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Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the progressive national democratic alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), writes an article of tribute for attorney Romeo Capulong who organized for the National Union of People’s Lawyers. Capulong was a key organizer and lawyer in freeing most of the Morong 43, a group of health workers illegally detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and accused of being members of the New People’s Army.
I first met Atty.Capulong at the Public Interest Law Center office in Makati, sometime in the late 90’s when we needed to consult the case of student activists from Lyceum who were facing sanctions from the school administration. We were still with Anakbayan at the time. At the get go, Atty. Capulong clarified that whatever legal tactic that would be employed, that would be secondary to the political movement. He told us of the primacy of the political struggle, that this was the most decisive, and that the legal tactics should serve the political tactics.
That conversation stuck with me. I was fortunate to get a chance to see up close what he meant, and to appreciate the correctness of his words.
Ka Romy would again play a leading role in the legal defense of the Morong 43 who were arrested in February 2010. It was his idea to bring the case both to the Supreme Court and the Commission on Human Rights. When the writ of habeas corpus was granted, it was Atty. Capulong who stood before the Court of Appeals to argue the case and to condemn the failure of the AFP to bring the detained health workers to court. He stood up to demand that the handcuffs of the detainees be removed while they were in court. He spoke eloquently on how the rights of the 43 health workers were violated from the moment the warrant of arrest was issued up to the time they were arrested and detained without access to counsel, and made to go through a bogus inquest proceeding.
Atty. Capulong also spoke before the Commission on Human Rights, then chaired by Leila de Lima, on the violations of the rights of the health workers.
Pag si RTC ang humawak ng kaso, parang kagyat na panatag ang loob ko. Ang dami na nyang dinaanan, at nakitang pakikibakang legal, at pag nagsalita sya, sigurado sya sa sinasabi nya.
Sayang, hindi na rin sya umabot sa 40th anniversary ng Martial Law sa September 21. Alam kong marami ding kwento ang mga Marcos victims kaugnay ng papel ni RTC sa laban para sa katarungan. Oo nga pala, yung mga migrante, may mga kwento din sila sa naging papel ni RTC sa kaso naman ni Flor Contemplacion. Ang daming kwento talaga.
Sa mga bago at nakababatang abogado ngayon, mainam na makilala nyo sa Atty. Romeo Capulong, abogadong naglinkgod sa bayan hanggang sa huli. Napakahusay na huwaran para sa mga future lawyers.