To be shocked is an understatement, the feeling of uneasiness, memories coming back and despair are among the emotions I had when I opened my Facebook account and read a post about another extrajudicial killing. This time in the province of Iloilo.
Romeo Capalla, a 65-year-old former political detainee, younger brother of Bishop Fernando Capalla was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding assassins in front of the Oton Public Market in the province of Iloilo on March 15, 2014.
His case, now again going into the tailspin of denials, pointing fingers at authorities who are supposed to be the ones to investigate, catch the culprits and make them pay for this heinous crime.
I am no investigator or have a background in criminal investigation, but I suspect a script is again being rewritten all over again four years after Fernando Baldomero, my father who was slain also in the same manner.
Romeo Capalla, little do I know about him. But when my father was incarcerated in 2005 he told me some stories about him and Capalla.
I was assigned as a reporter in Antique back then, when my father called me on my cellphone, telling me to contact anyone since he is being arrested by police elements at his boarding house in Kalibo. I reviewed the information I gathered about the case, it’s arson in Guimbal, Iloilo about the burning of heavy equipment of a construction company that was admitted by the New People’s Army as their own doing.
Along with Tatay, Capalla and many others were accused and trumped-up charges were filed in court. Disregarding the ethics of reporting, I reported my Tatay’s arrest for fear of him becoming a desaparecido, and it became a headline in Panay News the next day.
Baldomero (left) and Capalla (Right) in Belison Antique (2004 Photo).
Months later, the case was dismissed and Capalla was set free while my father was transferred to Antique Rehabilitation Center this time for another case. He was accused as one of the perpetrators in an ambushed by the NPA in Cabiawan, San Remigio Antique in 2004. The funny thing is this is also the time when he tried to run a seat in the Sangguniang Bayan in Lezo, Aklan but failed to win. I was in our hometown the whole time, and he was there campaigning when the supposed ambush happened.
While in Antique, I am the one who brought lunch and his other needs while in prison. While doing my work as a journalist, I came to know policemen from the provincial command who filed charges against my father. They admitted that they filed the charges against Tatay and many others since San Remigio Police don’t know who ambushed the policemen in Cabiawan. They just took the Order of Battle List and slapped the names with charges.
One of the suspects I forgot the name my father told me was no longer active in the movement and is too old to be a rebel.
But I digress. I tried to understand the logic of the case. My father was indeed an NPA member since 1973 until he was captured in 1993. He went legal and in 2001 became active in the legal mass movement and chosen as Chair of Bayan Muna (People’s First) political party in Aklan. I told the policemen of considering the discomfort the family and the person will experience in filing trump up charges. It is not just for compliance because they need to file a case against those who ambushed their colleague would they choose the convenient way of just filing charges against the suspected names in their list without proper verification and correct intelligence gathering? How about those who were accused will the lives affected and livelihood destroyed be paid back?
My father while imprisoned was able to get permission to attend a gathering in Belison, Antique for a Panay Wide Caravan there I meet people from Iloilo and Antique. Capalla was there too. They lit candles and sing in honor of the fallen martyrs of the revolution.
Tatay was a political detainee. He along with Capalla is a member of Samahang ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Aresto at Amnestiya (SELDA). Baldomero is the chairman of Bayan Muna-Aklan while Capalla is the chairman of the board of directors of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC). My father was then reelected on his second term as Sangguniang Bayan Member in the 2010 elections a few days later while he was trying to bring my younger brother to school he was killed. Capalla was about to board his vehicle when he was shot close range.
The pattern of killings and the demonization of the two are similar. My father was accused of being an NPA in Aklan while Capalla is the same in Iloilo. Despite being involved in the legal movements, security forces do not differentiate them from NPA and a legal mass activist this according to military parlance. Whether you are an actual combatant or a member of a leftist organization you are still an NPA whether you like it or not.
I don’t want to delve further into international law and national laws covering dissent but what has been done and continuously being done by security forces and their paramilitary groups (which includes the so-called former rebels RPA-ABB and CAFGU renamed as CAA) is indeed injustice and can be considered as war crimes.
But impunity persists. After Tatay 174 more were killed and the last is Romeo Capalla from 2010 to 2014. There are now 11 killed in this year alone which is 11 in 10 weeks based on the data gathered by human rights group Karapatan.
One death is too many.
My family is still mourning the loss of a father, son, and relative. People I only came to know recently are more remorseful than us because Tatay was also a father to them, a friend, a counselor, a good comrade.
I believe Romy is the same. Having served countlessly dispossessed in decades through PFTC and other organizations he will surely be missed and they will not be silent.
But the question comes again. Will they get justice? Will the culprits be arrested? Years of waiting and this remain unanswered.
This is sickening. This is an outrage.