DAVAO CITY – A funeral march of hundreds marked the burial here Friday of the student-leader turned New People’s Army fighter who was killed in combat with government troops in Sarangani province.
Carrying a mural, wreaths, and revolutionary slogans, more than a hundred mourners marched Rendell Ryan “Perper” Cagula to his final resting place in a private cemetery at 2pm Friday.
The funeral march started from a Roman Catholic Church several kilometers away and the marchers had to ply major city routes.
Cagula, was the Chairperson of the University Student Council of the University of the Philippines Mindanao in the year 2011-2012. Later, he also became the Spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students and Kabataan partylist.
A statement from the Communist Party of the Philippines’s Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee (CPP-SMRC) said Cagula joined the NPA in December 2013.
The CPP said Cagula, whom they referred to as “Comrade Lucas” died “while fighting the fascist enemy troops of the 27th Infantry Battalion in Maasim, Saranggani at 2 pm November 4, 2014…along with martyred Red fighters Ka Payat, Ka Doming and Ka Jappie.”
The death of Cagula stirred debate about the involvement of the youth, especially those who came from prominent Davao City universities, to the armed struggle.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) asked the help of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to investigate how Cagula became an NPA.
Lt. Col. Llewyn Binasoy, quoted in a local newspaper report, said they have requested the CIDG to find out why a student from a “very prestigious” university was allegedly conducting research with the NPA.
Binasoy said that it is only after armed engagements that they come to know of their opponent’s identities.
Binasoy said that Cagula is just “one of victims” of the “deception and recruitment inside schools and universities in Mindanao” of the CPP-NPA.
But for the CPP, “it was only a matter of time” before Cagula was recruited to the Kabataang Makabayan, an underground youth organization supporting the armed struggle.
“In his foray with these organizations, he became exposed to the basic ills of society and the sorry state of peasants, workers, indigenous people and the urban poor. His study of society led him to an awakening that the same ills can only be cured not by reforms but by a systemic change through an armed revolution,” said the CPP.
Cagula, said the CPP, became a “full member” of the Communist Party with “key tasks” in the youth and student sector.
“As a tireless organizer, agitator, educator, and methodical facilitator, he took up key tasks at the Party branch in the youth and student sector. A Party cadre he truly had become, when he decided to stop schooling and concentrate with his Party work,” the CPP said.
Ka Efren Aksasato, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Far South Mindanao who gave a live telephone message during the mass before Cagula’s burial, described the life of Cagula in the mountains of Sarangani.
Aksasato said that NPA guerrillas “are also human beings.”
“Some comrades who were there when Ka Lucas’ and two others died were shaken. But such are the realities of war every NPA guerrilla face amidst serving the indigenous people and the farmers,” said Aksasato.
The CPP said that the “ever exploitative and oppressive conditions of the Philippine society continue to provide fertile ground for the young to join the revolution.”
The CPP said that like Cagula, “the youth should never fear sacrifice for there can be no revolutionary victory without sacrifice, to not waver in the face of any setback, to always uphold the revolutionary cause, to not let down guard, rely on the masses at all times, and to strive more in order to defeat the enemy.”
The student leader’s body was brought “home” in UP the night before he was buried.
Cagula’s “homecoming” was not immediately granted permission by the UP administration, a friend told Davao Today.
Students and some faculty members had to gather signatures to petition that Cagula be laid for his last night at the university.
According to the University Student Council, they were able to get the signatures of the leaders of 17 out of 22 organizations Tuesday but sensed that their request will be denied.
As such, they also simultaneously started to gather signatures of individuals starting late Tuesday. Wednesday morning, their request was formally “rejected.”
But by Wednesday evening, the group already had the signatures of 565 out of 974 students, citing only “time” as the constraint why they were not able to get a higher number.
Thursday morning, the group submitted the petition to the Office of the Chancellor, only to find that she was off-campus.
A group of more than 50 students started to gather outside the Chancellor’s office, waiting for a favorable reponse.
At 2pm, the university’s Executive Committee called for an emergency meeting, which gave its favorable decision.
The University posted its decision it is official Facebook page November 13, it read:
“…The University extends its sincere condolences to the family on his untimely death. The Chancellor received a request from the University Student Council to allow the holding of a wake in the University premises, particularly at the Atrium of the Administration Building. The University administration has decided to allow the request for the evening of November 13 until 9:45 p.m. This is to honor the memory of Mr. Rendell Ryan Cagula as a student leader.”