Several activists and colleagues honored Fidel Agcaoili, Chairman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel, as he died last Thursday at 12:45 PM in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Agcaoili’s death was not Covid-19 related, but rather caused by a pulmonary arterial rupture and had suffered from a massive internal bleeding, as confirmed by his doctor. He was 75 years-old.
According to Jose Maria Sison, Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP, Agcaoili’s historical journey for social justice was an honourable paradigm for many fellow comrades and revolutionaries.
“The revolutionary spirit, ideas and deeds of Ka Fidel are now flowing in the growing body and blood of the people’s struggle for national and social liberation and for a socialist future,” he expressed through a recent Facebook post. “All the efforts and sacrifices that he has made in his lifetime will live after him in the hearts and minds and collective will and actions of the people in the people’s democratic revolution and in the subsequent socialist revolution.”
Through his intellectual discourses in peace negotiations, Agcaoili was known to provide tough and in-depth stands. According to Sison, Agcaoili was frank and direct to the point, but also welcomed objections, corrections, and additions to his revolutionary principles. He was remarkable with patiently explaining complex social issues and alternating between light banter and serious talk.
In another statement, the CPP conveyed their regards towards his passing, saying that “The Party and all revolutionary forces, including all Red fighters of the New People’s Army are in mourning.”
‘Deep sorrow and loss for many’
CPP regarded Agcaoili’s passing as a deep sense of sorrow and loss for many communists and revolutionaries, stating that “He was one of the most beloved and respected leaders of the Party, the NDFP and the Filipino people.”
Such tributes included recalling Agcaoili’s significant efforts in ending the decades-long CPP-NPA-NDF armed conflict through NDFP-GRP peace talks.
Agcaoili’s government counterpart, labor secretary Silvestre Bello III described him as “a man of honor and conviction,” and former Quezon City mayor and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) 2016 Negotiating Panel’s adviser Herbert Bautista viewed him as “kind, flexible yet firm when negotiating.”
Journalists responsible for covering the prior events such as GMA reporter Raffy Tima and veteran ABS-CBN broadcaster Danny Buenafe recalled the reporting process as “a kind, generous, and accessible news source who was eager to clarify issues with journalists.”
Through these peace talks, political organization Migrante Philippines also emphasized how Agcaoili’s contribution in passing the final draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) highlighted the ongoing struggle of Filipino migrants and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Advocating for protection and equal rights, Agcaoili continued to find solutions or programs that catered to their needs abroad.
President Duterte discontinued these peace discussions in 2017, declaring the CPP-NPA as “terrorist groups who engaged in acts of violence and hostilities… who failed to show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peaceful negotiations.”
Disheartened by Agcaoili’s death, fellow revolutionaries such as human rights lawyer Ma. Sol Taule and retired University of the Philippines (UP) professor Aurelio Solver Agcaoili expressed their sentiments as well, with Taule paying tribute to “his unrelenting efforts for a just and lasting peace,” and Mr. Aurelio describing his passing as a “loss to the Filipino people.”
CPP then announced that Agcaoili’s remains will be flown to the Philippines, as per the request of his family.
“In behalf of the entire Philippine revolutionary movement, the (CPP) extends deep sympathies to the wife and children of Ka Fidel V. Agcaoili, chairperson of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” CPP indicated.
‘In pursuit of social justice’
As mentioned in Sison’s tribute, Fidel Agcaoili did not let his upper-class family influence his desire for national and social liberation for the Filipino people.
Despite studying in the United States, the attempts of his parents keeping Agcaoili away from activist work were not enough to refrain him to pursue his revolutionary mission, as “he joined mass protests in California and was back in the Philippines just in time for the establishment of the Kabataang Makabayan in 1964,” Sison noted.
Agcaoili balanced his work as a high executive of his family’s insurance company and his underground tasks and studies in support of the mass movement, which publications heavily contributed to the development of the CPP.
His active participation with the movement enabled him to carry out missions that required him to negotiate with domestic and international fraternal allies.
These contributions had led to Agcaoili and his wife’s arrest in 1974, which made them “the longest held political prisoners during the Marcos facist regime (more than 10 years),” Sison recalled, and added that “He over-served the penalty for the political offense of rebellion.” Their sentence subjected them to severe physical and mental torture by their military captors.
After his prison release due to dropping the appeal of his unlawful conviction for rebellion, Agcaoili went on to establish Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a movement known for their dedication to release all political prisoners and Families of Victimes of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) in 1985.
Agcaoili and Sison then went on to organize peace negotiations through Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo during the Aquino regime in 1986. Sison noted that they were also both in the Preparatory Committee which established the Partido ng Bayan (PngB) on August 30, 1986.
However, Sison stated that “Conditions became untenable for Ka Fidel to stay in Manila when he was targeted for arrest and the Aquino and Enrile-RAM factions were competing to attack the patriotic and democratic political forces,” which prompted Agcaoili to work under a Spanish nongovernmental organization in 1988.
This did not hinder him from participating in GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, as he was able to join exploratory talks a year later in The Netherlands. Agcaoili was made Vice Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel for GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and “was given the privilege to consult Philippine presidents from Estrada to Duterte,” Sison mentioned. He became Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel last 2016.
After Duterte’s termination of peace talks in 2017, Agcaoili attempted to fly back to Manila with other NDFP members in efforts to bring back the talks, but never pushed through due to security concerns.
Sison then emphasized how his passing will only strengthen the growing socialist movement. “Revolutionaries never die, they continue to live through their revolutionary successors,” he said. “Let us turn our grief to revolutionary courage. Let us celebrate the revolutionary achievements of Ka Fidel, honor him for these and emulate his example in serving the people and the revolution.” [P]
Photo credits to Philippine News Agency (PNA)