BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Saying he would not want to be accused of winning the May polls because of the New People’s Army, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has asked rebel leader Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao to allow his political foes to campaign in rebel territories.
This is a democracy so please let them campaign in your territory, said Duterte in his appeal to the head of the First Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA.
While the insurgency in the city has been cut down to a small size, Parago and his rebel band claim control of hinterland districts like Paquibato, at the boundary with Davao del Norte.
Duterte’s plea should come as a much-needed relief to Speaker Prospero Nograles, who is running for city mayor against Vice Mayor Inday Sara Duterte in the May elections, who has been warned by the rebels not to show even his shadow in rebel territories.
Last month, Nograles’ campaigners were chased down by rebels while campaigning in Paquibato, their vehicle held and then set free with Parago advising them to tell the Speaker that he needs a pass to enter rebel areas.
The NPA said rebels have declared Nograles, retired Army general Jovito Palparan and anti-communist Jun Alcover as “persona etchapwera” which declared rebel areas as no-man’s-land for ther triumvirate. The tag is a take-off from the Davao City Council resolution which declared Palparean and Alcover for saying Davao City is crawling with communists.
Palparan and Alcover, who are actively campaigning for Nogreales, said they doubt Ka Parago is in control of Paquibato and two weeks ago went with a handful of anti-communist crusaders to Barangay Malabog, which is the Paquibato barangay nearest to the city proper, to burn a streamer with the photo of Mayor Duterte shaking hands with the rebel leader.
But Duterte belittled the boast of the anti-communists that they were able to “invade” the territory of Ka Parago who on the day had been waiting for them in Paquibato proper. They knew that Ka Parago is waiting for them in Paquibato proper so they went to Malabog, he said.
Nograles, already in trouble with the vote-rich progressive community perceived as left-leaning, has complicated his situation by hiring Palparan of the Bantay partylist and Alcover of Anad in his campaign.
Palparan is tagged by militants as The Butcher for the string of murders of militant personalities in areas he was assigned. Alcover is a well-known anti-communist crusader. Both have been hitting Duterte for his alleged links to the NPA and his support for three militant persons running for the city council under his Hugpong party.
Already faring badly in surveys, Nograles and running mate Benjamin de Guzman, who is up against Mayor Duterte, are expected to be pushed down further to the cellar when far flung district votes are counted and when cause-oriented and progressive groups here mobilize their ranks to campaign against the Speaker.
For his anti-people stand on labor, land and other major issues, Nograles is a perennial object of marches and rallies and pickets by militant groups at his congressional office in Quirino Avenue and his residence at Dona Vicenta Village.
Collated surveys here show Nograles losing 8-2 against Sara, with de Guzman taking 1 percent against Mayor Duterte’s 9 points.