The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao salutes the life and times of Ka Joel Virador, a steadfast mass leader, human rights advocate and pillar of the legal national democratic movement in the region. Ka Joel passed away on May 7 due to thyroid cancer.
Ka Joel’s selfless service to the cause of the toiling masses not only in Southern Mindanao but in the entire country as well has been stellar. He was one of the few local mass leaders from the legal national democratic struggle in the region who earned national recognition both in parliament of the streets and the reactionary Congress.
Coming from a petite bourgeois family in North Cotabato, Ka Joel eschewed a likely comfortable life despite having the education and opportunities, and instead chose to serve the people in the legal democratic struggle. He worked for the human rights organization Task Force Detainees from 1987 to 1994 and became its regional director for Southern Mindanao. He was later appointed as secretary general of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao before joining the progressive partylist Bayan Muna in 2000.
Ka Joel helped bring the issues of the Filipino people in the halls of the reactionary Congress when he became a representative of the Bayan Muna from 2004 to 2007. Braving one of the most corrupt presidents post-Marcos, Ka Joel, along with 4 other progressive partylist representatives earned the ire of former GRP president Gloria Arroyo in 2006 for exposing the fake president’s corruption, widespread human rights violations, fertilizer scam and many other controversies. The group, who became known as the Batasan 5, was later cleared of the rebellion case filed against them. After his stint in Congress, Ka Joel chose to return to the militant legal struggle, working for the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region and its federations up until his health started failing due to his ailment.
As a progressive militant leader working within the reactionary bureaucracy, Ka Joel is a study of courage in the face of state fascism, despite and especially when such attacks are being encouraged and rewarded by the highest officials of the land as Arroyo and Duterte. Along with his progressive colleagues in the partylist system, he was a testament that an elected official can and must remain class conscious, militant and incorruptible, even in the cut-throat and graft-laden halls of the reactionary government. He left Philippine Congress as he entered it: with his principles and virtue deeply rooted in the Filipino masses.
The revolutionary armed movement in Southern Mindanao credited his invaluable effort as one of the third party facilitators who received erstwhile NPA Prisoners of War Brigadier General Victor Obillo and Captain Eduardo Montealto and ensuring that they were safely turned over to their respective families in 1999.
While we join the masses in their grief with Ka Joel’s passing, we are likewise confident that in the ranks of the oppressed in Southern Mindanao, more and more mass leaders and staunch critics of social injustice of his caliber shall emerge. Duterte’s unrelenting fascism will ensure just that.
(sgd.) RUBI DEL MUNDO