WHEN the progressive party-list Bayan Muna topped the surveys a few weeks before the 2019 election, no one was as elated as its former representative, Joel Virador.
Virador, who was the party’s third nominee for the 13th Congress (2004-2007), was battling thyroid cancer. Despite losing his voice, he was in touch with colleagues and on the state of the nation.
JV, as he is fondly called, texted his congratulations to lawyer Carlos Zarate, the party’s current first nominee and fellow Mindanawon. “We made it despite the attacks against us,” he texted.
Bayan Muna had the second highest votes in the party-list votes. But JV did not see this victory, as he passed away on May 7 at Brokenshire Hospital surrounded by family and his extended family from the activist movement.
During his tribute on May 17, Bayan Muna representatives past and present--Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Zarate--flew in to Makilala and together with activists from the human rights and labor movement shared good memories and saluted JV’s commitment to various causes.
JV will be remembered as the first Mindanawon to become representative of the Makabayan coalition. He was at that time the secretary-general of Karapatan Southern Mindanao and was known for his fearless but calm assertion of human rights for the marginalized during rallies, forums and face-offs with the military in missions and dialogue.
“Cong” JV was the voice of Mindanao in opposing the US-Balikatan exercises in Mindanao and the government’s war on terror that trampled on human rights of the Moro, Lumad and farmers.
For their opposition against the Arroyo presidency, JV became part of the Batasan 5 with Ocampo, Casiño, Ka Paeng Mariano and Liza Maza, who sought sanctuary in the House as they faced trumped up charges.
While Ocampo and others faced the media, JV acted the role of “brother, friend and comrade” to the Makabayan staff and employees in the House.
Everyone was family for JV. He would share his salary to his staff.
Ka Satur praised JV as a “solid man of dedication, living the life of an activist ready to take on any tasks for change.”
Zarate remembered a personal advice from JV when he entered Congress in 2013. JV said the House has a “South Lounge” that serves lavish meals but he said, “Magkaon ra pug tag pina-Bayan Muna (We should eat like we represent Bayan Muna).”
JV’s selflessness comes from his family’s experience as farmers and market vendors. He once saw his lolo getting maltreated for not giving the share of the farm to the landowners on time. He saw through the struggles of the poor, and he went back to them after Congress, serving as organizer and educator for Kilusang Mayo Uno in Davao.
On his burial, Zarate promised that the fight for justice and victory that JV committed his life to will continue in Congress and in the people’s movement.