All throughout his life, Renato Pacaide was firmly committed to activism and social justice. Then last week, somebody pumped four bullets into his body.

By Marilou M. Aguirre

DAVAO CITY All the gunman had to do was pump one bullet into the head of Renato Pacaide. His death would have been quick, perhaps relatively less brutal.

But it took more than a bullet to kill a man known as Ka Atong to many of his friends and colleagues.

Pacaide, 53, was walking along a street in Digos City on March 2 when gunmen shot him. With him were his stepdaughter Michelle and her one-month old baby. Pacaide, a father of three, died on the spot while Michelle and her baby were unharmed.

Based on witness accounts recorded by the human-rights group Karapatan, two unidentified men on a red Yamaha DT motorcycle stopped in front of Pacaide. Using a .45 caliber gun with a silencer attached to it, one of the men shot Pacaide twice, in the chest and in his lower left shoulder.

Witnesses said Pacaide was able to push Michelle and the baby out of the way and that he tried to run away. But the assassin quickly caught up with him, finishing him off with two more shots to the stomach and the head.

The way Pacaide was murdered was similar to other assassinations of activists in the Philippines, now numbering more than 830 since 2001, according to Karapatan. His death came a few days after the United Nations found that most of these murders were perpetrated by members of the military and that the Arroyo government had not done enough to stop and solve these killings.

Who was Renato Torrecampo Pacaide and why would anybody wanted him dead?

All throughout his life, Renato Pacaide was firmly committed to activism and social justice.

He was a student activist at the Holy Cross of Davao College in the early ’70s. In the ’80s, he was actively involved in the struggles of poor farmers and later became a peasant organizer. By 1990, he was with the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Davao del Sur (Namadds), a peasant group in Davao del Sur, and became its secretary-general in 2000. He joined the party-list Bayan Muna in 2001.

In 2004 up to the time of his death, Pacaide was the coordinator for Davao del Sur of the partylist group Anakpawis. Since 2000, he was the secretary-general of Namadds, which is known for its advocacy of peasant rights.

As an activist, Pacaide fought for the interests of poor farmers like him. Together, they fought for genuine land reform in Davao del Sur. He was also involved in the campaign against large-scale open-pit mining in Southern Mindanao.

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