As I remember today the tragic death of a very good man, Tito Marata, I can hear the devious voice of the lone assassin. I can see how he ended the life of a good man whose deeds were dedicated to the poor and the oppressed.
Tito Marata is the 690th victim of political killings since 2001 according to the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights). He is one of those who dared to defend man’s basic economic and political rights. He was a defenseless and armless civilian who just served the marginalized sector of our society.
I saw him as a reserved person. He never talked too much but when he talked, everyone will listen. He didn’t just convince; he persuade. The ideas he throw were sincere and came from within him. He was a good listener, a trait I admire most.
He could have become somebody in the elitist world but he chose to serve the poor. He worked as an organizer of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Western Mindanao (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines). I don’t wonder why because I know his compassion to the poor.
According to the article posted in Bulatlat by THE RURAL MISSIONARIES OF THE PHILIPPINES:
While working for the peasant’s cause and welfare, he [Tito Marata] engaged in campaigns such as the elimination or reduction of the random weight allowance for “moisture content” automatically subtracted by copra dealers from the produce being sold by coconut farmers. This practice aggravated the situation of coconut farmers not only in Western Mindanao but nationally as well. Prior to the success of their campaign, 20 percent of the total weight of copra plus another half kilo were automatically deducted purportedly for moisture content and the weight of the sacks used. As a result of their efforts, this amount was reduced to four percent and the local Philippine Coconut Authority-Misamis Occidental signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) stating that the agency would check copra dealers who will violate this agreement.
Tito also actively participated in other peasant campaigns such as for genuine land reform, against destructive mining operations, and against human rights violations. They also campaigned against Charter Change, which would allow foreigners to own land and for 100 percent foreign-owned corporations to engage in mining and the exploitation of the country’s natural resources; the development of residential, commercial and industrial land; and the operations of basic utilities such as water, electricity and telecommunications.
After a year of committed work with the peasants, he was designated as Media Officer of KMP-Western Mindanao. In his new position, he was responsible for writing press-releases (and other media-related tasks) on issues concerning the peasant sector in the area. Part of his job was being the link person of KMP to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), the organization of church people committed to supporting the struggles and programs of peasants. He also performed other tasks such as distributing school supplies collected by the RMP for a Literacy program for Indigenous children.
Tito was gunned down by a lone assassin on June 17. He sustained four gunshot wounds on the head and face while alighting from a motorcycle in Oroquieta City. The lone witness to the incident said that he overheard the assassin saying “Giingnan na bitaw ka nga hunong na sa imong trabaho.” (I already warned you to stop your work.)
Tito Marata now rests but his legacy remain in the hearts of those whose had been touched by his commitment in joining hands with the peasant in their struggle for genuine peace.
On June 17, we remember his death. The poor people to whom he served will remember his good deeds. But its more than remembering him. His death is a birth of another movement, another struggle, a call for justice and genuine peace.
Tito’s death is a wake up call for a concerned citizen to take a stand and to serve the critical role being a citizen in a democratic society.
I continue to condemn the brutal death of an innocent and defenseless Tito Marata. I continue to call for the justice, not just for Tito but for all of those who were persecuted because of their exercise of their basic political and economic rights.
May the authorities hear us!
by Jerry G. Gervacio
Mandaue City, June 2007