DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Thousands of sympathizers from different parts of Mindanao joined the funeral march here for slain New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leonardo Pitao alias Kumander Parago on Friday, July 10.
Watching the sea of people, Satur Ocampo of the National Democratic Front (NDF) said, “This is a classic people’s burial.”
Pitao, considered Mindanao’s oldest and most wanted NPA commander, was killed in a raid by the military in Barangay Panalum, Paquibato District, Davao City, along with his medical aide Vanessa Limpag.
Pitao had a P5.6-million bounty on his head.
Ocampo said the turnout at the funeral on Friday “simply belies the claim of the military that his death weakens the revolution. This shows how people love Ka Parago, he is their leader, and we expect more to join [the movement] after his death.”
Forty-five buses and 15 dump trucks filled with people escorted the marchers.
From the Davao City Recreation Center, where his wake was held, the march proceeded to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Panacan to denounce the total war policy of the military.
Stopped by the military
On Thursday, Pitao’s sympathizers complained that their buses – coming from Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, the Caraga region, and northeastern regions of Mindanao – were stopped by soldiers at the entrance of Davao City.
“The military harassed simple people and inspected them for possible firearms and guns. They are here to pay their respects, and these people are not rebels,” said Sheena Duazo of Bayan Mindanao.
Barangay Captain Celso Bughaw from the Paquibato district said his delegation aboard 3 buses were held for 3 hours by Task Force Davao in Barangay Lasang on Thursday.
Colonel Macaraig Alberto said, “We are just doing our usual work, inspect all vehicles coming to Davao. That’s a routine check and it applies to everybody.”
The TF Davao deployed K-9 dogs to their detachments situated in barangays Sirawan, Lacson, and Lasang.
Alberto said the visitors were inspected by K-9 to make sure “na wala silang dala na baril (they are not carrying firearms), and after that we remind them about the no smoking ordinance of the city.”
Acting Mayor Paolo Duterte intervened as the militants cried harassment by the military.
The city government of Davao allowed the family and friends of Pitao to use the city-owned gym for Pitao’s wake.
Evangeline Pitao, the wife of the slain NPA leader, said she jad accepted the fate of her husband being a revolutionary. “He offered his life and sacrifice for the people, for us he is a martyr.”
Pitao’s body was cremated Friday at the Davao Memorial Park, while Limpag’s body was claimed by her parents on July 3 and brought to Zamboanga City.
Pitao’s wife said, “We will follow his wish that he be cremated and his ashes will be placed next to our daughter Rebelyn.”
Rebelyn was abducted, raped, and brutally killed in 2009.
Earlier, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, known to be friends with the slain NPA commander, disagreed with the statement of the Philippine military that Pitao’s death would translate to a weaker communist movement in the region.
“I asked the military, the police, the government, and everyone to be ready. After his death a new leader is expected to shine,” said Duterte.
Pitao’s son, whom Duterte said could take the father’s place in the movement, is in his early 30s. He is known to be more brutal that than his father. – Rappler.com