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On the Violent Death of Hon. Bernardino ‘Toto’ Patigas, Sr.

In the name of the Church community of the Diocese of San Carlos, allow me to offer our sincerest condolences to the family of Bernardino ‘Toto’ Patigas, Sr., a martyr of the sugarworkers’ struggles in the island of Negros. He died violently from the assassin’s bullets last Easter Monday, April 22, 2019 in Escalante City, Negros
Occidental, just a few weeks since the killing of Negros 14.

In sadness, we all are crying out: End the Killings! These barbaric and calculated assassinations must end! We should not tolerate this kind of crime.

Tay Toto was a dedicated human rights worker who himself became a victim by these uncontrolled killings of Filipinos.

He was a devoted church worker. He was a mission partner of the Carmelites in Escalante City and a Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) President of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Old Escalante. He tirelessly worked for the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) program of the parish.

His faith moved him to serve his poor brothers and sisters and was admired by the locals because of his humility and simplicity. He was a veteran grassroots activist, an active campaigner against coal in Northern Negros, and it was ironical that he was mercilessly killed on Earth Day!

He was a survivor of the 1985 Escalante Massacre perpetrated by the Marcos regime. His harrowing experience of the massacre emboldened him to work more for the cause of the workers.

His dedication to social justice is highly commendable, as he selflessly gave his life serving the oppressed and exploited sugarcane workers of the Negros island. With his untiring commitment to the cause of the poor, he received numerous death threats and harassment.

Recognizing his wholehearted service to the masses, the locals elected him as city councilor of Escalante. As city councilor, he amplified the voices of the toiling sugarcane workers, fisherfolks and urban poor; and organized mass actions, such as the annual commemoration of the Escalante Massacre.

Tay Toto helped form the dedication of our present grassroots leaders and activists. He showed us the way to care for the oppressed. The life of Tay Toto is telling us not to forget our sugarcane workers but to continue working with them.

Tay Toto has joined the death list of the lurking evil in our midst, though often admired among our fellow Filipinos.

May the growing death list disturb the consciences of the murderers. It is my ardent prayer that instead of perpetrating violence, they may open their eyes to the reality of truth – that life is precious, that
it is a sin to kill.

Our Catholic community calls for justice for the death of Bernardino ‘Toto’ Patigas, Sr. We all pray for the soul of Tay Toto and for the end of killings.

Bishop of San Carlos
April 25, 2019