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Rights advocates dismayed over poor police investigation of the murder of Romy Capalla

September 9, 2014 · 

Press Release
Rights advocates dismayed over poor police investigation of  the murder of Romy Capalla

ILOILO CITY-It is no wonder that the charges filed by the police against a suspect in the killing of Romeo Capalla was dismissed by the prosecutor’s office.
Human rights groups believe the dismissal last week of the case filed against Julie Cabino only proved the ineptness of the police in investigating the case of Romeo Capalla, who was gunned down late afternoon on March 15, 2014 at the entrance of the Oton Public Market.
The killing of Capalla, a prominent fair trade advocate, and of Dionisio Garete, a member of a fair trade network organization in Janiuay town just more than a month later, earned the ire of the international fair trade network. Dismayed by the slow progress in giving justice for Capalla’s killing, a team of representatives of international and local fair trade organizations conducted an international fact-finding mission (IFFM) to look into the status of the investigation five months after Capalla was killed.
“I am angry that there was no real investigation made,” said Rudi Dalvai, president of the World Fair Trade Organizations (WFTO) after dialogues with the mayors and police chiefs of Oton and Janiuay.
This is despite the fact that a regional special investigation task force was formed and the police had a solid lead on the case. The CCTV at the Oton public market did not get an image of the killers, but showed that there were witnesses to the crime, according to Oton mayor Vincent Flores.
“It comes out that the authorities are not sincere in conducting a thorough investigation,” said Reylan Vergara of Karapatan, one of the hosts of the IFFM. He said the suspects in both killings were members of the RPA-ABB, presently serving as a para-military tool in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign, and could explain the police’ lack of drive in investigating both killings.
Iloilo governor Arthur Defensor told the members of the IFFM that the RPA-ABB are not free to roam with their firearms but should keep them inside their houses, and should be arrested if caught bringing them outside. A peace agreement forged years ago between the government and the RPA-ABB provides that the members of the latter can hold on to their firearms. Local fair trade organizations reported to the IFFM that they were being intimidated and threatened by the armed group who at times roam near sugar cane farms and mascuvado mills with high-power firearms.
Karapatan passes the blame to Pres. Aquino for failing to curb impunity and for encouraging such groups to commit human rights violations. Even the Janiuay police personnel said they were helpless with regards to the RPA-ABB because when they arrest them for offenses, Malacañang (Office of the President) called to order that they be released.

“We would like to see that the government protects the members of the fair trade network here,” said Hyungmi Kim, executive director of the Korean ICOOP Cooperative Institute, with up to 200,000 consumers as network. The IFFM members promised to monitor the situation, if any progress is made, and will come back if the situation warrants.
Ref:      Reylan Vergara
Secretary General
Panay Alliance-Karapatan
        Mobile # 09398300744

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