By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star
A month hence President Aquino will deliver his sixth and last state-of-the-nation address. However much he may embellish his administration’s achievements on the economy, anti-corruption drive and governmental reforms, he will be hounded by at least two unresolved issues: his “dismal record” on human rights and impunity and the Mamasapano tragedy.
Take the continuing incidences of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances – the prime indicators of the pervasive climate of impunity since the days of the Marcos dictatorship.
In his first SONA (July 2010), P-Noy acknowledged that six EJKs had occurred in his first month in office – as he extended for six months the implementation of Gloria Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, which perpetrated a long train of killings and disappearances. He crowed that three of the latest cases had already been solved, and the other three would soon be solved as well. Then he promised to stop the killings.
But he failed to fulfill that promise to the Filipino people. Under his administration the EJKs continued, although the cases of enforced disappearances dropped significantly (26 to date).
On May 29, 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva reported on its second “universal periodic review” of the Philippines’ HR performance (the first was in 2008). Twenty-two member-states deplored the “dismal record” in prosecuting cases of EJK, enforced disappearances, and torture. They pressed the Aquino government to end the climate of impunity by taking “decisive measures” to stop the killings and other HR violations attributed to the AFP and PNP.
By that time the number of documented cases under P-Noy’s watch (from July 2010 to May 2012), submitted to the UNHRC by the human rights alliance Karapatan, had reached 76 EJKs and 49 frustrated EJKs.
On Septermber 28, 2012 the UNHRC wound up its 21st session after hearing the Aquino government’s response-report. The government promised to comply with the Council’s recommendations to take decisive measures to end the impunity. Meantime, the number of EJKs had risen to 112, and frustrated EJKs, to 68.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima echoed that promise in a meeting with representatives of six international HR organizations she had invited to the Philippine embassy in Washington DC. The Aquino government, she assured, had “nothing to hide” and was taking steps to solve the EJKs and other HRVs.
The organizations were: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists, Ecumenical Advisory Network, International Justice Mission, and Migrant Heritage Commission. Since 2008 — after the first universal periodic review, which excoriated the Arroyo regime — they had blocked the release of $13-million US military aid until the Philippine government improved its human rights record.
De Lima’s assurances failed to erase their skepticism. And events have proved them right in not believing what she told them.
As of March 30, 2015, Karapatan’s report of documented HRVs shows: EJKs had more than doubled to 238, with a higher incidence of frustrated EJKs: 270.
The biggest numbers of victims were of peasants (145) and indigenous people (55) – whose struggles for land and ancestral domain have been largely met with military repression. The other EJK victims included minors (20), urban poor (13), workers and youth/students (8 each), environmentalists (7), Moros (6), fisherfolk, transport workers, and entrepreneurs (5 each), church and human rights workers, and media people.
In sum, President Aquino and his administration have reneged on their promises: both to the Filipino people – whom P-Noy has publicly declared as “my boss” – and to the international community. A veritable betrayal of public trust and disregard for human life.
Since the third UPR will be conducted during the waning months of P-Noy’s term, it would be too late to call him to account via that official world forum.
Thus, like-minded international HR advocates and progressive lawyers groups have decided to convene an International People’s Tribunal which, in “a symbolic and significant act,” will hear and issue a verdict on the indictment of President Aquino on EJKs and other HRVs.
Regarding Oplan Wolverine/Exodus and the Mamasapano tragedy, a separate indictment will charge him, along with President Obama (US agents were deeply involved in the covert operations), as principally accountable. The indictment will include American military presence and intervention under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, as these entail violations of the right to national self-determination.
The “trial” before the IPT will be held in Washington DC on July 16-18 – just days before P-Noy’s sixth SONA on July 27. Australian Sen. Lee Rhiannon will be presiding judge while former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark will handle the prosecution.
The following will sit as jurors: Azadeh Shahshahani, president of the National Lawyers Guild (US); Camille Perez Bustillo, member of the International Law Association’s Committee on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Rev. Molefe Tsele, former South African ambassador and general secretary of the South African Council of Churches; and Rev. Malcolm Damon, executive secretary of the Economic Justice Network (South Africa).
The IPT takes after the Permanent People’s Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, which in 2007 issued a guilty verdict against Gloria Arroyo for crimes against humanity: EJKs, massacres, and torture of civilians committed, in collusion with George W. Bush, in pursuance of the US “war on terror.”
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Published in The Philippine Star
June 20, 2015