An international people’s tribunal goes underway in Brussels, Belgium to hear complaints of human rights violations against the Rodrigo Duterte government.
In a statement, the spokespersons for the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) said they take cognizance of the complaints filed by the victims and experts on the various violations of the rights of the allegedly perpetrated by Duterte of the Philippines and even Donald John Trump of the United States of America.
Based on the complaints, the IPT said Presidents Duterte and Trump are being indicted for gross violations of civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as national sovereignty, development, and International Humanitarian Law.
The Tribunal said it has summoned “defendants” Duterte and Trump on September 10, 2018.
“Unfortunately, we have yet to receive any formal response to the summons,” the IPT said through its spokespersons Jeanne Mirer, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines.
In reply, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters that the government will not respond to the summons, adding the Tribunal is “a sham proceeding” intended “for propaganda purposes.”
“Because that’s not the official proceeding. That’s a propaganda proceeding of the Left,” Roque said.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes, an IPT participant, however said charges being raised before the tribunal are “very real.”
“These are not false charges like the ones government uses against its critics. The process is also fair as the Philippine government was duly notified through the US embassy in Washington,” Reyes said.
He explained the the results of the tribunal shall be transmitted to different international bodies including the International Criminal Court, the European Parliament, the United Nations, and others.
“Rather than disparage the Tribunal, the Duterte regime should listen to the charges raised by the victims,” Reyes said.
(A live video of the proceedings may be viewed here.)
Aside from Reyes, victims of human rights violations, their families, as well as leading activists travelled to Belgium to serve as witnesses and complainants.
They include Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay, Piston’s George San Mateo, Sandugo’s Amirah Alih Lidasan, and others.
Other complainants and witnesses, meanwhile, have submitted video depositions because of their inability to travel to Belgium.
Legal experts from the Philippines and abroad also attended the Tribunal to act as prosecutors and facilitators.
They include former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer president Edre Olalia, as well as peoples’ lawyers Kathy Panguban and Ephraim Cortez.
People’s tribunals on the state of human rights in the Philippines have been held in Europe and United States of America in the past against the Ferdinand Marcos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Benigno Simeon Aquino administrations, all of which found were found guilty.
This year’s IPT is the earliest held against a sitting president, owing mostly to the Duterte government’s two-year drug war that has been reported to have killed more than 20,000 victims.
Although not a formal legal proceeding, people’s tribunal are seen by local and international human rights groups to be important events that highlight grave human rights situations in the Philippines.
The IPT held against Marcos was seen to have contributed to his downfall in 1986 after its informed a great part of the world of his regime’s human rights violations.
The spokespersons said that the IPT panel of Jurors, as in the past, are all “experts and eminent individuals…of proven competence, integrity, probity and objectivity, and experienced on issues on human rights, rights of peoples, and international humanitarian law.”
The IPT said it will hear testimonies and receive evidence from the witnesses for the prosecution and the defense.
“Barring any untoward incident, the Jurors shall deliberate over and deliver the verdict of the Tribunal in the afternoon of September 19, Brussels time (Thursday evening in the Philippines).
“We are well aware of the gravity of the cases and the urgent cry for justice from the victims, survivors and the entire Filipino people. Rest assured that the Tribunal will be fair and just, and will be partial only to the Truth,” the IPT said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)