Former political prisoner assassinated in Oton town, Iloilo province

At around 6:30 p.m. on March 15, 2014, Romeo Capalla was at the Oton public market when unidentified gunmen shot him at close range. He succumbed to two gunshot wounds in the head, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the Western Visayas Medical Center. He was at the public market to pick up his mother-in-law from her store.

Capalla, 65, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC) and its former manager. The PFTC, a member organization of the International Federation of Alternative Trade, exports certified-organic muscovado sugar and banana chips.

In August 2005, Capalla was arrested on false charges of arson. The said incident was allegedly committed by the New People’s Army in Guimbal, Iloilo. Capalla’s co-acused in the said case was Fernando Baldomero, then town councilor of Oton and was the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino government. Both Capalla and Baldomero were released after the charges against them were dismissed. Baldomero was killed five years later on July 5, 2010, five days after Aquino took his oath of office.

Being in the Order of Battle of the 3rd Infantry Division-Philippine Army, surveillance and harassment against Capalla continued even after his release. The red baiting and tagging of Capalla by the military did not stop.

Capalla is the 11th victim of extrajudicial killing in the last two and a half months, starting in January 2014. Karapatan has documented 169 victims of extrajudicial killing starting July 2010, when BS Aquino assumed presidency, to December 2013.

He is the brother of Bishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, former chairperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

During martial law, Capalla was arrested after being suspected of being a member of the New People’s Army. He was released after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship and devoted his time to fair trade advocacy and production of organic food.

Recommended Action:

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  1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the extrajudicial killing of Romeo Capalla.
  2. The end to the policy of labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
  3. The withdrawal of Oplan Bayanihan, the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program that victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.
  4. The Philippine Government to observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory to. 

 

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H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
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Manila Philippines
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Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
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Fax: (+632) 929 0102
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