THE rebel leader who has been in the consciousness of Davao residents for decades has been killed in a gunbattle with soldiers at Purok 9, barangay Panialum in Paquibato District around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the military has confirmed.

The military has likewise released photos of the body of Leoncio Pitao, alias Ka Parago. This must be a season of rejoicing for the military who have long been after Parago’s head. Our attention, however, was called by Sun.Star columnist Tyrone Velez on a photo posted by TV5 Davao that accompanied the breaking news about Parago’s death. The comments only had praises for the rebel leader, some remembering how he was as a leader, others even calling him “Tay”.

Many times, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte himself has praised Parago for his continued battle for their principles even as the mayor would quickly add that while they share the same principles, he does not believe in the manner Parago has chosen to fight for it – meaning the armed struggle.

Match this with the recollections of journalists who have been able to interview the rebel leader through the decades that he has led the New People’s Army Pulang Bagani Command in Paquibato District, we see a true leader who has struggled with his people. For that, we salute him. But as the mayor would just as quickly add, we just do not believe in the manner he decided to fight for his principles.

Parago has made headlines several times with his various exploits in pushing for the armed struggle and his numerous meet-ups with Mayor Duterte, whether to release a prisoner of war or to settle some concerns.

Parago has been fighting as a rebel for 37 years before he died. He took up arms after his father, a farmer in Loreto, Agusan del Sur, was mauled by the military until he coughed up blood. He was captured sometime in 2001 on accusation of masterminding the abduction of erstwhile Army Brigadier General Victor Obillo and his aide Captain Eduardo Montealto in 1999, among 17 other criminal charges.

He was ordered released in September 2001 following the order an a Regional Trial Court in Quezon City, which got the approval by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following recommendations of her Cabinet as confidence and goodwill-building to resume the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front.

He then slipped back to Paquibato where he led his men. Now we cannot help but wonder, who is next in rank? How will he lead? As in any armed group waging a rebellion for whatever reason, the leader is key to how the armed group will be conducting themselves. This is a cause for concern especially because there has been no one who has made himself known throughout the years that Parago was regarded as the leader.