By CHERYLL D. FIEL
TAGUM CITY —“They may imprison our bodies, but not our hearts and minds,” a voice through the microphone echoed outside the gates of the Davao Provincial Rehabilitation Center.
“Even in jail, we are still NPAs. As political detainees we have the right to be respected of our political beliefs. Our principle lives on, our struggle continues. A revolutionary is firm. He cannot be deceived and cannot be defeated.”
The voice came from Elizalde Cañete, the 21-year-old New People’s Army (NPA) leader, known as Ka Jinggoy.
He was recently put to jail after he was captured in a raid by members of the 8th Special Forces of the Philippine Army in Laak town, Compostela Valley, late in January.
Ka Jinggoy was speaking to 13 other inmates gathered at the barbed-wired lounge area of the jail. The 13 inmates were former guerrilla fighters also caught earlier in battle and subsequently put to prison.
The day was March 29, the founding anniversary of the NPA waging a 41-year-old communist rebellion against the government.
Jinggoy called the jail activity part of the “traditional rite” observed by the NPA, “to honor their martyrs and celebrate the people’s war.”
On the narrow floor area of the heavily barbed lounge, men were filing as though they were in a military formation.
They were not dressed up in the usual attire of an NPA fighter: nylon pants, plastic boots, and long sleeved-tops with the logo of the NPA printed in front. But they marched on the command of Ka Jinggoy. They sang the The Internationale with clenched fists.
Flags were also waved, one bearing the insignia of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the other, the NPA, albeit they were made from cartolina cut-outs.
The speaker issued a call to his comrades-in-arms in the mountains to continue fighting. He said this is “the only way to end the suffering of the Filipino people.”
A program followed, which included testimonies from the other inmates of their ordeal in prison. At one point, they depicted in a theatrical performance the ordeal that they went through in the hands of their military captors.
Jinggoy even danced. Despite the gunshot wounds on his back he managed to perform limb-stretching stunts in a lyrical dance performance of a song that describes the determination of an NPA fighter.
“Abutin man ng pagod, hirap at sakit/Diwa at prinsipyo’y hindi magagapi/Pagkat ikaw at ako’y may wagas na pag-ibig/Sa ating baying malaon ng api (Hardship and pain may catch up with us/ Our spirit is indefatigable/Because our love is everlasting/For a country long been enslaved),” the song resounded through the prison walls as members of the media stood outside the locked gates.
The media were prohibited from entering the facility. Roseller Gadiano, one of the jail officers guarding the gates told them the jail was on strict orders to be on red alert.