Any physical harm done to Atty. Romeo T. Capulong will irrevocably end the peace negotiations

Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) vigorously condemns the attempt to assassinate NDFP Senior Legal Consultant and United Nations Judge ad litem, Atty. Romeo T. Capulong. The serious attempt on his life took place last Monday, 7 March around midnight when Atty. Capulong was in his Nueva Ecija home along the national highway.

A red Revo van coming from the direction of Cabanatuan and driving west in the direction of La Paz, Tarlac slowed down in front of his house and drove past. After some minutes, it returned and slowed down again. The occupants of the red Revo van rolled down the windows. Two guards provided to Atty. Capulong by Nueva Ecija Governor Joson cocked their rifles. Upon hearing the cocking of rifles, one of the car occupants was heard by a guard to remark, “Ay may tao pala!” [Oh, there are people around!].

The occupants were described by the guards as tall and burly. They did not alight from the van. They were apparently frustrated by the guards who had been provided by Governor Joson after relatives of Atty. Capulong noticed strange men surveilling his house.

In the past two weeks, there have been an unusual number of ambulant vendors purportedly selling taho [soya drink], walis tambo [broom], pots and pans, etc. but were not really selling anything.

There has been a spate of human rights violations in the past few months by the GRP’s military and police forces. Just this month Tarlac City Councilor Abelardo Ladera was assassinated on 3 March 2005, Bayan Muna coordinator for Nueva Ecija, Danilo Macapagal, a relative but strong critic of President Macapagal-Arroyo disappeared also on 3 March, Romeo Sanchez, Bayan Muna coordinator for the Ilocos region was summarily executed on 9 March, and just yesterday morning, Philippine Independent Church priest Rev. William Tadena, a supporter of the Hacienda Luisita workers, was shot dead. Indeed, the attempt on the life of Atty. Capulong cannot but be taken very seriously.

As President of the Public Interest Law Center, Atty. Capulong has led the fact-finding mission into the Hacienda Luisita Massacre of 16 November 2004. It must be noted that Councilor Abelardo Ladera together with Bayan Muna Congressman Satur Ocampo went to the house of Jose Cojuangco in Dasmarinas Village in Makati, Metro Manila on 16 November 2004 to seek a negotiated solution to the strike in Hacienda Luisita.

Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, wife of Jose, confronted Ladera with bitter words, “You have no right to talk to us and come into this house because you are on the side of our enemy!” Ladera answered, “Ma’m, the reason why I am here is because Congressman Satur Ocampo asked me to help find a negotiated solution.” Mrs. Cojuangco literally drove him out of the house. Since then, Atty. Capulong, Councilor Ladera and Congressman Ocampo have been attacked in public utterances and documents of the military. Mrs. Cojuangco is the assistant secretary of the department of the interior and local government of which General Angelo Reyes is the secretary.

One day after Atty. Capulong interviewed Marcelino Beltran, Chairman of the peasant alliance in Central Luzon, who was the key witness in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, Beltran was killed on 8 December 2004. At a command conference held in Camp Macabulos in Tarlac on 24 January 2005, at which National Security Adviser General Ebdane, Presidential Chief of Staff Norberto Gonzales, Northern Luzon Commander Lt. General Romeo Dominguez, the PNP Provincial Commander, Governor Jose Yap of Tarlac and Governor Joson of Nueva Ecija were present, Gen. Dominguez read a briefing paper in which he falsely accused Councilor Ladera as the contact person of the NPA in Hacienda Luisita. The general likewise attacked Atty. Capulong and Congressman Satur Ocampo.

The NDFP holds President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who declared the Hacienda Luisita strike a “national security issue”, responsible for the assassination threat on Atty. Capulong and the murders being committed against leaders of democratic organizations. The connivance of the Aquino-Cojuangcos and the military, especially the NOLCOM, must be condemned. They must also be held accountable for the recent spate of killings and disappearance and for the attempt on the life of Atty. Romeo T. Capulong.

The NDFP hereby serves notice to the Macapagal-Arroyo government: any physical harm done to Atty. Capulong will irrevocably end the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Any act of violence against Atty. Capulong will rapidly inflame the people.