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Despite death, Escalante City councilor wins reelection bid

04:38 PM May 17, 2019

BACOLOD CITY -— Less than a month after he was gunned down, Escalante City councilor and human rights advocate Bernadino “Toto” Patigas Sr. was reelected into office.

Patigas, who was substituted by a younger brother Abraham under the Nationalist People’s Coalition, got 18,358 votes and ranked eighth among the 10 winning candidates for councilor.

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Other candidates under the NPC also won, including for mayor and vice mayor.

Under Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code, a candidate who dies may be replaced by a candidate belonging to the same political party as certified by the party of the deceased candidate.

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The substitute may file a certificate of candidacy up to mid-day of election day.

Abraham who has been a barangay councilor said he had no plans to be city councilor.

“This is God’s will,” he told the INQUIRER.

Abraham said he had only two days to campaign and inform Escalante residents that he had assumed his brother’s candidacy before election day.

He said winning the election showed how the residents loved his brother.

Motorcycle-riding gunmen shot Patigas dead on April 22 as he was driving his motorcycle on his way home from a campaign sortie to Barangay Washington in Escalante City, 93 km from Bacolod City.

Patigas, 72, former secretary general of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, was a survivor of the Escalante Massacre.

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Twenty mostly farmers and farm workers were gunned down by soldiers and paramilitary men while they were holding a protest on September 20, 1985, against the Marcos dictatorship.

No arrest has been made in relation to Patigas killing but human rights advocates believed the killing of Patigas was part of the crackdown on activists on Negros Island.

His killing followed the death of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental in coordinated military-backed police operations on March 30 and the killing by masked gunmen of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos in Kabankalan City on November 6, 2018.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza earlier called Patigas “a martyr of the sugar workers’ struggles on the island of Negros.”

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, said in a statement that Patigas’ reelection, despite his death is a “vindication for Tatay Toto and the cause to which he laid his life for.”

She lamented that no investigation has been conducted on the possible involvement of “state agents” in Patigas’ killing. (EditorLeti Z. Boniol)

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