Tribunal’s guilty verdict ‘world’s judgement on war crimes in the PH’

The guilty verdict on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former president Rodrigo Duterte, and the Philippine government, as well on President Joseph Biden and the government of the United States of America (USA) is the world’s judgements on their war crimes in the Philippines, human rights group Karapatan said.

Following the conclusion of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) held in Brussels, Belgium last May 17 and 18, Karapatan said it welcomes the quasi-judicial body’s judgement as an opportunity to exact and accountability from the respondents.

“With this verdict from the IPT, we have judgment from some of the world’s best legal minds and the weight of international public opinion to back the victims’ continuing quest for justice and an end to impunity,” Karapatan said.

READ: Tribunal finds Marcos, Duterte, Biden ‘guilty’ of war crimes

“For years, the Filipino people have suffered a range of human rights violations as well as violations of international humanitarian law, from political killings, massacres, enforced disappearances and bombings of civilian communities,” it added.

Karapatan the IPT verdict puts on center stage the inutility of domestic redress mechanisms to exact justice and accountability in the Philippines for human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Duterte and Marcos Jr. regimes,.

It said it hopes the decision will lead to independent investigations under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council and other competent bodies from the international community.

Juror explains verdict

In a 10-page, the tribunal found “a steady rise in cases of abduction and enforced disappearance perpetrated by GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) forces against activists.”

The decision, signed by an international panel of jurors that included former legal counsel to Nelson Mandela, Prof. Lennox Hinds, was greeted with applause by more than 200 observers in Brussels.

The jurors said they heard demands for justice from expert witnesses, direct victims such as anti-Manila Bay reclamation project Jonila Castro, as well as family members of deceased victims of the US-directed counterinsurgency operations. 

“We found substantial and compelling evidence of widespread extrajudicial killings, civilian massacres, enforced disappearances, indiscriminate bombings, and other gross violations of international humanitarian law,” Séverine de Laveleye, member of the Belgian Parliament and IPT juror, said.

“The atrocities and anti-people policies and actions of Mr. Duterte appear to persist and intensify under the current Marcos Jr. administration,” de Laveleye added.

Elaborating on the basis of the guilty verdict, Laveleye said: “Our decision is founded on the comprehensive examination of the evidence presented. The testimonies of the witnesses, many of whom have shown tremendous courage by coming forward, played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of the systemic abuses perpetrated under these regimes with the tacit support of the US.”

“Ample chance were given to the respond to the charges but have failed to reply or have refused to provide witnesses, and have therefore deemed to have waived their rights,” lead juror Lennox Hinds noted.

“The evidence presented was credible and consistent,” said Hinds, adding the victims shared an inability to seek justice in the Philippines due to neglect of the judicial process and harassment and intimidation by authorities. 

Abduction survivor Jonila Castro at IPT 2024. (Supplied photo)

Survivors elated

Castro, who personally narrated her and Jhed Tamano’s ordeal during the trial, said the Marcos Jr. government has not departed from the US-inspired fascist and anti-people policies of the Duterte regime.

“We want to stop the pattern of killings, abductions, and fake surrenders — we want the government to stop equating activists as combatants, and to surface all missing activists. We demand to hold state forces accountable,” Castro said.

In the Philippines, Eco Dangla, another abduction and torture survivor said he welcomes the IPT’s verdict, saying Marcos violates human rights as worse as Dutere.

“In his two years in office, there have been nine victims of abductions in Central Luzon, including Pangasinan, alone,” Dangla said.

“While five of us have been surfaced (Castro,Tamano, Dangla, and Jak Tiaong), four remain missing,” Dangla pointed out.

Progressive party list coordinators Ma. Elena Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal went missing in July 2022 in Tarlac Province while peasant organizers Norman Ortiz and Lee Sudario were abducted in September 2023 in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) also welcomed the verdict it said affirms its condemnation of the grave human rights abuses under the Marcos government.

“The IPT verdict will counter the disinformation narratives peddled by Marcos in his junket foreign trips that his government is committed to upholding human rights,” BAYAN secretary general Raymond Palatino told Kodao.

“We also assail the role of the Biden government in enabling impunity as it coddles the Marcos government and legitimizes the use of fascist means in suppressing dissent. US military aid is responsible for the brutal attacks of state forces targeting critics, including those who are against the intensified military presence of the US in the country,” he added.

BAYAN said the IPT documents will be discussed among people’s organizations and in communities across the country as part of their campaign to pursue justice and accountability. The IPT verdict will be shared with various institutions such as Congress, courts, local governments, churches, and schools, the group said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)