The UN-accredited International Association of Democratic Lawyers believes that this new basing agreement violates Philippine and international laws and threatens the stability of the Asian region.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Lawyers from fifty-six countries who attended the 18th Congress of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) in Brussels, Belgium made a major declaration April 20. They approved a resolution calling on the Aquino government to end negotiations granting military basing rights to the US, and demanding the pull-out of all US troops, facilities and materiel in the Philippines. The same resolution also called upon its member-countries to press for resolutions, legislation and campaigns urging an end to foreign intervention and aggression in the Philippines.
Lawyers from various countries such as the United States, South Korea, Japan, Greece and Spain, condemned attempts by the US to formally establish military bases in the Philippines. They expressed support to calls of Filipino lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) to oppose the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation between the US and the Philippines. The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) represented the Philippines in this international assembly of lawyers.
The UN-accredited IADL believes that this new basing agreement violates Philippine and international laws and threatens the stability of the Asian region. According to lawyer Edre U. Olalia, secretary general of NUPL, it also poses a serious threat to the peace process. He cited the “antagonism of the US” to any form of peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The US government’s past actions were viewed as signs that it is heavily invested against the Philippine government’s peace processes with the NDFP and with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In another gathering in the Philippines, Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform said that “The US is involved in pushing for military solutions in facing the NDFP. The Aquino government is now also using the foreign terrorist listing of the US as bargaining leverage to force the NDFP to agree to peace agreement without substantial reforms.”
At the assembly of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers in Belgium, lawyer Olalia of NUPL revealed that the US has been providing material and moral support for the militarist approach to the conflict in the Philippines, thus further tormenting the Filipino people.
The more than 400 lawyers attending the IADL Congress urged the Philippine government to “cease all acts that violate human rights” and release all political prisoners including the peace process consultants. In recognition of the call of the Filipino people for a just and lasting peace, the IADL also urged for the immediate resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDFP.
Olalia expressed appreciation for the support shown by many lawyers groups worldwide, saying it is “important in the battle against this attempt by the US for economic and political hegemony in Asia.”
“This is a major statement of the international community that the Aquino government cannot just disregard as it expresses the sentiments of a huge number of lawyers groups around the world and at the same time issued by a prestigious and respected UN-ECOSOC accredited organization” said Olalia at the IADL Assembly.
Aquino government accountable
NUPL president Neri Colmenares, also one of the Bayan Muna representatives in Philippine Congress, warned the Philippine government that it could be held accountable under international law should the US use its military facilities in the Philippines to commit aggression in other countries.
At the IADL assembly, the Filipino lawyers learned from fellow lawyers in other countries that the US is also expanding its bases in Japan and other countries in Asia. Many legal luminaries reportedly made it clear to them that the crime of aggression does not only attach to the US but also to the country that allows the use of its territory to attack other countries.
“While we condemn China’s aggressive acts in the West Philippine Sea, we will not tolerate aggressive acts of the US which will subject the Filipino people to retaliatory attacks by the many enemies of the US,” said Rep. Colmenares.
Both Olalia and Colmenares vowed that they will continue to gather support from peace advocates and lawyers groups against this latest US initiative to escalate military presence in the Philippines. Colmenares said they will get the support of international lawyers to file a case against the US and Pres. Aquino for crimes against humanity committed as a result of this new basing agreement.
“The Aquino government’s refusal to heed the people’s call for a just and lasting peace while it pursues a war mongering policy by allowing the open entry of US military bases is getting the increasing attention of the international community, and rightfully so, Colmenares concluded.