Call to Stop Political Repression and Murder of Fair Traders in the Philippines


The joint declaration was signed by presidents of WFTO Asia and KFTO during the regional conference of WFTO Asian members in Seoul, Korea, in October.   Photo: PFTC

 

The joint declaration was signed by presidents of WFTO Asia and KFTO during the regional conference of WFTO Asian members in Seoul, Korea, in October.   Photo: PFTC

Introduction

On March 15th, 2014, unidentified gunmen shot down Romeo Capalla at the age of 65. Romeo was the head of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC) which is the largest Philippine exporter of Fair Trade muscovado sugar, banana chips and ginger chews. Hours after his death the sugar mill of KAMADA cooperative was burned down. To date, a thorough and impartial investigation has not been conducted.

At the WFTO-Asia Seoul conference Ruth Fe S. Silencino, a founder of PFTC, expressed her sorrow for the lack of justice brought to the Capalla case. In solidarity with PFTC, WFTO-Asia members and Korean organizations read together the PFTC Joint Declaration. On October 18th, conference participants watched as Chitra Bahadur, President of WFTO-Asia, and Boo Won Nam, Chair of KFTO, signed the PFTC Joint Declaration. The audience held up cards with the word Solidarity on them as Ruth made closing remarks – asking for the Fair Trade community to continue supporting the Philippine Fair Traders.

Joint Declaration by WFTO Asia and Korea Council for Fair Trade Organizations 
Calling to Stop Political Repression and Murder of Members of Panay Fair Trade Center

The definition and principles of Fair Trade identify that Fair Trade boosts peaceful economic development through fair business, secures an opportunity of a better life for the economically weak and realizes social justice such as equality, human rights and democracy. Consumers and farmers as well as Fair Trade supporters have strengthened their solidarity in order to support fair economic activities to secure fair wages and employment and social rights while paving the way to restore the human rights and dignity of the socially underprivileged.

Families, colleagues, and friends of slain victims Capalla and Garete demand justice.                                           Photo: PFTC

Activists of the Philippine Fair Trade movement have endeavored to address the issue of inequality in the Philippines in peaceful ways that are in accordance with the definition and principles of Fair Trade. Global Fair Trade movement already realizes how they have contributed to realizing social justice while engaging in and practicing Fair Trade in various sectors. However, on March 15, 2014, the global Fair Trade movement was immensely shocked by the violence that was committed to PFTC(Panay Fair Trade Center), one of the major Fair Trade organizations in Panay Island, the Philippines. Many of Fair Trade organizations including WFTO and KFTO immediately sent letters to the Philippine President, the Congress of the Philippines, the Philippine Department of Justice and Embassy of the Philippines in countries to demand justice and truth. The Philippine Department of Justice and Embassy of the Philippines gave sincere responses to international organizations, but unfortunately efforts to probe into the incident have not been conducted in the Philippines. Therefore, Rudi Dalvai, president of WFTO and iCOOP KOREA, one of the partners of PFTC visited Panay Island and met the local mayor and the district police officer in order to expose their lack of investigation and demand for the application of swift justice against the perpetrators and create measures to prevent future reprisals and recurrence of the incident. . However, in late August, the police office in Panay Island dismissed the case on the grounds that there was not enough evidence. As a result, PFTC members are receiving violent threats, and are suffering from continuing harassment and unrest.

PFTC has grown its business and contributed to the local economy as a top tax payer in Oton city where its headquarters is located. Nevertheless, the death of Romeo Capalla, chairperson of PFTC and Dionisio Garete, a member of KAMADA Farmer’s Association by firearms in broad daylight is about to remain unsolved without any proper basic investigation. Especially, despite the Philippine Department of Justice recognizing the murder case of Romeo Capalla as ‘Extra-Judicial Killing’ conducted by a paramilitary group, a thorough investigation and measures to prevent the recurrence have not been made, causing large concerns.

We, the participants of WFTO-ASIA Biennial Conference Seoul 2014 from the world, condemn in the highest terms the senseless and violent killings of Romeo Capalla and Dionisio Garete, leaders of the Panay Fair Trade movement. We express our deep concern about the incident that impedes Philippine Fair Trade development that has sought a peaceful way to address social inequality and injustice, and furthermore, denies the social value that world Fair Trade movement embeds. We pray for the eternal repose of Romeo Capalla and Dionisio Garete’s souls and urge Philippine government to conduct thorough and swift investigations, arrest the criminals and implement measures to prevent the recurrence of this incident. We urge the international Fair Trade movement in solidarity with the human rights and social movements to continue relentlessly to monitor and demand justice to the government of the Philippines until this case has been satisfactorily resolved and its deep root cause addressed.

We, the Fair Trade organizations including WFTO-Asia and KFTO,

  • Strongly support Philippine Fair Trade movement and its activists.
  • Request the Philippine government to take decisive action to conduct a thorough criminal investigation, bring the perpetrators to full arms of the law, and increase measures to provide security, protection, and promote the well-being of PFTC leaders, staff, and communities.
  • Request the Philippine government to recognize and support non-violent and social value of Philippine Fair Trade movement.
  • Urge Oton City and Iloilo Province to implement safety measures to stop violence and threat against members and assets of PFTC and request Philippine government to take strong action in order to protect citizens from violence by paramilitary group.

 
October 18, 2014

 

Chitra Bahadur KC (signed)                                                Nam Boowon (signed)
President, WFTO Asia                                                             President, KFTO (Korea Council of Fair Trade Organizations)