On 22 April 2019, 72-year-old Bernardino Patigas, who was called “Tatay Toto” by colleagues, was shot and killed by riding-in tandem gunmen as he was making his way home after attending a campaign rally. Bernardino was running for re-election as a Sangguniang Panglungsod (city council) member in Escalante City. Prior to his killing, Bernardino was subjected to multiple incidents of threat and harassment, with his picture included in a poster wherein he was tagged as a communist personality.
Bernardino was a survivor of the Escalante massacre, when government forces opened fire on thousands of civilians who were protesting against the Marcos regime in Escalante. The violence inspired Patigas to go into human rights advocacy and formed Mothers and Relatives Against Tyranny, an organization of families and victims of the Escalante Massacre and martial law. He would later set up the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocacy (NNAHRA), to help farmers in the towns of Calatrava, Toboso, Cadiz and Manapla and the cities of Escalente, Sagay and San Carlos. NNAHRA is a member organization of Karapatan-Negros chapter. In 2010, Bernardino ran for councillor after supporters convinced him that he could do more if he would be in government since he would be able to help in policymaking and facilitate government support. He was selected chair of the city council committee on human rights.
“This is an act of cowardice. Tatay Toto’s life was that of selflessness, courage, persistence and activism. His was a life lived in service of the marginalized, with an unwavering resolve to struggle with them and defend their rights. We impute his murder to the bloodied hands of the Duterte government, which has considered activists as enemies. Tatay Toto raised legitimate issues on genuine land reform, militarization of communities, and prevailing human rights violations in Negros, and yet the government’s immediate response is a bullet to the head. It does not want to hear the plight of the poor, so the dastardly perpetrators send out their mercenaries in masks, and wantonly kill its citizens,” said Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor.
Clamor emphasized that the killing of Patigas is the latest in a string of attacks against activists and human rights defenders in Negros, stating that “at least 50 peasants and rights advocates have been killed in Negros since July 2016.” “We mourn the death of another exemplary human rights advocate. We condemn the killing of Tatay Toto and the ongoing attacks against human rights defenders in Negros and elsewhere in the country. Tatay Toto was a survivor of the Escalante massacre back in 1986 and he has taught many of us that tyrants have their downfall, at the hands of the people who are resolved to take back power and demand accountability. We join our voices in the call for justice, for Tatay Toto and all the victims of human rights violations under this vicious and cruel regime. Likewise, we vow to continue the cause for people’s rights,” Clamor concluded.
Source: Karapatan / Inquirer