PHILIPPINES: Human rights defender speaks about the threat on his life in an interview


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-038-2010
ISSUES: Human rights defenders, Threats and intimidation, Victims assistance & protection,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to share with you the interview it has conducted with Bernardino Patigas, one of the two human rights defenders whom we earlier reported to have been receiving threats on his life. In this interview, Patigas explained the nature of his human rights work which he believes is why he is being targeted.


In our previous appeal AHRC-UAC-106-2010, Bernardino Patigas had written his sworn statement about the threats on his life. After reporting his case, the AHRC interviewed him about his present condition and the progress of his case. 

Below is the translated version of the interview conducted in Cebuano language:

In addition to the first interview I had regarding the threat on my life from the landowners and military men who are responsible for this.

Firstly, my name is Bernardino ‘Toto’ Patigas, secretary general of the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights (NAHRA). To give you an update about the threats from the landowners and the military, the threat on me still remains; however, with regard to Capt. Ballesteros, after my colleagues were able to speak to him as to why he was threatening me despite not making any trouble, the threat from him had subsided.

However, on the military side, they still continue on damaging and maligning my name in the northern part of Negros Occidental. Anyway this incident did not frighten me in continuing my organizing work and to let the local villagers understand why their situation is like this; and why there is hunger; and why there are human rights violations.

In fact from what we see it, the HRV or the human rights violation is continuing in the northern part of Escalante City, Negros Occidental and also in Negros Oriental, is part of the Oplan Bantay Laya (a counter insurgency) program by the former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and is replaced by the new President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III. 

In fact, instead of ending the Oplan Bantay Laya II in June this year, they extended it for another three years. This program is designed to destroy the insurgency that existed in the entire Philippines. Even if this program exists they should have not been threatening the civilians like me on allegations that either I support (the New People’s Army) or I am an NPA rebel myself. They should have proved it first in court. But on my part I’m not an NPA. I’m only helping the villagers as a human rights defender; and also being a person who working in defense of human rights.

Question: Can you give us idea about your human rights work?

They should know that that work of NAHRA is to give education to the people as to why this (human rights violations) are happening to them to learn what they should be doing. Our organization has also become a venue for us to be able to organized the people against the violations committed by the government by way of using the military and (violation) against the poor people be prevented. NAHRA also is a venue and a center to mobilize the people in particular when violation committed on them is either ignored by the government or they caused further violations, like extrajudicial killings, and other forms of harassment. 

Question: In your written statement you have mentioned that your colleagues have reported that there was an order from ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines). You were also able to identify who had offered money to kill you and your colleagues, what is the progress now?

As what I have said earlier, the threat coming from an agent of ISAFP, and in the letter which I have also received concerning the threat, there was a mission order that he was an ISAFP agent and he will be the one to kill me. I’m very cautious of this because we cannot trust this people. As I have also said that the letter has mentioned that Tim Ballesteros had given bribe to kill me; and my in-law on allegations that we were leading the taking over of the land to cultivate in Escalante City; and we are also responsible of organizing the people so that they could fight against the military.

You know, Tim Ballesteros is a former military man. He used to be part of the Philippine Navy and he was a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Anyway for time being (the threat from) his part had subsided after my colleagues had spoke to him telling him that his allegations on me are not true; and that he should stop threatening me. However, the threat is still continuing because there had been drawings (posted widely) of me carrying coffin, carrying armalite rifle, which are all part of maligning my person; and also in media reports they had publicly accused me as supporter of the NPA.

This is what I was saying that they should prove. They should not accuse me of those. Anyway I remain cautious. Although the extrajudicial killings had stopped after it reaches to the United Nations; however, on the new government another killing of activists had taken place. This only means that this killing would continue and will never stop. So, it also depends on us and our colleagues to take action to stop this because human life is very important. We should not neglect human lives because it is painful (to loss them). Even though the dead person is not our relatives, but when we see that an innocent person is killed, it is very painful.

Question: Have you discussed with your lawyer about the possibility of filing charges against those who made threats and plotted to kill you?

I have discussed with my colleagues about the possibility of filing Writ of Amparo. That is the first step we thought of doing. And the copies (of the letters) regarding the threat on me, I will be giving them to my colleagues, particularly the lawyers who are active in defending the human rights of the people.

Question: Is there anything you want to tell us more?

For all my colleagues who are on struggle, we should not feel weak. Our organization is strong in defending the rights of the people, so they should not feel weak. I haven’t seen anyone weakened so far, but I’m only saying this in case they would feel weak. If we can, we should add more strength to ourselves to prevent the continuing violations committed on us by the government. We just need to continue our struggle.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-038-2010
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Human rights defenders, Threats and intimidation, Victims assistance & protection,