Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 6      March 12 - 19, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Assassination Attempt on UN Judge Puts NDFP-GRP Talks in Peril

In the Philippines, even a United Nations judge is not spared from harassment and intimidation. The assassination attempt on UN Judge ad litem Romeo Capulong sent signals that the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines would end irrevocably.


(March 14, 2005) - Prominent human rights lawyer and United Nations ad litem Judge Romeo Capulong has become the target of assassination by hired killers in the wake of the spate of killings in Tarlac.

Capulong is serving as senior legal consultant of striking farm and milling workers of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and the attempt on the life of the lawyer was connected to the labor dispute, the lawyer himself told reporters March 14.

In the press briefing, Capulong – an ad litem judge of the Hague-based International Crime Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – narrated that around midnight of March 7 while resting in his Nueva Ecija home along the national high way, a red Revo van coming from Cabanatuan slowed down in front of his house.

Barangay (village) tanod men, who provided security for Capulong that night, said they immediately cocked their guns when they saw the two occupants of the van roll down the windows. Upon hearing the cocking of rifles, one of the car occupants was heard saying “Ay, may tao pala!” (Oh, there are people around!). The van sped away at once. 

Surveillance of his house had been going on for several days, Capulong said. An unusual number of ambulant vendors have been frequenting their place, relatives told him.

The assassination attempt on Capulong came four days after the killing of Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, a staunch supporter of the striking workers of Hacienda Luisita – the sprawling 6,443-ha sugar plantation owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino. 

At exactly 8 a.m. last Sunday, another supporter of the striking Hacienda Luisita workers, Aglipayan priest William Tadena, was gunned down in Tarlac City after saying mass. Three of his companions were wounded with one of them in critical condition.

Capulong said the plot against his life and the recent killings in Tarlac could not have been hatched without certain people who would benefit from the killings knowing them.

Without categorically accusing the Cojuangcos for the attempt on his life, the lawyer named elements of the Northern Luzon command and certain rebels who are now conniving with the military as “assets” and “hired killers” as also possible suspects.

But he also blamed President Arroyo for tolerating the killings and not lifting a hand to stop the human rights violations that began with the massacre of seven striking workers in Luisita on Nov. 16 last year. The President, Capulong said, is afraid of her own military.


Reacting to the report, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP through chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni warned any physical harm done on Capulong “will irrevocably end the peace negotiations.” Capulong has served as senior legal consultant for the peace talks between the government and NDFP.

“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,” Jalandoni said.

In a related development, the TarlacNews.Net online news network reported that a vigilante group, the Nagkakaisang mga Biktima ng Karahasan ng NPA (New People’s Army), recently owned the killing of Councilor Ladera. Police authorities, the report added, are also investigating the possible involvement of another anti-communist group, the Kasama-Kayabe-Kadua.

Meanwhile, church groups condemned in various protest activities the killing of Tadena, accusing the military as the mastermind.

Rev. Fr. Tadena, 37, the 10th victim of the Hacienda Luisita tragedy, was shot dead at about 8:30 am, March 13 by still unidentified assailants shortly after saying mass in barangay Guevarra, La Paz, Tarlac.

Tadena’s death is the latest in a wave of killings which human rights group here claim are overt military operations meant to silence supporters of the strike in Hacienda Luisita.

Witnesses said Tadena, a priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), was driving a private jeep along with three companions about 50 meters away from the church where he had just said mass when two pistol-wielding gunmen on board a motorcycle approached them from behind and opened fire on the passengers.

Emil Paragas, spokesperson of KARAPATAN-Tarlac told Bulatlat one of the gunmen first fired successive shots from the passenger side of the jeep. The assailants then alighted from the motorcycle, went over to Tadena’s side and fired more rounds that hit the vehicle’s occupants.

Tadena’s companion, Carlos Barsola, 38, sustained gunshot wounds in the head and is still in critical condition at the Central Luzon Doctors’ Hospital in Tarlac city while Charlie Gabriel, 24, a church acolyte, was hit in the right leg. Tadena’s secretary Ervina Domingo, 20, was unharmed.

Tadena, chair of Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) Tarlac provincial chapter, was an active supporter of the striking workers’ in Hacienda Luisita. Tadena also chaired the Human Rights and Social Concerns Committee of the IFI Diocese of Tarlac.

25th victim

He is the 25th casualty in a series of overt military operations in Central Luzon, according to KARAPATAN-Tarlac. Records of the human rights watch group reveal that since January of this year alone, 12 persons have died from extra-judicial executions or "salvaging," five were reported missing and ten were victims of frustrated killing.

The data does not include the November 16 violent dispersal at the picket line in Hacienda Luisita which resulted in the death of at least seven protesters and the wounding and illegal arrest of more than 100 others.

On the same day (March 3) that Ladera was gunned down, Danny Macapagal, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Nueva Ecija was abducted from his home by armed men and is presumed to have been killed. On March 8, Mer Dizon, chair of the ANAK PAWIS party in Zambales was likewise abducted but managed to survive upon the intervention of his family and friends who traced his whereabouts at the police station in Iba, Zambales. Bulatlat 



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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