The Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao confers its highest revolutionary tribute to comrade Eduardo Arnado, who is more known to Red fighters and commanders, masses and allies as Ka Choi and Ka Edoy, on the occasion of his first death anniversary. His life and times are remembered as an exemplar of simple living and hard struggle and the implacable will to serve the people which have endeared him to all revolutionary forces in Davao del Sur, North Cotabato and Bukidnon.
Ka Choi was killed on February 28, 2020 by a joint operation of AFP and PNP forces in Sitio Lamurok, Brgy. Marapangi, Damulog in Bukidnon. At the time of his death in the hands of the fascists, he has been actively organizing and campaigning against the Chinese-funded South Pulangi Hydro-Electric Power Plant (SPHEPP) in the towns and villages straddling the Pulangi river, particularly those which will be affected by the construction of the dam. For several months prior to Ka Choi’s death, the 19th Infantry Battalion has positioned its troops in these villages, conducting combat operations, holding forums that force masses’ attendance and harassing village folk who are critical of the dam project.
The project, which is being aggressively steamrolled as part of the Duterte regime’s Build, Build, Build program, will adversely affect the lives and livelihood of 23 villages and an estimated 40,000 individuals. As a capitalist undertaking under neoliberal policy, it aims not to supply cheap electricity to households in Mindanao but to cater to the needs of big businesses, plantations and large-scale mining owned by foreign companies. The project has been stalled many times in the past due to the continuing unity and resistance of peasants and Lumad around Pulangi river.
The revolutionary affinity to the cause of the struggling masses has been engendered in Ka Choi very early on, having come from a family of poor peasant settlers in Saranggani, South Cotabato. Conscious of the need to fight the oppression and exploitation against the peasantry, he became a mass activist who helped lead agrarian campaigns. He became part of several successful peasant struggles, including against the destructive logging company Mindanao Timber Corporation that encroached in the Lumad domains in Mt. Sinaka in Arakan, against government negligence during the severe droughts that hit and severely affected the Lumad and farmers of North Cotabato in 1997 and 2016, and the more than 30-year peasant struggle in Arakan and Pres. Roxas in North Cotabato to reclaim the 4,000-hectare land reservation appropriated by the Cotabato Foundation College for Science and Technology – University of Southern Mindanao, which culminated in the Duterte regime being forced by the widespread mass movement to award titles to hundreds of farmers in the area. These peasant struggles, especially the resulting fascism that has become the knee jerk answer of reactionary regimes, have proven to the masses of the continuing need to wage revolution and which inspired them to become, like Ka Choi, Red fighters in the NPA.
Wherever Ka Choi was assigned, the masses had nothing but high praises for his revolutionary attitude. He was known to be the mild-mannered, big-built man who had no qualm about carrying out simple tasks like sweeping off litter and rubbish in the backyard early in the morning or washing dishes, doing laundry or helping in farm chores so that the masses can attend political discussions or meetings. He cherished the principled unity among the masses that, besides arbitrating land disputes between peasants or establishing collective economic programs, resolving even domestic spats and community problems have become part of his daily routine. It is in these very basic, very modest attributes that the masses have come to cherish Red fighters and commanders like Ka Choi, and starkly distinguish them from the paid pretensions of the fascist AFP and PNP.
This is why the Lumad and peasants themselves rage in indignation over the baseless and preposterous claim of the AFP that Ka Choi and the NPA were “extortionists” who bled the masses dry with revolutionary taxation. They courageously scoff at this downright lie during so-called meetings which AFP troops force them to participate in (that later turn out to be surrender programs), insisting that not only is it untrue that the NPA extorts them, it is even Red fighters that sometimes give them rice and other food. They denounce this shameless hypocrisy, especially with the rampant corruption hounding the AFP in the Duterte regime’s militarized approach to the Covid-19 pandemic and the NTF-ELCAC’s humongous graft-laden budget, among others.
Masses remember and sorely miss Ka Choi most dearly, especially in this time of the pandemic when their livelihood have turned for the worse, exacerbated by the Duterte regime’s insensitivity and negligence. Red fighters and commanders and comrades remember him as inspiration of humility, revolutionary optimism and as a Communist who has struck deep roots among the masses and embodied Comrade Mao Tse Tung’s legacy and immortal words: pay attention to the well-being of the masses.