MEDIA STATEMENT – Respect Human Life and Promote Human Rights

A Statement of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum on the Killing of Romeo Capalla.
We, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), grieve with much sadness the senseless killing of a good man of God, Romeo Capalla, younger brother of Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, a fellow member of the EBF and former chairperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The younger Capalla, 65 years old, was gunned down in the early evening of March 15, 2014 at the Oton public market in Iloilo province by unidentified killers. He was felled by two gunshot wounds in the head, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the Western Visayas Medical Center.
Brother Romeo has done no wrong to merit his untimely death. On the contrary he was working for people, particularly the women of Panay in their program to export certified organic muscovado sugar and banana chips in international fair trade centers. At the time he was killed brother Romeo was a member of the Board of Directors of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC) which he formerly managed. The PFTC is a member organization of the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT), an international network of fair trade organizations with more than 350 members from more than 70 low income countries including Asia, Middle East, Africa and South America. IFAT’s mission is “to improve the livelihood and well being of disadvantaged producers by linking and promoting Fair Trade Organizations and speaking out for greater justice in world trade.”
Earlier in August 2005 brother Romeo was falsely charged of arson and was illegally arrested and detained. The fire was allegedly committed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Guimbal, Iloilo. Charged with brother Romeo was Fernando Baldomero, a councilor of the town of Oton at the time. The two were released after the charges against them were dropped by the court for lack of evidence. Incidentally Baldomero was killed on July 5, 2010, five days after President Benigno S. Aquino III assumed office, making the former the first victim of extra-judicial killing under the Aquino administration.
While it was true that brother Romeo used to be in the underground as confirmed by his Archbishop brother, he has since decided to live a quiet life and began helping the poor particularly through the PFTC, advocating fair trade and producing organic food.
God the Creator of life intended long life for all God’s people. And it’s only God Who has the right to take life back. We, together with the Church, believe that “the ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of human beings, in the reality of the State, in public powers, but in man himself and in God his Creator. These rights are ‘universal, inviolable, inalienable’. Universal because they are present in all human beings, without exception of time, place and subject. Inviolable insofar as ‘they are inherent in the human person and in human dignity” and because ‘it would be vain to proclaim
rights, if at the same time everything were not done to ensure the duty of respecting them by all people, everywhere, and for all people’. Inalienable insofar as ‘no one can legitimately deprive another person, whoever he/she may be, of these rights, since this would do violence to his/her nature’. (Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, IV. A. 154b.)
We therefore condemn the killing of brother Romeo by wicked people allegedly belonging to the government armed forces. This evil deed must be punished.
We call on President Aquino, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the chief servant of every Filipino citizen, to do the following:
1. Create as soon as possible an independent fact-finding team composed of representatives from the church, the Commission on Human Rights, the local government unit and human rights groups that will immediately look into the killing of brother Romeo Capalla.
2. Respect human life by ending the spate of extra-judicial killings. Brother Romeo is the 11th victim of extra-judicial killing since January 2014, and the 180th to date since July 2010 when President Aquino took office.
3. Protect and promote human rights by scrapping Oplan Bayanihan which sanctions human rights violations. Red tagging, illegal arrest and detention, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings are done in its name.
4. Teach lesson to people, officers and/or civilians, by meting out proper punishment to the guilty.
Issued and signed this 25th day of March, Year of the Lord 2014 in Quezon City.