EVERY presidential administration in our country is guilty of not paying due attention to human rights violations.
It is good that an international tribunal to try cases of human rights abuses in the Philippines during the presidency of BS Aquino was launched yesterday at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, QC.
Named International People’s Tribunal (IPT), the project aims to focus into current human rights violations in the Philippines and hold Aquino and the government of the United States under Pres. Barrack Obama to account before the international community.
One of the complainants to the IPT, Cristina Palabay, the well-known leader of the left-leaning organization that champions human rights, said, “Beneath the liberal-democratic façade of the Aquino regime, brutal repression of people’s civil and political rights abound, with hundreds of cases of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances and massive displacement of families.”
The IPT will also probe into how the increasing US military presence and intervention in the Philippines worsens the state of human rights in our country.
“The Mamasapano operation raises questions over the extent of the US military’s involvement in Philippine domestic security. Meanwhile, the Philippine government’s failure to assert jurisdiction over US marine officer Joseph Scott Pemberton for the murder of Jennifer Laude highlights how unequal ties between the US and the Philippines invite impunity,” said Vanessa Lucas of the US-based National Lawyers Guild, one of the convenor organizations of the IPT.
The Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and another IPT Convenor, Reverend Canon Barry Naylor, explained that the IPT, although judicially non-binding, is symbolic and significant.
“People’s tribunals have had success in directing international attention to grave abuses of human rights in various countries including the Philippines during the Marcos and Arroyo regimes. The IPT draws inspiration and builds on the momentum of previous peoples’ tribunals to advance human rights and hold governments to account,” Rev. Naylor said.
The IPT secretariat said that in 2008, a US Senate investigation on human rights violations in the Philippines under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led to restrictions on a portion of the annual US military aid package to the Philippine government tied to the implementation of strong human rights recommendations by US advocates.
The IPT is scheduled to convene on July 16-18, 2015 in Washington DC. Former US Congresswoman and peace advocate Cynthia McKinney will be among the distinguished panel of jurors who will hear live testimonies of witnesses from the Philippines.
Conveners of the tribunal include the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and IBON International.
Ampatuan Massacre about 5 1/2 years ago unresolved
Last Wednesday, Karapatan’s Palabay said, “While BS Aquino ‘ the Impunity King’ is still in power, there will be no room for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre–especially with the release on bail of Sajid Ampatuan, one of the perpetrators of that massacre. The rest of the perpetrators in the Ampatuan massacre may be released in no time.”
Palabay added that “if one asks about impunity in the Philippines, the images of the Ampatuan massacre would come to mind: dead bodies cut in half, the infamous back hoe that hauled the dead bodies in dirt trying to bury them. It was on November 23, 2009 when more than a hundred policemen, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and other family members killed and tried to bury 58 individuals, including media practitioners, lawyers and familyof Ampatuan’s political rival, Ishmael Mangudadatu. Through the years of trial, key witnesses to this heinous crime were murdered.”
“It is not just the manner of killing, but also the shameless coddling of these warlord allies of the Gloria Arroyo government that again put the Philippines on top of the impunity map. Then, under the BS Aquino government, the Ampatuans are starting to be freed,” the Karapatan secretary-general said.
Palabay said that “despite the people’s outrage and after more than five years after the massacre, Executive Order 546, one of the key government policies that spurred the use of paramilitary groups and private armies by political warlords such as the Ampatuans, has yet to be revoked by Pres. Noynoy Aquino.”