Ex-reb leader joins politics

- Cet Dematera () - January 1, 2004 - 12:00am
TABACO CITY — Sotero Llamas spent 23 years in the underground movement, fighting the administrations of four presidents.

Now, Llamas, known for his aliases "Ka Teroy" and "Kumander Nognog" during his rebel years, is finally embracing the political system he had long fought.

Last Monday, he filed his certificate of candidacy for governor of Albay, registering "Nognog" as his nickname.

He is running under the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) faction of Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Llamas, 53, described his decision to seek an elective position as yet another "pioneering struggle" for a former "Red fighter" who never before believed in the electoral process as a means to attain the communist movement’s much-sought social reforms.

"(This) decision is not a big thing for me. I just simply shifted from one form of struggle to another, but this time through the parliamentary struggle," Llamas told The STAR in an interview at his residence here.

Party-list polls

A father of four girls, Llamas admitted that he was inspired by the results of the party-list elections in 2001 when he served as the political affairs director and major campaigner of Bayan Muna.

"With myself as the major campaigner in 2001, Bayan Muna did not only get the six percent minimum votes equivalent to three seats in the Lower House, but it got 11 percent," he said.

"I was an officer of the CPP/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front) with a big enthusiasm for parliamentary struggle," he added.

Nicknamed by the military as "Ka Nognog," reportedly because of his dark complexion that made it very difficult for government forces to capture him in the past, Llamas said he now earns his livelihood by buying and selling scrap materials and through "political consultancy."

Llamas admitted that he is facing a tough fight against influential and moneyed gubernatorial aspirants in Albay, but believes that the people will vote for him based on his track record.

"The people know that my 23 years in the underground movement was purely ‘public service.’ I held very influential positions in the organization, but I did not get rich," he said, even showing the scars on his body which he described as "souvenirs" of his armed struggle.
More Peaceful Option
"I’m optimistic that my shift from armed struggle to parliamentary struggle will be the starting point for my former comrades to reconsider joining a more peaceful option for change," he said.

"Livelihood and good governance" is Llamas’ platform of government.

When asked why he joined Lacson’s group, he said it was only the senator who invited him to run under his ticket.

Besides, he said he believes that Lacson accomplished important reforms in the police force and neutralized criminal groups while serving as Philippine National Police chief.

When asked to comment on reports that the underground movement and Bayan Muna will not support him, he said, "It does not matter to me."

"I believe that the people vote for a candidate not because of his party but because he has the qualifications," said Llamas, a political science major of Aquinas University in Legazpi City.

His wife, Concepcion, a former communist rebel herself, said she and their immediate relatives fully support Llamas’ decision to run for Albay governor.

"We know that if Sol (as his family fondly calls him) decides to enter another struggle, nobody can stop him. He is a man of his own," she said in the dialect.

"Win or lose, my father will fight in this election," said Marilyn, Llamas’ eldest daughter.
Rebel Days
Llamas joined the underground movement when the late President Ferdinand Marcos lifted the writ of habeas corpus as a prelude to the final declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.

He said he was one of the original founders of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).

From 1970 to 1972, Llamas was an active student leader, spearheading demonstrations against the Marcos administration.

When martial law was declared, he and hundreds of other militants started the armed struggle, forming the CPP-NDF and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Llamas held different ranking positions in the communist movement until 1995 — CPP secretary for Albay from 1972 to 1973; Bicol party committee head and regional NPA commander from 1974 to 1984; and other positions, the highest being the CPP’s Southern Luzon Commission deputy chairman and the NPA’s Southern Luzon commander, from 1984 to 1995.

When former President Fidel Ramos initiated peace talks with the communists, he was named one of the CPP-NDF’s high-level negotiators.

But in a bloody encounter with police and military forces in Juban, Sorsogon on May 19, 1995, Llamas was seriously wounded and captured.

His colleagues in the CPP-NDF negotiating panel, however, demanded his release on the ground that he should be immune from arrest being an officially recognized negotiator.

After spending one year and one month in prison, Llamas, considered a political prisoner, was released on June 21, 1996.

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