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March 25, 2014 · 


fair trade assassinated

Militants say death squads behind killing of Panay fair trade manager

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer Visayas

12:04 am | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


OTON, Philippines‹Why did they have to kill him? He was good person who had helped many of us who are poor, said Ma. Theresa Mediavilla.

Mediavilla said workers of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC) like her were grieving for the killing of Romeo Capalla, their former general manager and chair of the board.
We hope he will be given justice because he did not deserve to die that way, she said in an interview at the PFTC office in Barangay (village) Tagbac Sur in Oton town, about 7 kilometers south of Iloilo City.

The Philippine National Police has formed a special task force to investigate the killing and are evaluating possible angles, including Capalla¹s political involvement, personal relationships and business dealings, according to Chief Insp. Joseph Almaquer, public information officer of the Iloilo provincial police office.
Based on initial findings, the killing was well-planned and the killers have access to resources, especially motorcycles, Almaquer said.

Two unidentified men gunned down Capalla at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at the entrance of the Oton public market and in front of shocked residents. The market is about 50 meters from the municipal building where the towns police station is located, but police failed to intercept the gunmen who fled on motorcycles with several other men believed to have served as lookouts.

Capalla, 65, and the younger brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, died of bullet wounds in the head before reaching Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo.
The victims remains were brought to his residence in Oton on Monday morning. His family declined to issue any statement pending the arrival of his wife and a daughter from the United States.

Militant groups, including Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), an organization of former political prisoners mostly detained during the martial law period, condemned his killing and have blamed death squads allegedly organized by the military to target known leaders of the Leftist movement.

This allegation has been repeatedly dismissed as baseless by military officials who have instead offered to help in the investigation of the killing.
Romy was killed in public a few meters from the municipal hall and police station. The assailants were on about four motorcycles. Almost simultaneously, another group burned a muscovado sugar mill being serviced by PFTC. Who has the means, motive and gall to do this? said Fortunato Pelaez, Selda vice president for the Visayas.

About four unidentified persons burned a truck and part of a muscovado sugar mill in Barangay Dabong in Janiuay town, about 40 km from Oton, an hour after Capallas killing.
Workers of PFTC have debunked military allegations and legal charges that Capalla was the regional commander of the communist New Peoples Army on Panay Island.

He had been working here since 1994 and we were with him most of the time. He was already at the office by [8 a.m.], said Mediavilla, who was with Capalla minutes before he was gunned down.
For Lalaine Nunal, who has been a banana chip slicer for 14 years at PFTC, Capalla left warm memories of a manager who cared for his employees.

He was soft-spoken and good-natured, and always took care of our needs and concerns. He treated us as equals, not subordinates, she said.
Its painful for us but we will not stop our work here because many of us were able to send our children to school because of this. Hundreds of members of farmers and womens organizations have also benefited from the center, said Mediavilla.

PFTC helps produce and sell natural and organic products for local and international markets. It buys organic muscovado sugar and bananas at prices higher than the mainstream market, and exports these to fair trade organizations in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Austria and Spain.


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