Romeo Capalla, was Chairperson of the board of directors of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC). Unidentified gunmen shot him dead on March 15, 2014 at the market of Oton, Iloilo in presence of his 90 year-old mother-in-law.
A detainee during the Martial Law period, Capalla was a founding member of the Panay chapter of SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), an organisation which supports political prisoners all over the country. He later devoted his life advocating the production of fair trade and organic food. His advocacy made him a target of harassment by state security forces.
In 2005, Romeo Capalla, then PFTC manager, already faced trumped-up charges for destructive arson. He was arrested in August 2005 and spent two months in prison. The spurious charges against him were only dropped after mass protests of PFTC farmers. Other members of PFTC were also victims of repression in the past.
Similarly, Ruth Salditos, current PFTC president, has been denounced as a terrorist by the military. She is currently facing trumped-up charges for rebellion accusing her of attempted murder and the use of unlicensed firearms and explosives.
During the visit of a delegation of the Action Network Human Rights –Philippines in February 2014, it was observed that, despite the promises of the current administration, still in only very few cases are perpetrators of human rights violations successfully prosecuted and convicted. This situation was accompanied by the continuing severe human rights violations taking place and a lack of progress in ending extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and fabricated charges against political activists.
Retired Archbishop Fernando Capalla, who once headed the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), condemned the killing of his brother Romeo Capalla, an ex-rebel, and demanded the investigation of this and other killings being blamed on government forces.
In the first few months of 2014 alone, several political activists and human rights defenders were murdered. These include the murders of land reform activist Arman Lumibao Padino in Porac, Pampanga on January 12, of urban poor leader Sixto Bagasala Jr. in Malabon City on February 15, and of human rights activist William Bugatti in Kiangan, Ifugao on March 26.