Atty. Romeo T. Capulong: people’s lawyer, human rights defender

Karapatan, with all its member organizations and chapters, and victims of human rights violations pay our highest tribute to Atty. Romeo T. Capulong - human rights lawyer par excellence, champion of the Filipino people's struggle for justice and democracy, people's lawyer. 

Capulong, along with Lorenzo Tanada, Benigno Aquino Jr., et al, was arrested upon the declaration of martial law. He was forced to flee the country in 1979, amid the rampant arrests, detention, torture and summary killings, as he was later granted political asylum in the US in 1980. In the U.S., he founded and chaired the Filipino Lawyers Committee on human rights, which imparted the much-needed solidarity of lawyers and human rights organizations in the U.S. to the Philippines. After the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, he went back to the Philippines and established the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), an institution which supported human rights victims from then on.

As a lawyer of Martial Law victims in the historic Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses, he valiantly upheld their interests for justice against all forms of deception, machinations and schemes of those protecting the interests of the Marcoses. Atty. Capulong had always seen to it that all matters pertaining to the class suit, including the necessary legislation that should render justice and indemnification for them, was discussed in a transparent and engaging manner with his clients. Capulong’s death is a great loss especially among the victims of human rights violations under martial law who, up to this day, have carried on their fight for justice and indemnification under the Aquino government.

By taking up the cause of the peasants, workers and activists against terror, oppression and exploitation, he represented the ordinary people’s pursuit of peace and justice and fight against impunity, from the dark days of martial law to the administration of Noynoy Aquino.  

Truly a people’s lawyer, RTC was with human rights victims in haciendas, strike areas and picket lines, in demolition sites, in evacuation centers, in rallies, and even abroad among the Filipino migrant workers. Among others, he defended the farmers and workers of Hacienda Looc and Hacienda Luisita; handled cases of workers of PLDT and Meralco; he was with the Morong 43 health workers, the falsely accused partylist congress representatives known as Batasan 6, the activists and leaders of people’s organizations of Southern Tagalog; the high profile case of OFW Flor Contemplacion; and the numerous cases against political prisoners.  

Capulong’s natural affinity with the poor and oppressed sectors of our society stemmed from the fact that he was born and raised from a peasant family in Nueva Ecija. This, coupled by his long years of involvement in the people’s movement, enriched his law practice in defense of the poor and marginalized.  He was never simply a lawyer, he was a people’s lawyer and a human rights defender. 

Capulong lived by his belief that “the lawyer in a time of upheaval is a marcher for freedom, a toiler for the future that the masses are creating with their own hands.”

Atty. Romeo Capulong’s life and aspirations will live in the hearts and struggles of all the oppressed Filipino people with whom he deeply committed his life and wisdom. ###