Fidel Agcaoili, chief negotiator of the communist rebels in peace talks with the Philippine government, passed away on Thursday, July 23, in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Agcaoili, 75, died from “pulmonary arterial rupture which caused massive internal bleeding,” read an announcement from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
His remains are set to be flown back to the Philippines.
In October 2016, Agcaoili took over as chairman of the rebel peace panel as they tried to engage the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in talks.
Agcaoili replaced long-time NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni.
Former vice president Jejomar Binay took to Twitter to pay tribute to Agcaoili.
“He was one of the political detainees we represented during the dark days of martial law,” said Binay.
“Fidel was heavily tortured, and endured long years of incarceration. Yet he never yielded his principles to his captors,” he added.
“Regardless of ideological differences, I deeply admire his courage and conviction. Today, we lost a good man and a true Filipino,” said the former vice president.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the government’s chief negotiator, also honored Agcaoili who he described as “a friend, a revolutionary, and a peace warrior.”
“We join all peace-loving Filipinos in grieving the passing of a revolutionary whose passion for peace is as ardent as his love for structural change on the land of his birth,” said Bello.
“[Agcaoili], my counterpart in the peace table in our efforts to try to end the decades-long armed conflict … was a man of honor and conviction,” said the government official.
“He was an instrument in making the most arduous task of talking peace smoother and a bit easier,” Bello said.
“It is just sad that [Agcaoili] will no longer savor the lasting peace with justice that he was pursuing with passion,” he added.
The NDFP represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in talks with the government.
Former Quezon City vice mayor Herbert Bautista, who briefly took on the role of observer during the talks, described Agcaoili as “kind.”
“He was flexible on the negotiating table yet strict and firm on principles,” said Bautista.
Agcaoili was the longest-held prisoner of the Marcos dictatorship.
He was tried and convicted in a military tribunal, a fact subsequently lamented by the Supreme Court in a resolution released after the downfall of the dictatorship.
Upon his release in 1985, Agcaoili joined former political detainees such as newspaper publisher Don Chino Roces, Julieta de Lima Sison, former Senator Soc Rodrigo, Romeo Candazo and lawyer Jose Mari Velez in organizing SELDA.
SELDA, which means “jail cell” in Filipino, became an acronym for Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya or the Association of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and for Amnesty.
SELDA initiated, filed, and won the landmark human rights class-action suit against the Marcoses.
Agcaoili later served as secretary general of Partido ng Bayan, the leftist party that participated in the 1987 elections.
In 1992, Agcaoili joined the NDFP negotiating panel as member, when former president Fidel Ramos sought to start peace negotiations.
The peace negotiations have always enjoyed broad support from Catholic bishops and leaders of Christian denominations.