“As we remember those who have died in the line of fire, we must protect those who are left standing, especially those who are one with the people in their causes, principled, weather-beaten and under attack. We shall carry on, Rudy.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — “This early, nonetheless, it is clear that he was killed while in the course of the performance of his duties as a lawyer.” This is the statement of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) as authorities have yet to confirm the motive behind the killing of their colleague.
Lawyer Rodolfo Felicio, a member the NUPL, was killed last Aug. 24. He was sleeping in a campsite at a disputed land in Taytay, Rizal, when four unidentified men peppered their tents with bullets at around 1:30 a.m.
According to reports, the police recovered 27 bullet shells from a .45 caliber gun and nine from a 9mm.
Remigio Saladero, president of NUPL-Rizal, told Bulatlat.com Felicio and his two other companions were hit. But it was Felicio who suffered the fatal shots, which resulted to his death, he added. His two companions Rolando Andaya and Antonio Arcilla were wounded.
Felicio was pronounced dead on arrival at the Taytay Provincial Hospital. He was 66 years old.
“Atty. Felicio was a jolly person. He was among the first to respond to QRTs (quick reaction teams) whenever there are arrests and he worked closely with Karapatan-Rizal,” Saladero said, “He is a big loss not just for human rights defenders but also to us his friends.”
On Aug. 27, NUPL, together with human rights groups, held a tribute to honor Felicio’s contribution to peoples’ lawyering. The group vowed to seek justice for his killing.
Felicio was a graduate of the University of San Carlos in Cebu. He used to work for the Commission on Human Rights before pursuing private practice in the province of Rizal.
Saladero said he first met Felicio back in 2000 when Bayan Muna party formed a chapter in Rizal province. He said Felicio lent his car to volunteers of Bayan Muna during the election campaign.
Since then, he said, Felicio was always among the first to respond to QRTs whenever there are activists arrested in the province. “He was very confident whenever he argued with the police because he used to work for the CHR,” he said.
When asked to describe Felicio, Saladero jested that the slain lawyer was “arrogant but in a funny way.” Felicio, he added, was always punctual for meetings and always reprimanded others for being late.
Saladero said he had coffee with Felicio two weeks before he was killed.
“Tell Karapatan that I am angry at them,” Felicio told Saladero. When asked why, he said, “Last May 1, I was speaking in a rally. I was very agitated and in the middle of my speech they asked me to cut it due to time limitations.”
Later on, Saladero learned that Felicio gave a very long speech during the said rally.
“He was always proud to be of help to human rights defenders,” Saladero said, adding that it was his passion for the protection of one’s right that drew Felicio into the national democratic movement.
Recently, most of the cases handled by Felicio involved land disputes and displacement of urban poor dwellers. These disputed lands, Saladero said, are usually where urban poor communities reside. But because of recent “developments” in the area, such as the C5 and the C6 roads, which made it more accessible, many are claiming the land.
This, he added, may be the motive behind Felicio’s killing.
Felicio was also part of the private prosecution team in the Olalia-Alay-ay murder case.
Saladero said the NUPL would help in all ways possible for justice to be served.
“He was not just a member of the NUPL but also a human rights advocate and a friend,” he added.
The NUPL, in a statement, called on the government to address the rising impunity in the killings of lawyers and human rights defenders. The rights lawyers group said they would be seeking the help of Integrated Bar of the Philippines and international groups such as the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L) in seeking justice for Felicio.
“We have already lost five colleagues in the last decade, and innumerable others were subjected to various forms of attacks ranging from surveillance, labeling, intimidation, harassment, threats, plus false or nuisance charges and discrimination,” the NUPL said.
The lawyers group said, “As we remember those who have died in the line of fire, we must protect those who are left standing, especially those who are one with the people in their causes, principled, weather-beaten and under attack. We shall carry on, Rudy.”