Only a few relatives and friends of slain New People’s Army (NPA) chief Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos came as he was laid to rest at a cemetery in Surigao City, on Saturday, November 20.
Unlike other funerals of other prominent communist rebel leaders, the interment was simple and attended only by a few dozen people, without many colorful speeches and eulogies.
Madlos’ brothers Vicente and Rito, speaking to a small crowd at the Surigao Memorial Park chapel, said people were scared of getting infected with COVID-19 and red-tagging.
The remains of the NPA leader, who fought in a Maoist ideology-based insurgency for four decades, and his medical aide were cremated earlier in November after they were killed in what the military said was an encounter between government and guerrilla forces in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, in late October.
Specimens taken from their bodies tested positive for COVID-19 in a Philippine Red Cross-run laboratory.
“Some of his friends, who knew Ka Oris more than we did, opted to stay home. These are difficult times, knowing people get easily red-tagged without due process. They are probably afraid, knowing the stature of Ka Oris in the revolutionary movement,” said Dr. Fernando Almeda Jr., a former Surigao port manager and president of Surigaonon Heritage Center.
Almeda, an old friend of the slain rebel leader, remembered being visited and given a Maoist cap by Madlos years ago as a keepsake, something that he now considers a collector’s item and which he plans to exhibit in a local museum.
Another Madlos friend, retired public school teacher Fredeswinda Chua-Espejon, said she would miss her friend and fellow activist during the ’70s.
They were part of the so-called First Quarter Storm, and were among those arrested and detained following the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“We were detained at the barracks but Jorge stayed longer, and suffered and endured different forms of torture in the hands of our captors,” she said.
The Saturday crowd in Surigao paled in comparison to the funerals of slain NPA commanders Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao in Davao in 2015, and Greogorio “Ka Roger” Rosal in Batangas in 2016.
Only a handful of journalists came to cover the funeral.
“Gamay ra lagi ni attend ‘no (Only a few of us came). Why is that? It could be due to fear of COVID-19 and the prospect of getting red-tagged,” said Bombo Radio-Butuan reporter Kevin Linaac.
Not even representatives of left-leaning groups came to speak during the Madlos funeral.
But the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) issued a statement two days earlier to honor Madlos.
The November 18 statement, signed by CPP information officer Marco Valbuena, called Madlos a “martyr,” “hero,” and a “modern-day Andres Bonifacio.”
The CPP had asked its members to dedicate a minute of silence and raise their flags at noon Saturday in time for the interment.
Madlos’ widow, Myrna “Ka Maria Malaya” Sularte, also paid tribute to her husband whom she said “died a hero’s death,” and as “one, if not, the greatest among Surigaonons.” – Rappler.com