest and most oppressed Filipinos as a revolutionary. We send our deepest condolences and sympathies to Tatay Parago’s family and loved ones for their loss.
We condemn to the fullest degree the Aquino government and Philippine military’s brutal, inhumane, and cowardly murder of Tatay Parago, who was ambushed and killed while being treated for illness by medic, Ka Kyle, who was also murdered. Such a manner of killing is cruel and in direct violation of the rules of combat outlined by International Humanitarian Law, which prohibits attacks against those who “are defenseless because of unconsciousness, shipwreck, wounds or sickness.”
Tatay Parago’s service as a great freedom-fighter will continue to inspire all who struggle for genuine independence and democracy in the Philippines, and for a bright socialist future. His life has inspired and will continue to inspire countless more Filipinos to choose the noble and principled path of armed struggle in the countryside.
For as long as the majority of Filipinos remain deeply mired in poverty and hunger due to a backward agricultural sector, face state repression under the mercenary Philippine military and its paramilitaries in the countryside; as long as a small handful of landowning families continue to control the vast majority of land in a country of where the majority live directly off the land, and these same landowning families dominate the political system through corruption– there will always be armed conflict in the Philippines.
There will always be those that choose to take up arms to fight for freedom, for a life of dignity.
Since the turn of the 20th century, US imperialism has always sought to control Mindanao for its vast natural resources. Despite its acts of aggression, US imperialism and the reactionary Philippine government have also always faced fierce people’s resistance to colonial subjugation in Mindanao, from the economically poorest people in the country.
Our tribute to Tatay Parago means we stand with and in defense of the people of Mindanao, who at present are facing escalating US military intervention, counterinsurgency and state repression by the US-backed Aquino government, which is selling off the island piece by piece to large multinational mining corporations, stripping Mindanao of its natural wealth and causing irreversible damage to the environment and the people. We stand with ongoing people’s resistance in Mindanao and all throughout the Philippines.
It is US imperialism and its reactionary Philippine government that are the biggest obstacles to peace and democracy in the Philippines. Just and lasting peace can only be attained through people’s struggle. As long as the Philippines remains a neocolony of US imperialism, there will be more Paragos that will rise up to lead more battles.
Pagpupugay kay Kumander Parago !
Mabuhay ang Diwa ni
Mabuhay ang Kilusan
para sa Pambansang Demokrasya!
To the vow he made
On the field of combat
Fearless and wily fighter,
By his pursuers vilified
Alive, he sort of was a
He now rests, to fight no
(Eric S.B. Libre is a Mindanawon freelance development consultant who has done some work in a number of conflict-affected areas of Mindanao and occasionally dabbles in creative writing. He lives in Digos City, and is proud to be a senior citizen.)
THAT his death drew the attention and comment of people from different walks of life was not surprising. Perhaps it is because we prefer names, faces and stories to statistics, but the days following his death, taxi drivers freely commented about him to their passengers, and total strangers sharing jeep rides were drawn into conversations about his death. He was after all one of the very few faces of the national democratic revolutionary groups in Mindanao known to the public, Parago represented the New People's Army (NPA) operating in Southern Mindanao, and Oris is spokesperson for the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao.
Mindanawons exposed to mass media knew Parago to be involved in the NPA’s capture and subsequent release of Gen. Victor Obillo and Capt. Eduardo Montealto in 1999, the NPA raid of the Davao Penal Colony in 2007, and other tactical offensives against the military. He had been called berdugo in radio broadcasts, and depicted as godless, lawless and merciless on streamers hung along highways. His death on June 28, 2015, if the military’s predictions would have it, would demoralize fellow NPAs and trigger mass surrenders.
Leoncio Pitao--Ka Parago, Parago or ‘Ago--is no more. He was killed in a raid that also took the life of Vanessa “Ka Kyle” Limpag, the medic who had been taking care of him as he dealt with hepatitis, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.
The streamers and placards during the funeral march did not depict Parago and Kyle as victims, but as heroic martyrs. Perhaps it is a point of honor that Parago’s choice to fight it out to the death would be respected. It is said that Parago’s wife and family, although terribly saddened by his demise, had long been preparing themselves for this outcome given his 37 years-long choice of being part of a social revolution. But it is also said that the family would never be able to come to terms with the brutal and senseless murder of Parago’s daughter Rebelyn in 2009.
Rebelyn’s unsolved abduction and death was but among the many costs that Parago and his family paid. It is another matter with Kyle who, despite raising her hands in surrender and declaring herself as a medic at the start of the raid, had not been spared—in violation of customary international humanitarian law that said that medical personnel should be respected and protected in all circumstances. Parago obviously meant enough to the thousands people who turned out to pay their last respects. A number of them came from outside Davao City, many wearing garb indicating that they could be peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, or urban poor. Those who went to the wake or participated in the funeral march took the risk of having their identities and allegiances exposed, not an inconsequential and small step to take in places where such things spell the difference between life and death.
But how would the rest of Mindanawons regard him? There have been countless men and women in or from Mindanao who gave up their lives to address the challenges of their respective times, often with respect to changing the situation in their locality: from the Muslims, Lumads and settlers who resisted the different colonial forces and incursions against their communities, to those who fought more contemporary battles against dictatorship, development aggression and repression. And yet there are not many martyred Mindanawons who are publicly acknowledged and celebrated as individuals from whom we can draw inspiration.
Maybe Parago’s death is an opportunity to revisit and address this gap. Political lines and chosen modes of struggle aside, I hope Mindanawons would come to appreciate in Parago’s story many of the traits that we need to muster so that together we can continue to change our situation. That is, if we believe that a better Mindanao is possible, adapting the words of Fidel Castro to our realities. I am referring to Parago’s commitment to stand for the poor and marginalized, particularly workers, peasants, and indigenous peoples.
A quote attributed to him goes “Alang kini sa mga mamumuo ug mag-uuma ug mga lumad, kon nganong naa ta dinhi. Dili ug dili gyod kita mamahulay.” This standpoint and persistence is important so we can be relevant to these populations who constitute majority of Mindanawons today. I speak of his courage to pursue change and be unafraid of struggle. He had been subjected to countless military operations under six political administrations. He went through at least two major internal crises that threatened the strength of the national democratic movement. He was captured in 1999 and released in 2001. He could have been overcome by the many stresses and confusions of those times and given in, but he stuck to the vision and agenda in which he believed.
I mean his willingness to sacrifice and go beyond his zone of comfort for a very long period of time. In his seriously ailing condition he could have opted to leave behind revolutionary duties, but he shouldered on. Without necessarily endorsing Parago’s vision, and regardless of one’s chosen means of contributing to change, these are good traits to learn, imbibe and apply to the current set of challenges that Mindanawons face. The Parago that was the subject of military operations is no more.
But if regardless of our circumstances we find in our hearts the willingness and conviction to stand for the poor and marginalized, to be unafraid of change and struggle, and to sacrifice for what we believe in; and if we talk about these traits in taxis, jeeps, schools and wherever we are situated, then marami pang Parago, and a better Mindanao is possible.
[Email feedback to email@example.com]
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 12, 2015.