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In Celebration of the Achievements of Atty. Romeo T. Capulong

By Jose Maria Sison
15 February 2005

The 70th birthday of Atty. Romeo T. Capulong is a fine occasion for recognizing and celebrating his achievements. I join others in giving testimony to these. Let me focus on those circumstances and achievements of which I have direct and personal knowledge.

I have known Romy personally and directly for more than three decades. Before that, I knew him only from his public acts and appreciated him as a lawyer, a radio broadcaster and a member of the 1971 constitutional convention for his patriotism, devotion to civil liberties and partisanship to the toiling masses of workers and peasants.

Romy and I met for the first time in 1975 along the Minalungao River in Gapan, Nueva Ecija while I was underground. I trusted him fully because I had known him well although indirectly since the 1960s from the reports that he was helpful to a peasant association and from his patriotic and progressive position on issues in the 1971 constitutional convention and his consistent principled opposition to the despotism of Marcos.

In that meeting, we explored the possibilities for strengthening the armed revolution and broadening the united front against the Marcos fascist dictatorship. He frankly and humbly told me what he could do within his capacity as a political leader and lawyer, and advised me about others who could be of help.

I would learn subsequently that the Marcos dictatorship made life more difficult for him and his family. Thus, he had to leave for the United States, practice law in New York and continue his struggle against the Marcos fascist dictatorship. He engaged in political work with the most progressive compatriots and promoted alliance with Filipinos headed by Senator Benigno Aquino.

I met Romy again soon after the fall of Marcos and my release from military detention in 1986. We were at the big meeting of leaders of Bayan. I invited him to join the preparatory committee of Partido ng Bayan and he said that he would like to observe first the organizational meeting.

Eventually, he decided to join the Partido ng Bayan and became a candidate in its senatorial slate. He could have been easily appointed to a high position by the Aquino regime and become a candidate under the ruling coalition. But true to his character and principle, he cast his lot with a party that advocated vigorously the rights and interest of the working people and the nation.

In the years following the fall of Marcos, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines NDFP) invited him to become the legal counsel in negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in 1986 and 1987. He was in the forefront of efforts to hold Marcos and his cronies accountable for corruption and human rights violations.

He stood up as legal defender of the victims of human rights violations under the Aquino regime and was not intimidated by the massacre of peasants at Mendiola, death threats made on him directly and the murder of progressive political leaders like Rolando Olalia, chairman of Partido ng Bayan and Kilusang Mayo and Lean Alejandro, secretary general of Bayan, and so many human rights lawyers.

He came to my rescue in 1988 when he defended me against the charge of subversion filed by the military under the Aquino regime. This charge and Aquino's cancellation of my passport prompted me to apply for political asylum in The Netherlands. Subsequently, he successfully defended me against the false accusations related to the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing. He represented me in the Senate hearings in 1989 and before the Manila prosecutors in 1991. He also countered the false claims of a CIA-subsidized book and articles of my detractors.

Together with Paul Hoffman and other lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union, Romy was my counsel regarding my torture and the counsel of my family regarding the disappearance of my brother Francisco in the human rights litigation against the Marcos estate in the US. He was involved in all the legal battles. We won our cases in the US despite the tremendous odds posed by the lawyers of the Marcoses and other unfriendly factors.

With regards to my asylum case in the Netherlands, Romy put forward evidence and arguments in my favor, cooperated with my Dutch lawyers and appeared in nearly all of the court hearings to make a presentation. He also ventilated my persecution and asylum case before a global conference on human rights in Vienna and several conferences in the Philippines, North American and Europe.

Since 1989, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has availed of the legal counsel of Atty. Romeo T. Capulong relative to all major approaches of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) for the exploration of peace negotiations. Subsequently, he became the general counsel of the NDFP in peace negotiations from 1992 until he became the senior legal adviser, following his election in the United Nations as a judge ad litem.

With the legal expertise and political wisdom provided by Romy, the NDFP negotiating panel has been able to uphold the revolutionary integrity of the NDFP and the revolutionary forces that it represents, to negotiate and make certain agreements with the GRP effectively and successfully and to push forward a framework of negotiations and substantive agenda to address the roots of the armed conflict and arrive at social, economic and political reforms for a just and lasting peace.

Since the time that the US and other governments put me on the so-called terrorist list in 2002, Romy has been my most important legal adviser in all the cases that I have filed against the Dutch government and the European Council, in certain potential cases in the US and in all efforts to counter the fabrication of charges against me in the Philippines, the US or anywhere else. I approve a legal move abroad only after consulting him and availing of the services of the Public Interest Law Center.

In all my cases, Romy has sought to enlighten and mobilize public opinion. Thus, he has spoken to defend my rights in various types of forums in the Philiippines, North America and Europe. He does not want to be limited to the confines of the judicial process because in the first place my legal cases arise from the violation of human rights by the unjust powerful forces of imperialism and local reaction.

I have made a quick narrative of my productive relationship with Romy. He has been interested in my cases and in working with me in the peace negotiations because of his overriding commitment to public interest. Certainly far more can be said about his work in defense of so many victims of human rights violations and the toiling masses of workers and peasants in the struggle against oppression and exploitation. I hope that the other testimonies can cover what I cannot cover now.

Atty. Romeo T. Capulong has many more productive years ahead of him. I am confident that he will continue to uphold, defend and promote the public interest. We wish him the best of health, happiness and further successes in serving the people.

Before I close, I thank Romy for all the counsel and help that he has so unselfishly extended to me as well for everything that I have gained in learning from our working relationship and his cooperation in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and other socially beneficial projects. Julie and my children join me in thanking him deeply.

Mabuhay ka Ka Romy! Maraming salamat sa lahat ng ginawa mo para sa bayan!
Marami ka pang kliyente at kasama sa pakikibaka! Hindi ka bibigyan ng pahinga.
At syempre, hindi ka rin mapigil sa pagkilos dahil sa sarili mong bait at talino.
Mabuhay , mabuhay ka uli! ###

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