Since they harbor no illusion that justice will be served in Philippine courts and even in a supposedly independent commission, families of victims of human rights violations have decided to bring their cases to the Permanent People’s Tribunal in the Netherlands. This was the same court that tried the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and found him guilty of crimes against humanity in 1980.
In their search for a neutral venue, families of victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration will file charges of human rights violations at the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) in Den Haag, the Netherlands.
“It is high time that we bring to the (PPT) the gross and systematic violations under the Arroyo regime,” said Evangeline Hernandez, convenor of HUSTISYA!, the organization of victims of the current administration’s human rights violations.
The PPT is an organ of the Italy-based Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples. Its first session for the Philippines was held in Antwerp, Belgium, where the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity.
At the seventh gathering of victims of rights abuses, members of HUSTISYA!, Desaparecidos (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice) and Selda joined the call for justice for the victims of political killings, forced disappearances, illegal arrest and torture. The three groups will charge President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with gross human rights violations, economic plunder and violation of the right to self-determination.
In their appeal to the tribunal’s officials, the three groups said, “We believe that the PPT and other international bodies… are not beholden to President Arroyo and can be truly independent.” They said that the Melo Comission is beholden to the government and cannot be expected to serve justice to the victims and their families.
They will file their cases on Oct. 30 when the PPT holds its second session for the Philippines in the Netherlands. Hearings will be held in March 2007.
Pushed to the limit
The seventh gathering was held at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Manila, as a tribute to Aglipayan Bishop Alberto Ramento who was killed in his rectory in Tarlac City last Oct. 3.
At the gathering, a former New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla who requested anonymity said that he felt like he was being pushed to go back in the armed struggle by the worsening harassment on his family and community by soldiers.
The former NPA member said that he was living a quiet life as a fisherman in Bulacan since he left the movement in 1982. This was until 2006 when soldiers of the 56th Infantry Battalion arrived in his community.
“Marami silang binubugbog, dinudukot. Marami ang umaalis na sa lugar namin. Iyong mga nakawala, pinaabot sa akin na kasama ako sa OB ng militar,” he said. (They beat up and abduct a lot of people. Many have left our place. Those who escaped told me that I was in the Order of Battle of the military.)
He opted to leave home and work in Manila in June. However, he said that soldiers barged into his house in August and shot dead his brother whom they mistook to be him. After the incident, his parents and his family left their village out of fear. Just this October, he said, the homes that they left were looted.
“Nais lang po namin ng tahimik na buhay. Pero sa ilalim ng administrasyon ni Arroyo, wala po kaming masilungan,” (We only wanted a quiet life. But under the Arroyo administration, we have nowhere to go) he said.
Aldos Ramento, son of slain Bishop Ramento, recalled how his father used to lead gatherings and give inspirational speeches. Indeed, the bishop who used to be among those who call for justice for the victims is now among them. But it is not one less voice as long as the defenders are committed, Aldos said.
“Ang hinihiling ko sa ating lahat, dapat panindigan natin ito. Huwag tayong bibitaw sa paghingi ng hustisya,” he said. (I ask all of us; we have to be firm in our commitment. Let us not waver in our quest for justice.)