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HUMAN RIGHTS APPEALS: PHILIPPINES: Harassment of Lawyers in Labour Leader’s Murder Case

THREE Filipino lawyers have been subjected to harassment related to their legal representation of state witnesses in the case against military officers implicated in the torture and murder of labour leader Rolando Olalia in 1986. There is grave concern for the physical and psychological integrity of the lawyers. They are Romeo T. Capulong, Marie Yuviengco and Rolando Rico Olalia of the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC).

On or around 2 February, the office of PILC was broken into. Case files, protected by lawyer client confidentiality, were forced open, searched, and the central processing unit of a computer was removed, along with 1,700 pesos (US.35) in cash. This incident has been preceded by anonymous phone calls to the homes of the three lawyers. The callers have requested information about the lawyers’ movements.

In addition, the office has been visited by several suspicious persons purporting to be seeking legal assistance. One of these persons produced an identity card dating from 1967 under the name of a former deceased governor of a province. Capulong has also been subjected to surveillance. At midnight on 13 January, a van was seen making passes around his home. This action was repeated at about 9:00 p.m. on 2 February. The vehicle in this incident is believed to be a Tamaraw Fx bearing the number plate 347. The tail lights were flashing, and three men were seen inside.

All of these incidents are believed to be connected to the murder charges filed against several ranking former and current military officers on 12 January by the three lawyers. All these officers are members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), an organisation that staged a series of coups d’é tat against the Aquino government.

Two former soldiers have recently admitted their participation in the murder of Rolando Olalia and his driver Mr. Alay-ay and in written affidavits have identified those who allegedly ordered the torture and murder of Rolando Olalia. The RAM has issued a public statement claiming that they will do no harm to the witnesses.

Urgent Action Requested

Please write to the Filipino authorities demanding that they do the following:

Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Romeo T. Capulong, Marie Yuviengco and Rolando Rico Olalia;
End the harassment of these three lawyers and ensure their ability to securely carry out their legal functions without fear;
Carry out a thorough and impartial investigation of the acts described above in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and impose upon them the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
Urgently adopt appropriate measures to guarantee non-governmental human rights organisations and their members the means to act freely in favour of the defence and promotion of fundamental freedoms enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international treaties ratified by the Philippines; and
More generally conform to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international conventions ratified by the Philippines.

H. E. Fidel V. Ramos
Malacanang Palace
Fax: (63-2) 832-3793
(via Department of Foreign Affairs)

General Arnufo Acedera
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
Quezon City,
Fax: (63-2) 911-7783/911-7708

Aurora Navarrete-Recina
Commission on Human Rights
IBP Building,
Dona Julia Vargas Avenue
Pasig, Metro Manila,
Fax: (63-2) 631-6449

(Source: E-mail from l’ Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture or OMCT [The World Organisation against Torture].)

Posted on 2001-08-23
Asian Human Rights Commission

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