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UA 121/91 - Philippines: Harassment of human rights lawyer: Attorney Romeo Capulong

, Index number: ASA 35/013/1991

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 35/13/91
Distr: UA/SC
UA 121/91 Harassment of Human Rights Lawyer 3 April 1991
PHILIPPINES: Attorney Romeo Capulong, human rights lawyer
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong
who, in recent weeks, has been subjected to intimidation by armed men believed to have
links with the Philippine security forces. The organization believes, on the basis of past
experience, that Attorney Capulong may be in danger of extrajudicial execution.
Attorney Capulong is a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), which provides
free legal aid to disadvantaged groups and to people detained for their political activities.
Known as an outspoken defender of human rights, Attorney Capulong is currently acting as
defence lawyer for a number of people accused of involvement with the outlawed Communist
Party of the Philippines (CPP) and associated crimes. He believes that the recent harassment
by armed men, and the implied threats to his life, are directly related to his involvement
in these cases.
On 19 March, Attorney Capulong was followed by men in a passenger car as he drove
from Manila to his home in Nueva Ecija province several hours to the north. The identity
of those in the car is unknown but it is believed that they may be linked to the military
intelligence apparatus. The car was a Toyota Cressida with tinted glass and license plate
number NRB 838. The day before this incident, Attorney Capulong had been involved in a
dispute in court while acting as defence lawyer for two alleged high-ranking members of
the CPP. According to reports, the military lawyers for the prosecution had objected strongly
to certain questions he asked during his cross-examination of an alleged "professional
witness" for the military. The lawyers accused Attorney Capulong of attempting to elicit
information from the witness which would be of use to the NPA.
On 1 April during judicial proceedings in a case involving six alleged members of
the New People's Army (NPA) -- the armed wing of the CPP -- an armed man in civilian clothing
entered the courtroom, and asked Attorney Capulong's personal driver whether Attorney
Capulong was there. The driver said he did not know. The armed man next approached the
military escorts of the six defendants; one of the escorts then pointed to Attorney Capulong.
Shortly thereafter the armed man left the courtroom accompanied by another unidentified
man. According to an eyewitness the two men drove away on a red Honda motorcycle with no
license plates. According to Amnesty International's information at least three of the
human rights lawyers killed in the past three years were shot by unidentified men in civilian
clothes riding motorcycles without licence plates.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
At least six human rights lawyers have been killed in the past three years in apparent
extrajudicial executions in the Philippines; of these, three were FLAG lawyers who had
been active in the defence of human rights and in reporting abuses by members of the security
forces. In addition to those killed, dozens more have received death threats or other kinds
of intimidation in recent years. In May 1990, FLAG lawyer Solema P. Jubilan received a
series of death threats believed to originate with elements of the Philippines Constabulary
in North Cotabato province (see UA 234/90, ASA 35/16/90, dated 6 June 1990). In January
1991 FLAG lawyer Nerio G. Zamora received a death threat from the provincial PC Commander
in Bohol (see UA 09/91, ASA 35/01/91, dated 14 January 1991).
Amnesty International views such threats and intimidation with concern because in
the past they have sometimes been followed by the "disappearance" or killing of the named
person(s) by members of government or government-backed security forces. It believes that
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the threats are intended to keep human rights lawyers from engaging in their lawful activities
on behalf of the underprivileged and political detainees. Amnesty International urges the
Philippine Government to take prompt and appropriate measures to guarantee the safety of
Attorney Romeo Capulong, and other human rights lawyers subjected to such threats and
intimidation.
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RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail letters:
- expressing concern for the safety of Attorney Romeo Capulong following the reported acts
of intimidation by armed men believed to have links to the security forces;
- noting with concern that at least six human rights lawyers have been killed in apparent
extra-judicial killings in the past three years in the Philippines and that dozens more
have been threatened with death or otherwise intimidated;
- expressing concern that such intimidation may be intended to keep human rights lawyers
like Attorney Capulong from engaging in their lawful activities on behalf of the
underprivileged and political detainees;
- urging the government to take prompt and appropriate measures to guarantee the safety
of Attorney Capulong;
APPEALS TO:
General Fidel V. Ramos
Secretary of National Defense
Department of National Defense
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City
Metro Manila, Philippines
Telegrams: Defense Secretary Ramos, Quezon, Philippines
Telexes: 22471 DND PH or 42004 DCSLOG PM
Faxes: + 63 2 721 3988
Lt. General Rodolfo Biazon
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
Camp Crame
Quezon City
Metro Manila, Philippines
Telexes: 22471 DND PH or 42004 DCSLOG PM
Faxes: + 63 2 832 3793 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Franklin Drilon
Secretary of Justice
Department of Justice
Padre Faura Street Ermita
Manila, Philippines
Telegrams: Justice Secretary Drilon, Manila, Philippines
Faxes: + 63 2 521 1614
COPIES TO:
Free Legal Assistance Group
204 Cabrera II Building
64 Timog Avenue, Quezon City
Philippines
Fax: + 63 2 81 75410
Mary Concepcion Bautista
Chairman
Commission on Human Rights
IBP Building Complex
Dona Julia Vargas Avenue
Pasig Metro Manila, Philippines
Telegrams: Chairman, Human Rights Commission,
Manila, Philippines
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and to diplomatic representatives of the Philippines in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat or your section
office if sending appeals after 15 May 1991.

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