October 13, 2011

Ka Roger (1947-2011)

Gregorio ‘Ka Roger” Rosal, widely known as the spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, is dead at the age of 64 years, from a heart attack; he died somewhere in a “guerilla zone”, according to the press release issued by the CPP’s Information Bureau. His passing deserves more than a footnote in this nation’s history of a people striving to achieve an independent, just, egalitarian, and prosperous society amidst entrenched poverty and backwardness, exploitation and oppression.

Ka Roger’s homely yet perennially smiling face with his trademark Mao cap; his plain-talking, hard-hitting and infectiously humorous broadcasts explaining the different facets of the armed revolutionary movement or demolishing the Philippine military’s disinformation campaigns; and the many stories about his model life as a committed communist cadre, a red fighter, a Filipino patriot and a man of the masses are all being recounted in the underground, mainstream and electronic media.

Who was Ka Roger that his death would sadden ordinary folk, even those who did not know him personally or the details of his colorful life as a revolutionary?

Why did the Philippine military -- that had launched numerous campaigns to hunt him down, put a five-million-peso bounty on his head, slapped countless trumped-up charges against him and even engineered the abduction of his daughter to force him to surrender – feel compelled to issue an official statement of “sympathy” to his family?

Gregorio Rosal was born to a poor peasant family: his parents were farm workers in a small sugarcane plantation in Batangas. Because of poverty, he left school at an early age working as a house help and later as an itinerant peddler to help support his family. He was only able to step into college at the age of 24 in 1971, in Batangas City, during a time of great unrest and activism for Filipino youth and students.

Eventually, Rosal became caught up in the awakening of his generation: he became a member of the Kabataang Makabayan, a militant national democratic youth organization founded by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison in 1964. By the time martial law was declared in 1972, he had already left school to organize sugar mill workers in his province, was arrested and eventually joined a daring escape from a prison in a military camp.

Once free, Rosal literally went to the hills to join the New People’s Army and he never came down since. His direct contributions to the growth of the revolutionary movement in the entire Southern Tagalog region were so significant that he was eventually promoted to responsible positions of party leadership at various levels in that region.

Ka Roger was also witness to dark chapter in the history of the revolutionary movement in Southern Tagalog, what is referred to as Operation Missing Link, an anti-deep penetration agent campaign that led to violations of democratic rights. According to the movement’s accounts, “(a)lthough he had no direct role…Ka Roger was among those criticized and meted disciplinary action because of his accountability as one of the region's leading cadres and his failure to take a stand against the hysteria. He criticized himself for this with all humility.”

Ka Roger’s highly commendable stint as the spokesperson of the Southern Tagalog Melito Glor Command of the NPA earned him the heavy responsibility of being appointed in 1993 as head of the CPP Information Bureau and the party national spokesperson.

The CPP Central Committee hailed Ka Roger as “indefatigable in bringing news of the Philippine revolution. He would hike for days, cross rivers and seas and go on long road trips to get to wherever he was needed. He granted almost all requests for interviews, any day and at any hour” thus gaining for himself many friends in the mass media.

Further, the Central Committee said, “The ability and patience, the sharpness and intelligence, the patriotism and love of country demonstrated by Ka Roger further raised the prestige of the Party and the revolutionary movement.”

Prof. Jose Ma Sison, founding chairperson of the CPP, had this to say of Ka Roger: “Ka Roger was the frequent voice of the Philippine revolution and the Filipino people…(H)e had a clear and direct style that expressed in simple terms for the benefit of the masses the most complex situations and analysis.”

Ka Roger stood out as a very unassuming leader who, for all the fame he had attained among the revolutionary forces and the general public, remained consistently modest and un-self conscious till the very end.

According to a comrade and friend, Ka Roger was not only humble as a person, he exuded a sense of knowing his rightful place in the people’s movement, in the larger-than-life story of the people’s struggle for national and social liberation. Thus he would assume no airs in this regard.

Those outside the movement who had the privilege of meeting Ka Roger are one in calling attention to his many endearing qualities: his liveliness and sense of humor; his sincerity and honesty in delivering his message; his simplicity and embrace of the hard life of a guerilla.

His sharp mind and clear explanations are the hallmarks of a natural intellectual, someone who had gained wisdom not just from books but from a lifetime of service to the people especially, the downtrodden masses.

His musical talent and inclinations he also put to good use to demonstrate the humanity and creativity of hard-boiled revolutionaries.

Ka Roger’s unwavering commitment to revolutionary ideals and aspirations as expressed in the hardships he endured, the sacrifices cheerfully undertaken, his refusal to bow to or give in to both military pressures and enticements for him to surrender even when he was already very sick gained the respect, if not admiration, of many, even those who may not have agreed with him.

By his storied life be brought fresh meaning to what it means to be a revolutionary.

The Philippine revolutionary movement and the Filipino people mourn Ka Roger’s untimely death. Yet like all human beings whose lives have made an indelible mark, his passing will only serve to immortalize his legacy.

Younger generations of revolutionaries and activists continue to gain inspiration and real life lessons from Ka Roger’s compelling narrative. #

Published in Business World
14-15 October 2011


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