Escalante City councilor shot dead
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Escalante City Councilor and human rights worker Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was shot dead on Monday afternoon along the highway in Barangay Washington.
Police have yet to establish the motive behind the killing.
Patigas, 72, was a human rights worker belonging to the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, a member organization of Karapatan-Negros chapter. He was also seeking reelection as a councilor in the coming elections.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said Patigas was on his way home after campaigning with fellow candidates when the shooting incident happened at around 4:30 p.m.
“As we condole with the family and friends of Tay Toto, as we cry with the loss of a good man and a diligent human rights worker, we pay tribute to his valuable contribution to the overall human rights advocacy in the Philippines,” she said in a statement.
“We vow to pursue the struggle for justice and realization of people’s rights amid tyrants and fascists pervading the country,” she added.
Patigas was the 48th Karapatan worker killed in the course of their work human rights advocacy.
Palabay said Patigas was a survivor of the Escalante massacre of 20 farmers and farm workers on September 20, 1985, when government forces opened fire on protesters staging a protest against the Marcos dictatorship.
The victim, she said, continued to support human rights advocacies, especially the cause of the sakadas of Negros. He also joined fact-finding missions in the island after former president Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.
“Patigas received threats and harassment due to his human rights work,” Palabay said.
In 2017, she said trumped up complaints were filed against Patigas but were dismissed due to lack of probable cause.
In April 2018, Patigas’ name and photo appeared in posters around Moises Padilla town listing 63 people tagged as communist rebel “personalities.”
Felipe Levy Gelle Jr., deputy secretary general of the Sept. 21 Movement-Southern Negros, also condemned the killing of Patigas and called for an end to the killings in Negros.
“Negros has now become the new killing fields, and the perpetrators are definitely the death squads that were formed and deployed by the Philippine Army,” he said in a statement.
“He (Patigas) joins the list of those fall victims to Duterte Death Squad (DDS) who serves as accuser, judge, and executioner of the bloody campaign to end the communist insurgency in the country,” he added. “We demand justice. We demand an end to killings.”
Bayan Muna chairman and Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani described the killing of Patigas a “cowardly and cold-blooded assassination.”
“This is a very dastardly act, and justice must be served for Toto and other victims of human rights violations in Negros,” said Colmenares
“It seems that Negros island has become the new experimental ground of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and their paramilitary forces in conducting harassment, mass arrest, and murders as well as extra-judicial killings,” he added.
Zarate, for his part, said Patigas lived a full life helping the marginalized and the poor.
“As we grieve and rage on this untimely death of Kaubang Toto, we vow to persevere in working for a just and humane society for which he dedicated his life. We will honor his life by continuing his work and working for justice for him and other victims of human rights violations,” he said. /ee
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