DAVAO CITY – The attendance of an estimated 10,000 individuals in the funeral march of a fallen rebel commander is a “reflection” of the New Peoples Army’s strength of its mass base here, a prominent militant leader said.
Former Bayan Muna partylist representative Satur Ocampo, said that while the thousands who came to the Friday burial of Leoncio Pitao would be considered “many”, he said “it is but a reflection and perhaps, a fraction of what has been called the mass base of the NPA”.
Ocampo said that based on his experience, this “mass base perform comprehensive task but its reflection of strength is sometimes felt during deaths of well-known leaders.”
Ocampo was formerly a business editor of a national newspaper before he became one of the founders of the underground National Democratic Front.
The Philippine Army annually says the NPA mass base is “weakening in strength” and that its regular forces are “dwindling in numbers.”
The NPA and human rights groups also accuse government that it intensifies its “fascist campaigns of suppression” through “torture, threats and extrajudicial killings” to weaken support to the revolutionary movement.
“But that is shattered by the mass base in occasions like this when they show up and defy fear and show revolutionary strength,” Ocampo said.
Ocampo said “this also shows how prepared the mass bases are to sacrifice for the revolution in cases where the state gets back at them for coming here (Parago’s burial),” he said.
“This is not yet that mass base as in events like this the movement is limited because of its location and logistical requirements,” he said.
Ocampo said the Army “falls to their own mistakes of giving wrong estimates of supposed NPA strength.”
“The Army estimated the NPA strength to be more or less 3,000 in late 2014 and said that in 2015 it is more than 4,000 and they recently said it decreased,” he said.
About 100 trucks, buses, cars and light motor vehicles carried mourners of Pitao, alias Ka Parago, to Davao City from many areas of eastern Mindanao days earlier and more came for the funeral caravan and funeral march Friday.
A few thousand more mourners came from Davao City.
The caravan of trucks and buses, including one truck which carried Ka Parago’s remains, held a condemnation program outside the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) headquarters where mourners splattered red paint against its walls Friday morning.
The Army said Ka Parago and his medic Vanessa Limpag, alias Ka Kyle, were killed in an encounter in Paquibato District on June 28.
The NPA, however, said the killing of Ka Parago and Ka Kyle is a violation of international humanitarian law as they said Ka Parago was already “weak and sick”, while Ka Kyle “was unarmed and identified herself as a medic and raised her hands to surrender.”
At 1:00 pm Friday, the caravan unloaded mourners to mount what Davao militant leaders say is “one, if not the biggest, funeral march for an NPA leader in the country’s history.”
Ocampo said the sheer number is “comparable to the funeral march of Ka Roger Rosal.”
Ka Roger is the spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines who died in 2011 because of an illness.
“They are somewhat different in the functions they performed. Ka Parago is the rebel ground commander, while Ka Roger is a spokesperson but the support of the mass base is the same,” he said.
The revolutionary underground’s flag of colors led the march followed by the funeral car. A jeepney blasting a song composed for Ka Parago came next, then the truck carrying Ka Parago’s remains with his honor guards followed.
Next in the march is Ka Parago’s family, then the large group in formation was led by Ocampo and known activist-leaders.
The funeral march took the main thoroughfares of Davao City to the Davao Memorial Park.
Bystanders who seemed awed by the big number of marchers came out of their workplaces to take a glimpse of the march. Some took the opportunity to document it using their video cameras and cellphones.
Some bystanders say they could not believe the news of Ka Parago’s death until his remains passed before them during the march.
Meanwhile, a group of graffiti artists carried a stenciled face of Ka Parago and the text “Sampa sa NPA (join the NPA)” and painted it on walls and posts while the march edges on.
Many were not shy to chant “long live the New People’s Army.”
At about 2:00 pm, a short liturgical program was initiated for Ka Parago inside the crematorium chapel.
The family was given time to give their last glimpse before his body entered the crematorium, but some mourners went out of their way to also bid goodbye.(davaotoday.com)