For Immediate Release
April 22, 2019
Reference: Louie Sawi, Chairperson, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), firstname.lastname@example.org
NYCHRP Condemns the Killing of Bernardino “Toto” Patigas and Attacks on Human Rights Advocates!
NYCHRP condemns the extrajudicial killing of Escalante City Councilor and human rights worker Bernardino “Toto” Patigas, 72, on April 22, 2019. He is the Secretary General of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, a member organization of Karapatan-Negros chapter. Karapatan is the Philippines’ major human rights organization. He was also running for reelection as Sangguniang Panglungsod (City Council) member. Patigas survived the Escalante massacre, where 20 farmers and farmworkers were killed during a protest on September 20, 1985, marking the 13th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law; Patigas continued to participate in fact finding missions in Negros and advocate for human rights.
Patigas is Karapatan’s 48th human rights worker killed in action. The murder of an incumbent City Councilor is another case of election-related violence. Moreover, de-facto Martial Law and Oplan Sauron have killed yet another peasant in Negros.
Patigas’ human rights work has led to harassments and threats on his life. In 2017, trumped up charges were filed against him then dismissed. In April 2018, Patigas’ name and picture, together with that of slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and 60 other individuals and rights advocates, were included in a poster of alleged communist personalities.
Peasant activists of Negros see Patigas’ death as an extension of the extrajudicial killings occurring as a result of Oplan Sauron or SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations). Oplan Sauron is a series of joint military and police offensives against supposed drugs and criminal activities, but has quickly shifted into an anti-insurgency operation leading to various forms of extrajudicial killings, armed intimidation and harassment, and the illegal arrests of farmers and peasant advocates struggling for genuine agrarian reform. Oplan Sauron and Memorandum Order 32, an executive order that imposes de-facto Martial Law in Negros, Samar, and Bohol, uses the redtagging of peasant organizations and their members as justification for grave human rights violations.
A few hours after the killing of Patigas, other human rights advocates received threatening text messages. The messages displayed:
“Condolences: Nag-umpisa na kami, ang priority namin ay ikaw, si Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly, at si Alyas Tatay Ogie na makikita sa Silay at sa Libertad. Itong lahat ang priority namin na tapusin ngayon taon.”
[TRANSLATION] “Condolences: We already started, you are our priority, along with Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly, and Alyas Tatay Ogie who can be seen in Silay or Libertad. They are our priorities for this year.”
Members of NYCHRP are alarmed by the brutal murder of one of their kindred human rights activists. This attack is a violent trifecta of human rights violations. Bernardino “Toto” Patigas, as an incumbent City Councilor, deserved the due process of free and fair elections. Duterte’s fascism threatens our call for fair and free elections. We don’t believe his government will provide those electoral conditions to flourish. As a human rights advocate, Patigas deserved the civil and political right to redress grievances with the government and to assemble and speak to issues that affect the community. Smear campaigns, including redtagging and terrorist-labeling, have resulted in dangerous forms of rights violations against human rights activists, whose names were alleged like Patigas. As a peasant leader, he was silenced because of his opposition to the continued rule of the hacienderos in an import-dependent, export oriented economy and his support of genuine land reform. Duterte is the number one enemy of #GenuineLandReform, protector of the oppressive hacienda system begun by Spanish colonizers and perpetuated by the plantation system imposed by US colonialism and imperialism.
As human rights advocates in the United States, we stand with our fellow human rights defenders in the call to oppose the red-tagging and extrajudicial attacks on innocent people. We remain steadfast in our support for the struggle for genuine freedom and national democracy in the Philippines, and to oppose tyrants and fascism as they arise in the country.
#JusticeforTotoPatigas! #StoptheKillings #ActivismIsNotACrime #DefendTheDefenders #GenuineLandReform
Tinay Palabay. (2019, April 22) http://www.facebook.com/tinay.palabay [Facebook Post] Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/tinay.palabay/posts/10216571853581571
Saka Pilipinas. (2019, April 22) http://www.facebook.com/saka.pilipinas [Facebook Post] Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/saka.pilipinas/posts/347769099178690?__tn__=K-R