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Another activist murdered

Published by MAC on 2006-05-28

Another activist murdered

The Philippine Star

28th May 2006

Another leader of the militant group Bayan Muna was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding men in Calamba City, Laguna early last night.

Initial reports identified the victim as Noli Capulong, 53, a founding member and regional secretary of Bayan Muna in Southern Tagalog.

The victim was earlier reported to be a younger brother of human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong but this turned out to be false.

Capulong was driving along the Interior Road in Barangay Parian when waylaid by two men who were riding in tandem on a motorcycle at about 6 p.m.

Senior Superintendent Aaron Fidel, Calabarzon chief of intelligence, said Capulong, a resident of Barangay Poblacion in Calamba, was on his way home when he was ambushed. The suspects fled and authorities are still clueless as to the identities of the suspects.

Residents near the site of the ambush rushed Capulong to the St. John Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Capulong's death is expected to trigger another round of protests from local and international human rights advocates, who are critical of the government's human rights records and its failure to address the spate of killings of progressive and leftist leaders.

Malacañang, however, yesterday disputed reports indicating that the Arroyo administration was fast gaining a notorious reputation for violating human rights and dared critics to prove their claims.

"Anybody or any institution that wishes to look into the human rights situation in the Philippines is welcome to do so. We have nothing to hide and we are proud of our human rights record," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said, stressing that the Arroyo administration lives by the rule of law and democratic processes.

"Every day, we see the dynamism of the democratic system at work in the healthy, even if controversial, interaction among our democratic institutions," Bunye said. "Justice and due process are permanent standards and we have an independent Commission on Human Rights to ensure the full protection of human rights under the Constitution."

Sen. Manuel Villar said data from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) showed that the Arroyo administration had surpassed the combined human rights violations of its three predecessors - the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations. US Ambassador Kristie Kenney had earlier expressed concern over the spate of killings and arrests made recently.

Meanwhile, five women lawyers from the US arrived to assess the human rights situation in the country and to seek help for "persecuted" activists, particularly women.Bunye suggested that, far from fear, there was a climate of confidence and vibrancy in the streets."Filipinos seek the best of life in work and in the freedom to speak, write and travel even if, admittedly, we have to cope with pockets of poverty and deprivation," he said.

"We have a tourist trade that has burgeoned like never before because visitors to the Philippines savor the atmosphere of freedom," he added.

According to Villar, however, the CHR furnished him with documents showing that human rights abuses from 2001 to 2006 were "really very high." He did not provide specific figures to back this claim.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said that based on the CHR report, there had been 1,800 human rights violations under the Arroyo administration and this figure had surpassed the combined number of violations committed under the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations.Villar said the CHR is still compiling reports of human rights abuses during past administrations, adding that a comparison would likely show total abuses have been higher during the current administration.The CHR budget's of P202 million was inadequate, according to Villar, considering what the commission said was "an emerging culture of impunity in the country.

"But that is all we can afford," he said.

The London-based Amnesty International (AI) earlier released a study on 150 countries' human rights records and said the "number of attacks on leftist activists and community workers rose sharply (in the Philippines), with at least 66 fatal shootings reported during 2005."

AI said the attacks on political opponents of the administration are usually carried out by unidentified men, possibly vigilantes of the AFP.

"Most of the attacks were carried out by unidentified assailants on motorcycles, at times wearing face masks, who were often described as 'vigilantes' or hired killers allegedly linked to AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) members," the AI said.

Most of the targets of political killings, it added, were members of legal leftist parties, but also at risk are other human-rights and community activists, priests, church workers and lawyers regarded by authorities as sympathetic to the communist movement.AI scored reports of arbitrary arrests, unlawful killings, torture and "disappearances" in the context of military counterinsurgency.AI said the fruitless investigations into political killings have given the perpetrators the confidence to believe they can get away with murder. It praised the CHR for issuing a statement that held the government accountable for the spate of killings in the country. - With Aurea Calica

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