Ka Romy, A Symbol of Unwavering Service to the People

Patnubay de Guia
Spokesperson, NDF-Southern Tagalog Region
September 18, 2012

“...In addition to rendering competent and dedicated legal services, we, the human rights lawyers, are also committed to our clients' aspirations for social change.”
- Atty. Romeo Capulong

The National Democratic Front-Southern Tagalog Region expresses its condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Atty. Romeo Capulong. He died on September 16 after a lingering disease. He was 77.

Atty. Romeo Capulong, fondly called by his colleagues as RTC, is a well-known human rights defender. Shortly after the declaration of Martial Law during the Marcos Regime, Ka Romy was jailed and was later on exiled to the United States. Outside the country, he practiced his profession and continued his opposition to the Marcos Regime.

After seven years, he was home again.

He continued to serve and defend the masses. The Filipino people would never forget how he represented Flor Contemplacion in Singapore during the Ramos regime. He led the legal battle for the immediate dropping of rebellion charges filed against the Batasan 6 under the Arroyo regime. He handled the criminal charges filed against 72 activists in Southern Tagalog. He also played an important role for the release of the 43 health workers who were illegally arrested and detained on February 2010.

As a lawyer, Ka Romy did not always practice his profession inside the courtrooms. He marched with the masses who called for the ouster of Estrada in 2001. Apart from his legal assistance in the impeachment of Estrada, he was one of the prosecutors who walked out of the Senate when the second envelope connected to the Jose Velarde account was not opened.

Even the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front was given legal assistance by Ka Romy. His services are invaluable to the entire peace negotiation between the reactionary Philippine government and the National Democratic Front. As legal counsel of the National Democratic Front, Ka Romy has extended his valuable services and assistance in the custody and release of POW’s in Southern Tagalog, namely PCI Rene Francisco and Sgt. Joaquin Melad in Rizal province, Msgt. Demol in Laguna, PCI Martin in Quezon, and Maj. Noel Buan and SPO4 Magtagad in Mindoro.

Ka Romy channeled his own knowledge of the law into the struggles of the masses. He never let legal struggles be a fallback of political struggles. He believed that the two work hand-in-hand. However, he tirelessly reminded the masses that their collective struggle is the one that plays the key role and it is only through this that their interests and welfare are forwarded. Such was what happened to the dismissal of charges and release of political prisoners in the cases of Morong 43, Southern Tagalog 72 (ST 72) and Batasan 6.

Ka Romy was very passionate with his profession. His career did not make him one of the rich professionals in the country. He dedicated his life for the less fortunate, for the basic masses, for the workers, peasants, and all the oppressed. As a seasoned lawyer, he never intended to spoke in riddles but strived instead to be always accessible. He was always tactful and worked with calculated decisions. He was one of those professionals who, say a doctor whom you only met twice or thrice, him or her done with thoroughly evaluating your medical condition and that you, saddled with a heavy heart prior the moment of finally discussing with him or her options for treatment, can simply erase your feelings of doubt, fear and apprehension about a seemingly unsure and obscure future. This is true especially for political prisoners who have to face the violence and cruelty of the bourgeois legal system. But even during the times that he had to recalibrate courses of action or whenever he said that the situation demanded recalibrating personal expectations that is as good as saying “patience is virtue,” his clients would never fail to see an unfolding victory.

But more than the legal tactics he has employed with the cases he has handled, what was more notable with him was his commitment for advancing the rights and welfare of the people. Ka Romy’s life story as a fighter for the poor can be traced back as early as the dark ages of Martial Rule. Decades have passed and neither time nor the death threats he received posed by the succeeding regimes faltered his unrelenting service to the people. He promoted people’s lawyering through providing not only accessible legal aid for the poor but in deepening the commitment of human rights lawyers for the cause of the poor and for their struggle for freedom and national democracy. The lawyer-client relationship he upheld was beyond pure professionalism. His legal services were extended from the limited confinement of courtrooms to the far side of understanding the fundamental problems of the society. His leadership was broadened from mere legal tactics to strengthening the collective action of the masses.

His life will serve as an inspiration to all the lawyers and professionals across the country. What Ka Romy lived and died for will be continued by the next generations. He would be remembered as one who marched the streets alongside the workers, peasants, and all the oppressed sectors in the country on their call for genuine social change. For as long as justice is not served and the rights of the people are denied, more lawyers and professionals would follow the path chosen by Ka Romy.

The entire revolutionary movement in the Southern Tagalog region pays its highest tribute to Atty. Romeo T. Capulong. Indeed, he is a people’s lawyer, a true champion of the masses.