BY EMILY VITAL
Posted 12:47 p.m., March 26, 2007
Families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations welcomed the verdict of an international tribunal declaring both the Arroyo and Bush governments guilty of crimes against humanity.
In a press conference in Quezon City, Monday, Dee Ayroso, coordinator of Desaparecidos, said in Filipino, “The verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a big victory for all of us. Let the whole world know that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush are criminals.”
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) released its 13-page verdict Sunday, around 2pm at the Pax Christikerk in The Hague, the Netherlands. Francois Houtart, president of the PPT’s Second Session on the Philippines, read out the verdict after three continuous days of hearing testimonies from at least 13 witnesses.
Houtart described the extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, massacres, torture and other atrocities allegedly committed by the Arroyo government as “crimes against humanity”. Such violations which the PPT said were in no way justified as “necessary measures against terrorism,” said Houtart.
Evangeline Hernandez, spokesperson of Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) and mother of slain human rights advocate Benjaline Hernandez, said, “Now, we stand on a high moral ground. We have come a long way to seek justice. The international community has seen the true face of Arroyo.”
Hernandez added, “We, the relatives of numerous victims of extrajudicial killings, are no longer fearful or ashamed.”
Houtart warned that the Arroyo government will be held accountable if something happens to the witnesses who testified before the PPT.
Ayroso said, “We hope that the PPT’s findings will pave the way for the ouster of Arroyo.”
In 1980, the PPT’s First Session on the Philippines declared Marcos guilty of human rights abuses. The dictator was ousted in 1986 through a popular uprising.
Aside from Houtart, who is from Belgium and Director of the Centre Tricontinental (Cetri), the PPT jurors included Oda Makoto (Japan), well-known novelist and social activist; Ties Prakken (The Netherlands), professor in criminal law Maastricht University; Oystein Tveter (Norway), lawyer and former Director of the Karibu Foundation and former foreign ministry official in South Africa and Zambia; Irene Fernandez (Malaysia), lawyer, social development expert and head of Tenaganita; and Lilia Solano (Colombia), 2005 Right Livelihood Awardee (alternative Nobel) and Director of Project for Life and Peace.
The PPT jurors also found ‘unacceptable’ the membership of the Philippines in the United Nations Human Rights Council, saying it is an ‘intolerable offense’ to the victims.
Meanwhile, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) disputed Malacañang’s claim that the PPT is a mere black propaganda. Reyes pointed out that the respondents were invited to attend the hearings through their embassies in Rome and in The Hague. “They (Arroyo and Bush) waived their right to defend themselves and to air their side.”
Bayan is also one of the complainants in the case against Arroyo.(Bulatlat.com)