Tributes are pouring in for National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili hours after the group’s international information office confirmed his passing in Utrecht, The Netherlands due to pulmonary arterial rupture .
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said Filipino communists and revolutionaries feel a deep sense of sorrow and loss with Agcaoili’s passing.
“He was one of the most beloved and respected leaders of the Party, the NDFP and the Filipino people,” the CPP said in a statement.
“Over the past decades, from the underground movement, to inside prison, to international work and peace negotiations, [Agcaoili] untiringly struggled with the Filipino people and served the revolutionary movement and all the oppressed and exploited classes to achieve national and social liberation,” the group added.
The CPP said Agcaoili firmly upheld its principles at all times and he was imbued with the communist spirit to his last breath.
“The Party and all revolutionary forces, including all Red fighters of the New People’s Army, are in mourning,” the CPP said.
Agcaoili’s government counterpart, labor secretary Silvestre Bello III, told Kodao he joins all peace-loving Filipinos in grieving the passing of a revolutionary whose passion for peace is as ardent as his love for structural change on the land of his birth.
“Ka Fidel V. Agcaoili, my counterpart in the peace table in our efforts to try to end the decades-long armed conflict with the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army)-NDF, was a man of honor and conviction,” Bello said.
Bello added that Agcaoili was an instrument in making the mostly arduous tasks of talking peace smoother and a bit easier.
“It is just sad that Ka Fidel will no longer savor the lasting peace with justice that he was pursuing with passion. Goodbye to a dear friend, a revolutionary and a peace warrior,” Bello said.
Former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista, who served as adviser to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel from 2016, said Agcaoili’s death is “sad news.”
“He was kind. He was flexible on the negotiating table yet strict and firm on principles,” Bautista, a Brigadier General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command, added.
Tributes from journalists
Journalists who covered the NDFP-GRP peace process only have kind words for Agcaoili.
“[The news] came as a shock. He was a generous news source, always eager to clarify issues with journalists. He will be missed,” GMA reporter Raffy Tima told Kodao.
Veteran ABS-CBN broadcaster Danny Buenafe said he had a good time covering the peace talks for more than three decades in large part because of Agcaoili.
“He was tough in taking a stand, but we all know he has a soft spot with journalists when requesting for interviews. Ka Fidel was kind and accessible with us media persons,” Buenafe said.
Buenafe, Europe-based for many years, added Agcaoili was probably the toughest among the so called three “Supremos” (top leaders), the two others being NDFP Negotiating Panel chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and 20-year NDFP chief negotiator and Agcaoili’s direct predecessor Luis Jalandoni.
“Personally, I found Ka Fidel as the heart of the revolutionary struggle with his decisive character in the negotiating table. Ka Joma (Sison) provides the deeper intellectual discourse, and Ka Louie (Jalandoni) the fatherly approach with the soft touch. Ka Fidel provided a good balance that makes the NDF position solid,” Buenafe said.
The now retired ABS-CBN Europe Bureau Chief said he can never forget being fetched by Agcaoili and wife Rosario at the Utrecht Grand Central Station to attend a small birthday gathering for NDFP peace panel member Julie Sison at a public park several years ago.
“We will all miss him. Rest in peace, Ka Fidel,” Buenafe said.
Human rights lawyer Ma. Sol Taule said Agcaoili was among the rights defenders she looked up to.
“We recognize and value his unrelenting efforts for a just and lasting peace. He (was) the boomer we all aspire to be,” Taule wrote on Facebook.
Distant relative and retired University of the Philippines professor Aurelio Solver Agcaoili for his part said Agcaoili’s death is a loss to the Filipino people.
“But we gained something [in his passing]: The thought and the resolve to do things right for our suffering people,” he told Kodao.
The CPP said it will announce the day for mourning, giving honor, and remembering Agcaoili whose remains will be flown to the Philippines in accordance with the wishes 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),” the CPP said. (Raymund B. Villanueva)