Human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong dies at 77

Posted at 09/16/2012 7:04 PM | Updated as of 09/17/2012 8:19 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- Lawyer Romeo Capulong, who won so many battles on behalf of human rights victims, has passed away. He was 77.

Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said Capulong died at around 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Manila Medical Doctors Hospital.

She said Capulong suffered cardiac arrest although he had been in the hospital for a month now.

Capulong’s family was with him at the time of his death, she said.

“It’s difficult to find the exact words. He was my mentor. I learned a lot of human rights lawyering from him,” Pastores said.

The family has yet to provide details about his wake.

Capulong represented many cases involving human rights victims, such as those who were abused during the Martial Law years. A landmark class suit he represented eventually yielded a $2 billion judgment for and on behalf of some 10,000 victims of torture and summary execution.

He was also a counsel to Flor Contemplacion, whose execution in Singapore exposed the plight of workers abroad. He was also a counsel of the so-called comfort women, who suffered during the Japanese regime.

He also represented many political personalities such as Jose Maria Sison, Crispin Beltran and Satur Ocampo.

He was also the lawyer of the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.. Together with other political leaders, Capulong and Aquino led in the opposition against the Marcos regime.

He was forced to flee the country in 1979 to avoid prosecution and detention.

He was granted asylum in the United States a year after. There, he also practiced law and founded the Philippine Center for Immigrant Rights.

He finally returned home in 1986 and resumed his practice. The last few years saw Capulong still an active human rights defender. One of his last cases involved the so-called Morong 43.

Because of his vast experience defending human rights, Capulong became a member of the United Nations Criminal Tribunal.