People's Tribute to Leoncio Ka Parago Pitao
 

Part I     Part II    Part III   Part IV (Parangal)    Part V (Funeral March)

 


Davao City

 

June 29 - July 10,  2015

 

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Photos by Aya Ragragio, Chantal Eco, Kodao Productions, Manila Today and Obet de Castro as indicated by the filenames

           
     
     
     

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Kumander Parago, Man of the Masses

Jun. 30, 2015 DON J. PAGUSARA
From:
http://davaotoday.com/main/todays-views/kumander-parago-man-of-the-masses/

As usual, whenever  government military are able to kill people as part of their campaign of terror in the countryside, an avalanche of lies are forthrightly dished out to the public for no other purpose than to mislead the people.

Having killed Leoncio Pitao, aka Kumander Parago of the NPA in a raid at a Paquibato village the past weekend, the military general who commands the military brigade unit that conducted the treacherous raid immediately announced that the killing was an offshoot of an encounter.  The fact is it was not an encounter, but a raid.

And the same military officer, perhaps gloating on what he claimed as a big victory in the anti-insurgency campaign, said the NPA in the southern Mindanao region will soon be totally decimated. He considered the fall of Kumander Parago as a crippling setback on the part of the NPA organization.

Well, for countless number of times the military has  proclaimed the near-total or total collapse of the NPA in the country.  So many NPA commanders had been slain in various incidents and occasions since pre-martial law days.  And instead of being totally demolished, the NPA has in fact grown to unprecedented breadth and depth among the masses of the people in the countryside.

The government and its military minions should realize that for as long as extreme massive poverty and social injustice prevail in the country, rebellion— or call it insurgency if you want—will continue to advance.  The public is fed up with their braggadocio and lies.

And as Kumander Parago himself said, “This is not a war between the military and the NPA but the struggle of the masses for  genuine change and democracy.”    

Such words, coming from the genuine “man of the masses” should sink deep in the consciousness of the government officialdom and the military generals.   And ponder on the lessons of history—a history of irrelevance,  incongruousness, insensitivity, and outright anti-people policies heretofore pursued by the government since the birth of this republic.

This historical truism has been a constant writing on the wall: “Wherever there is oppression and injustice there is always resistance.”  This is an unassailable universal truth which the policymakers in any society should memorize.

No amount of propaganda ploys, and lies and military trickery can hold back the phenomenal advance of the people’s war in the countryside.  They may kill all the commanders of the NPA that they encounter in the battlefields.  But sooner than the martyrs’ blood could dry up wherever they fall, countless NPA warriors and commanders will sprout up like mushrooms, because every drop of blood that is shed for a just cause fertilizes the people’s commitment to the very ideals they died for.

Kumander Parago’s death, at a time when he was not even an effective fighter on the field because of his failing health, is never a setback.  It is, on the contrary, a phenomenal victory of the people’s war.  It exemplifies the manifest selflessness with which the NPA warriors have pledged and dedicated their lives— not for the so called “good life” or luxurious lifestyle that the military commanders and soldiers aspire for in their careerist adventures for promotion and raised salaries — but for the liberation of  the poor people from their age-old miseries.

People’s War is not for the NPA commanders’ personal gains as the Oplan Bayanihan is for thecareerist adventurism of military officers and enlisted men.  This is the big world of difference between an NPA fighter whose service is not for any consideration for money or wage but the people’s cause, and the government soldier whose motivation is the money he receives as salary.

In the ranks of the NPA are men and women whose hearts throb with burning love for people’s emancipation from poverty.  Among the rooster of army soldiers are men and women who have to resort to soldiery for employment purposes.  The former are fighters for Change, the latter are mercenaries or killers for money.

The government soldiers serve the interests of the oppressors and exploiters.  The Oplan Bayanihan’s peace and development is a misnomer.  It should be renamed Security Agency for Foreigners (SAF).   Indeed, wherever the foreign economic interests are – the proliferating mining operations of foreign capitalists—there the military troops concentrate.

But the poor government soldiers do not know whom they are serving and fighting for.  Theirs is a happenstance ensuing from the need for survival and livelihood  amidst their also-hard-up conditions. Theirs is a scramble for employment where there’s nothing society can grant mired as it is in a sorely underdeveloped condition.  And when at last these rank-and-file soldiers got into the military service they are robotized to kill to compensate for their employment. Real mercenaries are they.

Of course, the ranking  military officers have had their massive dosage of ideological conditioning from the US military establishment that serves and safeguards the interests of the US monopoly-capitalists who subjugate our country economically, politically and culturally.   And the vicious cycle goes on and goes until the end of time. Unless. . .

Yes. . .unless the people’s cause prevails.  And that has been the commitment and calling of Kumander Parago, of Vanessa Limpag the lady medic who was  killed along with him,  of all the NPA fighters and revolutionary cadres and activists now in the thick of the peoples struggle for genuine Change  —“to let the people’s cause prevail”.   They have the people’s welfare and well-being at heart.  Nothing else.

The great divide that distinguishes between Kumander Parago’s and Brigadier General Eduardo of the PA is the irreconcilable contradiction between the people’s aspiration for Change and the ruling classes’ preservation of the Status Quo. It is a contradiction between a just cause and a rotten system.

http://davaotoday.com/main/todays-views/kumander-parago-man-of-the-masses/

     
     
     
           
     
     
     
  Thousands came to pay their last respects to Ka Parago  

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Ka Parago: A soldier of the poor
Jul. 09, 2015 
JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
From:
http://davaotoday.com/main/politics/ka-parago-a-soldier-of-the-poor/
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DAVAO CITY – The tribute program for fallen New People’s Army commander Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao opened with a song themed with what has been a monicker of communist guerillas, that they are “soldiers of the poor.”

“Ang sundalo sa kabus, andam makigbisog, ang sundalo sa kabus (the soldiers of the poor, ready to struggle, the soldiers of the poor),” the song goes amidst the roar of applause of the attendees of the tribute program.

The Davao City Sports and Recreation Center, the venue of the program was filled with mourners who appear to have just arrived in the City, 7pm of Thursday.

Ka Parago is a known NPA commander in Davao City’s Paquibato District which share borders with Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

Statements from the NPA say Paquibato residents call him “Tatay (Father).”

The tribute program’s first message was given in a video present by another prominent NPA leader in Mindanao, Ka Oris.

“While Ka Parago came from the poorest of families and have not reached a high degree of education, he understood what the revolution meant,” said Ka Oris.

Ka Oris said “he was already old and sick but he continued to fight till the end amidst problems and obstacles in the family and  his work.”

1BAP Partylist Representative Silvestre Bello III, in his speech, said coming to Ka Parago’s wake is his “obligation to a friend.”

He said when news reached him of Ka Parago’s death, an Army friend from his hometown Legazpi, Albay, said “it’s the end of the Communist movement.”

“Whoever that military official is, he is ignorant of history. While poverty, injustice and corruption still prevails, the revolution will continue,” said Bello.

Bello said he admired Parago since his youth.

“I admire him because he still fought even when he is already old, but us, we stopped,” he said.

Bello said “we should salute someone like Parago. But you (the younger generation) must continue the fight for us.”

The program heard a few speeches at 8pm but people seem to have started to come in while many still lineup at the gates.

The gym, said to hold a capity of 5,000 people, was already full from the bleachers to the court.

At the back of the gymnasium, mourners aim their eyes to the large mural of Ka Parago as the viewing of his remains, which lie at the stage’s center, was temporarily stopped till the program’s end.

Manong Rody, 48, a farmer from Paquibato came with a backpack.

“I packed some food and malong. I came alone since it’s hard to bring my children with me,” he said.

Manong Rody said he, along with many others from Paquibato, will stay the night to attend Ka Parago’s funeral march 7am of July 10.

“Like the soldiers of the poor, we poor farmers of Paquibato came prepared to bid Ka Parago our goodbye with the promise to keep the fight,” he said.(davaotoday.com)
 

     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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They came down for their shining red star

July 11, 2015 10:34 pm

by RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA

DAVAO CITY: “Are the flags ready for Tatay?” asked a young woman as she rushed into the cavernous Almendras Gymnasium in the heart of this sprawling southern city. She was talking on her phone while clutching a sheaf of papers, presumably the program flow of tonight’s tribute.


“Pila? Okay. I-taxi niyo na. Basta kay Tatay, laban,” she said. (How much? Okay. For Father, we shouldn’t care how much.)


“Father” was the legendary rebel who punished the Philippine Army with telling blows for the better part of four decades in Southern Mindanao. He led the formation of the New People’s Army’s first battalion-sized unit that captured an enemy general in 1999 and held him as prisoner of war for weeks. He was Leoncio ‘Commander Parago’ Pitao, “the shining red star of the revolution” who was mowed down by a hail of bullets last June 28, along with his young medic Vanessa “Comrade Kyle” Limpag.


Philippine Army officers told Parago’s comrades to come down the mountains to lay down their arms.


It seemed that thousands indeed have tonight. Busloads of peasants and indigenous peoples choked Almendras’ main entrance and lined up to walk up to the red flag-draped coffin on the stage. They were somber, as if it was indeed their biological father inside the simple white box. But they had no guns with them to lay down before Parago’s killers.


Instead, they wore determined looks on their faces. These faces are grieving, but they do not look defeated.


But Pitao was more than a just rebel commander to them. No one said he was cruel to his captured enemies because he was anything but. He was an exemplary organizer, an inspiring leader. He defended the poor and the persecuted against predatory businesses and despotic landlords. Above all else, he was a compassionate friend. They say that he was a father in more ways than one to the tens of thousands who have met him.


Many touched the coffin’s glass as they gaze on the dead rebel and as they leave. Some raised their clenched right fist in a militant salute. Parents raised their children to allow them to see a white-shirted corpse adorned only with a logo that was replicated in giant flags up on the rafters and around the stands. Very few made the ritualistic sign of the cross but bishops, priests and pastors abounded in the building.


The speeches and songs were expectedly fiery. A mere few meters away from a police camp, soldiers with assault rifles stationed a few street corners away, and intelligence agents among the throng they were nakedly defiant. How could humble peasants and Lumads be so daring and brave?


A famous person came while the tribute was well into its third hour. Video lights glared and flash bulbs fired as Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte walked in with his entourage of journalists and staff. Laughter greeted his jokes as he paid tribute to the dead man’s life with the poor communities of his city. In the end, however, it was not him that the people came for, but the man whose smiling face was printed on thousands of red shirts that filled the venue.


And there were indeed thousands of them. They filled the stands and the gymnasium floor. Almendras Gymnasium have run out of chairs for so many of them and so they either stood or sat on the floor throughout the lengthy program.

Thousands more filled the courtyard, forming an explicit wall between the people inside and those who may think of disrupting the occasion. Only Pitao’s daughter Rebelyn’s—abducted, raped, murdered and dumped at a lonely roadside in Carmen, Davao by suspected military agents in 2009—funeral march may equal the size and breath of this throng.
 

The tributes inside went well past midnight. Strong-throated youth activists on the stands exchanged shouted slogans that praised the Communist Party, its army, its popular front, its revolution and its most famous commander lying in state before all of them.


Even in death, their Tatay still unites and inspires them for their revolution.

Kodao Productions/Bulatlat

http://www.manilatimes.net/they-came-down-for-their-shining-red-star/199538/
 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
     

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Burol ng kaibigang NPA, dinalaw ni Mayor Duterte

TAHASANG inamin ni Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte na kaibigan niya at may kontak siya sa New People’s Army (NPA) lalo na sa napatay na si Leoncio Pitao alyas Parago, ang lider ng Pulang Bagani Command (PBC-1) Southern Mindanao.

Dinalaw ni Duterte ang burol ni Kumander Parago na nasa Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor sa lungsod.

Inihayag ni Mayor Duterte na naging kaibigan niya sa Parago dahil tinatawagan siya nito ‘pag may pakakawalang mga sundalong binihag ng mga rebelde.

Kinilala naman ng opisyal ang napatay na NPA leader bilang isang “warrior” dahil sa mga paninindigan nito at ang pagpapakita ng pagkontra sa gobyerno.

Samantala, gaya ng mga tropa ng pamahalaan, aasahan na umanong a may papalit din kay Ka Parago at naniniwala ang alkalde na ang anak nitong si Ryan Pitao na isa ring rebelde ang hahawak sa puwesto nito.

Humihingi ng pang-unawa si Mayor Duterte na chairman din ng Regional Peace and Order Council sa mga sundalo at mga pulis kung magbibigay man siya ng tulong sa pamilya ni Parago.

Kahit kalaban ng gobyerno ang napatay na lider ng NPA, kinilala naman niya ito ngayon bilang isang ordinaryong tao lalo na’t hindi na nito magagawa pang lumaban.

Pinaalalahanan ng opisyal ang militar at kapulisan na magpatupad ng mahigpit na seguridad dahil sa posibilidad na magsagawa ng pang-aatake ang rebeldeng NPA bilang ganti sa pagkakapatay ng kanilang lider. JOHNNY ARASGA

http://www.remate.ph/2015/06/burol-ng-kaibigang-npa-dinalaw-ni-mayor-duterte/

 

     
           
     
     
     
 
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  Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with the Makabayan Bloc  
           

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Parago’s death 

By Bongo Wenceslao
July 3, 2015
From: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/opinion/2015/07/03/wenceslao-paragos-death-416867


I DON'T personally know Leoncio Pitao a.k.a. Parago, the New People’s Army (NPA) commander who was killed in an encounter with the Army’s Special Forces last Sunday in Davao’s Paquibato District. The military described Pitao as leader of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command. But I think he increasingly functioned recently as rebel spokesperson, more like the late Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal in the Southern Tagalog region.

 

The death of cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) always saddens me because I know their sacrifices just to advance their cause. No matter what government propagandists may say, Pitao and the others are principled and selfless people. In Pitao’s case, he even had to endure the pain of his daughter being abducted and mercilessly killed by his “unprincipled” enemies.

From the looks of it, Pitao is already sickly and, per requirements of guerilla warfare, old. I would say that prior to his death he had been relegated to less strenuous jobs and the task of leading combat operations given to younger cadres. That’s the only alternative given that Pitao, according to NPA Southern Mindanao political director Simon Santiago in a statement, “preferred to fight instead of seeking medical treatment.”

 

I have written about this before. The national democratic struggle waged by the CPP is already almost half a century old. That means many of its senior cadres who survived clashes and arrests but persevered are old or have died of old age. An example is CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison. Pitao is younger but he was reportedly sick.

 

That posed an organizational problem for a war that is protracted in nature. What would the movement do to the old and the sick cadres? This dilemma is particularly observable in the case of the CPP’s more prominent cadres. No problem with Sison and National Democratic Front’s Luis Jalandoni because they are in a safer haven in Europe, but what about people like Pitao and, before him, Rosal?

 

This was the case of Bohol’s Epitacio Ramirez a.k.a. Vargas, who was already old in the ‘80s when his name captured the imagination of Boholanos. He could no longer be a commanding officer because he slowed the movement of combatants who were mostly in their early twenties. He was eventually tasked to head the training staff. In the ‘90s, he left Bohol for Mindanao and in his advanced age surrendered to the government.

 

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I remember one question that an Army man asked me when I was in a military camp in the late ‘80s. Does the communist rebels receive salary for their effort? When I said no, the man was silent for a moment, probably digesting the import of that answer. “Dili tingali, uy,” he argued. “Kun mao na, mga bogo na sila.”

 

It is indeed difficult to fathom why some people would die for virtually nothing—or, okay, would die for a cause. But that always happens when an iniquitous setup is in place, when exploitation and abuse are prevalent. In situations like these, the dream of a better society consumes the exploited and abused and those that feel for them.

 

Some people suffer in silence and weep, while others stand up and fight. And some of those who fight eventually give up while the others pursue the struggle even until their last breath, or should I say even if after several decades victory still seems too far away to reach.

For their selfless devotion to the ideal, these people are infinitely better than many of our politicians.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 04, 2015.

 

     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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The life and mystery of a warrior

 Friday, July 03, 2015

 By TYRONE VELEZ
http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/opinion/2015/07/03/velez-life-and-mystery-warrior-416838

 

IN LIFE and in death, a revolutionary is always a figure wrapped in mystery.

 

When news broke last Sunday that the New People's Army commander, Ka Parago, Leoncio Pitao in real life, was killed in Davao City's Barangay Paquibato, the initial response was to brush it as another military propaganda. But when pictures of the dead body Parago and his medic staff were hastily uploaded (and hastily deleted days later) on the AFP's blog and one reporter's personal Facebook account, then the public realized that the iconic guerrilla fighter from Davao was finally gone.

 

But what struck me, as mentioned in Tuesday's editorial, was the public's response online on the death of Parago. R.I.P. Salute. Condolence. Short words that mean somewhere between respect to sympathy to a man who fought the system for 37 years of his life. Then there were local officials, and even the chief of Davao's police and military, who all visited the wake and condoled with the family. Then there was Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who joined Parago's widow to see the casket bearing Parago's body brought in, and spent a long time looking at the repose of his "warrior friend," his counterpart from the other side during times of releasing captured soldiers and police, whom he shared moments of eating over lunch while talking about the peace situation in Davao and even bantering jokes.

 

The military claimed his death was "the end of notoriety" in Davao. But instead, we find a long line of sympathies and respect that will last perhaps forever. The mayor announced a public viewing for Parago for the people whom he served in the mountains could come down and pay their final respects. He even called for a "ceasefire" to diffuse the tension and allow "comrades" and families to grieve. A funeral march will be held for his burial in July 10.

 

Aren't these rites reserved for a hero? In death, this man's life has become larger, a symbol of struggle that is also engraved in the history of this city, this island and in this country. I grew up to the news of exploits of guerrilla commanders from Benzar to Django's dramatic shootout and death, and to Parago facing a hail of bullets standing up. Those other commanders and their adventurism faded, but not Parago. There were news of his disarming army and police detachments and meting punishment on mining and logging operations to enforce the movement's opposition to such activities that plunder the lumad's ancestral domain and natural and agricultural resources in the countryside.

But what caught national attention was his capture of the highest ranking Army official, General Victor Obillo. He was captured a year later, but was released in 2002 as goodwill for the peace talks, and went back to the revolution, and evaded capture. Instead, soldiers and police were captured by his unit but were then released.

 

When his daughter Rebelyn was abducted and killed, he resurfaced for media interviews and earned sympathies. Here, the public realized that a guerrilla could overcome personal grief and still hold on to their principle of a just warfare.

 

His final appearance in media was in Paquibato in 2013, where young journalists were in awe of a smiling commander talking and mingling with farmers, and bantering with mayor Duterte who joked that Parago should be the next mayor of Davao.

 

In one interview, Parago explained why he continues to wage this war. "This is not a war between the military and the NPA but the struggle of the masses for genuine change and democracy." That message was tucked to a tarpaulin at the wake with his smiling image. It's the smile that people remembered of him, that "aura" that makes you listen to him, said PhilStar's Edith Regalado. A smiling man with strong principles said veteran photojournalist Rene Lumawag who covered him since the 80s. That smile was missing in 2009, but that smiling guerrilla is the image now appearing online and ingrained in our memory.

 

Parago also said: "Each guerrilla has to come to terms with things. If you understand what you are here for, you would think that there is no sacrifice you cannot bear."

 

His death is the biggest sacrifice. There is no mystery now about a guerrilla's life, nor is there any mystery that the movement he committed to all his life will will continue to swell, and bring the change and justice he longed for, just as he said it will come with or without him.

tyvelez@gmail.com

 

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 04, 2015.

 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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Ledesma: Goodbye Parago

 Friday, July 10, 2015

 By 

JUN LEDESMA

SUNBURSTS

NEW People's Army leader Kumander Parago is gone. I need not know his background. All I know is that he is a rebel and head of armed revolutionaries, Pulang Bagani, that operates in the hinterlands of Davao. Rebels are hated and are loved. Either way, it is always with an intensity that defies convention. Parago was one. He was pursued by the military because he was an armed rebel and who had been accused of so many crimes, among them murder. That is to be expected of Parago and he was aware of that. He knew that in the course of his struggle he has become a marked man. In fact there is a prize for his head. But this did not matter to Parago.
 

Government indifference, immorality, and insensitivity are what molded Parago to be a rebel leader. In fact he is not alone.


We have our own individual gripes against the present dispensation but we neither have the mettle nor the drive to come out and leave our comfort zones. We air our anger or we write but to go to the hills and take up arms is not an option. We think of our family, the love ones we do not want to miss and the short spell of relief that now and then comes along. Rebel Parago was more enduring. He lost an innocent daughter to a mad trigger man. An ordinary mortal would not survive the pangs of grief and would have turned into a savage to avenge her death. But he did not. He knew his enemy.


Not a few would call him Tatay because while he was a fierce enemy he too is protective of those not involve in his struggle. Journalists who had the opportunity to come close to him attest to how humane the NPA commander was. I believe so because despite the vastness of the territory where he moved and the number of armed revolutionaries that he led, I have not actually heard of atrocities. There were bloody encounters and victims of armed conflict but those were to be expected.


Even if Parago had gone into that great beyond, the struggle against oppression will continue because the magma of social inequity persists. As I write this piece, DOTC Sec. Jun Abaya touched down in Davao to defend why the government has to spend P16-billion to rehabilitate Sasa Port in Davao, which was originally estimated to cost only P4-billion. Back in Manila, a former official of MRT named Vitangcol who also used to be under Secretary Abaya, is washing dirty linens in public: how come it is only him who is charged by the Ombudsman when there are several of them who were involved in the onerous MRT Maintenance contract?

As Kummander Parago is laid to rest, most of Metro Manila is under water because heads of government functionaries would rather worry about how much they will make out of the project than how fast can drainage projects be done?


How can one stop rebellion when billions of pesos are spent for a parking building and insults the poor with birthday cakes? Will it take another massacre in Mendiola before Hacienda Luisita be surrendered to the tenants? Will it take another millennium put back Tacloban to its feet? Will the victims renounce or denounce the Romualdezes first before they can have their homes.


How many more policemen and rebels have to be slaughtered in Mamasapano before government replace the bamboo bridge that links several barangays to civilization while multi-billion-peso- skyways are constructed to connect airports to the gambling Meccas in the boulevard of Manila?


Rebellion will not die with the demise of Parago. Some sectors are amazed why so many had condoled and expressed their sorrow over his death. It is because he died for their cause. He may have died a violent death but he will not take that against the gunman. Surprise why Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was in Parago's wake? Because that rebel died against the many venalities that the Mayor himself is fighting for. And we all know that. Goodbye Tatay Parago.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 11, 2015.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/opinion/2015/07/10/ledesma-goodbye-parago-418188

 

Cong. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers Partylist
Click here for video of speech

 
Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women's Partylist
Click here for video of speech

 
  Cultural presentations  
           
     
Jorge Madlos of NDFP-Mindanao delivers a eulogy to Ka Parago
     
  Former Bayan Muna congressman Satur Ocampo  

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Parago vowed never to be captured alive

ByKeith Bacongcoon June 29 2015 8:16 pm

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) – “Karon, di na gyud ko padakop nila nga buhi” (I wouldn’t let them capture me alive this time), Leoncio Pitao, popularly known by his nom de guerre Commander Parago, told MindaNews in an interview in the hinterlands of Paquibato District more than four years ago, on February 21, 2011.

 

File photo of Leoncio Pitao aka Commander Parago taken on March 8, 2009. Mindanews File Photo by Keith Bacongco

True enough, he wasn’t captured alive. But he was killed when he engaged government troops in a firefight in Purok 9, Barangay Panalum in Paquibato district last Sunday.

Manablahay na ko nila karon” (I’ll get even this time), added Pitao after he recounted his capture in their house in Toril District in November 1999.

He recalled having two hand grenades with him when police and military operatives surrounded him. “Andam na ko unta pabuthon ang granada pero gi-ingnan ko sa akong asawa nga surender na lang kay basin ma disgrasya pati akong mga anak” (I was ready to explode the grenades but my wife told me to surrender instead, worried that my children will be harmed, too), Pitao said.

While under the custody of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), Parago claimed that he was visited by his former captive, Gen. Victor Obillo.

He was released in 2001 as one of the preconditions for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

During this last interview, he kept on reiterating that he wanted to avenge the killing of her daughter. Parago said the murder of her daughter had fueled his courage and determination to strengthen the revolution in the countryside.

Kung nagtuo ang militar nga mapahuyang nila ako sa pagpatay nila sa akong anak, nasayop sila. Karon di na ko padakop ninyo” (If the military believes that they have weakened my resolve with their killing of my daughter, they’re wrong. Now, I won’t ever let you capture me), the rebel leader stressed.

There was no occasion during this interview except for a week-long ceasefire (from February 15 to 21, 2011), which was declared by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in deference to the start of the peace talks. So I took the opportunity to have a day-trip and see what the guerrillas were doing during the brief ceasefire.

Fond of lechon

During the February interview, a female fighter told me that Parago loves to eat grilled pork. “Kung mingawon na syag baboy tapos duol lang kami sa masa, magpapalit gyud ni si Tatay” (If he misses pork and we’re somewhere near the masses, Tatay would always request to buy pork.)

After taking pictures and conducting short interviews, we heard a loud wail of a pig at the foot of the hill. We saw NPA fighters butcher a pig. The rebels bought the 107-kilo pig for P7,000 from one of their “masa” in the nearby village.

While some called him Ka Ago or Ka Parago, some his comrades and the people of Paquibato District, where he operated, called him Tatay (father).

Another source in the rebel movement disclosed that the late rebel leader was fond of eating lechon (roasted pig) that sometimes he would request for it.

“If there are occasions and there are some guests from the urban areas, Ka Parago would request the guests to bring lechon as a present,” the source said.

A legendary warrior

In Paquibato District, younger cadres looked up to him not just as a military leader but as a father in the guerrilla front.

On several occasions, friends and sympathizers from the urban areas would come to his guerrilla base to celebrate the movement’s anniversary.

Parago was perhaps the busiest of all the NPAs as almost everyone would have themselves take a souvenir picture or even shake hands with him.

Simon Santiago, spokesperson of the NPA in the Davao Region, said Parago is revered by the masses as defender of the poor and the oppressed.

Taas nga pagsaludo ngadto kang Ka Parago sa dedikasyon aron alagaran ang katawhan ug pagtisok sa binhi sa rebolusyon diha sa kasingkasing sa katawhan. Tatay para sa masa ug sa armadong pakigbisog sa katawhan” (We salute Ka Parago for his dedication to serve the people and for sowing the seed of the revolution in the hearts of the people. Tatay for the masses and for the people’s armed revolution), Santiago said in a text message to MindaNews.

“His legend lives on,” an activist, referring to Pitao, posted on his Facebook wall.

In this city and abroad, activists mourn the death of Parago as they described him as a “legendary warrior who offered his life for the oppressed.”

Lingering illness

On Sunday night, a source from the rebel movement told MindaNews that Pitao could barely walk due to his lingering illness.

Moreover, the source said that Pitao may have been injured after he jumped into a ravine when a firefight erupted with the government troops two weeks earlier.

Santiago confirmed this statement, saying that it is already known to the people Pitao has long been suffering from diabetes and hypertension.

“His health problems had affected his mobility but not his courage and determination to serve the people,” he said.

Despite his failing health, Santiago pointed out that Parago had never thought of giving up the revolution.

“Many of our colleagues had advised him to get some rest and attend to his health needs but he refused,” the NPA spokesperson further said.

‘I thought we’re gonna die’

Parago recalled that sometime in 2004, he thought it would be the end for him as the military launched an intensified assault against them in Paquibato District.

“Many of us were wounded, and we had casualties, too. We thought we’re going to die that time because we hadn’t eaten well for a week as we were far from the masses,” he recalled. It was as running gun battle in the mountains that they almost ran out of ammunition, Pitao said.

Parago said joined the NPA in 1978 after his father was killed by government troops in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

Since then, he was noted in leading daring raids against military and police outposts. He made it to the headlines in 1998 when he led the abduction of Brig. Gen. Victor Obillio and Capt. Alex Montealto.

Sources from the movement described Parago as one of the brilliant military tacticians in the history of the NPA.

He led several raids carting away firearms without firing a single shot. Among them was the raid on the Davao Penal Colony Farm in April 2007. The rebels seized 5 M-16s, 45 Carbines, 46 shotguns and 7 caliber .38 pistols.

Pitao had several standing warrants of arrests for murder, robbery and multiple frustrated murder.

He was married to Evangeline, who is now reportedly in hiding following the death of their daughter Rebelyn in 2009. Pitao accused government forces as behind the killing of her daughter, but the military has denied the accusation.

His eldest son Ryan joined the rebel movement in 2006 when he was 21. The elder Pitao said his son was forced to join the NPA after unidentified men threatened to kill him.

His second daughter Rio, a nurse, reportedly sought a job abroad after the death of her sister.

Ismael Gesmalin Jr., a taxi driver in the city who hails from the same hometown as Pitao, recalled that his father, who was once a member of the Integrated National Police, was ambushed by Pitao in 1983 but survived.

“I could still remember it, I was still in Grade 1 that time. Our later father told us about it after the incident,” Gesmalin said. “But now, his time has come.”

Soft-spoken warrior

The first time I met and had a brief interview with Parago was during the 39th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), on December 26, 2008. During this occasion, the CPP usually invites several journalists to cover the annual event.

In the same occasion, what caught my attention was his customized M14 assault rifle with an M203 grenade launcher attachment. That was the first time I saw that modification of an assault rifle.

It took me a while to approach him because he was so busy entertaining the visitors and the “masa.”

Along with other journalists, I got to interview Parago several more times as we made trips to Paquibato District.

The most frequent was in March 2009 after the killing of her 20-year-old daughter Rebelyn.

During this time, Parago was open to media interviews to air his sentiments and criticize the justice system of the government.

Four days after the killing of her daughter, Parago granted our request for an interview. Along with four other journalists, we went into his lair in Paquibato.

We took a motorcycle ride from Panabo City going to Paquibato. As we reached the end of the dirt road, we hiked uphill for less than half a kilometer.

As we entered into the woods, Parago emerged from the group of NPA guerillas. Clad in his black sweatshirt and pants, he was in full battle gear – M203 grenade launcher ammunitions were wrapped around his chest, along with several magazines of his M16 assault rifle.

 

Gusto gyud ko makadungog dako na buto karon” (I really want to hear a big explosion this time), he quipped while approaching us. One of his comrades added: “He really wanted to give justice to his daughter’s death.”

Anger was written all over his face. He uttered tough words but remained calm. While he was known as a tough rebel leader, he was a soft-spoken warrior.

Parago named several military intelligence agents as behind the killing of her daughter. In the early part of the interview, his voice cracked. But he managed to bring back his composure.

Towards the end of the interview, he managed to smile and cracked some jokes. He admitted that while it is tough for him to have lost a daughter, he had to work hard to give her “revolutionary justice.”

In my last interview, I asked him when was the last time he saw the downtown of this city.

Basi magkitaay lang ta sa mall” (Who knows we’ll bump into each other in the mall), said Parago with a chuckle.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2015/06/29/parago-vowed-never-to-be-captured-alive/
 

     
     
     
     
Former GPH Negotiating Panel Chair Silvestre Bello
Click here for video of speech

 
     
     

Message from Benito and Wilma Tiamzon
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A message of support from political prisoners and NDFP consultants, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, was read in honor of Ka Parago. Crowd shouted, "Ako si Parago" (I am Parago) to prove to military that although Parago was dead, the revolution will continue.
--- Manila Today
 

Message from Youth Sector
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Message from KARAPATAN's Secretary General
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Message from the people of Paguibato District of Davao City
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Tribute from the masses
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