Comradeship with Atty. Romeo T. Capulong in the Struggle for Justice and Peace

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines
September 20, 2012

Julie and I are signatories in the official condolences of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to the family of Atty. Romeo T. Capulong. We have thus expressed our most heartfelt grief over the passing away of Ka Romy, our deep gratitude for his service to the NDFP and the Filipino people and high admiration for his brilliant achievements as great lawyer of the people and defender of human rights.

But this time I wish to give testimony on my comradeship with Ka Romy in the struggle for justice and peace and wish to express gratitude to him. I wish to focus on how we relied on him as  legal counsel in numerous cases against us and in all the major cases involving me  after my release from fascist prison in 1986  and how we worked as teammates in the struggle for justice and peace.  I believe that  the legal cases and our team work in peace negotiations with the Manila government are of general interest and significance.

Ka Romy and I first came to know each other in the 1960s through veteran peasant cadres from Nueva Ecija who belonged to the peasant association headed by Ka Bert Olalia. They informed me that Ka Romy gave legal advice to them and supported the cause of land reform in his radio broadcasts.  And they likewise informed him that I gave refresher courses to them on the Philippine revolution and the role of the peasantry.

When Ka Romy became a delegate to the 1970 Constitutional Convention, he was an active part of the group of patriotic and progressive delegates who were our mutual friends.  He knew that I was sending my opinions to them, especially through Enrique Voltaire Garcia.  Ka Romy and Voltaire were among those delegates who resisted the scheme of Marcos to make the new constitution a tool for perpetuating his rule. They were consequently arrested and imprisoned by the fascist dictatorship.

When I personally met Ka Romy for the first time in1975, we were not strangers to each other and he was pleasantly surprised that his guide brought him to his own home province for our meeting. We met at a scenic bank of  the Minalungao river in Gapan, Nueva Ecija.  At that time, I was undertaking a social research in Nueva Ecija to prepare for the creation of guerrilla zones.  We discussed united front work against the fascist dictatorship.

He did alliance work among his academic neighbors in the UP Teachers Village, his fellow lawyers and his colleagues in the Liberal Party until 1979 when he decided to go on exile because of renewed threats against him.  While in the US, he earned a living as immigration lawyer, worked with a group of Filipino progressives (Ugnayan) and cooperated with Ninoy Aquino when he went to the US in 1981.  He became close to progressive American lawyers in the National Lawyers Guild.

After Marcos fell from power, Ka Romy returned to Manila in 1986. Because he had been close to Ninoy as a defense counsel and as Liberal Party colleague, he was sure to be appointed to a high position in the Aquino government.  But I chanced upon him at the Philippine Social Science Center building and, as Chairman of Preparatory Commission of the Partido ng Bayan, I invited him to attend an organizational meeting at one of the function rooms there.

He said that he would just sit in for a while but he stayed on until the end of the meeting and liked what he observed.  From then on, he became interested in Partido ng Bayan.  At the time, he was being considered as the legal advisor of the NDFP in ceasefire negotiations with the Aquino government. When I left the Philippines in 1986, Fidel Agcaoili kept close to his Sigma Rho brod Ka Romy and the latter became the legal advisor of the NDFP and a senatorial candidate of Partido ng Bayan.

In September 1988, the reactionary military filed a subversion case against me and persuaded Aquino to cancel my passport in an attempt to force my return to the Philippines.  I requested Ka Romy to represent me  and counter the charge in court. He agreed without hesitation.  I proceeded to apply for political asylum in The Netherlands. The subversion case would be dismissed upon motion of Ka Romy, after the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992.

In my asylum case, Ka Romy gave advice to my Dutch lawyers, Tom Boekman,  Robert van As and Prof. G. D. H. van Hoof, his personal testimony and  other documents in my favor.  In a well-structured and substantial  address, he ventilated my case at the NGO forum parallel to  UNHRC-sponsored  World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993   His description of my background and legal and political status  would become the basic frame of reference  for my lawyers in various  legal cases  abroad.

As SELDA lawyer, it was the duty of Ka Romy to make sure that nearly 10,000 victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime were documented and prepared  to pursue their class suit  in the human rights  case against the Marcos estate.  But as my counsel he paid special attention to my individual suit. He also acted as Filipino counsel of my family in the case of my brother Francisco, who had been a victim of forced disappearance.

He performed excellently as the principal Philippine lawyer correspondent of my several lawyers in the American Civil Liberties Union led by Paul Hoffman. He participated in the hearings in Hawaii. He was present when Julie and I made our deposition in Utrecht  in 1991. In my deposition,  I  linked   Marcos to my torture.  Ka Romy was with my American lawyers, the lawyer of Marcos and the U.S. court stenographer.  My family and I would eventually win  our case against the Marcos estate through appeals to appellate court, despite strenuous efforts of Judge Real and Robert Swift to nullify our case.

In 1988 the US Central Intelligence Agency made a major move to revise Philippine history and shift the responsibility for the Plaza Miranda bombing from Marcos to me in order to vilify me and reinforce the riven ruling system. It used one of its publishing firms, the Westview Press, to publish a book by Gregg Jones against the CPP and myself, caricaturing me as mastermind of the Plaza Miranda bombing of August 21, 1971. This was played up by a Manila daily in a series of front page editorial articles.

Eventually, I was subjected to Senate investigation by the joint blue ribbon and justice committees. Ka Romy made a resounding defense of me and debunked the testimonies of military assets. The said Senate committees did not make any conclusion or recommendation that a murder charge be filed against me.  But the military filed a case against me at the prosecution office of the City of Manila.  Once more Ka Romy won the case for me when in 1994 the city prosecutors signed and issued a resolution dismissing the charge as something based on sheer speculation.

While futile attempts were being made to demonize me in Manila, Aquino made overtures to me for  peace negotiations in 1989 onwards. I responded positively. It was Ka Romy who accompanied to Utrecht an emissary purportedly authorized to make the feelers by then Pampanga Governor Bren Guiao.  Subsequently Ka Romy came with Rep.Jose V.Yap who had direct but informal authorization from Cory Aquino. The exploratory talks paved the way for the Ramos regime to authorize the Yap mission to negotiate and forge The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992.

In the preparation of the aide memoire for Aquino on the wisdom of holding the peace negotiations in a neutral venue abroad as well as in making the draft of  The Hague Joint Declaration, Ka Romy and I established the pattern of our teamwork in which he provided the legal advice and I the political advice to the NDFP negotiating panel and its chairperson Luis Jalandoni.  Our functions involved division or distinction of work but they were complementary and we freely crossed functional borders during discussions.

Since the late 1980s, the Philippine military authorities have not ceased to offer bounties on our heads  and to accuse us of common crimes for almost every major tactical offensive carried out by the New People’s Army.  But Ka Romy had always successfully debunked the charges and asserted that the Manila government had no way to serve me a subpoena in view of the fact that I am a political refugee in The Netherlands and that there is no extradition treaty between the Philippines and The Netherlands.

For defending us against false charges as well as for taking up other human rights cases, Ka Romy was harassed and threatened with assassination a number of times since the late 1980s.  But he was always courageous in helping expose assassination plots and attempts against my person. With the assistance of a friendly former military officer, he was able to get in early 2001 the testimony and pertinent documents from a whistleblower from an assassination team that had gone to The Netherlands in 1999 and 2000 to kill me.

Within the framework of the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Manila government as well as within the framework of the European Court of Justice, Ka Romy consistently stood as my foremost Filipino legal counsel against the terrorist blacklisting by the US and by the Council of the European Union. He was a member of the international panel of lawyers led by Jan Fermon  that succeeded in proving the violation of my fundamental rights and having my name removed from the EU terrorist list in 2009, after seven years of litigation.

On November 19, 2002 he wrote the paper “Jose Maria Sison—Filipino Patriot and Revolutionary” to defend me against the false charge of terrorism and to demonstrate that I had won against all the charges of political offenses since the time of Marcos. His paper was a major contribution to the pleading submitted on my behalf to the European Court against my inclusion in the EU terrorist blacklist.

On March 15, 2004 Ka Romy also wrote the highly important paper, “The Meaning, Scope and Implications of the Oslo Joint Statement on the ¨Terrorist¨ Listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army and the Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)”. This was adopted by the NDFP Negotiating Panel as its position when  formal talks with the GRP Negotiating Panel resumed in Oslo on 30 March 2004.

As lawyer of Batasan 6 and other progressive Filipinos, Ka Romy led the legal defense against the rebellion charge fabricated by the Arroyo regime in 2006 in which I was the principal accused among 50 persons, including Julie.  He was able to win the case in June 2007, with the Supreme Court ordering the dismissal of the case and the nullification of all evidence presented.

The Supreme Court decision won by Ka Romy was crucial in debunking the murder charges filed against me by Dutch prosecutors in August 2007.  Apart from the strength of said decision, Ka Romy and other lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center gathered evidence, which enabled my Dutch lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe to obtain my release from solitary confinement in The Hague national penitentiary.

Ka Romy was a proletarian revolutionary fighter of poor peasant origin, who obtained his law degree by virtue of a scholarship.  Whenever we met in Europe, we had extensive discussions with him on how dire are the conditions of the toiling masses of workers and peasants and on how best to uphold, defend  and promote their national and democratic rights not only through legal assistance within the ruling system but more importantly through their own revolutionary mass movement.

He was inspired by the First Great Rectification Movement, the re-establishment  of the CPP, the founding of the NPA and NDF and  the spread of  revolutionary organs of political power  and the growth in strength of these revolutionary forces and the people in the course of struggle against the Marcos dictatorship and the post-Marcos regimes.  He was a strong supporter of the Second Great Rectification Movement  and was happy with the resultant revitalization and further advances of the new democratic revolution.

Ka Romy and I appeared together a number of times in public fora about my cases as well as about general topics concerning human rights, peace negotiations and the Philippine situation. It was always an honor to be with Ka Romy in such fora in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, in the Philippines, the US and Canada, whether I could physically attend or send my written contribution, whether this was on video or not.

I can say much more about my comradeship and working relationship with Ka Romy.  But I am constrained by the allotted time and by the need to let other comrades and friends to testify on many matters which are part and parcel of the rich tapestry of his highly meaningful life of service to the people, especially those who are exploited and oppressed.

After his passing, the most I can do is to put in my share of information in perpetuating his brilliant legacy and to express the deep gratitude of my family for his personal touch and legal services and for his highly significant relationship with me as his client and as teammate in the struggle for justice and peace.

Ka Romy’s clear understanding and firm grasp of the relationship between the legal and the political is displayed in his often repeated statement, “The validity and correctness of the armed struggle is neither a legal nor moral issue, it is a political and historical one.”

Even as he excelled in court as the people´s lawyer and as senior legal adviser to the NDFP in peace negotiations, he recognized the necessity of  the revolutionary mass movement as the force that can change the old rotten system of big compradors and landlords and install a new social system that is truly independent, democratic, just, progressive, prosperous and peaceful. ###