For 30 years, Clemente Ragragio had been a good and faithful public servant. He was the municipal sanitation inspector of Ligao and later, the small town of Oas, one of the poorest in Albay province.
Roads were bad. Doctor’s visits or hospital care was out of the question for most local residents. Malnutrition was common, especially among children.
Ragragio didn’t just sit in his office and wait to be called. He organized the health services in the barangays of Oas, paying attention to the construction of toilets, assuring the supply of safe water to the community and putting up a system of distribution. He visited even the remote villages, making sure he brought along some medicines for distribution.
Thus, people trusted and respected him. In 1983, he was named Best Sanitary Inspector for the whole province, and he was being considered for a promotion as head of the provincial office.
But maybe because he knew first-hand about the situation at the grassroots, Ragragio was not happy. He believed that the government’s wrong priorities and disregard for the people's rights were the reason why Oas and its people were poor and deprived of services. Although the Bicol region was heavily militarized, he openly criticized the government’s neglect of his province.
He was kindhearted and easy to get along with, but also independent-minded and principled. After the assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, he joined the Bicol chapter of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and became an active member of its municipal steering committee.
It was a time when people’s organizations – farmers, tricycle drivers, human-rights advocates – had found the courage to publicly resist the dictatorship. Voicing out their grievances and demands, they sent delegations to various protest actions in the big cities of Bicol such as Legazpi, Sorsogon and Naga. There was also much talk of guerrilla successes in the countryside. Pro-Marcos local officials gave full cooperation to the military in trying to suppress the opposition.
Somehow, Ragragio found himself a target of speculation by some authorities: they said that because he could freely move about in the barrios, he must be a secret supporter of the rebels. In 1985 the sleepy town of Oas was hit by a series of political killings.
On the day that Ragragio was shot dead, he had attended a protest rally in the town of Daraga marking the second anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s death. There had been a “hukumang bayan” (people’s tribunal) that found the regime guilty of crimes against the people.
That evening he was relaxing at home, taking in the breeze in his front yard, when a gunman walked up and fired three bullets with a handgun, before escaping. No investigation was made by either the civilian, police or military authorities.
Despite the shock and fear that followed, many people flocked to pay Ragragio their last respects. Above his coffin hung a banner which read: “Happy are those who pay the price to make their dreams come true.”
Just six months after he was silenced, the dictatorship was finally ousted.
PARENTS Gil Ragragio and Alejandra Patricio
SPOUSE / CHILDREN Arsenia Rayco / 8
Elementary: Oas South Central School, Oas, Albay
Secondary: Ateneo de Naga
College: Ateneo de Naga; Bicol College, Albay