Profiles of Courage

Rev. Primo Hagad

On October 3, 1997, Rev. Fr. Primo Hagad, OMI passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver. Confreres, friends, family and peers from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) paid tribute to him during a funeral mass on October 9 at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Cotabato City. The day before, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo told of how the military forces of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos detained and tortured Hagad, who was a vocal critic of the administration. He consistently spoke out against the brutalities towards Muslims and other poor Filipinos when he was parish priest of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu during the height of Martial Law.[1]

Though primarily based in Sulu, Hagad had also been active throughout various religious institutions in Mindanao and even in Luzon. Prior to Martial Law, he was parish priest of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Caloocan City from 1967 to 1968 and again from 1970 to 1972.[2] After his relocation to Sulu, he bore witness to government clashes with Muslim oppositionists and secessionists.

He soon became personally embroiled in the political turmoil. In a hearing of the Committee on International Relations in the United States in 1979, one Rev. James Travis was asked to give a statement on his experience in the Philippines. In his statement, he narrates how he managed to visit Basilan and Jolo in 1977 amid “continual bombardment and small arms fire.” When he arrived in Jolo, he went to a bishop’s house, where one of the priests was shocked upon hearing that he simply walked there. Travis expressed to the priest that he did not realize the rebels were that dangerous, to which the priest replied: “It’s not the rebels we’re worried about, because they don’t harm us, but it is the military.”[3]

The priest then told Travis how, during the Martial Law conflict in Jolo in 1974, Rev. Primo Hagad, while running for cover in the midst of shootout, stumbled into Muslim rebel territory, where he was not harmed, but rather briefly cared for along with his companions. He was turned over to the military when the rebels could no longer hold Jolo. Hagad declared that it was the military and not the rebels who had burned and destroyed most of Jolo, and for this he was arrested. Hagad was then detained in Zamboanga, then moved to Manila.[4] Hagad was briefly detained along with other high profile detainees in the Youth Rehabilitation Camp in Fort Bonifacio. He was one of four priests detained at the time, the others being Fr. Hilario Lim, Fr. Max de Mesa and priest-turned revolutionary Louie Jalandoni.[5] It was during his detainment that he suffered at the hands of the military, who allegedly struck him with the butt of a rifle and gave him electric shocks for the duration of his five-month detention. The illness that caused his death is widely attributed to the torture.[6]

Following his release, Hagad remained unflinchingly committed to his advocacy. He worked with factory workers and organized one of the biggest strikes among the urban poor, leading to a brief second arrest. Upon returning to Mindanao, he became involved in different capacities and continued calling out the wrongdoings of the government forces. Travis later met Hagad himself during his visit to Jolo and asked him about what had happened in 1974, but had to ask him to stop midway as Hagad became emotional while narrating. Hagad also told Travis that the current military operations are causing the people, whose properties are being destroyed by the military under the pretext of seeking out rebels, to harbor resentment towards the Philippine government.[7]

In 1978, Hagad, as director of the Kidapawan Diocese’s Social Action Center, asked one Sofronio Roxas, an outspoken farmer, to become a community organizer and lay leader for the community. At the time, the community had already been experiencing tension between the military and the church workers. As the workers continued to call out the military on perceived abuses of the human rights of farmers and peasants, the military began to label them as subversives, placing them on a “surveillance list.”[8]

By the mid-1980’s, things had gotten worse with a series of murders of social action workers, which included Roxas. Hagad, along with Quevedo, summarily condemned the spate of killings and called on Malacañang to investigate, believing that state forces were behind the killings. Hagad expressed doubts that the rebels, as government officials suggested, were responsible.[9] As with many murders believed to be state-sponsored or tolerated, there was little hope among the workers that the killers could be brought to justice, as they were in connivance with men in high positions of power.

After the ouster of Marcos, Hagad joined Claimants 1081 in 1994, an organization seeking reparations for human rights violations during the tumultuous Martial Law regime of the strongman. Hagad wanted to use whatever amount he received for the poor.[10] Hagad exemplified bravery in his devotion to help people and to condemn injustice. Even as a Catholic missionary, he helped not only fellow Catholics, but also the Muslims in Mindanao, who were in an extremely precarious situation as secessionists continually engaged against the military forces of Marcos. Hagad assumed many positions across the Philippines during Martial Law, and though it is not clear when he left one position for another, what remained consistent was what he believed in and what he did for the people. Though narratives and sources describing Hagad’s actions are sparse, and though he has passed on, Hagad’s work speaks for itself. Even under threat of death and torture, he lived his life in service to the people.

 

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References:

Hilario, Ernesto M. “The NPA, a tunnel, and a prison escape plot.” Rappler. April 1, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://r3.rappler.com/nation/53893-npa-tunnel-prison-escape.

Our Lady of Grace Parish. “History.” Shrine of Our Lady of Grace. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://shrineourladyofgrace.com/history.

Travis, James M. “Prepared Statement of Rev. James M. Travis, Diocesan Priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Former Maryknoll Associate.” 148-181. In Committee on International Relations. Foreign Assistance Legislation for Fiscal Year 1979 Part 4: Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office: 1978. Accessed May 20, 2021, https://books.google.com.ph/books?id =cY7QAAAAMAAJ&.

Trott, Reinhold, trans. The Pain Will Go On Until Justice Is Done: What Can We Do To Enforce Human Rights in the Philippines? Quezon City: National Council of Churches in the Philippines, 1987. Original in German by Volker Kasch. Hamburg, Germany: Protestant Association for World Mission, 1986.

Union of Catholic Asian News. “Another lay church worker killed in Kidapawan diocese.” UCANews, August 20, 1985. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1985/08/21/another-lay-church-worker-killed-in-kidapawan-diocese&post_id=33283.

______________. “Oblates, friends honor priest tortured during Martial Law days.” UCANews, October 13, 1997. Accessed May 20, 2021. https://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1997/10/14/oblates-friends-honor-priest-tortured-during-martial-law-days&post_id=10257#.

[1] Union of Catholic Asian News, “Oblates, friends honor priest tortured during Martial Law days,” UCANews, October 13, 1997, accessed May 20, 2021, https://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1997/10/14/oblates-friends-honor-priest-tortured-during-martial-law-days&post_id=10257#. At the time, Quevedo was Archbishop of Nueva Segovia in Ilocos Sur. The following year, he became Archbishop of Cotabato.

[2] Our Lady of Grace Parish, “History,” Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, accessed May 20, 2021, https://shrineourladyofgrace.com/history.

[3] James M. Travis, “Prepared Statement of Rev. James M. Travis, Diocesan Priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Former Maryknoll Associate,” in Committee on International Relations, Foreign Assistance Legislation for Fiscal Year 1979 Part 4: Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office: 1978), 177, accessed May 20, 2021, https://books.google.com.ph/books?id =cY7QAAAAMAAJ&.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ernesto M. Hilario, “The NPA, a tunnel, and a prison escape plot,” Rappler, April 1, 2014, accessed May 20, 2021, https://r3.rappler.com/nation/53893-npa-tunnel-prison-escape.

[6] Union of Catholic Asian News, “Oblates, friends honor priest tortured during Martial Law days.”

[7] Travis, “Prepared Statement of Rev. James M. Travis,” 178.

[8] Reinhold Trott, trans., The Pain Will Go On Until Justice Is Done: What Can We Do To Enforce Human Rights in the Philippines? (Quezon City: National Council of Churches in the Philippines, 1987), 32-33, original in German by Volker Kasch, Hamburg, Germany: Protestant Association for World Mission, 1986.

[9] Union of Catholic Asian News, “Another lay church worker killed in Kidapawan diocese,” UCANews, August 20, 1985, accessed May 20, 2021, https://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1985/08/21/another-lay-church-worker-killed-in-kidapawan-diocese&post_id=33283. This was after the murder of church-worker and activist Romeo Quesio on July 14, 1985. He was already the third social action worker killed in Kidapawan since 1983, following Glicerio Olbes in 1983 and Roxas in 1984. He was also the third church person to be killed that year, following Fr. Tullio Favali on April 11 and Celestino Garino on June 12. Roxas and Favali’s names are both inscribed in the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

[10] Union of Catholic Asian News, “Oblates, friends honor priest tortured during Martial Law days.”

Arado, Reynaldo

Hagad, Rev. Primo

Birthday: N/A

Death: October 3, 1997

Parents: N/A

Spouse: N/A

Children: N/A

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