DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 June) – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte appealed on Monday night to both the government forces and communist rebels for a “temporary ceasefire” during the wake of slain New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, popularly known as Commander Parago Sandoval.
Duterte, who arrived at the wake at 10 p.m., issued his appeal as he condoled with the family of the slain rebel leader at a funeral parlor here.
Pitao, chief of the NPA’s First Pulang Bagani Command, was killed last Sunday in a clash with the military in the rebels’ stronghold in the hinterlands of Paquibato District.
“Alangan mag pinusilay ta na mag bilar pa ta sa patay” (Won’t be easy to continue shooting while we lack sleep mourning the dead), Duterte told reporters at the wake.
Pitao’s remains, along with those of female medic Kyle Limpag who was also killed in the encounter, were brought to Cosmopolitan Funeral Home Monday afternoon.
Aside from Duterte, City Police Director Vicente Danao and Task Force Davao chief Col. Macairog Albert visited the wake.
“Those who want to come down and pay their last respects, you can come down here as long as you don’t have warrants of arrest yet,” the mayor said, referring to the rebels. “Pagkatapos sa haya, kung kursunada pa ninyo balik bukid, limpyuhi na pud na inyo mga pusil” (After the wake, if you feel you still want to go back to the mountains, then you will have to clean your guns), he added.
Duterte said he can guarantee the safety of the rebels and sympathizers who want to come down to the city to pay their last respects to Pitao.
During the Peace and Order Council meeting, the mayor told the Army and the police “to always respect those who fight for their principles.”
While consoling Evangeline, Pitao’s wife, he advised the grieving not take this too personal to avoid more loss of lives.
“I came here to condole with the family of Parago,” the mayor addressed the slain rebels’ friends and relatives.
He added that he will extend any help he can to Pitao’s family.
Duterte disclosed he had told Pitao in previous occasions that should he decide to return to the fold of the law, he should wait for the mayor. “Otherwise, you would be killed,” he recounted telling Pitao.
The mayor, who has been publicly saying that Pitao was his friend, appealed to the NPA not to launch retaliatory attacks during the wake of the slain rebel leader.
During a press conference Monday morning, military officials said that there is no let up on the military operations against Pitao’s comrades in the hinterlands of Paquibato District.
Gen. Eduardo Año, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said they are expecting a retaliation from Pitao’s followers.
But Año assured that the military is beefing up its security measures to avert any attacks.
He added that with the series of clashes since early June, some rebels have already separated from their main units.
The military official estimated that the rebels are now less than 50 as some of them were already killed in previous clashes.
The series of clashes have been a factor in tracking down and cutting-off of exit points for the NPA guerrillas, Año added.