By Jocelyn Uy
Posted date: March 26, 2007
Related news: Malacañang snub of rights tribunal inquiry scored
MANILA, Philippines -- A forum of lawyers and human rights activists meeting in The Hague found the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for unsolved killings and disappearances in the Philippines, according to a copy of its verdict sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer late Sunday night.
Malacañang allies in the House of Representatives slammed the verdict as unfair and biased.
“The wealth and consistency of the oral and written documentation made available through witnesses and expert reports, has convinced the [tribunal] that each and all of the three charges presented against [Ms Arroyo] and her government and against [US President] George Walker Bush and his government are substantiated,” said the decision of the group called the Permanent People’s Tribunal.
“The tribunal, having considered the evidence before it, is of the opinion that the reported killings, torture and forced disappearances fall under the responsibility of the Philippine government and are by no means justified in terms of necessary measures against terrorism,” it added.
A copy of the decision was e-mailed to the Inquirer Sunday night by the Philippine chapter of the tribunal secretariat through the human rights alliance Karapatan. Its secretary general, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, testified on the human rights situation in the country.
A seven-member jury of the tribunal heard charges against both the Philippine and US governments which, the verdict said, “colluded with each other in implementing the US’ so-called ‘war on terror’ in Southeast Asia.”
Leaders of the House majority said the Hague forum showed its “biased nature” by asking Sen. Jamby Madrigal to testify before the group.
House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles and Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier said in a statement that Madrigal’s testimony “was part of the intensified opposition black propaganda against the President.”
The tribunal, an independent body founded in 1979 in Italy by lawyers, writers and intellectuals, examines and judges complaints regarding violations of human rights submitted by the victims themselves or groups representing them.
The hearings were held in a church in The Hague.
The Philippine government has blamed the communist New People’s Army for most of the murders, saying the group was purging its own ranks.
The international community has voiced concern over the unresolved killings of hundreds of political activists in the country since Ms Arroyo took office in 2001.
The charges presented against both the Arroyo and Bush administrations included:
- Gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights: extrajudicial killings, abduction and disappearances, massacre, torture.
- Gross and systematic violation of economic, social and cultural rights.
- Gross and systematic violations of the rights to national self-determination and liberation.
Malacañang snub of rights tribunal inquiry scored
By LOUI GALICIA
ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
The secretary-general of the Permanent People's Tribunal scored Malacañang for snubbing the PPT’s invitation to attend its hearings in The Hague, The Netherlands, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau reported Friday.
Gianni Tognoni told ABS-CBN's Balitang Europe that the PPT sent invitations to the the Philippine embassies in Rome and in The Hague on March 8, asking for a representative to attend the hearings.
The PPT is hearings complaints on human rights violations allegedly committed by the Arroyo administration.
"I think that in this situation, the Manila government is acting even worse because they do not know how to react and in fact, they cannot deny that something that was given to the embassy was unknown and they were not receiving an invitation," Tognoni said.
"On the other side, we have evidence that they know very well everything that is going on over here," he added.
He cited a news item from Manila which quoted Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as stating that the Philippine government was willing to attend the tribunal's session on rights violations in the Philippines.
"I hope for the sake of the Filipino people that a representative of the government would at least show up in order to show the reality, instead of the government's persistent denial of the facts," he said.
Tognoni scored Ermita who was reported to have laughed off the subpoena from the PPT.
"We have heard in fact that when they were receiving the subpoena that it is a joke because they cannot recognize the people's rights and that they are above those things. So I think again this is another indicator of this contradiction that they recognize and then deny," he said.
The tribunal wrapped up its last day of hearings with testimonies from witnesses, complainants and expert witnesses, despite the absence of a representative for the government's defense.
President Arroyo, together with US President George W. Bush, has been charged before the tribunal with crimes ranging from systematic violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights to violations of national self-determination and liberation committed against the Filipino people.
Tognoni said that while the tribunal has given the Philippine government the opportunity to defend itself, the absence of a representative might be assumed to mean that the government has chosen to waive that right.
"In that case, we have to simply withdraw the position of the defense. We have assumed this position because the fact of mimicking defense of the government in policy which is testified by so many acts would just be a ritual which would be purely artificial so we prefer to have open confrontation and if the open confrontation is refused, everybody takes its own responsibility," Tognoni explained.
The PPT is expected to deliver its verdict on Mrs. Arroyo on Sunday after a closed-door deliberation by the jury on Saturday.
In 1980, the tribunal heard a case filed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front against former president Ferdinand Marcos. PPT was the first international juridical body to condemn the Marcos dictatorship.