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.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA AND ABNER BOLOS
(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
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
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.
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
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
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
“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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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