DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Remembering his cool temper, nerve-racking jokes, patience and fierceness, and his simple life devoted to the people he loved are only some of the highlights of the life of the brave militant leader, former Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Joel Virador, or JV.
Virador succumbed to cancer on Tuesday, May 7. He was only 52.
People close to JV remember his staunch stand on the issues on human rights. Even during his college life, he was a known young activist fighting for the cause of students. He led student movements deeply involved in the issues of the people and society.
He was one of the pioneers of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and the human rights group Karapatan. JV once served as secretary-general of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao Region.
From 2004 to 2007, JV became the representative and national president of the Bayan Muna party-list. Known as one of the Batasan 6, Virador and other progressive lawmakers now identified as the Makabayan Bloc sought protection in the House of Representatives for 70 days when accused of rebellion under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo.
The Batasan 6 includes JV, Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, and Rafael Mariano and late Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis.
Within his involvement in the party-list system in the lower House, JV spearheaded the opposition of the US military intervention in Mindanao. Aside from performing his work as legislator, he also made himself available to other tasks related to the issues and concerns of various sectors, especially the workers.
After his term in Congress, JV again devoted his time as an active advocate of the struggle of workers in Southern Mindanao region and named as regional vice chair of the federation affairs of the Kilusang Mayo Uno Southern Mindanao (KMU-Southern Mindanao).
A fighter and a leader
Recalling their bonding as progressive leaders, then Anak Pawis Representative and now executive director of the National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP) Joel Maglunsod described JV as a fighter.
At the height of the attacks against progressive representatives under the Arroyo regime, Maglunsod recalled how JV fought without indications of giving up the cause that he and the rest of Batasan 6 members had championed, despite the obstacles and difficulties along the way.
“I never saw him give up despite all the hardships. Seeing his family, their children Joanna and Harvey were still young at that time, never made him stop the fight. Instead, what I saw was JV, a strong man who stood still, full of smiles,” Maglungsod said.
Another peasant leader Tony Salubre of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) recalled JV as a cool-tempered person.
Tony and JV had joined hands in leading numerous mass mobilizations, fact-finding missions, and negotiations in the region.
“In times of heated arguments with the police or the military, JV always found a way to cool down both sides. His jokes are always in good timing to break the ice yet the assertion is still there,” Salubre said.
He said JV has a low voice that does not antagonize the opposite during negotiations. He was also observant to what’s happening around during negotiations and always on point in his argumentations. He never failed to assert what is right and never lost in bargaining.
“You can never find someone like JV. We should always learn from his experience in the movement,” Salubre added.
During the massive evacuations of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) or the Lumads from the hinterlands, JV was among the personalities who defended them, especially in times when authorities would push them to go back to their communities with uncertainties.
Back in 2015, JV was among those who stood the ground to protect the Lumads in Haran Compound after North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) tried to enter the evacuation center, recalled Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at.
“On many occasions that our rights are being attacked, Sir JV is there along with other progressive groups. They fearlessly tried to defend us even if it is difficult. Sir JV has a heart for us, and we are very thankful for his effort. Truly, his principles to defend the poor made him a true hero,” Datu Tungig said.
A mentor and educator
“JV is like a parrot. He can talk to you all the way until the two of you lose voice just to educate and explain to you the things you need to know and understand,” said Reneboy Libot.
Libot said JV has been part of the creation of the Holy Cross of Davao College Faculty Union (HCDCFU-ADLO-KMU). He tirelessly devoted his time to explain to the teachers their rights and the importance of the formation of a union.
JV’s exceptional patience in workers’ organizing made the teachers understand the various issues of the society and their vital role as educators, Libot said.
He added, “The fact he is a congressman was a plus factor for teachers. You know having that credibility, they will surely listen.”
KMU spokesperson Romelito Pablo also recalled how persistent JV was in explaining to the workers of their rights.
As his mentor in the worker’s movement, JV taught him about the struggle. During his days in the banana plantation, JV became one of his influences to become a full-time volunteer for the workers.
Of the many discussions the KMU conducted, Pablo said JV has this charisma of explaining the topic well.
“I can easily understand even if it is math,” Pablo jokes around while recalling his bonding with the late JV.
A different kind of Tatay
He is not the typical type of father.
Growing up, Joanna Paula Virador-Vasig and her brother Harvey Virador witnessed how their father fought for others. Their constant playground is their father’s office or in the community where their father would do focus group discussions, mass consultations and meetings.
“During school days, my classmates would write about the job of their father and I would usually write that he is an NGO worker,” said Joanna who in younger days did not understand the work of JV in the movement.
She recalled how hard she cried upon learning of the detention of her father in Congress. She was afraid she might not see him anymore. In the midst of such a difficult situation, JV never failed to keep on talking to his children and tried to explain to them his work.
“Back then I don’t understand why Tatay should do rallies, talk to people, and go for days. That was how committed he was for the people. Growing up, I understand that it’s necessary,” Joanna added.
When doctors advised him to rest after diagnosed of having an illness, Joanna said his father’s commitment to the movement and love for the people never stopped. In his usual days, he would listen to the radio, watch the news on television, and read for hours on the prevailing issues.
JV also had constant contact with his colleagues for updates and suggestions, to which Joanna described: “Tatay even send constructive criticisms.”
She recalled JV asking them to have tarpaulins printed for senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares and for Bayan Muna to express support for the coming election.
“He always thinks about the movement. I salute him for that,” Joanna said.
On the evening of May 8, Wednesday, members of the militant groups, friends, and relatives made a gathering to commemorate the life and paid tribute to works and contributions of the late Joel Virador to the struggle of the Filipino people.
At the gathering, artists like Don Pagusara, known leaders from various organizations, the academe, religious and civic groups, and personalities exchanged conversations and reminisced the days and experiences they had with JV. (davaotoday.com)