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Interntional fact-finding mission bewails LGU and PNP inaction

Oton, Iloilo

August 15, 2014

The Philippine embassy in Germany, more than 10,000 kilometers away from the Philippines, seems to know who murdered Romeo Robles Capalla, chair of the Panay Fair Trade Cooperative (PFTC), ahead of local governments and the police.

The local police as well as the officialdom of Oton, Iloilo, residence of Capalla and scene where he was attacked –five months to this date–March 15, 2014 are still caught in catatonic inaction. A gunman shot Capalla at the public market after he disembarked from his SUV to fetch his mother-in-law. About the same time, armed men lobbed bombs at the muscovado mill in Januiay run by the PFTC network.

In both attacks witnesses point to members of the Revolutionary Proletariat Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade as culprits.The fury among Capalla’s supporters hardly died down but another PFTC partner, Dionisio Garete was killed in an ambush in Janiuay, Iloilo two months after, May 29. Garete was the driver of the truck that transports sugar cane and muscovado sugar of farmers within the network of PFTC.

Despite positive identification by witnesses in Januiay town still has the local government and police trapped in catatonic inaction. The suspect who was identified by an eye witness, still roams publicly armed. The police seems helpless to arrest and disarm him, or at least, interview more people to gather information.

Letters-condemnation from PFTC partners deluged the Philippines embassies and consulates in Europe, over 200 of them. Philippine ambassador to Germany Maria Cleofe R. Natividad, took pain to answer one letter (by one Gudrun Chopin). Part of her letter, dated May 23, 2014, reads:

              “Please be informed that the Philippine Embassy in Berlin received the following Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Manila as follows:


              “The PNP created a “Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Capalla on 17 March 2014 to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Capalla. The investigation was headed by the Iloilo Provincial Police Office.

              “Based on the SITG findings, the shooting to death of Mr. Capalla was perpetuated by the Revolutionary Proletariat Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade, a breakaway faction of the CPPNPA//NDF in retaliation to the killing of the RPA/ABB’s leader, Demetrio Capilastique aka Ka Hugo on 20 December 2013.”

Members of the “International Fact Finding Mission” joined by five Koreans and two Italians expressed dismay at the “inability of the local governments and the police in protecting their people and arresting the suspects.”

The police charged one suspect though, an alleged lookout. But the fact finding team is prompted to raise yet another question: how he was not summoned or arrested to identify his co-conspirators, six of them riding on three motorcycles, especially the triggerman and mastermind?Almost all of them chorused: the suspects were known how come no arrest were made and none were summoned for investigation.

Streamers fluttering at the concrete walls of PFTC and at the gathering inside, identified the killers as members of the RPA-ABB, tagged as “death squad” of the government military.

Geraldine Labradores, representative of PFTC counterpart in Cebu, said their sources said that government death squads target 12 PFTC officers, two of them – Capalla and Garete — already killed.

The foreign supporters of the murdered PFTC workers told reporters here this afternoon, they were not just dismayed.

“I am not only dismayed: I am frustrated, I am shocked, I am angry,” said Rudi Dalvai, from Italy, and president of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). He singled out Januiay Mayor Frankie Locsin who not only failed to act, but perfunctorily dismissed the incident as mere “internal struggle.”

The fact-finding team paid Locsin a call to ask him to help stop the attacks on PFTC people. It also visited Oton mayor Vicente Flores, who not only forgot his duty to solve the Capalla murder but blamed the family and supporters “for not cooperating.”

WFTO partners, more than 200 of them, in Europe, N. America and Asia, flooded the embassies of the Philippines and different offices of the government within the country condemning the slaying of Capalla and Garete.

“The killings were done by professionals how could the police and local officials do nothing to protect their own people and arrest the murderers?”  asked Dalvai.

Kim Sumin, fair trade team member of ICOOP Union of Korea said she was stunned by the inaction of local officials and police. She declared: “Unbelievable! The killings of Romeo (Capalla) and Dionisio (Garete) shocked the whole world, particularly us in Korea. The local police and local governments consider these like ordinary car accidents.”

PFTC, an institution that has links to partners in Europe, Japan, HongKong, Korea, the United States and Canada, advocats “alternative trading practices”. For example, it buys farmers’ produce (sugar cane, sab-a bananas, and ginger) at prices higher than the dictates of middlemen, and processes in its processing plant with labourers who enjoy better deals than workers of malls.The Korean ICOOP has 200,000 members, “consumers of PFTC products”, which deluged the Philippine embassy in Korea with indignation letters signed by almost all members.

It exports its muscovado, banana chips, instant tahu and ginger chew to foreign partners who in turn buy them at prices higher than those set by the “free market.”

Ko Doohwan, chair of the Fair Trade Korea, read out the recommendations of the international fact findig body: investigate the killings of Romeo Capalla and Dionisio Garete, arrest and prosecute the murderers, and protect the people in the network of PFTC.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, general secretary of Karapatan and also fact-finding team member, added that the killings of Capalla and Garete, are happening elsewhere in the Philippines, as offshoot of Oplan Bayanihan, a counter-insurgency measure of the Aquino government, “that is just an extension of Bantay Laya of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”

“That’s one major reason why we must press for the ouster of President Aquino to put an end to culture of impunity that results in senseless murders, abductions, arrest and torture of unarmed and innocent civilians,” Hilao-Enriques said.

PFTC today produces 1,000 metric tons of muscovado, banana chips and ginger chew; 800 metric tons of that are exported to partners in Europe, N. America, Korea, Japan and HongKong.
It network benefits 10,000 persons — direct employees, farmers and landowners in Panay producing organically grown sugarcane, sab-a banana, and ginger.

PFTC is not just an exporter: it also trains farmers in organic farming and promote the earth-friendly technology to non-members.

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